Remember When? My First Trip To The Dentist

I recently took my youngest for his first dentist visit and spent the majority of my time in the waiting room recalling mine. Of course things were a little different then, but one thing remains the same; that first trip to the dentist chair is always a scary one.

Before the Visit

To tell the truth, as a kid I didn’t pay much attention to my teeth. My mom and dad were always on me to brush them, but beyond that the only thought I ever gave to my mouth was what kind of candy to put in it. That of course ended when I had a sudden sharp pain at the back of my mouth. After some discussion amongst the parents, it was decided that mom was going to take me to see her dentist. Dad told me to lay off the candy.

The Day of the Visit

I had no idea what I was in for, and kind of thought the visit was going to be like a normal check-up at my doctor’s office. Just to be safe though, I got my favorite Barbie doll ready to go too. As a back-up of course. My mom looked a little nervous when she started up the car. This is what got the butterflies in my stomach going.

The Reception Area

A dentist office has a distinct antiseptic smell that you don’t find in a doctor’s office. That smell is the only thing I remember as I sat swinging my legs in the chair waiting for my name to be called. Ms. Barbie was clutched in my hand the whole time. When they finally did open a door and call my name, I remember feeling like it was the longest walk of my life.

The Dentist

The first time seeing that chair when you are a little person is very intimidating. Of course all of the dentist tools were in plain sight, making it even more scary. I sat down clutching Barbie in that big chair and awaited a fate I was sure to be worse than death.

The dentist was a lot kinder than my doctor and made the whole visit pass as quickly as possible. Yes, I had a cavity (3 to be honest but who’s counting) and he scheduled me for a series of follow up visits. He also gave me an electric toothbrush (it was one of the mid level Braun’s) and told me that I better use if I wanted to keep the rest of my teeth, and told my mom about how a water flosser would also help. He said that if I liked it, they make kid’s versions specifically from Waterpik. With a bag full of stickers and samples of toothpaste, me and Barbie were given a pat on the back and sent home.

The attitude of the dentist and his kindly demeanor is what made that first visit bearable. When I look back on my long list of memories with him, (I loved candy) it is not the painful procedures that I remember, but his smiling face letting me know everything was going to be alright.

Favorite Cats Of Mine

New Update, October 29,2014

Being a life long cat lover, I always research when it comes to the best cat litter and cat litter mats. My paw shaped cat litter mat is one of my favorites (Click here to see it!) for my favorite pet.

Calico Cat SalsaIf you’re like me, you may be very thankful to Ed Lowe who introduced cat litter to the world. It was he who used the term “cat litter”. Interesting, too, is that cat litter is a relatively new invention. Ed Lowe only came up with this now “must-have” item in 1948. Whatever did cat owners do before 1948?

My cat are my 4 legged children and we treat as though they are always our members of the family no matter what. It has always taken me time to decide on the perfect name for my pet. Like Salsa, Rascal, Felix, Buster, Captain, Tigger and Mikey.

Choosing the best cat litter for a new cat is always an important task. Sometimes you might have to buy more than one brand when you don’t know what your cat will like or if he or she will have a preference over the type and scent.  If you’re a brand new cat owner and getting a kitten, you may want to pay special attention to what works for a kitten being smaller and until it grows up a bit more.

best cat litter brand

I remember discovering Rascal when I went to a friend’s house who rescued a pregnant mom cat. He was the only orange one in the litter and didn’t even have his eyes open. I think she knew I wanted my cat Buster to have a brother. I didn’t notice at the time but Rascal was also a mitten kitten or also known as a polydactyl cat. He’s got an extra toe on his front legs.

I was very careful when I introduced Buster and Rascal to each other. At the time, I lived in small apartment. Rascal spent time in the bathroom while Buster was still King of the apartment. He could sniff Rascal under the door and feel less threatened. It took some time for them to adjust to each other. Rascal has a unique personality and was quite crazy as a kitten but he always had the best food and other cat products like toys to play with.

I always want to know what is going on with my kitties and take care of them. Today, Rascal lives with Felix. A kitty we adopted from our local county shelter after our beloved Captain passed away from a liver illness. Felix is much younger kitty than Rascal so he runs around alot more and leaps onto our cat tree. Rascal does too but not quite as much as Rascal does.

Memories Of Playing Baseball

Baseball in America

You probably already knew about it, but for those who did not, baseball is hailed as America’s national pastime. Many of us played baseball or softball since childhood and a lot have had a good memory to share with one another. Generally, most of us have some baseball memory to share with one another and it is a good topic to talk about to someone you met in a train.

Different people have different memories from playing this game, but I hope most of them are fun and enjoyable. The first baseball memory that I can share is when my father introduced me to the game. He gave me a bat and a high end baseball glove. He told me that baseball, unlike other sports, does not need height much, the only thing you need is strength and focus. Then, after that, everything started to change. I was hooked with the game and every day after school, my friends and I would go to the schoolyards to play baseball. I loved this game but when I went to college, I slowly lost time to enjoy playing the game. But I’m still finding my way to baseball when I have some leisure time. I mean, sports are great for the body, isn’t it? When I get back to the place where I and my friends usually play it, I always get nostalgic.

Why baseball became America’s national pastime, you ask. This is simply because this game remained firm even during times of war and depression. No on and nothing seems to be able to stop the baseball madness of American fans. In addition to that, spectacular events happened during the games and there are events that shaped and changed America’s history too.

One of the most unforgettable moment in American Baseball history is the event where the Brooklyn Dodger’s Jackie Robinson joined the league. He became the first African-American to join the league in 1947. Before that, black players have been restricted to their own league, the Negro League. There is also Babe Ruth who led the New York Yankees to seven World Series titles and he became a national hero for the strength of his homeruns.

Today, I still loved watching baseball games from TV and when I have the opportunity, I will always play baseball. It could be better if I could still play on the school gym and vacant lot where we used to play but sadly, they’re completely.

