Things We Can Count On

Clockwise starting at top left: Clark Stanley, Mrs. Clark Stanley in her rattlesnake suit (nice hat), Snake Oil bottle, a depiction of Clark Stanley in action, Others get in on the action: Dr. Willie Gellbedder’s wagon, an ad from the Reverend Shine Snake Oil Co., Dr. Thomas Electric Oil (whaaaat? And what does a cat have to do with it?), Clark Stanley’s newspaper ad.

 

At KHT, we keep things pretty simple and traditional.  Put in a hard day’s work.  Be honest and straightforward with customers. Give our word and stand by it.  And when looking someone in the eye, it’s ok to close an agreement with a nod, smile and a firm handshake.  Seems pretty simple really. But lately there’s been so much noise about what’s “real”, what’s fake, who to trust, who to blame.  I don’t know about you, but my inbox and online accounts seem flooded with articles and opinions around fake news, unmet promises and misinformation. Add to that all the clickbait, spam, and junk mail, and it’s a wonder we can navigate our workday at all.  Recently I saw an ad making all these crazy promises and thought “geez, that guy seems like a snake oil salesman.”  Which got me to thinking, where did that term come from.  Like I often do, I turned to the internet, and found some recaps of the backstory, a delightful marketing tale that includes a cowboy, a socialist, and Teddy Roosevelt.  Enjoy.

In 1893, the world turned its eyes to Chicago, when the city hosted the Chicago World’s Fair, a spectacle seen by 27 million people over six months.  Big brands were launched like Juicy Fruit gum, Cream of Wheat and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

In the middle of that pageantry was a self-described cowboy and “Rattlesnake King” by the name of Clark Stanley. He had rolled into town to sell one thing to the revelers at the Fair: Snake Oil, and he did so with great fanfare and showmanship, deftly grabbing rattlesnakes from his bag, slicing them open, and dropping them into a great vat of boiling water. As the snake’s fat rose to the top, he skimmed it off, mixed it with a concoction of patented ingredients, bottled it, and sold it in .50 bottles as Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment –“Good for Everything a Liniment Ought to Be Good For”.

Long before it became synonymous with quackery, snake oil was a real medicinal substance that was potentially effective.  The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1800s brought thousands of Chinese immigrants to the American West and Pacific Coast, and they brought many traditional medical remedies with them, including snake oil, made from the Chinese water snake, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a potent anti-inflammatory agent.

According to Stanley, he spent years conquering the West—conquests he detailed in pamphlets that also happened to serve as advertisements for his Snake Oil Liniment – (how’s that for “content marketing”?).  claiming he learned of the powers of snake oil for medicinal purposes from the Hopi people, recounting tales of “snake dancers” who stared deadly rattlesnakes in the face without fear. Business was booming.

Eventually, he met a druggist from Boston who convinced him to move east and open a manufacturing facility to sell his product in bulk. A newspaper interview recounted how Stanley fearlessly handled the snakes in his Massachusetts office, telling the reporter how he makes the liniment over the winter, then spends the rest of the year traveling from town to town with his family to sell it.

Around 1901, Stanley moved his headquarters to an even larger facility in Rhode Island, still printing his cowboy tales in pamphlets, always accompanied by ads for his product.  But in five short years, a book would be published by a socialist activist that would lead to the end of Stanley’s growing business.

In the early 1900s, a socialist author, Upton Sinclair, (remember your 7th grade history class?) went undercover in Chicago’s stockyards to investigate the exploitation of poor immigrant workers at the hands of the powerful meatpacking businesses. He described in his work called “The Jungle” the long hours, dangerous work conditions, wage theft, and predatory lenders who preyed on a Lithuanian family who had come to America in search of a better life.  The work was republished as a book the next year and became a runaway hit.  The public was shocked and outraged.

The public outcry—and the endless barrage of letters from Sinclair himself—was enough to force Teddy Roosevelt (who had previously described Sinclair as a “crackpot”) and his administration to pass two important pieces of legislation: The Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, a measure that caused a big problem for Clark Stanley and his snake oil.

With the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, the government finally had some teeth with which to crack down on hucksters of phony “patent medicines.” (the Act would later evolve into the modern day Food and Drug Administration).  While other laws had provided some protections, the Act defined “misbranding” and “adulteration” for the first time—stating that a drug would violate the law if it is “falsely labeled in any respect.”

It took another decade for the government to catch up to Clark Stanley, but in 1916, a shipment of his Snake Oil Liniment was seized by the District Attorney and tested by the Bureau of Chemistry. They found Stanley’s miracle cure was nothing more than mineral oil, 1% fatty oil (probably beef fat), capsicum, and a trace amount of camphor and turpentine.  Not a drop of snake oil to be found.

The D.A. took issue with the claimed uses on the bottle, and concluded that Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment was misbranded. Their decision did not mince words:
“The article was misbranded for the reason that certain statements, appearing on the label…and included in the booklet accompanying it, falsely and fraudulently represented it as a remedy for all pain and lameness, for rheumatism, neuralgia, sciatica, sprains, bunions, and sore throat, for bites of animals and reptiles, for all pains and aches in flesh, muscle and joints, as a relief for tic douloureux, and as a cure for partial paralysis of the arms and of the lower limbs, and as a remedy for paralysis and effective to reduce enlarged joints to their natural size, as a perfect antidote to pain and inflammation, and effective to kill the poison from bites of animals, insects or reptiles, and heal the wounds resulting from bites of animals, insects, or reptiles, when, in truth and in fact, it was not.”

On June 15th of that year, Clark Stanley pleaded no contest to the charges, and was fined $20, the equivalent of $459.27 today.

