The History of Valentine’s Day

For most people, Valentine’s Day means handwritten heart-shaped notes, thoughtful gifts of flowers or jewelry, and most importantly, time spent with a loved one. But why is February 14th considered the day of love? And how did the holiday start in the first place?

It turns out, nobody really, truly knows the true history of Valentine’s Day. But what we do know about the origins of Valentine’s Day isn’t all that romantic. The day is named, of course, for St. Valentine, but why? And which Valentine? There were apparently two Valentines executed on February 14 (albeit in different years) by Emperor Claudius II, reports NPR—the reason the church designated the day for the martyrs.

It’s possible that the heart-filled holiday is based on a combination of the two men, according to The New York Times. A widely accepted tale was published in The Boston Globe in 1965 and posits that one, Saint Valentine of Terni who was executed around 278 A.D., had been secretly officiating weddings for Roman soldiers against the emperor’s wishes, making him, in some eyes, a proponent of young love.

Many also believe that St. Valentine’s Day was designated by Pope Gelasius I in order to replace the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia. The debaucherous feast fell around the same time and involved a pagan ritual, which they believed promoted fertility. Following this flagellation was an equally strange tradition, in which men selected women’s names at random to decide who would remain together the rest of the festival, or if the match was successful, for life.

However, a University of Kansas English professor, the late Jack B. Oruch, had a different theory, notes the Times: Through research, he determined that the poet Geoffrey Chaucer linked love with St. Valentine for the first time in his 14th-century works “Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars.” Therefore, Oruch claimed that Chaucer invented Valentine’s Day as we know it today. At the time, February 14th also happened to be considered the first day of spring since it was the beginning of birds’ mating season—perfectly appropriate for a celebration of affection.

Whether or not Chaucer can be fully credited, it is true that he and fellow writer Shakespeare popularized the amorous associations surrounding the day. Soon, people started penning and exchanging cards.

By the early 1910s, an American company that would one day become Hallmark began distributing Valentine’s Day cards. Flowers, candy, jewelry, and more followed, and the rest, of course, is history.

by Taysha Murtaugh

www.countryliving.com/life/a46353/history-of-valentines-day/

Four Unconventional Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day or Any Other Day!

After a while, the predictable Valentine’s Day gifts heart-shaped boxes of candy, overpriced dinners and bouquets of roses start to lose their appeal. This Valentine’s Day, rather than spending the night as you always do, we say bid adieu to all those dates and try something new with your special someone. To make the date planning that much easier, we’ve rounded up a few suggestions if you’re looking to switch things up.

Axe Throwing: Whether you’re planning on spending V-Day with your significant other or you’re planning an epic single night out for you and all your friends, look no further than axe throwing. This experience is so much more fun and can be booked with other couples, not to mention it’s indoors.

Karaoke: There’s no better way to truly get to know someone than by doing something spontaneous such as karaoke! Dedicate a song to your date and you’ll score serious brownie points.

Take a Dance Class: Trade up your dinner reservations and put on your dancing shoes and try a fun dance class. Chances are, you won’t catch on to all of the moves, but you’ll have a great time trying!

Visit a Board Game Cafe: Whether this Valentine’s Day marks your first date or your hundredth, a board game cafe is a perfect spot for couples to connect or reconnect over a game or two.

Check out more great date ideas at
https://29secrets.com/relationships/unconventional-valentines-day-date-ideas/.

Continuing Education and Why it is So Important

Many people graduate from college and jump into their career thinking that school is now in their past and they won’t ever need to write an essay or study again. However, it’s a proven fact that continuing education is the best way to keep your mind strong and can even be a confidence booster. Studies have shown that continuing to learn can help with everyday skills and improve the way your brain performs on a day-to-day basis.

Now, continuing education doesn’t have to mean going back to school or adding more to your student debt. It can be something as simple as taking a one-night class at your local community college or taking up a hobby like learning a new language. Anything that gets you excited and helps to keep your mind functioning at its highest level can be beneficial.

Another way to continue learning is to attend conferences or networking events to further your knowledge and connections. Being in the know of everything your industry offers, as well as being connected, is a sure way to have an edge over competitors in your field. You can also take courses on topics like HTML/CSS or the basics in design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. In today’s world, the more tech knowledge you have, the better.

