Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 31st

* National Hot Chocolate Day

- Invent a new hot chocolate recipe with secret ingredient

How to make the best hot chocolate:

1) Use the best chocolate you can find. Don't go too high with the percentage - for hot chocolate it should be somewhere between 65 and 75%. Taste the chocolate before making the drink, because if you don't like the chocolate as it is, you won't like it as hot chocolate either. The taste will come through.
2) Don't use sugar to sweeten the chocolate, use milk chocolate or white chocolate. Just switch a couple of square of dark to milk. I think there's enough sugar in chocolate and milk, so I don't sweeten my hot chocolate at all. I also want it chocolate-y.
3) The same thing with milk - taste the milk. Some milk is better than others. Also, test the milk fat percentage. Some like rich hot chocolate, some don't. If you do, use fattier milk, or even cream, if you don't, use lighter milk. It's usually 1-2 percentage milk that is used, because of cocoa butter.
4) It is OK to add some corn starch to make the chocolate thicker. Some people love the thick texture, and you get that by thickening it with corn starch. It has to be corn starch, though, no other starch has the same softness and velvetiness.
5) Use 20% or more chocolate to milk.

To make the chocolate: shred the chocolate. Pour hot (not boiling) milk over the chocolate and mix until it's melted.

How to make hot chocolate with cocoa powder.

Mix the cocoa powder with sugar or butter. Cocoa butter is great, but real butter is also good. You can also use hot milk. Add it a little at a time. The thing with cocoa is that it doesn't melt, so what you are doing is separating the cocoa powder particles with sugar or fat from butter or milk. This is also why you would need fattier milk when you make hot chocolate with cocoa powder than with chocolate. You can easily use cream or half-and-half when making hot chocolate with cocoa powder.

Use unsweetened, alkalized cocoa powder, as dark as you can find. Taste it before you make it, because there are differences with cocoa powder as well. Find your favorite. You can use the cocoa powder that doesn't taste as good as spice in cooking, or in baking. 

Use 1 tbls (or more) for each cup of milk

It gets better if you "burn" the sugar before making the hot chocolate. There is a recipe of "butterbeer" that starts with you making caramel first by "burning" the sugar and then pouring milk over it. Then you whisk in a nob of butter and that's it. If you use this as liquid for your hot chocolate; put a spoonful of good quality cocoa in a cup, and pour in about a spoonful of hot "butterbeer", mix, until there are no lumps left, and then pour in the rest of the "butterbeer", you get really delicious hot chocolate.

I like to add a dash of vanilla, cinnamon, coffee and salt to my chocolate. I also add some golden syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup or molasses in it, for taste. Yummy.

But for the special Ketutar hot chocolate, I'll melt in a couple of Turkish peber candies. Hot salted liquorice... Aaaaah!

* National Gorilla Suit Day

* Inspire your heart with art day

* yaD drawkcaB
Do things backward, upside-down, inside-out...
- pineapple upside-down cake
- tarte tatin
- try Leonardo daVinci's mirror writing
- eat the dessert first - hey, why not eat the dessert for breakfast and breakfast for dinner?
- walk backward
- say "bye" when you arrive and "hi" when you leave
- watch a series from last episode to the first
- wear your underwear over your clothes like any superhero

Friday, January 19, 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018

How to celebrate an Independence day?

* find the country's flag and decorate using those colors. Use the common, ordinary, normal, usual decorations you would for any party, just in the flag colors. Make the food of this color. Decorate with buntings of these colors. Decorate with country's flags.

* find out if the country has a national animal, bird, tree, flower, and so on - what other national symbols the country has?

* find out about the country's food culture and plan the celebratory dinner around that.

* find out about the country's music and create a playlist. Use a mix of both traditional and popular music. Use songs sang in the country's official or majority language, even if there was a version sang in an international language. Create a song booklet with easy to sing songs with easy lyrics. Include the national anthem, and other such national songs, if there are any.

* learn to say a couple of sentences in a language spoken in the country

* use the nature of the country as one of the party themes. For example, Finland celebrates its independence December 6th. Finland is in the boreal forest zone, so it's Nordic forests with snow. "Winter Wonderland" is a great theme.

* wear a traditional folk costume, but be respectful about it. Avoid stereotypes and caricatures. Don't get a huge sombrero and fake mustache for Mexico's independence day (which is not 5th of May). Don't go all harem girl on the national days of countries on Arabian peninsula and Middle East. I don't think there EVER was anything like the Western harem girl fantasy anywhere but in Hollywood movies. Just like the wild and free gypsy woman. All fantasy. Remember that folk costumes are (usually) festive clothes for real people. They aren't costumes in the masquerade costume sense. So behave as if you were in your normal festive clothes. The purpose here is to learn about the culture of the country.

* make photobooth props with the country's famous people or typical headwear etc.

* Find movies, tv-series, documentaries, especially travel shows, about the country or made in the country, and watch some of those.

* play trivia games with questions about the country's history, nature, flora and fauna, traditions, culture etc. etc. Use Wikipedia to find the trivia.

* find out if there are some traditional games commonly played in the country, especially party games.

* learn a traditional dance from the country

* is there some traditional activity or ceremony you could replicate at home? In Japan there's the tea ceremony, in Eritrea there's a coffee ceremony. In some countries they paint skin with henna.

* invite an expatriate to celebrate their national day with you

* Are there some typical saying associated with the country? Quotes about the country? Does the country have a motto? Lyrics of the national anthem or other nationalist songs? You can write these in banners, blocks, or calligraphy to decorate for the day

* Is there some activity associated with the celebration like fireworks? Use that as decoration or activities

* Do something specific through the whole day; have an independence day breakfast; either a typical breakfast from the country, or a normal breakfast dressed up with nationalist themes, like colors, symbols and so on. For example, if there is a star(s) on the flag, you can cut the breakfast food into star shapes.