After several amendments, the Act eventually became the FDA, a powerful government office today with a $4 billion annual budget, charged with protecting the health and safety of Americans.  The formation of the FDA was part of a larger movement—the “Progressive Era”—that saw a push towards more protections for consumers against unfair business practices. In 1914, the Federal Trade Commission was formed, which would be responsible for enforcing false advertising laws, preventing other businesses beyond the food and drug industry from misbranding their products.

Apparently, the Rattlesnake King didn’t find the truth to be all that profitable, because he disappeared after 1916.  Historians don’t even know if Clark Stanley was his real name, or whether it was simply a stage name for his snake-wrangling cowboy persona.

What is known is that the term “snake oil” took on a life of its own, becoming a catch-all term for fraud. The “Snake Oil Salesman” became a stock character in Western movies, and lives on today.

 

 

 


 

Spoiler Alert: Holiday & Vacation is Over.

If you’re like most entrepreneurs and business owners, you’re right back at it tackling an overflowing inbox, scheduling production and juggling an already crammed calendar, while trying to mentally check back into the “flow” of work.  Surprising how we can all relate.  For some reason, this holiday break, as wonderful as it was, seems like a blur to me – cookies, parties, family, kids, friends, great food, more great food and still more great food and fun.  I did my best to “go dark” a bit, and try and break away from the business, but probably like you, found myself checking emails, responding to the cell phone and in my home office, just “checking things”, to be sure no “hidden opportunities” has popped out!

In fact, according to a Glance Networks study, most businesses don’t get back to normal productivity levels until about three weeks after New Year’s.  That sounds ok, but just doesn’t work for us, as we’re running 24/7 on your PIA Jobs! TM – product still coming in, and trucks still rolling out.

That said, I came across an article in Forbes magazine I thought I’d share.  The perspective was from Brian Scudamore, the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, best known for 1-800-GOT JUNK fame.  According to Brian, here are three things you can do right now to hit the ground running in 2017 – (thanks for tips! – full article HERE)

1: Paint a Picture for Long-Term Success

Over 45 percent of people make personal resolutions, but few of us make resolutions for our businesses. The new year is a perfect time to set goals for all aspects of your life. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t, and those odds for success increase to 50 percent when you write those goals down.

I personally experienced the power of visualization when I wrote my first “Painted Picture” — a crystal-clear snapshot of the future I wanted for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. In the early days, it was just a scrappy startup with three trucks and a lot of potential. Since achieving most of the goals in the first Painted Picture, I craft a new one every few years, and share the updated vision with our employees. It’s a powerful way to get your team fired up and working together towards a goal, not just settling into another year of the status quo.

The new year is also an opportunity for our team to look at our Can You Imagine? wall and their 101 Life Goals lists with fresh eyes. These are two ways we ask employees to dream big all year round. And when someone’s in a post-vacation slump, these tools are potent reminders about the exciting things that can happen when you intentionally set goals.

2. Snap a Leadership Selfie

How often do you take an audit of your strengths and weaknesses? A new year is a great time to reflect on what’s going well, and what could use work. Self-awareness is truly one of the greatest skills for success: not only does it make you a better, more empathetic leader, it’s also positively correlated with your company’s bottom line.  So how does a leadership selfie work? For me, it’s as simple as writing down my skills and what needs improvement. I make a list and solicit feedback, both formally and informally, with coffee meetings, chats with coworkers, and more structured surveys. And what better time to break old habits than those first few days when your work routines haven’t yet reformed?

3: Strip Away Productivity Blockers

What was holding you back or frustrating you last year? I’ve found it’s the little things that end up wasting the most time. But the good news is that identifying time-sucks is the first step to eliminating them.  For me, unproductive meetings are a big pet peeve and I’m not alone: 59 percent of people hate meetings that don’t stay on topic. So in 2017, set meetings with one direction, clear outcome goals, and only invite people who need to be there. Another simple trick is to schedule 22-minute meetings instead of half-hour ones. The idea, pioneered by Nicole Steinbok, is to make everyone hyper-conscious of start and end times.

Email is another productivity blocker. In fact, the average office worker spends 28% of their week managing their inbox. I learned long ago to tame this beast. Now, I sort every email into one of three folders (personal, end-of-day, and end-of-week) so I can power through later in one focused, productive chunk.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do for your business is start 2017 with a positive attitude that will set the tone for the rest of the year. Having fun in the workplace, (a MUST here at KHT) is the real key for being engaged, creative, and super productive.

Hope some of these ideas help – feel free to give me a call to discuss – I’m working on my list right now.

 

 


 

How Long Is Your List?

Happy New Year to all – hope you had a great holiday (I sure did), got the gifts you wanted (my kids were all home for Christmas!) and enjoyed a little R&R with family and friends (I sure did). And so, the New Year begins with goals and aspirations and that dreaded “resolutions” list. If you are like me, it’s probably quite a list – better health, be kind, more spiritual, patience, be organized – oh yea, that “eating right thing” too (That doesn’t even make the list!). It made me wonder “who started this resolutions thing” anyway – and of course the answer is perfect for my weekly posts. Thanks to History Channel and Wikipedia for filling in some of the info.

