Archives for March 2013
Although Easter Sunday is just one day in the year, the 40-day Lenten period before it combined with Eastertide following it, create the entire religious season of Easter, which coincides with spring and the earth’s renewal. It’s a time of great rejoicing among Christians worldwide and is considered the holiest day of the year.
As with Christmas, there are many other secular traditions that have grown up around this religious holiday in terms of food, festivities and celebrations. Of course those include Easter parades, Easter bonnets, Easter hams and breads, decorated eggs, baskets full of chocolates and jelly beans, and, of course, the Easter Bunny!
Here are somme Easter Fun Facts from PopSugar (http://www.yumsugar.com/Easter-Fun-Facts-200482). You can visit their website to learn even more!
- When taking a bite into a chocolate bunny, 76% of Americans prefer to bite off the ears first. 5% eat the feet first and 4% eat the tail first.
- During the Easter season, Americans buy more than 700 million Peeps – making Peeps the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy.
- Adults prefer milk chocolate (65%) over dark chocolate (27%).
- 86% would prefer having chocolate bunnies instead of a live rabbit.
- Each day throughout the year, 5 million marshmallow chicks and bunnies are produced in preparation for Easter.
- 16 billion jelly beans are made specifically for Easter which is enough to fill a plastic egg the size of a 9-story building.
- Eighty percent of parents carry on the tradition of the Easter bunny by preparing a surprise Easter basket filled with goodies for their children and 90% of adults hope for their own Easter treat.
Of course what they don’t list is how many thousands of pounds of egg salad will be made with all those leftover Easter eggs! Happy Easter and Happy Spring!
In the mood board: “Happy Easter” from bluemountain.com
Meet Dave Sommers:
Dave, when did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?
One day, as a small child, my medium of choice became permanent markers as I freely expressed myself on the bathroom walls and cabinets! Our unlucky cat happened to walk by and his fur and paws became my canvas as well. Honestly, I really don’t know exactly when I realized that I wanted to be an artist…I have loved drawing and painting as far back as I can remember.
What is your current position at bluemountain.com and can you tell us a little about your background as an artist?
My title is Senior Creative Developer which is an appropriate title given my frequent senior moments. I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art. I love the ease and immediacy of digital art but I also enjoy digging into traditional art by drawing, painting and sculpting with real world tools.
Could you tell us a little more about your work?
Breathing life into an imaginary world you have created by animating its environment and characters is fun and rewarding. I get to do this with 2D and 3D software. The art is only a piece of the puzzle though, as creating a greeting ecard is a collaborative effort. Our editors do an amazing job of creating sentiment that is just right for the occasion and we are all part of the process of brainstorming and developing ideas for the cards. It’s wonderful to see it all come to life when our talented audio team creates the music and sound effects.
What’s your favorite ecard you’ve created and what makes it special to you?
Often my favorite cards are the ones I have most recently completed because the struggle to create it is followed by the great feelings of relief and reward when it’s finally completed. It’s also great to work collaboratively with other artists because the piece as a whole seems to turn out better than the sum of its parts
Dave, are there any particular artists who have influenced your career?
Several years ago I was shocked to find the name of the famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe in my family tree. The chart had been tucked away for years in a box and I never knew I was related to her! Admittedly, she is a distant cousin, but I became an instant fan. My grandmother was also a really good artist but I didn’t even know it until her paintings and drawings were discovered soon after she had died. I admire a beautiful original painting of hers that hangs in my home today. The works of God in nature inspire and influence me. Plus, there is always so much that I learn about great design from nature and people everywhere.
How do you stay motivated?
For me motivation comes from envisioning the finished work as it benefits, and is appreciated, by others. I get to work with a group of extremely talented and creative people and their great work motivates and inspires me to become even better.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hmmm, I think I’ll be basking on a tropical beach…talking proudly with my wife about our successful and wealthy children. Then (record scratch sound), my boss will tell me to stop daydreaming and get back to work. Truthfully I really love my job so I’ll be happy to still be creating art and animation!
