Saturday, February 22, 2014

Most Influential Candy Of All Time

I came across a surprising article the other day that I'd like to share with you.

According to Time magazine, the Kit Kat bar is the most influential candy of all time.  Kit Kat?  That seems to be an odd choice.  Surely the honor of most influential candy bar in the world should go to the Hershey chocolate bar.  Not so, according to Time magazine.  While the Hershey chocolate bar can certainly be considered the most iconic, Time bestowed the honor of Most Influential on Kit Kat.

Why Kit Kat, you are probably asking.  Kit Kat was given the number one slot because it was the first candy bar marketed as a social snack, a delicious experience to be shared with a friend.  This was due to the candy bar's construction—four crispy sticks (or fingers) held together side-by-side by a chocolate coating that could easily be snapped apart and the individual sticks shared with friends.

According to Time, it was also the first candy bar to have a world wide following.  After its introduction in the U.S. and Europe, it made its way to Australia, Asia and Africa.

Kit Kat was originally launched in London in 1935 as Rowntree's Chocolate Crisp.  Two years they changed the name to Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp, then after World War II shortened to just Kit Kat.  Time said it was the first candy bar to be marketed around the idea of sharing.

Kit Kat is now part of the technology sphere.  In 2013 Google Android named its new operating system Kit Kat.
And another candy bar on Time magazine's list of thirteen?  Something called Chicken Dinner Bar which was a chocolate covered nut roll that did not contain any chicken.  Never heard of the Chicken Dinner Bar?  I'm not surprised.  The Chicken Dinner Bar had been a product of the Sperry Candy Company.  Introduced in 1923 during the Great Depression, it was named in reference to President Hoover's promise of "a chicken in every pot."

Sperry Candy Company marketed the Chicken Dinner Bar with the slogan "Candy Made Good."  An ad to the trade explained the reasoning behind the name—"A name which suggests the best of something good to eat, and known to every child."  Apparently Sperry believed that a big roast chicken was a sure fire lure for the children's market.  Chicken Dinner Bar was discontinued shortly after the company was purchased in 1962.

The remaining eleven candy bars on Time magazine's list of thirteen most influential candy bars are: Hershey's Milk Chocolate, Toblerone, Nestle Milk Chocolate, Snickers, Grenada Chocolate, Scharffen Berger, Cadbury Milk Chocolate, Nestle Crunch, Baby Ruth, Milky Way and the Wonka Bar. 

What's your favorite candy bar? 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

History's Romantics

Valentine's Day has come and gone for another year, but fortunately romance never goes away.  I came across a list referred to as History's Romantics and, in honor of the day of romance we just celebrated, I'd like to share it with you.

However…I do have to take exception to some of these choices as being considered truly romantic.  But I leave that decision to you.

Much uncertainty surrounds the life story of the celebrated Greek lyric poet Sappho, a woman Plato called the tenth Muse.  Born around 610 B.C. on the island of Lesbos, now part of Greece, she was said to have been married to Cercylas, a wealthy man.  Many legends have long existed about Sappho's life, including a prevalent one—now believed to be untrue—that she leaped into the sea to her death because of her unrequited love for a younger man.  It is not known how much work she published during her lifetime, but by the 8th or 9th century Sappho's known work was limited to quotations made by other authors.  In the majority of her poems, Sappho wrote about love—and the accompanying emotions of hatred, anger and jealousy—among the members of her largely young and female circle.  Sappho gave her female acolytes educational and religious instruction as part of the preparation for marriage.  The group was dedicated to and inspired by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

Vatsyayana, author of the Kama Sutra
This ascetic, probably celibate scholar who lived in classical India around the 5th century A.D. is an unlikely candidate to have written history's best known book on erotic love.  Little is known about Vatsyayana's life, but in his famous book—actually a collection of notes on hundreds of years of spiritual wisdom passed down by the ancient sages—he wrote that he intended the Kama Sutra as the ultimate love manual and a tribute to Kama, the Indian god of love.  Though it has become famous for its sections on sexual instruction, the book actually deals much more with the pursuit of fulfilling relationships, and provided a blueprint for courtship and marriage in upper-class Indian society at the time.  The Kama Sutra has been translated into hundreds of languages and has won millions of devotees around the world.