  • Today, resolving to change and improve yourself and your life is an almost unavoidable part of the transition to a new year. Though it’s a pretty well documented fact that most New Year’s resolutions fail, we keep making them—and we’re not alone. The custom of making New Year’s resolutions is most common in the West, but it happens all over the world.
  • The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago.
  • They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted.
  • During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to be.
  • A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
  • In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
  • For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year.
    This tradition has many other religious parallels. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People can act similarly during the Christian liturgical season of Lent, although the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility. In fact, the Methodist practice of New Year’s resolutions came, in part, from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.
  • Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement (which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on).
  • At the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year’s resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40% did.
  • According to the American Medical Association [(AMA)], approximately 40% to 50% of Americans participate in the New Year’s resolution tradition. It should also be noted that the 46% of those who made common resolutions (e.g. weight loss, exercise programs, quitting smoking) were over ten times as likely to succeed, compared to only 4% who chose not to make resolutions.

Most Popular goals include:

  • Donate to the poor more often
  • Become more assertive
  • Become more environmentally responsible.
  • Improve physical well-being: eat healthy food, lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, stop biting nails, get rid of old bad habits
  • Improve mental well-being: think positive, laugh more, enjoy life
  • Improve finances: get out of debt, save money, make small investments
  • Improve career: perform better at current job, get a better job, establish own business
  • Improve self: become more organized, reduce stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent,
  • Put down the phone, less screens, watch less television, play fewer sitting-down video games
  • Volunteer to help others, practice life skills, use civic virtue, give to charity, volunteer to work part-time in a charity organization
  • Pray more, be closer to God, be more spiritual
  • The most common reason for participants failing their New Years’ Resolutions was setting themselves unrealistic goals (35%), while 33% didn’t keep track of their progress and a further 23% forgot about it.
  • About one in 10 respondents say they make too many resolutions
  • According to recent research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. But that dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon—after all, we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice.

For fun, email me your list. I’ll tuck it away for a few months, and then “check back” to see how you are doing.

 

 


 

Thank You for Letting Us Solve Your PIA Jobs!™

Because of you, our clients and friends, we’ve been able to fulfill our mission here at Kowalski Heat Treating – Solving Our Client’s PIA Jobs. For us, it’s what gets us up in the morning and keeps us here late at night, making sure we do great, consistent, reliable work for you, in a timely manner, and deliver as we’ve promised.

Like any business, we’ve had our hiccups and challenges, (what I like to call “HIDDEN OPPORTUNITIES!”). But looking back on this past year, I can say we’ve done a wonderful job, and had a little fun along the way.

Some of the things I’m most proud of:

  • Our Kowalski Heat Treating family continuing to grow and working together to make all of us better. My team’s been great focusing on the little things and helping each other out, especially in those times of need, both personal and professional.
  • Continuing our tradition of company ‘get togethers’ and cook outs, and finding that we have a bunch a fantastic cooks! We here at KHT all love to eat!!
  • Continually hearing from my folks, “don’t worry Steve, we got this” or “No problem”. Especially after they see all of those PIA Jobs that come into us! You can call it culture, attitude or what I like to tell everyone … THE KOWALSKI WAY!
  • Our customers, vendors and business partners – without all of you, we would not be able to do all this. I can honestly say, we truly enjoy all of our partnerships – you make what we do rewarding and FUN!

I’m looking forward to 2017. It’s sure to bring us all kinds of excitement – with the addition of new equipment, processes, people and certifications! And don’t worry, I will be keeping you all posted along the way!

Thanks again for a great 2016 from the gang at KHT!

Happy & Prosperous New Year to you and your families.

 

 


 

May The Warmth of the Holidays Be With You and Your Families

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Psalms 72:11
May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!

 

 

 

 

 
Painting: Adoration of the Child, 1620 by Dutch Master Gerard Van Honthorst (1590–1656)



 

Speculaas or Pepernoten

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when families around the country take to their kitchens to bake cookies galore – (or for those of us not so flour-inclined, swing by the bakery aisle). Whether you prefer gingerbread men, crisp springerles or crunchy biscotti, chances are you’ll enjoy some fresh baked Christmas cookies this holiday season. For me, there is nothing like a plate of cookies (or two or three…), a steamy cup of hot chocolate, and a toasty fire. Like many Christmas traditions, the origin of this delicious custom begins ages ago, in solstice rituals conducted long before Christmas became the huge commercial holiday it is today. Here is a little history to enjoy and share with others and a special recipe from Grandma Kowalski.

Grandma Kowalski’s Cream Cheese Crescents Kolachy Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ pound cream cheese – large pack
  • ½ pound margarine
  • your favorite jam

Directions

  1. Mix flour, cream cheese, and margarine thoroughly.
  2. Roll ¼ inch dough out on powdered sugared board (refrigerate dough if soft).
  3. Cut into 2 inch squares.
  4. Drop a dollop of jam into the center of each square.
  5. Fold corners to center to make pillow shape.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minuets at 350 degrees.

HINT: Add bread crumbs to the jam to prevent it from spilling out while baking. Or use specialty fillings purchased in the produce department of your grocery store., Prune, Apricot, etc.