What advice would you give to an aspiring young artist?
In art school I knew a student who wanted to be a really good artist, but he had one major problem, he couldn’t draw very well. Most of us wondered what he was doing there. He got a lot of negative criticism from teachers and students about his drawings but he didn’t let discouragement keep him down. His deep passion to become great drove him to work even harder. For 5 long years he persisted even though his progress, at times, was painfully slow. Finally, just before graduation, his final works were presented before a large audience of teachers and peers. His art was far better than any of us dreamed he was capable of creating–it was fantastic! He received a standing ovation and people were actually wiping away tears! He was an inspiration for all of us to follow our passion and never give up. So I guess that is my advice…follow your passions and inspiration and you’ll have the motivation you need to succeed. Hard work and persistence are key elements for any successful endeavor.
On a final note, what are some things you like to do for fun?
My family is really cool. I enjoy hanging out with my wife and kids and playing games, going on vacations, watching movies and going to church activities with them. I love a good hike in nature and being in awe of God’s creations. Oh yes…I like ping pong too!
We hope you know that your talent and all that passion you pour into your work brings a lot of joy to people worldwide!
The Seder Dinner
Got matzah? That’s a good start in preparing for Passover, which begins at sundown Monday, March 25, and continues through Tuesday, April 2, this year. But many other additional foods and items are needed to perform a Seder (meaning “order” in Hebrew), the annual ceremonial dinner held on the first two nights of the holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.
The Seder Plate
The focus of the Seder table is the Seder plate, which can range from a laminated preschooler’s Passover art project to elegant glass, silver, ceramic, or metal interpretations. http://www.moderntribe.com/judaica/passover_store/seder_plates_store
All Seder plates must feature areas for particular, required religious symbols that include:
- a green vegetable (to be dipped in saltwater reminiscent of the tears
shed in slavery)
- roasted shank bone or poultry neck (representing the sacrificial lamb)
- hard-boiled egg (a sign of mourning)
- charoset (a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine resembling the mortar
used by slaves to build Egyptian structures)
- bitter herbs (often horseradish, as a reminder of how harsh life in
- a bitter vegetable (often romaine lettuce, which has bitter roots —
another sign of how difficult living in captivity was)
These icons remain on the Seder plate while portions of certain symbols are set out on the table for all to eat at times specified as the Seder progresses.
Throughout the Seder, each participant reads from a Haggadah (Hebrew for “telling”), a booklet of the Seder blessings, Exodus story, and Passover songs in a specific order. The basic content is the same, but all kinds of Haggadahs are available to present it. http://passoverhaggadah.com/
The Four Cups and Matzah
Along with consuming the ritualistic foods and then a full dinner, each person drinks four glasses of wine, celebrating freedom and four aspects of God redeeming the Jewish people. The Seder ceremony ends with the eating of the afikoman, a portion of matzah that has been hidden and found during the evening in a fun effort to involve the children. This matzah is eaten last, after dessert, so that the ‘taste’ of the Seder ceremony remains with participants.
Although age-old traditions provide the framework of the Seder, contemporary variations can bring personal relevance to the event. Some people include an orange among the Seder foods, honoring the fruitful role women and homosexuals play in Jewish life. Others place an olive on the Seder plate to signal hope for world peace. Vegetarians replace the shank bone with a roasted beet. No matter how the ritualistic symbols are displayed or interpreted at the Seder, they are indeed food for thought on this very special holiday.
For delicious charoset recipes, go to http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/passover/charosetrecipes
Christians around the world receive palm fronds today in many churches to symbolize the palms that were waved at Jesus and were laid in his path as he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before his death and resurrection.
Referred to in many churches as Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday falls the week prior to Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
The warmest thoughts come with Springtime…of sunshine, blue skies, warm breezes, and dancing butterflies. It’s a time for long walks, meandering bike rides, and opening up the house to let in the freshness of the cool spring air, which is filled with the sounds of children finding their way outdoors again and lawnmowers humming along on Saturday mornings.
