The History of Gingerbread Houses

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This time of year, you may have noticed that it is much harder to resist the temptation of sweets. It seems like everywhere you go, you’ll find candy canes, sugar cookies, peppermint bark and, of course, gingerbread houses.

But, as we continue to make our way through the season, we are left wondering where these types of desserts came from, but we’re determined to find out. Today, December 12, is National Gingerbread House Day, and we’re putting on our detective hats to determine the origin behind this magical craft.

If you think back, can you remember the first time you heard about a gingerbread house? If you’re like many of us, it was when you were listening to the fairytales of Brothers Grimm. Perhaps you remember the one. The story of Hansel and Gretel, two young children got lost in the woods before stumbling across a gingerbread house, which is home to an old witch who tries to eat them? That one couldn’t possibly be the story associated with a Christmas tradition.

Although the story may not sound especially Christmas-like, it is the story that inspired a culture of people to start building these houses. German bakers took the description from the story and began crafting their own versions. Since gingersnap cookies were already commonplace during Christmas, the activity became part of families’ annual traditions.

As German families immigrated to the United States, their gingerbread house baking traditions followed closely behind. Nowadays, building gingerbread houses is not only a fun way to pass an afternoon but can also act as a powerful creative outlet.

Are gingerbread houses a part of your families’ holiday traditions? If so, do you build them from scratch or start with a kit? Let us know in the comments below.

If this activity has not been part of your usual preparations, remember that it’s never too late to start a new tradition. Celebrate this unofficial holiday and release your inner architect. Happy Gingerbread House Day from Lions Pride!

The Story of the First Christmas Card

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. People are genuinely joyful; the snow seems appropriate and no one seems to mind getting mail. That’s because it’s the season of holiday greeting cards, a time to observe what our friends have been up to in 2019.

Monday, December 9, is National Christmas Card Day. Let’s observe the celebration with a quick history lesson about the card that started it all.

The story dates back to the year 1843. A man by the name of Henry Cole had a problem; he had the misfortune of having too many friends. The British Postal System had recently expanded, and people could now send letters to anywhere in the country with a penny stamp.

Cole watched as a stack of letters began to form. Of course, it was considered rude not to respond, but he simply didn’t have the time to write to them all.

Then, he was struck by a brilliant idea. He asked his artistic friend J.C. Horsley if he could design something for him. Cole gave him an illustration of a three-paneled scene of a family enjoying a holiday dinner and others helping the poor. Horsley was able to print on the image a 5 1/8” x 3 ¼” piece of cardboard. At the top, there was a blank salutation so Cole could personalize his responses. The first Christmas card was born, but not without a little controversy.

Christmas cards also began appearing in the United States in the late 1840s, but they were relatively expensive. It wasn’t until 1875 when Louis Prang, a printer originally from Germany, began mass-producing the cards, so more people could afford to send them.

Nowadays, the possibilities for Christmas cards have become limitless. You can now find hundreds of blank cards with beautiful holiday scenes that you can customize like Henry Cole or create your own holiday card with favorite memories of the year. No matter which option you choose, there’s no better way to say, “Season’s Greetings!”

Do you and your family send out cards this time of year? IF so, how do you decide on your theme? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

Happy National Christmas Card Day from Lions Pride!

Fun Facts About Cookies

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Is there anything better than the smell of fresh-baked cookies? If you’re looking for an excuse to warm up the house with a batch of your favorite cookies, you’re in luck!

National Cookie Day is taking place on Wednesday, December 4 – just in time for the holidays. In honor of this sweet holiday, we’ve put together some fun facts to celebrate:

  • The word “cookie” comes from the Dutch word “koekie,” which means “little cake.”
  • The animal cracker was the first commercial cookie sold in the United States in 1902.
  • Chocolate chip cookies were invented by Ruth Wakefield, co-owner of the Toll House Inn, in the 1930s.
  • Although fortune cookies are often associated with Chinese cuisine, they are actually an American sensation.
  • The most popular cookie in America is the chocolate chip – though some prefer their cookies with nuts and others without.
  • Early chocolate chip cookies were roughly the size of a quarter. (Can you imagine?)
  • The world’s largest chocolate chip cookie was made by Immaculate Baking Company in 2003 and weighed over 40,000 pounds. The entire project took about eight months to plan.
  • Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster eats painted rice cakes rather than real cookies. In David Borgenicht’s book Sesame Street Unpaved, we learn that chocolate and oil can be damaging to the muppets, so they instead paint rice cakes to look like chocolate chip cookies.
  • Americans eat about 2 billion cookies each year, which averages to about 300 cookies (25 dozen) per person.