The sweet history of Christmas Cookies

  • Winter solstice festivals have been held for eons throughout the world. From Norway to West Africa, Ireland to India, groups of people gathered to celebrate the changing of the seasons. Celebrations revolved around food; after all, you had to feast before the famine of the winter.
  • Solstice often meant the arrival of the first frost, so animals could be killed and kept safely to eat through the winter, and fermented beverages like beer and wine that had been brewed in the spring were finally ready to drink. As any modern host knows, a hearty roast and a tasty beverage need just one thing to complete the party: desserts!
  • By the Middle Ages, the Christmas holiday had overtaken solstice rituals throughout much of present-day Europe. However, the old feast traditions remained. And while the roast and drink recipes were probably quite similar to what earlier Europeans had enjoyed, the pastry world was experiencing some amazing changes. Spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper were just starting to be widely used, and dried exotic fruits like citron, apricots and dates added sweetness and texture to the dessert tray. These items, along with ingredients like sugar, lard and butter, would have been prized as expensive delicacies by medieval cooks.
  • Cookies have been around a long time (they probably originated as drops of grain paste spilled on hot rocks around a fire), but they became associated with Christmas in Europe in the 1500s. Gingerbread was a similar food, but laws restricted its baking to guildsman (think early specialty unions), however at the holidays these regulations were relaxed and people were allowed to bake their own at home, making a very special once a year treat.
  • The original roots of this holiday food tradition go back even further—all the way to ancient Norse mythology. Odin, the most important Norse god, was said to have an eight-legged horse named Sleipner, which he rode with a raven perched on each shoulder. During the Yule season, children would leave food out for Sleipner, in the hopes that Odin would stop by on his travels and leave gifts in return. Such a tradition continues today in countries such as Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, where children still believe that horses carry Santa’s sleigh instead of reindeer. On Christmas Eve, they leave carrots and hay—sometimes stuffed into shoes—to feed the exhausted animals. In return, they might hope to receive such holiday treats as chocolate coins, cocoa, mandarin oranges and marzipan.
  • Gingerbread originated in the Crusades and was originally made using breadcrumbs, boiled with honey and seasoned heavily with spices. It was pressed onto cookie boards (carved slabs of wood with religious designs) and dried. Gingerbread evolved to become more secular and to use more modern ingredients. Eventually it became associated with Christmas when speculaas (gingerbread cookies) were made into animal and people shapes and used as holiday decorations. Recipies include ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace combine to make a snappy, spicy taste, just like they would have back then. And gingerbread uses molasses as a sweetener, something that medieval cooks would appreciate as refined sugar was so expensive. These cooks would not have made gingerbread men, however. The first person to try that was none other than Queen Elizabeth I of England, who had the cookie molded into the shapes of her favorite courtiers.
  • Germans were responsible for associating Christmas trees with Christmas cookies. As early as 1597, Alsatians hung oblaten (decorated communion wafers) on their tannenbaums. Americans hung Barnum’s Animal Cracker boxes on trees in the 1800s (the boxes were designed for this purpose). Today some people hang faux gingerbread men on their trees, continuing the tradition.
  • In the more recent history of Christmas cookies, cut-out cookies are now almost universally associated with the holidays in the US. We can trace these cookies back to mumming, a Christmas tradition in colonial areas where the Church of England was influential. In mumming, Christmas stories were acted out and food was used to help depict the stories. Yule dows were cut-outs made in this tradition, often in the shape of the baby Jesus.
  • In the 1800s, Pennsylvania Dutch children created large cut out cookies as window decorations. Around this same time, Yule dows became popular again and were called Yule dollies. They were made with tin cutters and shaped like people, elaborately decorated with icing (like today’s gingerbread men). The face was always made out of a scrap of paper cut out of magazines, which had to be removed before the cookie was eaten. For some, the cookies were controversial because some factions felt the cookies were not religious enough (i.e., not depicting Jesus).
  • In the 1840s, Santa became associated with Christmas and dollies representing him, with a scrap face, were made. Some of these cookies were so beautifully decorated that they weren’t actually meant to be eaten (like today’s gingerbread and gum drop houses). Yet another connection to Santa comes from the Dutch, who believed that pepernoten cookies were thrown around on Christmas by Black Peter, Saint Nicholas’s helper.
  • Moravians were a Protestant sect that formed in the 1740s and were known for creating pyramids of cookies as Christmas decorations for their Christmas Eve services. Today, spicy Moravian cookies are part of Christmas for many people.
  • Only on the most important holiday could families afford treats like these, which led to a baking bonanza to prepare for Christmas. And unlike pies or cakes, cookies could be easily shared and given to friends and neighbors. Our modern Christmas cookies date back to these medieval gifts.
  • Today in the United States, leaving out a plate of cookies (Oreos and classic chocolate chip are popular choices) and a glass of milk for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve is a well-established tradition among children. But it hasn’t always been that way. According to one theory, the cookies-and-milk custom is derived from an older tradition, when families would stuff stockings with goodies for Santa and hang them by the chimney, his preferred mode of entrance, as a welcoming gift. Now, however, those stockings are usually chock-full of treats and smaller gifts for the family members themselves.
  • Leaving cookies and milk for Santa—and perhaps a few carrots for his reindeer—took off as an American holiday tradition in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. In that time of great economic hardship, many parents tried to teach their children that it was important to give to others and to show gratitude for the gifts they were lucky enough to receive on Christmas.
  • Over the years, different countries have developed their own versions of the cookies-and-milk tradition. British and Australian children leave out sherry and mince pies, while Swedish kids leave rice porridge. Santa can expect a pint of Guinness along with his cookies when delivering toys in Ireland. French children leave out a glass of wine for Père Noël and fill their shoes with hay, carrots and other treats for his donkey, Gui (French for “mistletoe”).
  • In Germany, children skip the snacks altogether and leave handwritten letters for the Christkind, a symbolic representation of the Christmas spirit who is responsible for bringing presents on Christmas. Though many German kids mail their letters before the holiday—there are six official addresses for letters addressed to the Christkind—others leave them out on Christmas Eve, decorated with sparkly glue or sugar crystals. On Christmas morning, the letters have been collected, and gifts left in their place.

(thanks to: Stephanie Butler at Hungry History for her insights)

 

 

 

“Oh Come All Ye Faithful”

Caroling all around the land. The center image is titled “Evening Carolers” by the remarkable American painter Thomas Kinkade. (January 19, 1958 – April 6, 2012) Prints of his work are available HERE.