It’s a time for putting away the heavy sweaters and bringing out the tees, trading snow shovels for garden hoses, woolen hats for umbrellas, boots for tennis shoes, and roasts from the oven for hamburgers on the grill.
There’s fishing to do, baseball to play, wooded paths to hike, books to read, hammocks to hang, naps to take, and swings that have sat quietly for far too long.
It’s Springtime…what makes yours special?
In the mood board: “Day Brightener Postcard” from bluemountain.com
Ah, springtime! Something in its name gives us hope. We can literally see the barren earth come back to life. The faded grasses turn green again and daffodils, those ambassadors of sunshine, dot the landscape.
March 20 brings new life to our spirits as we are awakened by the Vernal Equinox and the sun begins to shine more brilliantly on our upturned faces. As it begins to melt our cares and woes, we’re touched by its magical warmth. It gently persuades us to release the bonds of winter and to usher in the newness of spring.
How can you bring that feeling into your life right now? Well here are a few ways to add a little bit of springtime to your heart and home today…
- Take a good walk and breathe in the fresh air. Remind yourself of those things that make you feel strong and energized and make a plan to pursue more of those things in the weeks ahead.
- While you’re out there, wander around the outside of the house and see if there’s a good spot for a flowering potted plant or a new bush that will brighten the landscape.
- Get out those plant magazines, or visit a local greenhouse and start making plans for a little herb garden or a potted plant bearing fruit or simple flowers. (You’ll really be glad you did.)
- If it looks like winter will not be leaving your neighborhood for a few more weeks, then inspire yourself with the home magazines that abound with ideas to refresh and renew your home and spirit.
- Of course, the proverbial spring cleaning is one that always makes you feel refreshed and renewed as you give good stuff away to Good Will or other organizations and make room for the things that are really important to you. Get the whole family to help you “lighten up.”
- Bring some springtime color inside. Change out the pillows on the sofa or your bed and add a splash of color with flowers or birds and butterflies.
- Put away the darker shades of winter in your candle and accessories collection and find a few vibrant shades in yellows, pinks, and blues to lighten up your home in a fresh way.
- Send a happy little note for Easter or Spring to your friends and family, via bluemountain.com. Share a smiling face, a chirping bird, or some other budding bit of joy and let them know you’re thinking of them at this happy time of year.
The best part of spring is that it offers the opportunity to take advantage of all the things that make us feel alive and well. Little touches of color, thoughtful cards and notes to friends, planting seeds of hope…these are the things that bring more sunshine into our lives. The sun of the Vernal Equinox is not just on the equator–it also fills our hearts. Happy Spring!
An Easy Easter Centerpiece
Want to add a touch of springtime and Easter whimsy to your family table this year? It’s easy to do with simple craft ideas designed to bring out the smiles at your house. Here are a couple of ways to add some yummy treats and fashionable colors to your Easter celebration, as featured on the Better Homes & Gardens website.
You can create your own sweet tree of edible and non-edible butterflies and flowers. All you need is a nicely shaped tree branch with numerous twigs, perhaps in its natural glory, or spray-painted in springtime green or white. You’ll also need blank card stock and some Easter cookie cutters.
- Pop your branch into a basket or pretty pastel bucket that has some florist foam in it to hold the branch up nicely and then spread some Easter grass around it.
- Next, pick out your favorite cookie cutters, trace those butterflies and flowers onto a good card stock and have fun coloring or painting them with glitz, sparkle, and your own unique designs. Of course you can always use rubber stamps or stencils for your designs if you’d prefer. If you like a simpler look, just use pastel colored card stock and leave the shapes design-free.
- Tie a few of your finished shapes to your branch with invisible jewelry cord or narrow thread or yarn.