John’s Baseball Memories

It has to be watching Bob Gibson for the first time. I was a kid who knew nothing about the game when my parents took me to Busch Stadium for my first Cardinals game. I saw an unbelievably tough man whose pride and brilliance were apparent every single time he took the mound. And, yes, he could probably still get batters out today.

Probably having the snacks after the game. You play and, you know, as a kid you just go out there and have fun, and then after the game you look forward to playing with your friends, hanging out, having a little barbeque after the game.

Time Spent At the Cabin

Some of my very best memories were those spent up at the Cabin in Northern Ontario. Every other summer we’d hop on a plane across the Country to visit our family and friends for a week long adventurer up at the cabin.

It was a massive cabin with a guest house and exactly as you would expect a cabin in cottage country to look and feel. Great wooden pillars supported the house and everything was made from handcrafted wood. The deck chairs, the furniture and of course the cabin itself.

My favorite part about the Cabin was the watersports. They had an old handmade paddle board, before paddle boarding even existed (or at least was popular). My brother and I used to pile onto that old piece of foam and cruise around the lake for hours. It was truly bliss, nothing but the Stand Up Paddle Board and the lake. Oh and of course my brother, who thought it was amusing to push me off the board every 25 minutes or so. Just when I stopped thinking about him pushing me off is when he would strike again!

They also had fishing rods , canoes and air mattresses. Fishing from the canoe was always terrific fun. I caught my very first fish there and discovered I hated catching fish because that meant you’d have to touch them. Thanks but no thanks.

We also had what felt like a thousand golf balls to hit off the dock into the lake. The golf up there was spectacular and I usually got golf fever whenever we would visit. The courses were way above my ability but I had fun none the less. And every time we finished golfing we would always come home and blast what felt like a thousand balls off into the lake. We had to perfect our drive after all!

Perhaps the best part of the whole experience was the fudge shop in town. It was run by a local lady and her husband who had been living in the area for their entire lives. The fudge was to die for – mom would always slip us a few dollars when dad wasn’t looking and we’d race into town and buy a block of fudge. One summer, before my growth spurt, I actually managed to get a little tubby because I ate so much fudge. I must’ve had my own summer job by then because I ate SO much fudge – way more then any child needs.

I was one of the lucky ones. So many children will never get to have that experience because the reality is, the cost of cabins are rising and it’s tough to afford now. My time spent at the summer cottage will never be forgotten.

Women’s Fashion of the 1950s

Christian Dior Dress.jpg

Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In terms of periods of fashion, the 1950s became quite significant after the austerity and difficult times of World War II. The 1950s also saw a lot of innovations in textile technology that saw the arrival of new fabrics like spandex and easy-care fabrics. This was also the time when teenagers began to be a major force in fashion trends.

Fashion Houses

On 12th February 1947, Christian Dior launched the first collection from the House of Dior that was characterised by below-mid-calf skirts, small waists and a rounded shoulder line. By the 1950s, American women had accepted the new trends, which became known as ‘New Look’.

Popular features of the New Look included tailored suits with long and narrow pencil skirts, dresses that had fitted bodices and full skirts with jewelled or low cut necklines as well as shirtdresses and halter-top sundresses. If skirts were full, they were worn with petticoats and ball gowns were longer than ankle-length dresses, reaching the floor. Short shrugs or boleros were often worn with low-cut dresses.

Space Age

By the mid-1950s, new unfitted styles of clothing were beginning to be popular. Vogue Magazine called them T-shirt dresses and Paris designers began to make them high fashion. In 1958, Yves Saint Laurent produced the Trapeze Line, dresses that had a shaped bodice with sloping shoulders and a high waist then a waistless line from the bodice to the knees.

A new style of women’s bra emerge in the 1950s known as the bullet bra. It featured cups made into a conical shape and was worn by actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner.

Accessories

In the 1950s, bags were literally handbags and were held either over the arm or in the hand as Grace Kelly did. Handbags had side pockets and grip clasps for a lady to put her gloves in. Larger bags were also introduced, the forerunner of the modern messenger bags for women that were designed to hold a variety of items when traveling by public transport. Bucket bags and raffia bags were popular.

Shoes for women were often high with rounded or peep toes and sturdy Cuban heels. Strappy sandals with fine heels were also popular but as the decade moved, kitten heels and metal tipped steel stiletto heels came more into fashion.

Gloves were very important to fashion in the 1950s and were seen as completing the outfit. Clean gloves were a hallmark of a lady so white or cream were the chosen ones though many colours were produce. Cotton was the more affordable option than leather but a special leather pair were often kept for particular occasions.

Hats were used as a way of personalising an outfit or updating one. Pillbox hats were favoured by famous ladies such as Jackie Kennedy and often had a veil attached. Later on, flower covered hats because very popular, almost a swimming cap covered with flower petals, organza and swirls of georgette. Knitted berets and other similar neat hats were also worn including the head hugging Baker Boy beret.

 

Christian Dior Dress” by http://www.flickr.com/photos/unforth/ – http://www.flickr.com/photos/unforth/1303701436/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Playtime With Grandma

As a child, I had the good fortune of living only four houses away from my grandparents. My siblings and I walked the well-worn path behind the neighbors’ houses on many a day. Sometimes we were sent to grandma’s as a way to get us out of our mother’s hair. Sometimes we went on our own as a way to get out of doing chores at home…at least temporarily. Once there, it didn’t take much to talk grandma into playing some pool games with us.

Old fashion washing machine

Grandma’s Helper

My grandmother was one of the hardest workers I have ever known. If she wasn’t cleaning the house, doing laundry, or cooking meals for my grandfather, she was outside gardening. Grandma absolutely loved working with her plants, both vegetables and flowers. Us kids would “volunteer” to help pick the raspberry bushes for her. Although, I’m not sure how many raspberries actually made it to her table.

In the spring, she’d give us fresh rhubarb stalks to dip in a bowl of sugar. While the tart taste may not be for everyone, I loved the deliciously sweet-and-sour treat.