 

One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is the carols (oh yea, and the food).  Not one to be blessed with a magnificent voice (think howling dog with a sore paw), I’m not afraid to sign along in church, (as long as those around me are loud enough to drown me out).  I do the same thing in the car when the songs come on the radio – I crank the volume and let ‘er rip.  I’m usually good with the first verse, and then the others become “mmm, mmm”.

These songs bring back wonderful memories of when my daughters were growing up.  When our youngest daughter was 3 years old, my wife started what would become a wonderful tradition for all of us. – A Christmas Caroling party.   Our four daughters would invite a bunch of their friends for an evening of singing Christmas Carols throughout the neighborhood.  We went with the girls, rain or snow no matter what the weather!  After caroling we would return home for hot chocolate (multiple crockpots full!) and Christmas cookies.  Over the years we would have as many as 60 girls from middle school through high school all singing Christmas Carols.  We would have to serve the hot chocolate in shifts!  Then Jackie and I would sit back and watch the different groups just hang out and chat. This tradition lasted until our “baby” was out of high school.

Here is some fun trivia on caroling, (special thanks to James Cooper at whychristmas.com for the info) and the history behind some of my favorites – enjoy!

  • Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles.
  • The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived.
  • Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones.
  • In 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called “Angel’s Hymn” should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this, many composers all over Europe started to write ‘Christmas carols’.
  • Back then, not many people liked the church versions, as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people couldn’t understand.
  • By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether, and the carol songs fell out of fashion.
  • This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or ‘canticles’ that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in!
  • The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries. Also, at this time, many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular, such as ‘Good King Wenceslas’.
  • The earliest carol was written in 1410. Sadly, only a very small fragment of it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches.
  • Traveling singer or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were traveling. One carols that changed like this is ‘I Saw Three Ships’ (see history below).
  • When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England.
  • Before Carol singing in public became popular, there were sometimes official carol singers called ‘Waits’. These were bands of people led by important local leaders (such as council leaders) who had the only power in the towns and villages to take money from the public (if others did this, they were sometimes charged as beggars!).
  • Christmas Eve (This was sometimes known as ‘watchnight’ or ‘waitnight’ because of the shepherds were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them.), was when the Christmas celebrations began, along with the carols.
  • Many orchestras and choirs were set up in the cities of England, and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular.
  • New carols services were created and became popular, as did the custom of singing carols in the streets. Both of these customs are still popular today! One of the most popular types of Carols services are Carols by Candlelight services. At this service, the church is only lit by candlelight and it feels very Christmassy! Carols by Candlelight services are held in countries all over the world.

The most famous type of Carol Service might be a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, where carols and Bible readings tell the Christmas Story.  Here is the history behind three popular carols:

I Saw Three Ships

The tune of this carol is a traditional English folk song and the words of this carol (of which there are several versions) were written by wandering minstrels as they traveled through the country. In the original version of the carol, the Three Ships were the ones taking the supposed skulls of the wise men to Cologne cathedral in Germany. However, since the Middle Ages, when it was first written, there have been many different lyrics with different Bible characters being on the ships. The most common lyrics used today are about Mary and Jesus traveling to Bethlehem.

Good King Wenceslas

This carol was written in Victorian Britain by John Mason Neale to a traditional folk tune. It was written in the town of East Grinstead, in the county of West Sussex, at Sackville College where he was staying at the time. The story in the carol is about the King (or Duke) of Bohemia (an area in Central Europe which is now part of the Czech Republic) from over 1000 years ago, seeing peasants, on Boxing Day, from his castle and taking food and wood to them. The story in the carol was probably completely made up! In fact the real story of King Wenceslas (907-935) is rather unusual.  Wenceslas’ father was the Duke of Bohemia and a Christian but it’s thought that his mother might have been a pagan. His father died when he was 12 and, as he was not old enough to become Duke until he was 18, his mother took control of the land as regent. During this time his grandmother, Ludmilla, took care of Wenceslas and brought him up as a Christian (she smuggled priests into the house to help teach him). It’s thought that His mother had Ludmilla banished to a distant castle where she was murdered by the Queen’s guards!  Wenceslas was still a Christian after this and learned to read and write, something which was unusual for even a King/Duke in those days! He had local Bishops smuggled in at night to teach him the Bible. When he reached 18, Wenceslas took control of his dukedom. He then defended Bohemia from a couple of invasions by Dukes of neighboring regions and legend says that he banished his mother and her pagan followers from his castle.  The (fictitious) story told in the song was written by a Czech poet Václav Alois Svoboda in 1847. He wrote many ‘manuscripts’ that tried to prove that Czech literature was much older and more developed than it really was. The poem was written in three languages, Czech, German, Latin, and was called ‘Sankt Wenceslaw und Podiwin’ (Saint Wenceslas and the Crocheteer). The Poem found its way into the UK in the 19th Century where JM Neale put the translated words to the tune of a 13th century spring carol ‘Tempus Adest Floridum’ (‘It is time for flowering’) that was came from a collection of old religious songs called ‘Piae Cantiones’ that was published in 1582 in Sweden/Finland!