- Save some room on your tree to add the real cookies in the same Easter shapes! Just bake your favorite sugar cookie recipe (or use the one below), using the same butterfly and flower cookie cutter shapes as above. (Don’t forget to add a small hole to the top of each cookie before baking for hanging.) Decorate the cookies, hang them on your tree and you’ll have an impressive and tasty Easter centerpiece.
Simply place your beautiful branch in florist foam in a nice ceramic vase, and embellish with brightly wrapped candy or eggs. You can then attach some silk flower buds to the tree branch with a glue gun as well. Other suggestions for decorating the branch include hanging wrapped chocolate bunnies, pink and yellow peeps or little bundles of pastel jelly beans or candy-coated chocolates. Your guests will enjoy them all and you’re sure to create an Easter to remember. This delightful centerpiece can even serve as a gift for your host for Easter dinner or for bringing to the Easter party at school to help make everything prettier and more fun.
For more ideas for decorative trees and other Easter crafts, check some of these websites.
Any holiday is about sharing special moments with those you love and you’re sure to bring extra joy to your family and friends with great ideas like these. You can add even more the to the season by sharing wonderful Easter greetings from bluemountain.com with everyone on your list. Design and sentiment choices range from the most beautiful religious ecards to the most whimsical “you’re some-bunny special” styles!
Sugar Cookie Recipe
1 1/2 c butter, softened
5 c all-purpose flour
2 c sugar
2tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Nest, stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
Roll out dough on floured surface until approx. 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. (You can dip cookie cutter in flour between cuttings to keep dough from sticking to cutter.)
Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool on wire racks.
(Makes approx 5 doz cookies)
No matter where you are or how you choose to celebrate on March 17th, everybody’s Irish! So, just how do others around the world “get their green on” for St. Patrick’s Day? Let’s do a little globe-trotting to find out how others shake that shamrock!
Where else but in the land of lads and lassies would you celebrate the patron saint of Ireland? A religious holiday akin to Christmas and Easter, many begin the day attending mass and praying to St. Patrick. This is followed by plenty of food and drink, including traditional Irish delicacies like corned beef and cabbage, Irish brown bread, potato soup, and a pint of Guinness! Face painting, shamrocks worn on lapels and hats, parades, and partying round out the day-long celebration! The two most festive cities in Ireland on March 17th are Dublin, Ireland’s capital, and Downpatrick, where St. Patrick was buried in 461.
Hosting one of the largest parades in the world with over 150,000 participants and millions of spectators, New York City is the crème de la crème of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Since 1762, the Big Apple has seen its share of smiling Irish eyes walk the streets of 5th Avenue. Many will also visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral to pray and to McSorley’s Old Ale House, the oldest Irish bar in New York.
In Chicago, the famous Chicago River is dyed bright green to match the celebrations, which includes its famous parade, which is always held on a Saturday. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, the WindyCity never turns off its Irish pride!
Elsewhere Around the World
Other cities around the world also celebrate in style. Canada hosts parades in many of its major cities and the day is an official holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador!
With its substantial Irish population, Munich, Germany, hosts an open air party with live music and dancing following its own ever-growing parade that’s been held since 1996.
Festa Irlandese is the name given to the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Florence, Italy! It’s a ten-day festival that draws thousands of visitors who dine on Italian versions of Irish food and drink!
In Copenhagen, Denmark, a charity for children with cancer is the beneficiary of the proceeds from celebrations that are sponsored by the Carlsberg brewery and many Irish pub owners in that city.
In the U.K., where the largest minority community is Irish, there are festivals held all around the country, with one of the biggest ones being held in Manchester, which claims the largest Irish population in Britain, outside of London. It’s a two-week event that includes cultural and educational activities leading up the the big day.
Japan has its own version of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as well that includes parades, parties, and pubs, especially those that feature Guiness! Free beer vouchers are handed out along the parade route and have become one of the parade’s biggest attractions!
The “wearin’ of the green” is just as popular in Russia, Australia, South Korea and many other countries as well, which just proves that it doesn’t matter if you’re Irish all the way, or Irish for the day…as long as you like to have fun!