Take A Penny . . . And Take A Good Long Look At It

Aug 2nd

What a lovely Saturday morning!  Well, it seems to be a lovely Saturday morning from what I can see out my bedroom window.  I woke up with a ridiculous headache, so I’m dumped up on the bed with an ice pack behind my neck, computer on my lap,  TV on, cup of coffee within reach. I should probably get up and get some breakfast going, but to be perfectly honest right this minute I don’t feel like it.  I’ll visit with you a bit first!

Chinese Valentine’s Day / Daughter’s Festival – I don’t usually write about celebrations from other countries, unless they are directly connected with out of the holidays we celebrate here in the United States.  I’d never have time for anything else if I did, right?  Once in awhile though, something comes up that it really interesting that I just need to share with you, and this is one of them.  This celebration from China is known by several names . . . It is Chinese Valentine’s Day, Daughter’s Festival, Festival of Seven Daughters, Seventh Sister’s Birthday, Festival of Double Sevens and Night of Sevens.  It is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th Lunar month, so it is being celebrated today, but next year it won’t be until August 20th, the following year August 9th, etc. It changes every year, which I find to be interesting all on its own.  Not sure why, I just do!  So WHAT is it all about? Well, this is a holiday about love that evolved from an ancient love story from Chinese folklore.  As with any story that is handed down word of mouth, this one has several versions after being told from generation to generation over thousands of years. This is one of the most popular versions of the story:

“The Goddess of Heaven, also known as the Queen of Heaven, had seven beautiful, young daughters.  The seven daughters came down to earth.  They decided to bathe in a pristine river, leaving their clothes on the shore. Along came a cow herder (the herd were actually ox) named “Niu Lang”.  He took their clothes to see what they would do. The daughters decided that the youngest, and most beautiful,  named Zhi Nü should go out of the water and recover their clothes. Because Niu Lang saw her naked, they had to get married. They fell madly in love, and shared several years of marital bliss.  Finally, her mother became irritated by her absence from Heaven, and ordered her to return. Seeing how much Zhi Nü missed her husband, the Jade Emperor of Heaven brought the couple back together. Ultimately, Zhi Nü was allowed to visit her husband, Niu Lang just once a year. The annual reunion occurs on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Lunar Calendar.       

I think the reason I found this to be so fascinating is that we don’t have these sorts of tales in our culture, most likely because we are still pretty much a “baby” nation when you compare how long we’ve been around. 

National Mustard Day – Mustard is considered to be the “King of Condiments”, but did you ever wonder how mustard got to the place it holds on our condiment shelf in the fridge?  Every food has a humble beginning from somewhere, and someone thought it was a good idea to eat it.  I’d like to start by reminding everyone that the humble mustard seed, the tiniest of all seeds, holds a very important place in the Bible.  There are multiple verses about it, but Matthew 17:20 is the most famous one. The New King James Version:  “20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief;[a] for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”   The lesson in that is so profound when you truly consider how small a mustard seed truly is.
So what IS mustard?  It is a member of the Brassica family of plants that bears tiny round edible seeds and tasty leaves.  Its English name, mustard, comes from a contraction of the Latin mustum ardens, which means, burning must. This refers to the spicy heat of the crushed mustard seeds and the French practice of mixing the ground seeds with the must, which is the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes.   At first, mustard was used as a medicinal plant, not a culinary one.  In the sixth century B.C., Greek scientist Pythagoras used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings.  About one hundred years later, Hippocrates used mustard in a variety of medicines and poultices to “cure” toothaches and a number of other ailments.
Much like the prepared mustards we use today, prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans.  They used to grind mustard seeds and mix them with wine into a paste for a variety of uses.  As I mentioned before, the mustard seed is a prominent reference for those of the Christian faith something small and insignificant, but when planted, grows in strength and power.  Pope John XII was so fond of mustard that he actually created a new Vatican position – grand moutardier du pape (mustard-maker to the pope) – and promptly gave the position to his nephew.  In 1866 the founder of  Colman’s Mustard of England – Jeremiah Colman – was appointed as mustard-maker to Queen Victoria.  He perfected the technique of grinding mustard seeds into a fine powder without creating the heat which brings out the oil.  The oil must not be exposed or the flavor will evaporate with it.

Today though we mostly use mustard in cooking.  It is a must have for hot dogs, sausages and many types of sandwiches.  It is also an important ingredient in many recipes.  It is among the most popular of all condiments and has been used to spice up meals for thousands of years.  How’s that for longevity?  Mustard has diversified over the years, it isn’t just plain yellow anymore – though that is definitely the most popular version.  You can get a huge variety of commercially prepared mustards including honey mustard, bold and spicy, sharp and creamy and of course, Dijon.  In my fridge I have all of those, plus cranberry mustard, jalapeno mustard and even horseradish mustard.  As you can tell, it’s a condiment that I truly enjoy in a variety of  enhanced and delicious flavors.

Take A Penny/Leave A Penny Day – I cannot find any one reference to what this one is all about as far as celebrations go.  I guess I can just put my own spin on it though.  We have all seen those trays in the stores at the check-out counters – usually in quick marts – where you can take or leave a penny to either make up the difference if you’re short, or help the next person in line.  That’s all well and good, but to me, this isn’t what is important about pennies.  Think about it a moment.  100 pennies makes a dollar, that means they all add up! Whenever my Mom sees a penny she stops and picks it up.  Eventually it turns into multiple pennies, and that, in turn becomes dollars.  Not only that, think about what is on each penny – on each of our coins actually?  “In God We Trust”  Isn’t that beautiful? It’s a reminder with each coin we see that we are not alone – God is with us.  Now, if the squalling minority voices have their way, this will disappear from our coins, but I sure hope they don’t get their way.  I love seeing this on our money, and it is an extra reminder that when we are stressed or worried, we can see those words and it brings to mind that we truly have Someone walking by our sides, with us every step of the way.  Pick up the next penny you see, look at those words and take them to your heart.  In God We Trust . . . what a wonderful reminder!
This Day In History
1876 – Wild Bill Hickock is killed during a poker game. He was holding a “Dead Man’s Hand”, two pair aces and 8’s.
Food Celebration of the Day
National Ice Cream Sandwich Day – I love ice cream sandwiches.  I love the ones we usually find in the stores with the chocolate rectangular cookies with vanilla ice cream in between, and I like the kind I can make at home with homemade chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies, or even peanut butter, with the ice cream of my choice in between.  The idea of sandwiching ice cream between cookies isn’t new, Good Humor was the first to introduce packaged ice cream sandwiches in the 1920s.  America isn’t the only country that appreciates this fancy frozen treat.  In the Philippines sweet vendors sell ice cream sandwiches using hamburger buns instead of the cookie or cake sandwich pieces that we are familiar with.  I can honestly say that this type of ice cream sandwich just doesn’t sound all that appealing!







Well, the morning is progressing, but other than sitting here visiting with you, and feeling pretty sorry for myself for feeling like ICK, I haven’t gotten much progressing done myself.  I will now crawl out from under my ice pack and go get something going for a late breakfast so I can take a handful (or 2 individual) Advil to get this stupid headache to subside.  I may want a lazy Saturday, but I don’t want it to be a pain filled lazy Saturday.  Enjoy your celebrating and do something fun with it.  If nothing else pick up a penny, take a good look at it, then eat something with mustard in it! How easy is THAT?  God Bless You and I’ll see you tomorrow!

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