Silent Night

The words of Silent Night were written by a Priest called Fr. Joseph Mohr in Mariapfarr, Austria, in 1816 and the music was added in 1818, by his school teacher friend Franz Xaver Gruber, for the Christmas service at St. Nicholas church in Oberndorf, Austria.  Fr. Mohr asked Franz Gruber to compose the melody with a guitar arrangement. It was several years later that Franz Gruber wrote an arrangement for the organ. Historians who have conducted research in recent years believe that Fr. Mohr wanted a new carol that he could play on his guitar.  There is a legend associated with the carol that says, Fr. Mohr wanted the carol to be sung by the children of the village at the midnight Christmas Eve service, as a surprise for their parents. But in the middle of practising, the organ broke and not a note would come from it! So the children had to learn the carol only accompanied by a guitar. They learnt the carol so well that they could sing it on its own without accompaniment.  However, there are no records to indicate that a children’s choir was involved or that the organ was broken!  At Midnight Mass in 1818, Fr. Mohr and Franz Gruber sang each of the six verses with the church choir repeating the last two lines of each verse. Mohr set down the guitar arrangement on paper around 1820 and that is the earliest manuscript that still exists. It is displayed in the Carolino Augusteum Museum in Salzburg. There are a number of manuscripts of various ‘Stille Nacht’ arrangement that were written by Franz Gruber in later years.  The original words of the song were in German (and it was called ‘Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht’) and translated in to English went:

Silent night, holy night,

Bethlehem sleeps, yet what light,

Floats around the heavenly pair;

Songs of angels fills the air.

Strains of heavenly peace.

It’s thought that the song might have traveled around the area with an organ repairman, Karl Mauracher, who could have taken an early arrangement with him in about 1820. Then two singing families (like the ‘Von Trappes’ in The Sound of Music) seem to have discovered the song and performed it as part of their concerts. In December 1832, the Strasser family performed it at a concert in Leipzig. It was first performed in the USA in 1839 by the Rainer family, who sang ‘Stille Nacht’ at the Alexander Hamilton Monument outside Trinity Church in New York City. During this time the tune changed to the one we know and sing today!  It was translated into English in 1863 by John Freeman Young. The carol was sung during the Christmas Truce in the First World War in December 1914 as it was a song that soldiers on both sides knew!  By the time that the carol was famous, Fr Mohr had died. Franz Gruber wrote to music authorities in Berlin saying that he had composed the tune, but no one believed him and it was thought that Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven had written it! But then the 1820 manuscript was found and in the top right corner Fr Mohr had written: ‘Melodie von Fr. Xav. Gruber.’.

It’s now one of the most, if the the most, recorded songs in the world!

 

 


 

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like…

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(top row left) Over a million acres of Christmas trees are grown in the US. (top row right) The event of finding the perfect tree. (middle row left and second from left) Many ways to get the tree home. (middle row second from right) Charlie’Brown’s Christmas tree. Get yours at Kohl’s or Toys R Us. (middle row far right) You know who delivering you know what on, well, you know. (bottom row right) It truly is a magical time of year for young & old. (bottom row left) And there’s my whacky anything goes Christmas tree. :)))

 

If you are like me, you’re probably finishing up those turkey day leftovers, pulling out the holiday decorations and getting things ready for Christmas – another one of my “favorite” holidays.  This year, like others, we all got together this past weekend to put up the “FAMILY” tree in the family room – hence the name.   We actually put up two trees and I will get to that shortly!  Now back to the “FAMILY” tree, this tree is always dressed with an eclectic mix of ornaments, some handmade ones from the girls when they were growing up to Jackie and mine’s ornament from the year we got married.  We all enjoy the memories that go with hanging each ornament.   Part of our Christmas tradition is to buy an ornament for each of the girls every year plus one for Jackie and me.  This way when the girls take their’s with them, we still have ours.  Some years the ornaments are whimsical and other years they are exceptionally delicate which leads us to the second tree (Mom’s!)  Years ago we put up a second tree in the living room that is trimmed with only delicate ornaments, strands of white beads and white lights.   It has become affectionately known as Mom’s tree and we all know not to mess with it – especially me!

Here is some Christmas tree history and trivia you can share with family and friends.

CHRISTMAS TREE HISTORY

  • Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.
  • In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.
  • The ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.
  • Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.
  • In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.
  • Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.
  • It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.
  • Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.
  • It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims’s second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity.
  • The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.
  • In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas tree had somewhat formally arrived.
  • By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.
  • The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts.
  • Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.
  • The first tree at Rockefeller Center was placed in 1931. It was a small unadorned tree placed by construction workers at the center of the construction site. Two years later, another tree was placed there, this time with lights. These days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights.
  • The Rockefeller Center tree is located at Rockefeller Center, west of Fifth Avenue from 47th through 51st Streets in New York City and dates back to the Depression Era days. The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center came in 1948 and was a Norway Spruce that measured in at 100 feet tall and hailed from Killingworth, Connecticut.

CHRISTMAS TREE TRIVIA

  • Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the U.S. since about 1850.
  • In 1979, the National Christmas Tree was not lighted except for the top ornament. This was done in honor of the American hostages in Iran.
  • Between 1887-1933 a fishing schooner called the Christmas Ship would tie up at the Clark Street bridge and sell spruce trees from Michigan to Chicagoans.
  • The tallest living Christmas tree is believed to be the 122-foot, 91-year-old Douglas fir in the town of Woodinville, Washington.
  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began in 1933. Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House.
  • In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.
  • Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family.
  • Most Christmas trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail outlet.
  • In 1912, the first community Christmas tree in the United States was erected in New York City.
  • Christmas trees generally take 6-8 years to mature.
  • Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.
  • 100,000 people are employed in the Christmas tree industry.
  • 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms located in all 50 states.  More than 1,000,000 acres of land have been planted with Christmas trees.
  • California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states. 77 million Christmas trees are planted each year, with over 2,000 Christmas trees planted per acre.  The best-selling trees are Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, and White Pine.
  • You should never burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace. It can contribute to creosote buildup.
  • Thomas Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees – see story in Dec 2016 Smithsonian Magazine.
  • In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22nd because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • Teddy Roosevelt banned the Christmas tree from the White House for environmental reasons.
  • In the first week, a tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day.
  • Tinsel was once banned by the government. Tinsel contained lead at one time, now it’s made of plastic.
  • In 1984, the National Christmas Tree was lit on December 13th with temperatures in the 70s, making it one of the warmest tree lightings in history.
  • 34 to 36 million Christmas trees are produced each year and 95 percent are shipped or sold directly from Christmas tree farms.