And believe it or not, grandma made laundry fun. She had an old-fashioned washing machine with an open tub so you could watch the sudsy action. After the wash cycle, she had to manually feed each piece of clothing through a mechanical ringer that consisted of two large black rubber rollers. If you were old enough, grandma would let you help pull out the flattened shirts and socks—the long sheets, however, were the most fun because they just went on and on.

The best part of hanging out with grandma was that you could convince her to take a break from the chores and play with you. The laundry machine was in the basement not far from the pool table. So once a load was in the dryer, we headed to the green felt. At 5 or 6 years old, I wasn’t trusted to use the pool cue, nor was I tall enough, so we made up our own rules. Grandma said it was okay to grab the pool balls in my little hands and roll them. As long as the balls stayed on the table, it was a success. Of course, grandma also used her hands.

As we got older, we challenged her to cribbage, and that wasn’t easy. Grandma played by the official rules for this card game, and she never let us win on purpose. If you beat her, then you earned it.

Memories for a Lifetime

Grandma passed away several years ago, but every time I work in my own vegetable garden, I’m reminded of her and miss the unlimited access to raspberries. When I come across the rare old-fashioned washer with rollers in antique stores, I immediately smile at the memories of “helping grandma out.” And of course, I still see no point of using a pool cue for playing pool. The rules grandma instituted are just fine with me.

How the Baby Stroller has Changed

baby stroller of the early 1900sNo matter when you had your child, recently or many years ago, a baby stroller was an essential part of your baby equipment. Whether it was a pram or a stroller or something in between, getting around with your baby in a simple and safe manner has always been important. While the best strollers today can be a major purchase, available with a range of features, colours and materials, strollers have humble roots.

First Strollers

The first early stroller was developed in 1733 when the Duke of Devonshire asked a man named William Kent to make a means of transport to get his children around. He made a shell shaped basket which the children could sit in and which had wheels. It was decorated in an elaborate manner as befitted the aristocracy and was pulled by a small pony or even a goat.

The first American baby carriage was sold by Benjamin Potter Crandall in the 1830s while his son Jesse Armour Crandall held a number of patents in the area. These included a brake on the carriage, a model that folded up and a model that had a parasol over the baby. By 1840, the carriages were hugely popular and Queen Victoria bought three from Hitchings Baby Store.

These early carriage were made from wood or wicker and used brass joints to hold everything together. They were very ornamental and were often named after members of the royalty or titles such as Princess or Duchess.

baby buggy or baby strollerDevelopments

In 1889, William Richardson first patented his idea of a reversible stroller. This was a bassinet that could face in towards the parent or out to the world. He also made the carriage more manoeuvrable by making each wheel move independently.

By the 1920s, prams were beginning to be common for all families. They were sturdier, with larger wheels, brakes, lower frames and were deeper for the baby to be safe in.

Maclaren

In 1965, Owen Maclaren, an aeronautical engineer, designed a stroller around an aluminium frame after being unhappy with the comfort level provided to his daughter by current models. He also made the first umbrella stroller and launched his own company, Maclaren, to make and sell the designs.

By the 1970s, trends had changed again and a carrycot style became more popular. This was a basic buggy that had a detachable body and prams were rarely used. One of the longest brands of prams to still be popular was the Silver Cross. This was first made in 1877 in Hunslet, Leeds and later in Guiseley from 1936-2002.

Modern look

By the 1980s, strollers were resembling the kind of equipment used today, including the 1983 development of the Jogger stroller by Philip Baechler, the original three wheeled jogger stroller.

Suspension came to be added to the strollers and twin models came along to carry two babies at once. Safety standards were introduced to make sure that everything was produced to a certain specification and the final real development was the travel system, the chassis with a detachable seat and/or carry cot.

 

So from pony-drawn convenience for the aristocrats of Britain to today’s modern range of best strollers, the baby transportation world has changed rapidly. No doubt, future changes will keep up the pace, but it is always nice to remember what kind of pram or stroller you had as a kid or had for your kids.

I’m A Barbie Girl

Long blond hair, perfect eye lashes, and a killer wardrobe, Barbie was by far my favorite doll to play with as a child. I grew up with two younger sisters and you can only imagine the buckets full of dolls we had. You could find plastic fingernail-sized shoes randomly throughout the house, her clothes were strewn throughout our rooms, and her contorted body would be laying on our floor or beds. We did not just have a handful of dolls. We had ten times that many. When friends came over, it was always a day in the life of a Barbie.

My favorite part about playing with my Barbie dolls was dressing her up, doing her makeup (e.g. mascara and eye liner) and decorating her house. I loved how many fun and crazy outfits she had and how she looked great in every single one of them. When it came to decorating and reorganizing, I became the best interior designer in the house. My parents had purchased the accessories but I always liked to improvise or “improve” the pink and purple infested home. I would take cardboard and bend it to make a bed and then add wrapping paper to give it a little pizzazz.

My greatest creation (which I am sure I am not the only who did this) was taking the white plastic looking table from the center of Rosati’s pizzas my parents used to order and using it as a Barbie table. Please tell me you remember what those are?! I thought I was a genius. I would collect them and make a whole row of tables for all of our Barbies to sit and eat their meals on.

My dreams did not stop there when creating the perfect life for my dolls. I went above and beyond and created life stories. One of my favorite dolls was brunette like me and I dressed her up in doctor clothes. When I was younger that was my ambitious dream at seven. I slid the scrubs over her head, brushed her hair, and helped prepare her to save people’s lives. I made sure she knew how to change a band-aid for someone’s cut. She learned how to ice a bruised knee or a bump on her fellow doll’s heads. She was a professional in my innocent eyes.

Of course the love for playing with the dolls slowly dwindles as you get older. You have to make time for spelling words, learning cursive, addition, subtraction, and a little bit of science. Regardless, I will always remember the fun times I had playing dolls with my sisters and having the best Barbie parties on the block. I may not play with them anymore but the nostalgia still keeps the fond memories engrained in my mind. The day will come when I get to enjoy reliving the fun with my future daughter and then she can create her own memories to carry in life.