And for those of you who cringe at the thought of speaking in front of a group of people, there are classes to help with that as well. These classes help to enhance your professional skills like public speaking, negotiation tactics and ways to effectively market your company. Activities may include things like role playing and speaking in front of the class to help you gain experience and confidence that prepare you for the real thing.

Finally, in today’s world of everything being online, you can learn a new skill or hobby just by watching video tutorials. You can find instructional videos and how-tos for almost anything. Have you been wanting to take a photography class? Want to brush up on your cooking skills or try a new recipe? Just type it into the search bar and ta-da, hundreds of videos to choose from!

All that being said, get out there! Take the first step and research non-credit classes at your local community college or jump into that hobby you’ve always wanted to try. In your down time, you can also do brain exercises like the ones listed below to keep your cognitive levels on point. Remember, keep your mind active and never stop learning!

https://www.themuse.com/advice/schools-not-out-the-importance-of-continuing-education

Pets of the Month

My name is Hogan and I live with my mom at PrestonBridge Apartments in Dallas, TX! I am my mom’s 8-year-old male Shitzu/ Pomeranian bundle of joy. I love people and I go to see Brittney, the property manager, every afternoon. My mom says I have a wonderful personality and I’m a good boy because I seldom bark.

My name is Natasha! I am my parents’ 5-year-old Siamese fur-baby. I live with them at Tanglewood Apartments in Lincoln, NE. I am infinitely affectionate and more than a bit anxious when I can’t find mom or dad

 

Chili Cornbread Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen corn
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Cornbread Topping:

  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
  • Sour cream and sliced jalapenos for topping

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F and lightly coat a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Brown ground beef with onion in a large skillet. Once meat is cooked and onion is soft, add in garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in crushed tomatoes and corn, then simmer for 5-7 minutes. remove from heat and stir in black beans and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and butter. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  4. Pour chili into prepared baking dish and top with cornbread batter. Bake for about 28-35 minutes or until cornbread is slightly golden.
  5. Top with sour cream and jalapeno slices if desired. Enjoy!

Wine Cork Reindeer

What you’ll need:

  • Wine corks
  • Twigs
  • Small red pom poms or red round headed pins
  • Nail
  • Wire cutters or craft knife
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Bows, bells, ribbon, etc. for decoration (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Use a nail to make four leg holes, about 1/4” deep, at a slightly outward angle in the bottom of one cork for the legs. Cut four matching twigs for the legs, about 2” long, using a razor knife or wire cutters.
  2. Put a bit of hot glue on the end of each twig and insert them into the holes. If any leg is uneven, trim to adjust.
  3. For the other cork, make two holes on the top for antlers and one hole on the bottom for the neck.
  4. Hot glue a small red pom pom or insert a red round headed pin for the nose.
  5. Add accessories to your reindeer such as a bow, bell, ribbon, etc. (optional).

http://makethebestofthings.blogspot.com/2011/12/wine-cork-reindeer.html

Gift Guide for the Holidays

These two small kitchen appliances are all the rage right now. With everyone looking for the best and healthiest ways to prepare meals at home, these gadgets make for the perfect holiday gifts.

AirFryer

This popular appliance is making its way into the homes of many, especially those looking for a healthier alternative to oily, fried foods. Airfryers come in many sizes catering to any sized household. According to online reviews, Phillips makes the best performing and easy-to-use airfryer.

The well-known brand sells three different models: The Compact, XL and XXL. These models all have the patented “Turbostar Technology,” meaning hot air circulates 360 degrees around the food as it cooks. This ensures the food is cooked evenly and has a crisp outside with a tender inside. And as the food cooks, any excess fat is simultaneously drained, which is 75% – 90% less fat than typical fried foods. You can also download the “Philips Airfryer app” for recipes, tutorials and tips.

Although the “Turbostar Technology” is used in all the models, the portion size and capabilities are what sets them apart. The basic Compact Airfryer model can easily fit on your countertop, has the ability to cook two portions (1.8 lb) at one time and has easy-to-use controls. The XL Airfryer model is the midsized option that can cook up to four portions (2.65 lb) at one time and features digital touchscreen controls with a preset button to remember your favorite foods. Lastly, the largest XXL Airfryer model is the most powerful model that Phillips offers. It can cook two bags of fries or even a whole chicken in one go, which makes this model ideal for larger families.