 

 

 


 

“…till you drop”

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For some, there is nothing more exciting than Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US. Regarded as the official start of the Christmas Shopping season when most retailers open very early, and some the night before to offer shoppers promotional sales. Many of you have already gotten up early today and rushed off to the malls and stores looking for deals. In my house, being a Dad of four girls, the “day after” was met with fun and fervor. We weren’t a family that would race out and go nuts, but we did at times, go looking for savings. So, in KHT fashion, here is some Wikipedia trivia about the day.

  • Although the concept of a national day of thanksgiving originated in the time of George Washington, it was not until 1863 that President Lincoln declared an annual holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday (now the fourth Thursday) in November, a proclamation ignored in the Confederacy until after the Civil War.
  • The day after Thanksgiving as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season may be linked together with the idea of Santa Claus parades. Parades celebrating Thanksgiving often include an appearance by Santa at the end of the parade, with the idea that ‘Santa has arrived’ or ‘Santa is just around the corner’ because Christmas is always the next major holiday following Thanksgiving. (as kids, we’d watch TV waiting to see Santa)
  • The earliest known use of “Black Friday” occurs in the journal, Factory Management and Maintenance, for November 1951, and again in 1952, referring to the practice of workers calling in sick on the day after Thanksgiving, in order to enjoy a four-day weekend. However, this use does not appear to have caught on. Around the same time, the terms “Black Friday” and “Black Saturday” came to be used by the police in Philadelphia and Rochester to describe the crowds and traffic congestion accompanying the start of the Christmas shopping season. In 1961, the city and merchants of Philadelphia attempted to improve conditions, and a public relations expert recommended rebranding the days, “Big Friday” and “Big Saturday”; but these terms were quickly forgotten.
  • In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Santa or Thanksgiving Day parades were sponsored by department stores. These included the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, in Canada, sponsored by Eaton’s, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Department stores would use the parades to launch a big advertising push. Eventually it just became an unwritten rule that no store would try doing Christmas advertising before the parade was over.
  • Thanksgiving Day’s relationship to Christmas shopping led to controversy in the 1930s. Retail stores would have liked to have a longer shopping season, but no store wanted to break with tradition and be the one to start advertising before Thanksgiving. For this reason, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a presidential proclamation proclaiming Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday in November rather than the last Thursday, meaning in some years one week earlier, in order to lengthen the Christmas shopping season.  Most people adopted the President’s change, which was later reinforced by an act of Congress, but many continued to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the traditional date.
  • The earliest evidence of the phrase Black Friday applied to the day after Thanksgiving in a shopping context suggests that the term originated in Philadelphia, where it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. This usage dates to at least 1961.
  • More than twenty years later, as the phrase became more widespread, a popular explanation became that this day represented the point in the year when retailers begin to “turn a profit”, thus going from being “in the red” to being “in the black” on their ledgers.
  • For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 a.m., but in the late 2000s many had crept to 5:00 or 4:00 a.m. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers opened at midnight for the first time.  In 2012, Walmart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, prompting calls for a walkout among some workers.  In 2014, stores such as JCPenney, Best Buy, and Radio Shack opened at 5:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day while stores such as Target, Walmart, Belk, and Sears opened at 6:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Black Friday is not an official holiday, but California and some other states observe “The Day After Thanksgiving” as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday such as Columbus Day.  States include Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
  • Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, which, along with the following regular weekend, creates a four-day weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers, routinely making it the busiest shopping day of the year.
  • In the past few years, “Christmas creep” has been cited as a factor in the diminishing importance of Black Friday, as many retailers now spread out their promotions over the entire months of November and December, rather than concentrate them on a single shopping day or weekend.
  • Three states, Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts, prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores, and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving, due to blue laws (designed to enforce religious standards).
  • It is common for prospective shoppers to camp out over the Thanksgiving holiday in an effort to secure a place in front of the line and thus a better chance at getting desired items. This can pose a safety risk, such as the use of propane, tents and generators in the most elaborate cases, and in general, the blocking of emergency access and fire lanes.
  • Historically, it was common for Black Friday sales to extend throughout the following weekend. However, this practice has largely disappeared in recent years, perhaps because of an effort by retailers to create a greater sense of urgency. In order to take advantage of this, virtually all retailers in the country, big and small, offer various sales including limited amounts of themed sales named “doorbuster”, “doorcrasher” and “doorsmasher” items to entice traffic.
  • In Canada, the large population centers on Lake Ontario and the Lower Mainland in Canada have always attracted cross-border shopping into the US states, and as Black Friday became more popular in the US, Canadians often flocked to the US because of their lower prices and a stronger Canadian dollar. After 2001, many were traveling for the deals across the border. More recently, due to the parity of the Canadian dollar compared with the American dollar, several major Canadian retailers run Black Friday deals of their own to discourage shoppers from leaving Canada.
  • In the United Kingdom, the term “Black Friday” originated within the Police for the Friday before Christmas, a day where those services activated contingency to deal with the anticipated extra pressures put on the emergency services inherent in the larger than normal volumes of people going out on the final Friday before Christmas. Since the start of the 21st century, there have been attempts by retailers with origins in the US, such as Amazon, to introduce a retail “Black Friday” as it would be understood by Americans, into the United Kingdom. In 2013 Asda (a subsidiary of Walmart) announced its “Walmart’s Black Friday by ASDA” campaign promoting the American concept of a retail “Black Friday” in the UK.
  • In Mexico, Black Friday was the inspiration for the government and retailing industry to create an annual weekend of discounts and extended credit terms, El Buen Fin, meaning “the good weekend” in Spanish. El Buen Fin, when major retailers extend their store hours and offer special promotions, including extended credit terms and price promotions.
  • Recent trends in the US show over 250 million shoppers will spend beyond $50 billion in one day, followed by lesser yet meaningful sales on Saturday, Sunday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.