 

My Time With My Mom

Memories of my mom

Courtesy of Bookishly Fab

Growing up, we lived in an older farmhouse that had two little rooms off of the living room. These weren’t large enough to function as bedrooms. In fact, they served mostly as places to store various items, but one was designated for my dad and the other for my mom. In my mom’s room, one wall was consumed with large wardrobes, except the last few feet. That’s where she had her sewing machine.

 

This was the 1970s and my mother’s sewing machine was nowhere near as sophisticated as today’s models that have automatic thread trimmers and buttonholers (if that’s what interests you, check out http://www.sewingmonster.com). Rather, this was a basic machine that did what she needed to be done.

 

What I remember most, though, was the time I spent with my mom in her sewing room.

 

Cost Conscious

We were a typical middle class family in terms of socioeconomic status. Both of my parents worked, but being a creative frugal-minded person, my mother found interesting ways to stretch the family’s dollar. One of my least favorite memories in this regard was serving us a concoction of powdered milk, water and a touch of “real” milk. One of my most favorite memories, on the other hand, is my mother making her own clothes.

 

On many an evening after the family’s dinner dishes were cleared, my mother would retreat to her room to sit at her sewing machine encased in a cabinet. Here, she would stitch together blouses, skirts, dresses, and pants. Because of her self-taught sewing skills, my mother had an extensive clothing collection that cost little in comparison to what it would have if she’d gone shopping—at that time, purchasing patterns and fabric was very affordable.

 

Of course, my two brothers, sister and I benefited, too. The outfits I remember most fondly are our Christmas pajamas. For years, on Christmas Eve, we were treated to new nightclothes. My brothers usually received something with a nature theme, such as deer or forests. The designs for us girls changed often. One year, she made us pajamas with large vertical stripes and ruffled collars and cuffs, much like a clown costume. Those were my all-time favorites.

 

Time Together

While I appreciated the final outcomes of my mother’s sewing projects, what I value most about those memories is the time I spent with her in that room. As she sat at the sewing machine, I played with my Barbie dolls or I listened to 45-rpm storybooks on the record player. Then again, there were nights or weekend afternoons when we just talked over the hum of the sewing machine. I don’t remember what we talked about, maybe issues surrounding friends or school or complaining about my older brothers, but we talked.

 

Although my mother still has that very same sewing machine, she has pretty much retired as a seamstress other than the occasional mending task. Every time I see it, though, I’m brought back to those childhood days of watching my mother in her sewing room.

Keeping Memories In Time

My Great Granddad was such a dapper and proper fellow that was always dressed in his finest threads. He always looked like he stepped right out of the Great Gatsby with his perfectly tailored suit and his 1920’s fade style haircut. I honestly expected to see him with a sidecar in one hand and a cigar in the either whenever I saw him. One of my favorite things about his perfectly put together outfit was the classic touch of a pocket watch that he would add to every suit. He was never without one of his many pocket watches and felt that no outfit would be complete without one.

My Granddad had a whole dresser drawer full of pocket watches that varied by size, metal type and watch type. I never knew there were so many different varieties of pocket watches available and really assumed that they were all the same with the exception of the type of metal they were made out of. When my Granddad passed away he left me his pocket watch collection and it is still to this day my most beloved material possession. Upon first being able to really touch and inspect the watches on my own time, I quickly become obsessed with these little pieces of machinery and artistry. You could say that I fell down the proverbial pocket watch rabbit hole.

My favorite pocket watch in my new collection is known as a mechanical, double hunter watch. It is such an amazingly designed piece of art. The mechanical feature of the watch gives it an old steampunk feel that is so different and amazing to look at. I love being able to see all of the moving parts up close and personal. A double hunter pocket watch has a front protective plate and a plate that opens on the back side that serves as a handy little stand. I happen to have this type of watch is bronze and it is truly stunning.

I am equally obsessed with my mechanical, double half hunter pocket watch. I clearly have a thing for seeing the cogs and gears working away inside of the watches. The double half hunter watch is very similar to the double hunter watch in that they both have the front and back door. The only difference between the two is that the protective cover door is made of quartz, which allows you to see all of the moving parts of the pocket watch without the worry that you may damage the parts somehow. This watch was the one that my Granddad wore most days and is extra special to me because of it. This one was made of gleaming silver with very intricate engraved filigree on the back door.

There are three other types of pocket watch that make up my pocket watch collection: open faced, full hunter and half hunter style – they are all equally beautiful and ornate in design. I could spend days discussing each little detail of the different watches because there are endless details that I am constantly discovering. I often find myself pulling my watches out to revisit childhood memories and to admire the details and artistry that drew my Granddad to the watches. I feel so lucky to have shared his love of pocket watches, but also to have this beautiful collection to call my own and to pass on to another generation when it is time.

Motorcycle Rides With Dad

One of the fondest memories I have from growing up is racing along the blacktop roads of the country with my dad on his old motorcycle. The corn field would whip by us, the warm, summer air seemed to cast an enchanting filter over everything, and nothing could be wrong in the world.

Between when I was about 7 and when I was 14, these were a regular thing with us, maybe once monthly while the weather was nice, typically April through September (though we’d get lucky some years and get an earlier start and once even rode into November). I’d always have the thought in the back of my head because if it were up to me we’d be riding every day, so when I saw the telltale signs of my dad getting ready for a ride, I would spring into action immediately. Typically this meant I’d jump up from my bed where I was probably reading a comic book, put my sneakers on, grab my safety equipment (basically just a poor fitting helmet and a heavier jacket in those days), and race down the gravel driveway to the garage where dad kept his bike.

Looking back, I’m glad we only did the rides once every month, because while at the time I wanted nothing more than to always be riding, the delay made each ride more special, and now the memories are infinitely stronger, I just know it.

These were times when we never talked. There was nothing to say, just an experience to share. We both knew exactly what was going on, what we were supposed to enjoy, and what each ride meant. He knew what these meant to me, and it was about the closest he ever came to showing affection. I know he loved us, but he never really let on. Not that he was mean or cruel, just that he was always guarded, reserved. These were the rare moments I could latch on to him as a person, as a father.