Shah Jahan
Emperor of India from 1628 to 1658, Shah Jahan has gone down in history for commissioning one of history's most spectacular buildings, the Taj Mahal (pictured above), in honor of his much beloved wife.  Born Prince Khurram, the fifth son of the Emperor Jahangir of India, he became his father's favored son after leading several successful military campaigns to consolidate his family's empire.  As a special honor, Jahangir gave him the title of Shah Jahan, or King of the World.  After his father's death in 1627, Shah Jahan won power after a struggle with his brothers, crowning himself emperor at Agra in 1628.  At his side was Mumtaz Mahal, or Chosen One of the Palace, Shah Jahan's wife since 1612 and the favorite of his three queens.  In 1631, Mumtaz died after giving birth to the couple's 14th child. Legend has it that with her dying breaths, she asked her husband to promise to build the world's most beautiful mausoleum for her.  Six months after her death, the deeply grieving emperor ordered construction to begin.  Set across the Jamuna River from the royal palace in Agra, the white marble of the Taj Mahal reflects differing hues of light throughout the day, glowing pink at sunrise and pearly white in the moonlight.  At its center, surrounded by delicate screens filtering light, lies the cenotaph, or coffin, containing the remains of the Shah's beloved queen.

Giacomo Casanova
The name Casanova has long since come to conjure up the romantic image of the prototypical libertine and seducer, thanks to the success of Giacomo Casanova's posthumously published 12-volume autobiography, Histoire de ma vie, which chronicled with vivid detail—as well as some exaggeration—his many sexual and romantic exploits in 18th-century Europe.  Born in Venice in 1725 to actor parents, Casanova was expelled from a seminary for scandalous conduct.  He embarked on a varied career including a stint working for a cardinal in Rome, a violinist, and a magician, while traveling all around the continent.  Fleeing from creditors, he changed his name to Chevalier de Seingalt, under which he published a number of literary works, most importantly his autobiography.  Casanova's celebration of pleasure seeking and much-professed love of women—he maintained that a woman's conversation was at least as captivating as her body—made him the leading champion of a movement towards sexual freedom, and the model for the famous Don Juan of literature.  After working as a diplomat in Berlin, Russia, and Poland and a spy for the Venetian inquisitors, Casanova spent the final years of his life working on his autobiography in the library of a Bohemian count.  He died in 1798.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
The only child of the famous feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the philosopher and novelist William Godwin, both influential voices in Romantic-Era England, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin fell in love with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was only 16.  He was 21 and unhappily married.  In the summer of 1816, the couple was living with Shelley's friend and fellow poet, the dashing and scandalous Lord Byron, in Byron's villa in Switzerland when Mary came up with the idea for what would become her masterpiece—and one of the most famous novels in history—Frankenstein (1818).  After Shelley's wife committed suicide, he and Mary were married, but public hostility to the match forced them to move to Italy.  When Mary was only 24, Percy Shelley was caught in a storm while at sea and drowned, leaving her alone with a two-year-old son (three previous children had died young).  Alongside her husband, Byron, and John Keats, Mary was one of the principal members of the second generation of Romanticism; unlike the three poets, who all died during the 1820s, she lived long enough to see the dawn of a new era, the Victorian Age.  Still somewhat of a social outcast for her liaison with Shelley, she worked as a writer to support her father and son, and maintained connections to the artistic, literary and political circles of London until her death in 1851.