With the Dow Jones Industrials topping 19,000 this week, it’s no wonder what this year will bring.  Grab your hat and coat, jump in and have some shopping fun!

 

It’s Gittin’ A Bit Nippy Out There

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As most of you are aware, the temp is a changin. When I left for work this morning, I noticed a light frost coating on the grass and on my truck. So being the curious type, and also a lover of everything temperature related, (or as we like to call it – Distortion Sensitive Thermal Processing effects), I thought I’d do some digging and share what I found. Wow – way more cool info on frost than I expected. Some fun facts and some “techy” info for my science geeks out there. (Special thanks to Wikipedia and National Weather Services for info and images)

  • Frost is the coating or deposit of ice that may form in humid air in cold conditions, usually overnight. In temperate climates it most commonly appears as fragile white crystals or frozen dew drops near the ground, but in cold climates it occurs in a greater variety of forms.
  • Frost is composed of delicate branched patterns of ice crystals formed as the result of fractal process development. A fractal is a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale, also known as expanding symmetry or evolving symmetry.
  • Frost forms when the temperature of a solid surface in the open cools to below the freezing point of water and for the most clearly crystalline forms of frost in particular, below the frost point in still air. In most temperate countries such temperatures usually are the result of heat loss by radiation at night, so those types of frost sometimes are called radiation frost.
  • Different types of frost include crystalline hoar frost from deposition of water vapor from air of low humidity, white frost in humid conditions, window frost on glass surfaces, advection frost from cold wind over cold surfaces, black frost without visible ice at low temperatures and very low humidity, and rime under super cooled wet conditions.
  • The size of frost crystals varies depending on the time they have been building up and the amount of water vapor available. Frost crystals may be clear or translucent, but, like snow, a mass of frost crystals will scatter light in all directions, so that a coating of frost appears white.
  • Frost is known to damage crops or reduce future crop yields, therefore farmers in regions where frost is a problem often invest substantial means to prevent its formation.
  • If a solid surface is chilled below the dew point of the surrounding humid air and the surface itself is colder than freezing, ice will form on it. If the water deposits as a liquid that then freezes, it forms a coating that may look glassy, opaque, or crystalline, depending on its type. Depending on context, that process also may be called atmospheric icing. The ice it produces differs in some ways from crystalline frost, which consists of spicules of ice that typically project from the solid surface on which they grow.
  • The main difference between the ice coatings and frost spicules arises from the fact that the crystalline spicules grow directly from desublimation of water vapor from air, and desublimation is not a factor in icing of freezing surfaces. For desublimation to proceed the surface must be below the frost point of the air, meaning that it is sufficiently cold for ice to form without passing through the liquid phase. The air must be humid, but not sufficiently humid to permit the condensation of liquid water, or icing will result instead of desublimation. The size of the crystals depends largely on the temperature, the amount of water vapor available, and how long they have been growing undisturbed.
  • As a rule, except in conditions where supercooled droplets are present in the air, frost will form only if the deposition surface is colder than the surrounding air. For instance, frost may be observed around cracks in cold wooden sidewalks when humid air escapes from the warmer ground beneath. Other objects on which frost commonly forms are those with low specific heat or high thermal emissivity, such as blackened metals; hence the accumulation of frost on the heads of rusty nails.
  • The apparently erratic occurrence of frost in adjacent localities is due partly to differences of elevation, the lower areas becoming colder on calm nights. Where static air settles above an area of ground in the absence of wind, the absorptivity and specific heat of the ground strongly influence the temperature that the trapped air attains.
  • To “frost” a mug, start with a “dry on the inside” thick walled glass. Set it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. To speed it up, wrap it in a damp paper towel. If you don’t have a freezer, simply fill your glass/mug with ice and top it off with water. Wait about 6 minutes and then empty the ice/water and the sides will frost up.
  • As some of you may remember, Frosty the Snowman was a 1969 animated Christmas television special based on the song “Frosty the Snowman”, which first aired on December 7, 1969 on CBS (where it still airs to this day). It was produced for television by Rankin/Bass Productions and featured the voices of comedians Jimmy Durante as the film’s narrator (Durante’s final performance in a film) and Jackie Vernon as the title character. Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass wanted to give the show and its characters the look of a Christmas card, so Paul Coker, Jr., a greeting card and Mad magazine artist, was hired to do the character and background drawings.
    Jack Frost is traditionally said to leave the frosty, fern-like patterns on windows on cold winter mornings (window frost or fern frost) and nipping the extremities in cold weather. He is sometimes described or depicted with paint brush and bucket coloring the autumnal foliage red, yellow, brown, and orange.
    And a little throwback for my “hip” baby-boomers – Christmas tribute – Jack Frost & the Hooded Crow

So, it’s going to get pretty frosty this weekend. Send me one of your cool frosty photos and I’ll send you one of my hot KHT gifts.