I ride a motorcycle now as often as I can. Not necessarily to relive the memories, but because it is something I see as being important to my father as a person and to my growth as a man. I still drive a car for most things, but any chance I get I’ll grab my lid (I just got a new one after seeing a friend of mine get pretty badly injured wearing an older helmet) and head out on the two wheeler. Maybe when my kids are older we can rekindle the joy of my childhood and do monthly rides.

We’ll head out to the country, where we used to ride, and be bathed in the warm glow of the evening sun, giving everything a slight blur, a warm filter, catching each item floating in the air and giving it a shine. The lines on the road will pass by us in a blur so that it looks like the dotted lines are solid, and we’ll see the corn fields, the horses, the horizon growing closer but never being reachable.

These are the memories I’ll keep forever, and I’ll keep them longer than forever if I can pass them on to my children.

Family Traditions

The United States (U.S.) is the third largest populated country in the world and can be categorized into five regions in alphabetical order:  Midwest, Northeast, South, Southeast and Western.  Culturally, the U.S. is one of the most diverse in the world and adopts its family traditions from the European English of the 1600s. Family

Additionally, the U.S. borrows traditions of the Native Americans, Latin Americans, Africans, and Asians, to name a few.  Once descriptively ascribed as a cultural “melting pot”, U.S family traditions is a plethora of not only differing cultures, but various sets of religions, histories, languages, and influences.

Many U.S. family traditions are observed on public holidays even though the constitutional authority to create and enforce public holidays is reserved to each State.  However, each State generally allows local jurisdictions to dictate their own holidays.  Still, U.S. residents are generally known to be holiday enthusiasts who continue to practice several U.S. family traditions each year.

Independence Day is one U.S. family tradition in the U.S. is Independence Day.  July 4th is when the U.S. celebrates its independence from hundreds of years of Colonial British rule.  On Independence Day, families gather for food and reunion that typically ends with a colourful finale of fireworks.

U.S. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in the month of May.  U.S. residents mark this day by recognizing the sacrifice of the U.S. Armed Forces members and that of their families.  Crowds gather to attend commemorative services appropriate for the public and military personnel alike to honour fallen soldiers.  In similar fashion, like-minded groups gather in private services.

ValentineValentine’s Day, which falls on the 14th day of February, is a U.S. family tradition that is widely recognized around the world.  Sentiments such as “Be Mine”, “I love you”, “Hugs and Kisses”, “SWAK” (Sent with a kiss), “Sweetheart”, and “happy valentine’s day” are exchanged between giver and recipient, atop decorative cards, flowers, candies, chocolates, and other creative idea holders. It is also a tradition that is popularly practiced by the very young among us.  Unlike those mentioned above, Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday.  This fact makes this family tradition one of the most practiced regardless of age, culture, beliefs, vocation or social standing.

One major U.S. family tradition is Thanksgiving Day.  U.S. Thanksgiving Day is observed on the fourth Thursday in November, even though its neighbor to the north celebrates Canadian Thanksgiving Day earlier on the second Monday in October.  For this family tradition, parades, football, harvest festival, religious observances, pumpkins, turkey and gathering of close friends and families have become a theme of Thanksgiving Day.  U.S. Thanksgiving also refers to the first Thanksgiving of 1621 where Pilgrims feasted for three days after their first harvest following a drought in the New World.  The first Thanksgiving is remembered as a religious offering of thanks and prayer, witnessed by Native Americans.

Finally, one of the merriest U.S. family traditions of all is Christmas and New Year’s Day that both closes the “old” and opens the “new” years.  With the passing of time, Christmas Day continues to experience the diluting of religious references.  As a result, Christmas has come to be addressed as “Happy Holidays” in an effort to be inclusive to a wider demographic of U.S. residents.  Santa Claus, elves, the North Pole, reindeers, and Christmas tree are just as popular as the Nativity.  Presents under the Christmas tree as More on Familyfamilies and close friends gather on Christmas day to enjoy a Turkey dinner with all the finishing at the dinner table is widely practiced throughout the country.   Children remain on their best behaviour eagerly anticipate Santa’s arrival with a giant sack filled with presents on Christmas Eve while adults attack the shops with wallets open wide to make this one of the happiest season of all.  While Christmas concentrates on the delight of children, New Year’s is more of an adult celebration that involves champagne countdown parties, and of course, a kiss (hopefully?) to ring in the next 365 days.

American family traditions are well known not only in the U.S. but around the world.  As previously mentioned, many of these traditions originated with different people groups and religious practices.  So, it is not surprising to see that some U.S. family traditions are still practiced in various places around the world.  While the rules and observances may differ from place to place, one thing remains the same.  Family traditions give people a reason to come together to create new memories, share good food and reminisce.  Happy Celebrations to you and yours!

Memories of Eternity

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “eternal” using descriptions of time, such as everlasting, existing, always, forever, duration or perpetual.  As living things, we are sentimental beings able to treasure and relish precious and important events, people and things as memories.  Since our existence is dictated by time, we keep treasure troves of that which we hold dearest as mental records.  The records that weigh the heaviest, mean the most or ring the loudest become our “memories of eternity”.

Memories

GrandparentsThe well-accepted reference of Encyclopedia Britannica explains “memory” as “the encoding, storage, and retrieval in the human mind of past experiences.”  If we were to peer into our minds as we do a photo album of our lives, we would see a commonality that joins humanity.  For to most of us, we draw our memories of eternity from people that define who we are.  These people tend to be those who were with us at our very earliest of memories, such as grandparents, parents, or teachers.

Grandparents live on in our memories as if they never left us.  The times we spent with them over summer holidays or at Christmas time appear as real as the person next to us.  If we had a Grandfather who took us fishing on a boat at a lake and taught us how to bait the hook to catch the best trout, we can be sure we have not forgotten.

Or, if we had a dedicated teacher who took the time to show us just how to throw a football.  That teacher’s name is permanently engraved in our memories of eternity.  We will not forget their faces or the color of their eyes, if that were the feature that became the characteristic we used to define their specialness.