Anova Precision Cooker

The other gadget that would make a great gift this holiday season is the Anova Precision Cooker. With this simple device and your phone, you can cook professional level meals. The Anova Precision Cooker uses what is called “Sous-vide” (pronounced ‘sue-veed’) or precision cooking, a technique that uses precise temperature control to achieve perfectly cooked, flavor-filled results.

Here’s how it works. Grab any sized pot and fill it about half way with water. Place the Anova wand into the water and use the clamp to secure it to the side of the pot. Use the controls on the wand or the Anova app on your phone to select the temperature specified in the app or recipe book to achieve your desired doneness. Take a resealable plastic bag and place your choice of ingredients and seasoning inside and seal it. Place the bag in the preheated water and clip the bag to the pot. That’s it! The water will continue to circulate eliminating any hot or cold spots, and in no time at all you will have a perfectly cooked meal! Once the ingredients are cooked, you can use a pan to crisp up the outer layer.

The Anova wand can be used to cook anything from steaks and fried chicken to eggs and potatoes. There are over 1,000 recipes available on the app and online. Anova makes cooking so simple, you’ll never want to use anything else!

Resident Feature: Bud Henderson

This month’s resident feature takes us to Lenox Village Apartments in Lincoln, Nebraska. Francis aka, “Bud” Henderson, a resident of two and a half years, has become good friends with the staff on property. Bud and his wife moved to Lincoln in order to be closer to their daughter. When asked what his favorite part of living at Lenox Village is, he said “the convenience (of being near) our daughter’s home, shopping, activities, quality service and neighbors.” Since his retirement, Bud has spent a lot of his time researching and writing books that he has plans to publish. He is the author of the book Dreams, which was recently published by Handersen Publishing, LLC.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Bud was the first of his family to finish high school. Although he had wanted to continue on to college to study journalism, the cost was just too high. After working for the International Shoe Co. for two years, he was encouraged by his coworkers to pursue his dream of attending college. He attended college in Bolivar, Missouri, where he decided to take a different path and completed his pre-med course at Ouachita Baptist College in Arkansas. He completed medical school and his residency before spending nine years in the United States Army, Army Reserve and National Guard. Bud then returned to Arkansas to continue his medical practice before retiring to care for his wife in 2014.

Though circumstances lead to his career in medicine, Bud knew since high school that he wanted to be a writer. “I had written some creative work during my practice years, but upon retiring, I began to seriously study and participate in writing fiction,” he explained. After moving to Lincoln, Bud decided that he would write children’s literature and was intrigued with picture books. It was then that the idea for his book Dreams came to life. “(Dreams is) a story that parents and grandparents will enjoy reading to their children. It is a ‘rhythmic’ picture book, teaching about ‘dreams’ and giving permission to children to dream, both asleep and awake, and then to follow those dreams,” he said.

Although his daughter believes the story to be a reflection of his own life, Bud says he did not intend it to be. He explained, “I wanted a story that taught children about their opportunity (and) to follow what they like to do.” Local Lincoln artist, Karissa Bettendorf, illustrated his story and made it come to life with her original paintings. “She made the narrative pictures of the mind come alive to the eye,” Bud said.

If you’d like your own copy of Dreams, you can purchase it at Handersen Publishing, Barnes & Noble (SouthPointe Pavilions, Lincoln), Francie & Finch Bookshop (130 S. 13th Street, Lincoln) or on Amazon (search Dreams Francis Henderson). When asked if he has any future books in the works, Bud replied “Yes. I have two picture books and two middle-grade novels I’m working on. Hopefully, at least one will be published within the year.”

Bud Henderson is the perfect example of what it means to chase after your dreams. And no matter where life may lead you or where you end up, it’s never too late to go for it!