We’re feeling a little hungry after putting together this list! What is your favorite kind of cookie? Leave us a comment below to let us know.

If you plan to celebrate this fun occasion, remember to pace yourself. After all, no one likes a stomachache. Happy National Cookie Day from Lions Pride!

Celebrate National Day of Listening

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How do you plan to spend next Friday? If you’re thinking about shopping, see if this scenario sounds familiar. Your alarm goes off at 3 am; you turn it off, try to rub the sleep out of your eyes and make your way out of bed. Then, you venture out into the winter tundra, only to stand in line with dozens of other adventurous souls. The doors finally open and the friendships you just formed have turned hostile. You’re all after the same sales and every man is for himself. As you try to grab the last doorbuster deal on the shelf, you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

Rather than waking up before the dawn and freezing your buns waiting for stores to open, why not stay home and share memories with those you love? Consider starting a new after Thanksgiving tradition by celebrating National Day of Listening.

If you’re a long-time listener of National Public Radio, you are likely well acquainted with the concept of StoryCorps. Every week, the independent organization seeks to honor and celebrate the lives of everyday Americans by listening to their stories. They’re hoping you’ll follow suit by listening to the accounts of loved ones. In 2008, StoryCorps introduced National Day of Listening as a day dedicated to the history of family, friends and community.

On this day, they hope is that you sit down with a loved one and record the conversation. The device you use to complete the recording – a digital voice recorder, a smartphone or good old-fashioned pen and paper – is all up to you. The goal is to record family history in the making and preserve the story for generations to come.

We feel the best conversations happen organically, but we also realize that they may be challenging to get started. StoryCorps has compiled a list of great questions to get the discussion off the ground. Below are a few questions that you can ask just about anyone:

  • Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagine?
  • Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, it can be easy to become inundated with all of the additional items added to your To-Do List and forget about what’s most important, being together. We promise that we won’t hold it against you if you choose to get your shopping done on Black Friday, but we’d encourage you to set aside time in the upcoming weeks to have a meaningful conversation with someone you hold dear. Don’t forget to record the moment – we know your future self will thank you.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving,
Lions Pride

Fast Food Fun Facts

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Do you have meal plans set for Saturday? If not, you might be so inclined to indulge in your favorite fast food. Saturday, November 16, is National Fast Food Day. If you’ve been craving a juicy hamburger with a side of fries, there’s no better time to hop in the car and enjoy a quick meal on the go.

“Fast food,” of course, is a blanket term for any type of food that is made and prepared for a customer in a short amount of time. The phrase first appeared in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 1951 but has an extensive history. Read more from the History of Fast Food.

As you know, fast food first began as burgers, fries and shakes, but now includes everything from breakfast sandwiches to Chinese food. Today, we’re celebrating the unofficial holiday with a list of interesting, fun facts:

  • Did you know that Chick-fil-A is famous for its restaurant lemonade? So much so, they’ve become the largest Sunkist lemon buyer. Each year, they sell about 121 million cups of lemonade, which requires them to purchase approximately 250 million lemons.
  • You may be surprised to learn that Subway, not McDonald’s, is the largest fast food chain in the world. Subway has an estimated 24,000 stores in the United States and 42,000 stores worldwide, which is 17% more than its highest competitor, McDonald’s.
  • Before kale became a popular health food item, Pizza Hut was the largest purchaser. The fast food didn’t use the leafy greens for the pizzas but instead to decorate their salad bars.
  • You may have heard that Dunkin Donuts coffee is served fresh, but do you know how fresh? According to the national coffee chain, if coffee doesn’t get used within 18 minutes, the staff will discard and brew a new carafe.
  • Wendy’s is the only fast food chain that sells baked potatoes on the side. Each week, the popular chain sells approximately one million baked potatoes.
  • Did you know the delicious cinnamon scent you experience when strolling through a shopping mall is fabricated? It’s true. Cinnabon entices shoppers by baking empty cookie sheets covered in their exclusive sugar and cinnamon mixture every 30 minutes. Talk about sneaky!