Events

CampsWe also draw our memories of eternity from events that alter who we are at present.  Many of us can recall our first day at school or the first time we accomplished a project independently.  Those of us who were allowed to go to summer camps will remember the mixed emotions of euphoria and trepidation as we enter a “world” outside of our parents’ safety net.

As we progress through time, we would have experienced our high school graduation prom.  Only now, we can smile at the courage it took to present ourselves fashionably, or how our friends looked in “nice” formal clothes instead of our usual “cool” everyday attire.  Then, just like in fairy tales when the clock struck midnight (although ours was hours afterwards), our lives returned to what it was before–as if the dance took place in another reality.  Yet, we’ve all crossed a threshold of a common experience and share in the dawning of a new phase in our lives.

We will remember our first kiss, our wedding day, our first job, our first child.  Some are lucky enough to even have second chances that fit perfectly as one of our memories of eternity.  A second marriage, if truth be told, can sometimes be more loving by leaps and bounds.  What else would persuade us to go to the altar once more, if not for love?!

Finally, there are things that stand tall, grand and mighty enough to be cherished as one of our memories of eternity.  We have often heard of the first paycheck that was framed and proudly displayed.  Then, there is the graduation diploma we never thought we would ever get.  And, of course, the wedding rings that mean more than the biggest, brightest diamonds that eventually came to define the human capacity at love and commitment, “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse”.

Whatever our memories of eternity are, one thing is constant.  They are keepers.

Scouts

boy scout

Be Prepared”, as a phrase, is synonymous with reliability, courteousness and wholesomeness.   So too is the three-finger “salute”, the raising of the three middle fingers of the right hand, that has come to represent the Scouts.  The Scout uniform, both for girls or women and boys or men was another well-known characteristic which was designed to remove indications of social class.  The neckerchief and campaign hat (or headwear) made every member equal.

Girl Scouts

Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low is the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA), which started in 1912 in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia.  She met Lord Baden-Powell while she was in the United Kingdom and then envisioned a similar movement for girls in the United States.  Eighteen girls attended the first meeting, and thus began an organization by women for girls and women for the empowerment of women in society.

Girl ScoutsWhile the Girl Scout Promise & Law has changed over the years, it aims to teach girls and women to embody self-respect, other-centeredness, and social responsibility.  “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”  As of 2011, GSUSA membership held approximately 2.2 million youth and almost 900 thousand adults with Anna Maria Chavez as its present Chief Executive Officer.

The Scout Movement

Lord Baden-Powell, as mentioned above, was an officer in the British Army and founder of the Scout Movement in Europe.  The Scout Movement was started to support youth’s physical, mental and spiritual development.  Focusing on outdoor activities and survival skills, the Scout Movement set out to direct youth to become constructive members of British society.  In 1910, a female equivalent was created which was known as the Girl Guides.  Out of the Scout Movement, the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) came to be, and in 2007 Scouts worldwide celebrated its first centennial!

Scouts Canada

Meanwhile, in a country not so far away, Scouts Canada with French affiliate Association des Scouts du Canada,  was founded in 1914 and a member of WOSM.  With statistics from 2011, Scouts Canada is the Scouts Canadalargest youth organization in Canada.  It aims to “help develop well rounded youth, better prepared for success in the world.”  One unique feature of Scouts Canada is its co-ed program.  Another is its commitment to diversity.  Scouts Canada’s badge design contains the fleur-de-lis and the maple leaf within the tent formation of two sticks.  Clearly, allegiance to country and organization forms the unspoken helm of Scouts Canada.  Their fundamental beliefs are “Duty to God, Duty to Others and Duty to Self”, and have a non-discriminatory policy on the basis of gender, culture, sexual orientation or religious belief.  It is also important to note that Scouts Canada members are not required to be adherents of any religion.

Youth Centered Organizations

There is almost no place in the world that does not know of the Scouts.  There are many youth centered organizations with different mottos, goals and objectives.  The Boys and Girls Brigade, the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA, and YWCA are just some honorable mentions but the list is endless.  Lord Baden-Powell said, “Teach Scouts not how to get a living, but how to live”, and Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  If the purpose we invest in the youths of our society is found anywhere between these two statements, then perhaps there is a chance we may see our world revolutionized for the better!

Tinkertoy and Lincoln Logs

I recently learned that like celebrities, toys can find stardom by being inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame.  “Play-Doh”, “Etch A Sketch”, “Frisbee”, “Lego”, and even “Crayola Crayon”, just to name a few, are famous!  You see, famous toys must be widely recognized, be more than just a passing fade, encourage learning, creativity and discovery, and even improve play or toy design.  I was thrilled that “Lincoln Logs” claimed 8th and “Tinkertoy” claimed 15th place.

TinkertoyTinkertoy

Inducted in 1998, the Tinkertoy brand is owned by Hasbro Inc., formerly known as Hassenfeld Brothers.   Hasbro Inc. is an American multi-national toy and board game company that manufactures most of its products in East Asia and is one of the largest toy makers in the world.  Tinkertoy is a children’s construction set that was created in 1914 by Charles H. Pajeau, Robert Pettit and Gordon Tinker.  They sought out to inspire imagination in children at play after noting that children had fun simply playing with sticks and empty spools of thread.

The Tinkertoy basics are a wooden spool drilled throughout with holes and sticks of various lengths.  Through the years, minor changes in colours and sizes were made, but a standard Tinkertoy set includes wheels, caps, couplings, pulleys, “part w” (a modified spool), and short pointed sticks.  Tinkertoy sets were marketed using displays in Chicago, including a Ferris wheel model at one point.  More amazingly, Tinkertoy has been credited in the creation of complex machines such as Danny Hillis’ tic-tac-toe playing computer and a robot in 1998 at Cornell University.