Salem, MA: The Perfect Halloween Getaway Destination

More than a quarter of a million people visit the city of Salem, MA during Halloween season every year for the Haunted Happenings Experience. Notorious for the “Salem Witch Trials,” it’s no surprise that the city has acquired a somewhat chilling atmosphere. The city isn’t shy about its darker past with local sports teams named “The Witches” and a neighborhood called “Witchcraft Heights.” Though the trials put Salem on the historical map, there are so many other things that make the city a spooktacular place to visit. For instance, take a walk through Salem’s maritime past and discover its history as an early international trading port as well as its infamous “sea-robbers” Captains Blackbeard and Kidd who roamed the waters of Boston’s North Shore.

If you’re staying in the Salem area, why wouldn’t you stay in an old haunted hotel or inn? Check out The Hawthorne Hotel or The Salem Inn for a one-of-a-kind experience and a cozy place where you can (hopefully) get some sleep after a long day of adventuring.

The Hawthorne Hotel opened its doors in 1925 and was labeled as a modern hotel for the business traveler. Today, the timelessly designed hotel remains in the heart of Salem and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. It has become a staple in the city for both locals and visitors. It’s had famous visitors like former President Bill Clinton and has been featured in major motion pictures. In 1991, the first Halloween Party was thrown at The Hawthorne and it has now grown to be one of the biggest Halloween bashes around with DJs, bands and food taking up three floors of the hotel. And, if you dare to stay for a night or two, you may encounter the famous “spectral hands,” an apparition of a woman wondering the halls or you may even hear the disembodied cries of a child. Whether you’re visiting or staying, this historic haunted hotel is a must see!

The Salem Inn is the place to stay if you’re looking to immerse yourself into the history of the city. Dating back to 1834, this old Inn, once home to Captain Nathaniel West, has seen its fair share of events. In the middle of it all, this old quaint bed and breakfast is ideal for the travelers as it is within walking distance of nearly all that Salem has to offer. Is it haunted, you may ask? Well, it all depends on who you ask.

The owners of the inn are sure that the Salem Inn is absolutely NOT haunted. However, if you look through the countless stories written by guests, then you’ll find that it is quite possible that someone or something paranormal is taking up residence at the inn. The paranormal “presence” that has been felt around the inn has come to be known as “Katherine,” though her true identity is unknown. If your curiosity is getting the best of you, then there is truly only one way to find out! Book a room at this cozy bed and breakfast and get ready for a potentially haunting experience!

After your restful sleep, you can walk amongst the dead at the Howard Street, Broad Street and Charter Street Cemeteries, which are all connected to the Salem Witch Trials. After visiting the centuries old graves, you can make a stop at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. The Memorial consists of 20 granite benches that are marked with the names of the accused and the dates of their deaths.

Next, take a tour of “The House of the Seven Gables,” the house that inspired the novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel is set in the house that was owned by Hawthorne’s cousin Susanna and was inspired by his ancestors who had played a part in the Witch Trials of 1692. The novel follows a family who lives in a haunted New England mansion and explores themes of guilt, retribution, the supernatural and witchcraft. You’ll have to tour and see for yourself if the house is truly haunted.

You can also take a frightening guided walking tour through the dimly lit streets of Salem after the sun goes down. Choose from Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours of Salem or Haunted Footsteps Walking Tour. Both tours provide a glimpse into the city’s shaded colonial past, witch trials, creepy stories and ghosts. Each tour is unique and has its own stories and history to share. No matter which you choose, you’re sure to be thoroughly spooked!

And no trip to Salem is complete without paying a visit to The Witch House also known as the Jonathan Corwin House. This infamous house is the only remaining structure with direct ties to the Witch Trials. A tour through the house gives better insight to the lives of those who lived there as well as their seventeenth-century lifestyles and details of the trials. Also, don’t be surprised if you encounter a spirit or two!

Finally, you can complete your historical adventure by visiting Gallows Hill and museum. Until 2016, it was unclear where exactly Gallows Hill was located. Today, you can pay your respects at Proctor’s Ledge and tour the museum. On your visit you can also watch live theater, take a ride on the “Ghosts and Legends” trolley or listen in on the “tales of terror” while sipping on samples of local ales.

After taking in as much history as you can, you can get a good old-fashioned scare at one of the many haunted house attractions. Next to all the historically spooky places and paranormal activity, these terrifying attractions add a sense of classic Halloween fun. Here are a few haunted house attractions to add to your list.