Richard Wagner
One of history's most revered composers, Richard Wagner set his work on the famous Ring cycle aside in 1858 to work on his most romantic opera, Tristan and Isolde.  He was inspired to do so partially because of his thwarted passion for Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant and patron of Wagner's.  While at work on the opera, the unhappily married Wagner met Cosima von Bulow, daughter of the celebrated pianist and composer Franz Liszt and wife of Hans von Bulow, one of Liszt's disciples.  They later became lovers, and their relationship was an open secret in the music world for several years.  Wagner's wife died in 1866, but Cosima was still married and the mother of two children with von Bulow, who knew of the relationship and worshiped Wagner's music (he even conducted the premiere of Tristan and Isolde).  After having two daughters, Isolde and Eva, by Wagner, Cosima finally left her husband; she and Wagner married and settled into an idyllic villa in Switzerland, near Lucerne.  On Cosima's 33rd birthday, Christmas Day 1870, Wagner brought an orchestra in to play a symphony he had written for her, named the Triebschen Idyll after their villa.  Though the music was later renamed the Siegfried Idyll after the couple's son, the supremely romantic gesture was a powerful symbol of the strength of Wagner and Cosima's marriage, which lasted until the composer's death in 1883.

King Edward VIII
Edward, then Prince of Wales, was introduced to Wallis Simpson in 1931, when she was married to her second husband; they soon began a relationship that would rock Britain's most prominent institutions—Parliament, the monarchy and the Church of England—to their cores. Edward called Simpson, whom others criticized as a financially unstable social climber, the perfect woman.  Just months after being crowned king in January 1936, after the death of his father, George V, Edward proposed to Simpson, precipitating a huge scandal and prompting Britain's prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, to say he would resign if the marriage went ahead.  Not wanting to push his country into an electoral crisis, but unwilling to give Simpson up, Edward made the decision to abdicate the throne.  In a public radio address, he told the world of his love for Simpson, saying that "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."  Married and given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the couple lived in exile in France, where they became fixtures of cafe society.

Edith Piaf
Though her life was marked by sickness, tragedy and other hardships from beginning to end, the famous French chanteuse with the throaty voice became the epitome of classic Parisian-style romance for her legions of fans.  Born Edith Giovanna Gassion in 1915, she was abandoned by her mother and reared by her grandmother; while traveling with her father, a circus acrobat, she began singing for pennies on the street.  Discovered by a cabaret promoter who renamed her Piaf, or sparrow, (and was later brutally murdered), Edith enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom and by 1935 was singing in the grandest concert halls in Paris.  Piaf was married twice, but her great love was the boxer Marcel Cerdan, a world middleweight champion who was killed in a plane crash en route from Europe to New York in 1949.  It was for Cerdan that Piaf sang the achingly romantic Hymne a l'amour, celebrated all over the world as one of her best loved ballads.  After a near lifelong struggle with drug and alcohol addictions, Piaf died of liver cancer on the French Riviera in 1963.  Her grave is one of the most visited in Paris's world famous Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Kathleen Woodiwiss
Born in 1939 in Alexandria, Louisiana, Kathleen Woodiwiss was a young wife and mother when she began writing romantic fiction as a response to her dissatisfaction with the existing women's fiction of the time.  In 1972, she published her first novel, The Flame and the Flower, set on a Southern plantation in the late 18th century.  Its historical setting and theme, florid prose style, and steamy sex scenes inspired a legion of imitators and its smashing commercial success sparked a new boom in romance fiction.  Woodiwiss was given credit for inventing the modern romance novel in its current form:  thick period melodramas packed with an array of dashing and dangerous men and bosomy women in low-cut dresses.  She herself wrote 13 of these so-called bodice-rippers, including Shanna (1977), A Rose in Winter (1982), Come Love a Stranger (1984) and The Reluctant Suitor (2003).  In an interview with Publisher's Weekly, Woodiwiss firmly denied the characterization of her books as erotic, maintaining that she wrote only "love stories—with a little spice."  By the time of her death in 2006, Woodiwiss's spicy love stories had sold more than 36 million copies in 13 countries.