* Textiles are an easy way to bring in some "patriotism" to your home. A couple of cushions and a throw; kitchen towels and potholders, towels in the bathroom. it's enough to have them in right colors, but naturally you can go really way out with this.

* It is nice to decorate some spots in the home for all holidays. Like the mantelpiece, door, any place you have decorated anyway, just exchange the decoration to theme appropriate. It's nice to have some items for these, like
- the personification of the country, like Uncle Sam, Marianne or Mother Svea. Every country has one, even if they aren't as famous. If you don't know and can't find out, take a female, dress her in old-fashioned garb in flag colors and give her the flag and country's coat of arms.

* Decorate the table in flag colors. It is of course appropriate to use the country's national flowers or flowers that originate from the country or are native or common in the country. For example, to celebrate Netherlands, the flower arrangement is of course tulips.

* Use a map of the country as decoration

* use the country's year of independence as decoration; use the numbers as letters

* If there are parades make the kids "parade bags" to keep them happy

* create a scavenger hunt - look out for things typical for the country and Independence Day celebration

January 1st

January 1st is the New Year's Day.
There's all kinds of traditions for 1st of January associated with that it's the first day of the year.

For example, some foods are considered lucky.
- USA Southern states: "peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold"

- St. Basil's cake - Greek New Year's cake - there's a coin put in the cake (after it's baked, not baked into the cake), so be careful as you bite :-D The one who finds the coin gets good luck for the year. They also serve kollyva, "memorial wheat", to commemorate St. Basil and all the other passed beloveds. It's sort of a Day of the Dead.

St. Basil is a bit like St. Nicholas. He is expected to visit the home between the sundown of 31st of December and sundown of 1st of January. People leave food out for him, like milk and cookies to Santa, and he leaves gifts in the children's shoes. You could awaken all those St. Nicholas' day traditions. :-D

In Greek tradition it's St. Basil who is the gift bringer and protector of poor children. You could take a basket of goodies to some poor family this day, to give their new year a good start.

In Greece, St.Basil's day is celebrated by people visiting friends and relatives during the day, singing New Year's Carols (and the children go caroling and they get treat as reward). In the evening there's a big dinner, and usually a setting is left empty for St.Basil. 

Calennig means New Year celebration/gift. The giving of gifts on New Year's Day is an ancient custom.  In Wales children would call from door to door collection Calennig (New Year’s Gift). They would go from house to house, bearing good wishes for the health and prosperity during the year to come.  This was symbolized by the skewered apples, stuck with corn and sprigs of evergreen, which they carried in their hands. Children would sing and receive small gifts of food or money for their trouble

January 1st is the Apple Gifting Day.

January 1st is the Z day - the alphabetical order is reversed, and people with name that starts with Z gets to go first :-D

Visiting friends and family on 1st of January is an old tradition in many places. As such, there's naturally superstitions related. The first visitor of the year should be a man, dark-haired, not have flat feet and be bringing gifts; enough for everyone in the household. (These gifts are food. Traditionally "cakes, bread and cheese".)

Black Bun recipeShortbread recipe -  as the coal represents warmth, it's not proper to bring fake coal or coal candy that can be put in Christmas stockings; it's better to take with one a bag of grill coal :-D (Or a burned matchstick - for symbolic reasons ;-)) - Scottish cheeses you must try!

Chamber's Book of Days about New Year's Day

January 1st is traditionally a Polar Bear Swim Day :-D

It's the National Bloody Mary day in USA
Probably, because Bloody Mary is commonly used as a pick-me-up, and people tend to party hard in New Year's Eve

In Philadelphia, they will be having a Mummers' Parade.
In Wien they have a New Year's Day Strauss concert. The broadcast is illustrated with the Austrian royal ballet performing ball room dances.

How to have a Victorian Ball
Having a Viennese Ball

You should learn to dance Waltz, Mazurka, Polka and March. It brings so much more enjoyment to Strausses' music and gives you a good workout to begin the year with :-D If you do it in proper Victorian ballgown (as above), it's even better.

In Japan they celebrate their New Year, Gantan-Sai.  It was celebrated at the same time as the Lunar New Year in Asia, but when Japan started following the Gregorian calendar, they moved the New Year to 1st of January

It's the Commitment Day. Of course.
So - most people don't keep their New Year's promises. They are like electoral promises, never meant to be kept either. But what if you took yourself seriously for a while? What if you seriously considered what to promise and made a real effort to keep your promise to yourself, and if you failed, take that seriously as well, and apologize, explain and make it up to yourself. After all, YOU are the most important person in your life who will be there come shine come rain, and who can't ever leave how ever rotten you are to them.
"The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have come from the ancient Babylonians. They made promises to earn the favor of the gods, and start the year off right. They would reportedly vow to pay off debts, and return borrowed farm equipment."
- The Origins and Practices of Holidays; New Year's Day
The Japanese have a "daruma doll" - It is a wooden doll with empty eyes. When you make a promise or commitment, you paint on one eye. When you have fulfilled the promise, you paint in the other eye. Maybe you could choose to wear an eye-patch until you have fulfilled your New Year's Promise? Not to endulge in some pleasure of yours until you have reached your goal? As a reward, you get to have the first cup of coffee of the year, or eat candy or pizza, or wear your favorite shirt.

Brunei, Cameroon, Haiti and Sudan will celebrate their independence day.