Witch Mansion is Salem’s scariest haunted attraction. This house was professionally built to scare the pants off of even the bravest soul who dares to enter. With highly technical animations and 4D illusions, this thrilling experience is not for the faint of heart!

Frankenstein’s Castle is Salem’s newest haunted attraction and is based on the classic horror story written by Mary Shelley. Enter the Salem Wax Museum, feel your way through the dark curvy hallways and then down the stairs make your way to Dr. Frankenstein’s dungeon. Feast your eyes on his horrid monster creation before making your escape (if you’re lucky)!

Lastly, The Haunted Witch Village is Salem’s longest running and largest haunted attraction. See a darker side of the village as the witches come out to play! Attempt to find your way out of the indoor maze and explore the museum along side the creepiest of ghosts, ghouls and goblins.

There is more history in Salem than any one person could learn in a lifetime with a long list of things to do, places to see and places to stay. Those who have visited the city can say with the utmost certainty that you are sure to have an experience that is nothing short of magical (no pun intended).

https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/boston/things-to-do-salem-ma

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem,_Massachusetts

 

Mac and Cheese, Please!

The frozen meal industry is huge, with hundreds of types to choose from in every supermarket. The history of frozen food and the “TV dinner” is quite extensive. No one really knows who deserves the credit for coming up with the concept, but one company, Swanson, was the first to be successful with their frozen “Thanksgiving Dinner.” Clarence Birdseye deserves credit for developing the system for packing and “flash-freezing” food at its peak freshness. Swanson then used Birdseye’s system and combined it with the idea of compartmentalized meals and BOOM, the frozen entrée was born! One of the most popular frozen meals today is the always delicious, mac n’ cheese. We chose three brands to taste and below you can read our honest review with a brief history of each.

Stouffer’s
The first Stouffer’s restaurant named “Stouffer Lunch” was opened in Cleveland in 1924. Over time, the company continued to expand and the Stouffer’s restaurants served over 14 million meals a year while they began creating frozen entrées. Then in 1973, Stouffer’s was acquired by Nestlé and 8 years later, a new line of entrées called “Lean Cuisine” was released. By 1990 the Stouffer’s name was on 68 restaurants and 40 major resorts and hotels. However, in 1992 the businesses were all sold off to focus solely on frozen meals.

Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars

It was the consensus that Stouffer’s has the sharpest and cheesiest flavor of the three brands. The texture of the sauce is a bit gritty especially as the sauce cools, but the noodles were the softest. There is an adequate amount of sauce for the macaroni pasta. It isn’t as smooth as the others, but it is thicker and still very creamy.

Amy’s
Amy’s began in the small kitchen of Andy and Rachel Berliner’s when they were unable to find a premade organic, vegetarian meal that they liked. They began making pot pies to sell locally and at that time they had no idea how big the business would become. As things began to pick up, letters of thanks and requests for new recipes came pouring in. After much deliberation, it was decided that the company would be named after their daughter, Amy, born the same year. Business continued to boom and today, Amy’s continues to provide organic, vegetarian, non-GMO food that is handmade with the freshest ingredients. They offer hundreds of meal options including several for those with gluten and dairy dietary restrictions.

Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars

Amy’s definitely has the smoothest sauce, which floods the harder, chewier texture of the classic macaroni pasta. The sauce has a runnier consistency than the other two brands, but it adds a certain decadent creaminess. The flavor is milder than that of Stouffer’s, but it is still easy to pick out the sharpness of the cheese.

365 Brand
365 is Whole Food’s “Everyday Value Brand” known for being a great product and a high value for the price. The original Whole Foods Market was opened in 1980 with the goal of providing natural foods in the format of a supermarket. Since then the company has continued to grow and has acquired or merged with multiple companies. In 2016, they began opening their new store concept by the name of 365 by Whole Foods Market. This “smaller-store concept offers healthy, high-quality food at great prices.”

Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars

The 365 brand has the most unique flavor, though it wasn’t the cheesiest. It has more a of “spiced or peppery” taste and is much milder than the others. It also lacked in creaminess with a want for more sauce to go with the larger, shell-like pasta. The noodles have a good texture with not being too soft or chewy – somewhat in the middle of the Stouffer’s and Amy’s brands.