Will you observe National Fast Food Day? If so, where will you go? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

Whether you prefer a burger and fries, fried chicken or pizza, we hope you enjoy this fun concocted holiday. Happy National Fast Food Day from Lions Pride!

Satisfying Your RMD with a Charitable Donation

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We are only 160 days away from Tax Day 2020. While it may be a little early to start preparing for filing taxes, but it is time to start thinking about specific tax requirements.

If you are 70 ½ years or older, the IRS requires you to take required minimum deposits (RMDs) from your tax-deferred accounts. As you know, this increase in income may push you into a higher tax bracket and reduce your eligibility for credits or deductions. If you would like to reduce the impact of RMD income, you may consider making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) to a nonprofit organization near and dear to your heart.

A QCD is a direct transfer of funds from an IRA custodian to a qualified charity. Amounts distributed as a QCD can go towards satisfying your RMD for the tax year, up to $100,000, and can be excluded from your taxable income. Regular IRA withdrawals would, of course, still be counted as taxable income.

Certain conditions must be met to make a Qualified Charitable Donation. First, the organization must be a 501(c)(3) organization that is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. Second, the funds must be transferred directly from your IRA custodian to the organization of your choice. Lastly, the funds must come out of your IRA before the 2019 RMD deadline of December 31.

The best way to determine if your IRA and charity qualify for QCDs is to talk with your trusted tax advisor. He or she will be able to tell you whether or not you can satisfy your RMD with charitable giving.

At Lions Pride, we appreciate the giving hearts of those who have contributed through their RMD over the past few years. We hope you’ll consider joining them if you are required to withdraw from your tax-deferred retirement accounts. Thank you in advance for helping us expanding our support of Lions Camp and all WLF projects.

 

Lions Pride Endowment Fund of WI, Inc. does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

A Brief History of Daylight Savings Time

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Wasn’t the first day of spring only yesterday? It seems like the snow was starting to melt, the trees were beginning to blossom, and we were springing ahead. Yes, we may have been losing an hour of sleep, but we were gaining an hour of natural sunlight. Sadly, this Sunday at 2 am, DST will come to an end. It’s around this time that people always seem to ask, “how did Daylight Savings Time come to be, and is it still necessary in today’s world?”

You may be surprised to learn that Daylight Savings Time has been around for over 100 years but was also seen in ancient history. Many believed that ancient civilizations also adjusted their daily routines to match the sun’s schedule.

Benjamin Franklin is often cited as the inventor behind daylight savings. He first proposed the idea in his 1784 essay titled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” Unfortunately, he never saw his theory put into practice.

On April 30, 1916, Germany was the first country to implement Daylight Savings Time, in an attempt to save fuel by reducing the amount of artificial lighting during World War I. Several other countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and France followed suit but reverted immediately after the war. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted yearlong Daylight Savings Time in 1942. Time zones were called “War Times.” There was no federal law regarding DST, so states and municipalities were able to choose whether or not to observe the time change. Understandably, this caused much confusion, especially for certain industries, including broadcasting and transportation.

By the year 1966, an estimated 100 million Americans were observing Daylight Savings Time based on their local laws. Congress decided to end the confusion and establish one pattern across the country. 

The practice of Daylight Savings Time has caused a lot of controversy since its creation. In a 2014 survey, only 33% of Americans see a point behind DST, which begs the question, “Why do we still follow this practice?”

Advocates say:

  • Springing ahead creates longer evenings, thereby motivating people to get out of the house and participating in other activities such as participating in outdoor recreation or supporting local businesses.
  • Daylight Savings Time ensures that people’s active hours coincide with daylight hours, so less artificial light is necessary.
  • Changing the time has also been shown to increase road safety by reducing pedestrian fatalities during the dawn and dusk hours.

  

Still, many of us believe that Daylight Savings Time is no longer necessary as we now have several new electronics that stay plugged in all day. The time change can also have a severe impact on our health by increasing the likelihood of fatigue and depression. Unfortunately, it looks like until someone comes up with another way to work around the sun’s changing patterns, we will likely have to deal with changing our clocks twice a year. 