 Lincoln LogsLincoln Logs

Another celebrity toy that is one of my all-time favorites is the Lincoln Logs.  Lincoln Logs were inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999, and are notched miniature logs that can be used to build forts and buildings.  John Lloyd Wright, the son of an architect, is its inventor.  In time, roofs, chimneys, windows and doors were added.  The original Lincoln log set provided instructions for Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Abraham Lincoln’s Cabin.  Later sets were more elaborate and bigger.  As with Tinkertoy, Lincoln Logs are owned by Hasbro Inc.

Unlike today’s popular toys that seem to come with whistles, lights, wheels, motorized parts and so on, Tinkertoy and Lincoln Logs come with nothing of the above.  Instead of providing batteries and making sure you have extras, just in case, it is what Tinkertoy and Lincoln Logs does NOT come with that makes these priceless.  The user provides the imagination, and each time they return to these toys, their imagination grows a little bit.  Little by little, the imagination soon is able to fashion a world unlike the one we really live in.  Today’s imagination can become tomorrow’s inventions which may pave the way for a brighter and better future.

Once upon a time, my sister and a seven year old yours truly, lived in a little Lincoln cabin hidden in our enchanted wood similar to Enid Blyton’s.  We ate berries, chopped wood for fire, and made friends with the critters.  Ours was a simple living where no one could tell us to do what we did not wish to do.  Happiness!

If you are a toy enthusiast and should find yourself in Rochester, New York, take the time to visit The Strong where the US National Toy Hall of Fame is.  Have fun as there are at least fifty-four (54) toy celebrities to meet.  Who knows, maybe I will see you there?

Monopoly

Have you ever played the based on real life game of Monopoly?  If so, do you have a favorite pewter token that you almost always play with?  I do!  Mine is the boot.  Most of us could do a decent job to describe the game of Monopoly in general terms.  This is because this game is everywhere with different versions, and Monopolythemes like SpongeBob, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, but the main concept remains unchanged.

Monopoly was inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.  The Strong which is where the Toy Hall is housed, and its Curator, Nicolas Ricketts, published a story about its acquisition of a historic 1933 “tie-box” Monopoly set in 2010.  Known as the Heap Folk Art Monopoly, this version predates the accepted Monopoly “inventor” Charles Darrow’s published version by about 20 years.

Monopoly

It is now accepted that conceptual versions of Monopoly with local landmarks existed as early as 1910.  Better called “homemade Monopoly boards” represented the local users area landmarks, such as John Heap’s Altoona, PA (USA) version which he made for his son, Roy.  Roy’s memories of playing his father’s version from 1910 – 1917 helped Professor Ralph Anspach win his version called Anti-Monopoly in 1975.  The toy company General Mills which owned the games’ rights, sued Anspach for use of the Monopoly name, but the US Supreme Court supported claims that pre-Darrow versions of the came existed.

Mr. MonopolyIf we were to go back even further, we will find that a 1903 version of Monopoly was first born, effectively being designed as an educational tool to explain the theory of a single tax.  Her game was called “The Landlord’s Game” which she published in 1906.  Similar to today’s version, her game play involved owning, developing and selling land.

Monopoly Money

At the heart of the game of Monopoly is an economic concept in which the goal is to have sole control of the market.  Players use their turns to buy, trade and develop land through ownership of houses and hotels.  Players collect rent and dominate land to bankrupt opponents.  It is important to remember that even if the bank runs out of physical cash, the game goes on.

 Go Directly to Jail

A well liked feature of the game is the “Jail” portion where if a player is sent to jail, direct play puts said player in jail.  To be released, player must pay $50, roll a double, or possess a “get out of jail” card.  This is different for “visiting jail”, where the player has NOT been sent to jail.Go Directly To Jail

Many versions of this well liked game exist.  The US versions held mainly colour changes, flat $200 Tax, and altered wording references (like poor tax to speeding fine).  This version’s properties reference Atlantic City, New Jersey.  A note of interest in the standard US version is that in 1995, Parker Brothers acknowledged the misspelling of the now Marven Gardens, and acknowledgement of the four railroads that served Atlantic City in the 1930s.

 

As for the UK version, the interesting part of its beginning is that in the 1930s John Waddington Ltd sent a card game they developed and called Lexicon to Parker Brothers to entice the US counterparts to publish the Lexicon.  Parker Brothers also sent over their copy of Monopoly to the Waddingtons in early 1935 in the same spirit.  A transatlantic call ensued when Victor Watson of Waddingtons called Parker Brothers.  He believed that for the game to be accepted in the UK, locale names had to be replaced.  A trip to London with this secretary took place for this purpose.  In countries in the Commonwealth with Canada as exception, the standard British version was used.

Monopoly tokensMore recently, modernized US and UK versions were made to include a “mega”, “here and now” and digital editions.  There have been token additions and retirements, currencies additions and cost changes, die variations, just to name a few, but a basic monopoly set includes cards, deeds, dice, houses, hotels, money, tokens, and rules.

Official rules specify the parts of the game that make this a truly spectacular entertainment worthy of its game length.  Chance and Community Chest, Jail, Properties, Mortgaging, Bankruptcy, House rules, and at this very central the Bank are all vital parts of Monopoly.

Eternal Mr. Potato Head

His Birthday

Officially, Mr. Potato Head was born on May 1, 1952, but George Lerner made potato dolls with grapes for eyes and carrots for nose to entertain his younger sisters earlier on!  Hasbro Inc. paid a cereal company that had agreed to help George distribute the toy parts in their cereal $2,000 to stop distributing and bought the rights for $5,000.  They also offered George Lerner a $500 advance and 5% royalty.

 Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato HeadMr. Potato Head was originally marketed with hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe and eight felt pieces to represent facial hair (without a body).  Mr. Potato Head is the very first toy to be introduced on TV and to be advertised specifically for children.

Over one million kits were sold in the first year.  Brother Spud, Sister Yam and accessories such as a car, boat trailer, kitchen set, stroller and pets joined Mr. Potato Head.  Oscar the Orange, Pete the Pepper, Katie Carrot, Cookie Cucumber, Picnic Pals, Mr. Soda Pop Head and Franky Frank were later added, but their popularity was short lived.