Elizabeth Taylor
An actress since early childhood, the dark haired, violet-eyed Elizabeth Taylor has won two Best Actress Oscars (for Butterfield 8 in 1960 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966) but is perhaps best known for her rare beauty—and her epic love life.  She has been married a total of eight times—twice to the same man, the actor Richard Burton, whom she has called "one of the two great loves of my life."  The first was the film producer Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash in 1958.  Taylor and Burton met on the set of Cleopatra, when both were married to other people; their affair soon made headlines around the world and earned a public rebuke from no lesser authority than the Vatican.  Their own married life together was a study in extremes, soaked in alcohol and characterized by a passion that was no less intense when they were fighting than when they were getting along.  After divorcing in 1973, they found it impossible to stay apart and remarried in 1975, only to break up four months later.  Barred from Burton's funeral in 1984 by his last wife, Taylor still received legions of condolences, honoring her and Burton's place in the pantheon of history's most celebrated love stories.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The World's Most Romantic Islands

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a list I saw of the world's seven most romantic islands—travel destinations that offer more than just beautiful beaches.  Travel destinations that offer the perfect romantic getaway for the holiday that celebrates love.

Behind the outer wrapping of a tropical paradise with beautiful beaches you will find an interesting and varied landscape.  On the way to the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater you pass through vegetation that includes cactus (something not usually associated with tropical islands).  There are vast stretches of sugar cane fields, a 1900s cowboy town, and a rain forest with an almost primeval feel to it.

An archipelago in the Indian Ocean with white sand beaches, atolls, and secluded resorts.  This is the world's lowest elevation nation (overall elevation of high and low averaged).  You will find a hotel with a coral nursery and an underwater nightclub.  And how about a restaurant reachable only by boat?

This five mile long island was once a haven for backpackers with only the most basic accommodations.  Today it rivals many of the well-known Asian destinations.  Boracay starts with a forty-five minute flight from Manila followed by a boat connection to the final destination of White Beach with powdery sand that just might be the softest in the world.

This is the oldest of Hawaii's eight main islands and has the most dramatic scenery from wind sculpted mountains, red-walled canyons (Waimea Canyon is referred to as Hawaii's Grand Canyon), primeval rain forest, and a wide range of waterfalls.  Kauai has also been the location for several movies including The Descendants, Avatar, Body Heat, and South Pacific.

Every place you look gives you a postcard perfect view.  White washed buildings, colorful flowers, blue-domed churches all clinging to the hillsides of an ancient volcanic crater.  In addition to the spectacular scenery, Santorini offers a wide variety of diversions—fine wines, black and red and white sand beaches, archaeological sites including one referred to as the Minoan Pompeii.

This four-square mile dot in the Tyrrhenian Sea embodies la dolce vita.  There is a funicular railway to take visitors from the main port to the street of Capri town with its boutiques, restaurants, and romantic getaways.

What could be more romantic than staying in a bungalow above the waters of a turquoise lagoon?  At the heart of Bora-Bora is the jagged peak of Mount Otemanu and on its fringes are islets and a coral reef perfect for snorkeling to observe the varied and colorful marine life.

So, if a romantic getaway to one of these islands isn't in the cards for Valentine's Day this year, it would be a good time to start planning for Valentine's Day 2015.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bizarre and Unique February Holidays

February may be a short month, but it certainly is not short on the bizarre, unique, and weird when it comes to holidays—celebrations above and beyond the legal holidays where government offices, banks, and schools are closed for the day.

There are several month long designations in February:  American Heart Month, An Affair To Remember Month, Black History Month, Canned Food Month, Creative Romance Month, Great American Pie Month, National Cherry Month, National Children's Dental Health Month, National Grapefruit Month, and National Wedding Month.

February also has a week long celebration: the third week is International Flirting Week.

And this year (every four years), February is the time of the Winter Olympics.

Hmmm…American Heart Month, An Affair To Remember Month, Creative Romance Month, National Wedding Month, and International Flirting Week.  How appropriate that they should all be in the month that gives us Valentine's Day.

Feb. 1         National Freedom Day

Feb. 2         Ground Hog Day
Always celebrated on February 2.  On this day, the groundhog awakens from a long winter's nap and goes outside of his den.  If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.  If he does not see his shadow, Spring is rapidly approaching.  The tradition comes from the German roots of Candlemas which is the mid point between Winter and Spring.
Feb. 2         Candlemas

Feb. 3         The Day The Music Died
Always celebrated on February 3. On this date in 1959 singers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash.  The event was immortalized in the popular song, Apple Pie, written and recorded by Don McLean.