By 1964, forced to make alterations because children were choked and hurt by the small, sharp parts, a plastic potato “body” was added.  Rotting vegetables among the children’s toys and the appearance of waste during war rationing were impetus for change as well.

In 1976, Hasbro made yet another change by doubling the toy in size, effectively allowing even younger children to play.  Before this edition, children were only able to put the parts in their right slots.  This time, children could add more fun by putting the parts in the wrong places.  In the years to come, Hasbro would switch the right parts/wrong body options twice more.

Popularity and Celebrity Status

Sports SpudsIn 1985, Mr. Potato Head received four votes received by postal mail in Boise, Idaho.  Guinness World Records verified that Mr. Potato Head received the “most votes in a political campaign”.

In 1987, he became “Spokespud” for the annual Great American Smokeout by surrendering his pipe to the Surgeon General in Washington D.C. (USA).

In 1995, Mr. Potato Head made his debut in Hollywood with a leading role in the Disney/Pixar animated feature “Toy Story”.

In 2000, Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame, located at The Strong in Rochester, NY (USA).

In 2006, themed sets appeared with parts without bodies for collectors to add Mermaid, Rockstar, Pirate, King, and so on, including a line called “Sports Spuds”.

In 2007, Potato Head versions for those media properties that were licensed to Hasbro were produced, such as “Optimash Prime” (Transformers), “Spider-Spud/Peter Tater (Spiderman), “Tony Starch” (Iron Man), “Darth Tater” (Star Wars) and a few more.

Mr. Potato Head familyIn 2009, Hasbro promoted The Looney Tunes Show using Mr. Potato Head dolls of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil. Also in 2009, Hasbro unveiled five new Mr. Potato Heads:  Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Mrs. Potato Head and the classic Mr. Potato Head.

In 2011, a second Elvis Mr. Potato Head, The Wizard of Oz, the Three Stoges, Star Trek’s Kirk and Kor, and SpongeBob SquarePants were announced for release at the New York Toy Fair.

Mr. Potato Head has appeared in several Toy Story based video games and the Toy Story Activity Center, and popular Wii/DS games.

George Lerner of Brooklyn, NY (USA) was the brain behind Mr. Potato Head, no pun intended.  In 2010, George Lerner was awarded The Toy and Game Inventor Award (TAGIE) in memoriam.  TAGIE awards recognize toy and game inventors who brought unquestionable fun and entertainment through their creativity ingenuity.   Without George, Mr. Potato Head may have had to settle as a prize in a cereal box.  If it can be said that George Lerner gave Mr. Potato Head a face, then it was Hasbro Inc who gave the latter legs!  This time, pun is intended!

Frisbees

The first time I saw a Frisbee coming towards me, I ended up seeing stars.  That is because I did not have the presence of mind to step out of the way of the flying disc.  I knew it was coming straight for me.  My mind was busy filling in the blanks.  I was sure a mini unidentified flying object, better known as acronym Frisbee playing dogU.F.O., was finally making a public debut and it had chosen a nine year old yours truly as its spokesperson.

After my Dad and a few surrounding friends revived me, the older youths who were flying the U.F.O. around came by to apologize.  I was a little embarrassed, but I could not take my eyes off the disc.  They saw my interest and asked me and my friends if we wanted to join in.  So begins my adventure with the U.F.O., I mean, the Frisbee.

History

Today, there are many flying disc games that use the Frisbees as their recreational product.  Some famous flying disc games are Disc Golf and Ultimate.  The more widely known flying disc games have standardized rules and international followings.  These games, popular as they may be today, would not have been possible were it not for a cake pan and two lovers at the beach.

Wham-OThe Frisbee is proudly distributed by a Californian (USA) toy company known as “Wham-O Inc.”  Other popular recreational products Wham-O distributes are the Silly String, Hacky Sack, Boogie Board, and Hula Hoop, just to name a few.  Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin were unhappy College graduates who started a toy company in 1948.

Earlier in 1938, at Santa Monica beach in California, Fred Morrison was “flying” a cake pan at the beach with Lucille, his future wife.  They were paid 25 cents for the cake pan by another beach goer who wanted to toss the cake pan as a game as well.  This accidental invention was quite lucrative since a cake pan in 1938 cost only five cents.

After World War II, Morrison worked to improve the flying disc which he dubbed the “Whirlo-Way”.  With business partner, Warren Franscioni, the Whirlo-Way was renamed the “Flyin-Saucer” after sighting reports of U.F.O.s circulated in 1948.  By chance, they overheard that the flying disc could be made to hover in the air using wires.  Morrison added the latter to their product.

By 1955, Morrison came up with a new model he named the “Pluto Platter” when he formed his own company, American Trends, and used a cheaper and more flexible polypropylene plastic.  He bought the original moulder from a company called Southern California Plastics.  Finally, in 1958, Morrison received the U.S. Design Patent D183,626 for the flying disc, which he had sold earlier in January 1957 to Wham-O.

Frisbee

Around this time, Richard Knerr of Wham-O started calling the flying disc “Frisbee” when he learned that some college students were calling it by that name.  The Northeastern college students named it after a Connecticut pie manufacturing company “Frisbie Pie Company”.  Morrison was displeased with this name but after receiving roughly two million dollars in royalty payments, he told Forbes Magazine in 1982 that “[he] wouldn’t change the name of it for the world.”

It was not until 1964 when the Frisbee became a phenomenon after Wham-O’s General Manager and Vice President, Edward “Steady Ed” Headrick, marketed the first professional model.  Headrick’s redesigns included adjusting the rim thickness and top of the Frisbee so that it became possible to throw accurately and stabilize disc flight.

Frisbee teamSince precision is now possible, the Professional Model Frisbee entered the market, and soon Frisbee became a sport under U.S. Patent 3,359,678.  At Headrick’s request, his ashes were moulded into Frisbees for family and close friends.  He founded “The International Frisbee Association” (IFA) and became known as the father of disc sports.

The next time you are on a date and headed for the beach; make sure you take along a Frisbee.  If you did forget, remember that a cake pan does the trick, too.   Have fun!