Feb. 4         Create A Vacuum Day
Feb. 4         Thank A Mailman Day

Feb. 5         National Weatherman's Day
Always celebrated on February 5.  According to the Air Force News, this holiday "commemorates the birth of John Jeffries, one of America's first weathermen."  He was born on February 5, 1744, and kept weather records from 1774 to 1816.  This holiday honors the men and women who work hard to accurately predict the often fickle weather.  Even with the major technological advances including super computers and satellites, forecasting weather is still a tricky and ever changing task.

Feb. 6         Lame Duck Day

Feb. 7         Wave All Your Fingers At Your Neighbor Day
Feb. 7         Send A Card To A Friend Day (a holiday created by Hallmark?)

Feb. 8         Boy Scout Day
Feb. 8         Kite Flying Day
Always celebrated on February 8 (but why in the middle of winter?).  People have enjoyed flying kites for thousands of years, both children and adults.  The most well known kite flyer is undoubtedly Benjamin Franklin with his key and lightning experiment.  Kites were first used by the military in ancient China over 3,000 years ago.

Feb. 9         Toothache Day

Feb. 10       Umbrella Day
Feb. 10       Clean Out Your Computer Day (the 2nd Monday of the month)

Feb. 11       Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day
Feb. 11       Make A Friend Day
Feb. 11       White T-Shirt Day

Feb. 12       Abraham Lincoln's Birthday (combined with George Washington's birthday to be legally celebrated as President's Day the third Monday of February, on the 17th this year)
Feb. 12       Plum Pudding Day

Feb. 13       Get A Different Name Day
Always celebrated on February 13.  This day is for those who are not fond of their given name.  It's the day to take steps to change your name (and don't forget to notify those who need to know about your new name).

Feb. 14       Ferris Wheel Day
Feb. 14       National Organ Donor Day
Feb. 14       Valentine's Day

Feb. 15       Candlemas (on the old Julian Calendar)
Feb. 15       National Gum Drop Day
Feb. 15       Singles Awareness Day

Feb. 16       Do A Grouch A Favor Day

Feb. 17       Random Acts of Kindness Day
Always celebrated on February 17.  You know what to do…perform a few random acts of kindness.  Almost any kind deed will do.  And remember—Random Acts of Kindness is highly contagious.

Feb. 18       National Battery Day

Feb. 19       National Chocolate Mint Day

Feb. 20       Cherry Pie Day
Feb. 20       Hoodie Hoo Day
Always celebrated on February 20.  On this winter day, people go out at noon, wave their hands over their heads and chant "Hoodie-Hoo."  This is the day to chase away the winter blahs (in the Northern Hemisphere).
Feb. 20       Love Your Pet Day

Feb. 21       Card Reader Day (another Hallmark creation?)

Feb. 22       George Washington's Birthday (combined with Abraham Lincoln's Birthday and celebrated as the legal holiday of President's Day on the third Monday of February, on the 17th this year).
Feb. 22       Be Humble Day
Feb. 22       Walking The Dog Day
Feb. 22       International World Thinking Day

Feb. 23       International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
Feb. 23       Tennis Day

Feb. 24       National Tortilla Chip Day
Always celebrated on February 24.  The corn chip recipe was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by a Texas businessman.  Just a few decades ago, Americans seldom ate corn chips and salsa.  Today it's wildly popular.

Feb. 25       Pistol Patent Day

Feb. 26       National Pistachio Day
Feb. 26       Tell A Fairy Tale Day

Feb. 27       Polar Bear Day
Feb. 27       No Brainer Day
Always celebrated on February 27th.  By definition, a no brainer is doing something simple, easy, obvious, and/or totally logical.  If a project requires thinking, study, or analysis of any kind, then this is not the day for it.

Feb. 28       Floral Design Day
Feb. 28       Public Sleeping Day
Feb. 28       National Tooth Fairy Day (sometimes celebrated on August 22)

So…enjoy your favorite bizarre, weird, and unique celebration/holiday.