How do you feel about Daylight Savings Time? If given a choice, would you do away with the practice? Let us know in the comments below.

Here at Lions Pride, we may not be looking forward to darker days, but it will be nice to get an extra hour of sleep. Don’t forget to find a little joy in the time change!

National Pumpkin Day and the Story of the Jack O’ Lantern

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If we were to ask you what object best symbolizes the month of October, how would you respond? If you’re like many of us, you would probably say the pumpkin. During this month, the famous orange gourd has shown up on doorsteps, featured in coffee drinks and has become the scent of choice for houses across the country.

To celebrate America’s favorite squash, National Pumpkin Day was born. The unofficial holiday is commemorated on Saturday, October 26. To honor the celebration, we thought we’d have some fun with the story of the Jack O’ Lantern.

Legend says, the Jack O’ Lantern came from an old man named “Stingy Jack” who liked to play tricks on people. One day, Stingy Jack invited the devil to have a drink with him. Old Jack decided that he didn’t want to pay for the drinks, so he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin. Instead of paying for the drinks, Jack decided to keep the coin and placed it in his pocket next to a silver coin; therefore, trapping the devil. He eventually agreed to release the devil but made him promise not to bother him for another year. If he died, the devil could not claim his soul.

One year passed, and again Jack tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree. Once he was up the tree, he made the sign of the cross in the bark, again trapping the devil. He let him down but made him promise not to bother him for another decade.

Soon after, Stingy Jack died and made his way up to Heaven. Saint Peter told him that he was not allowed in, so he tried to get into hell. The devil also denied his entrance because of his promise not to claim his soul. He sent Jack off into the night with only a piece of coal lighting the way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been forced to roam the earth ever since.

In an attempt to ward off Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits, people In Ireland and Scotland began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes. As immigrants came to America, they brought their tradition with them but found pumpkins to be perfect for Jack O’ Lanterns.

If you still haven’t carved your annual pumpkin, there’s no better day to get creative than this Saturday. We invite you to show off your Lions Pride spirit with this fun pattern from Pumpkin Stencils:

Lion Pumpkin Pattern

Be sure to keep away Stingy Jack by carving your Halloween Jack O’ Lantern. Happy decorating!

Say “Happy Sweetest Day” Without Flowers

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Saturday is National Sweetest Day! We can guess what you are probably thinking, “Isn’t that just an October version of Valentine’s Day?” Although this particular holiday may sound eerily familiar to its winter cousin, it has a sweeter origin story.

Legend says Herbert Birch Kingston, a candy store employee from Cleveland, was the original creator of Sweetest Day. In the year 1922, he decided to bring happiness to those who were feeling forgotten with thoughtful gifts. He and a team of people brought candy and small gifts to orphans, shut-ins and others to show they cared.

The concept caught on. By the 1930’s, celebrities became getting involved in the event. Sweetest Day grew to include loved ones, coworkers, acquaintances and friends. Today, it is most celebrated in the Great Lakes region.

It seems that sending flowers is the most popular way to celebrate the unofficial holiday, but there are other touching ways to say, “Happy Sweetest Day:”

  1. Give candy or sweets

Get back to the roots of the occasion by giving someone a box of their favorite candy. Of course, if you’re in a baking mood, you could always substitute with other homemade baked goods. You’re not limited in the sweets you send.

  1. Send a heartfelt note

Sweetest Day is, without a doubt, a big card-sending holiday. We know that everyone enjoys receiving cards, but often times, the best part about a card is the note. Consider making a homemade card with a genuine message about how much the person means to you. With the drastic increase in digital technology, we can safely assume that your recipient will appreciate the kind gesture.

  1. Do something nice

There’s no reason a gift for Sweetest Day requires a trip to the store. Rather than purchasing a physical gift, think about completing a kind gesture for your loved one. Perhaps, you’d like to check an item off their mile-long To Do List, pick up dinner or treat your special someone to a night out on the town. We are confident that no matter what you choose to do, your act of kindness will be well-received.

  1. Donate in his or her name

It’s no secret that donations are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization as it helps them continue on their mission. When celebrating Sweetest Day, consider giving your recipient’s favorite organization in his or her name. When you make an honorarium/memorial donation to Lions Pride, we’d be happy to send an acknowledgment card to your loved one. All gifts go toward creating a lasting legacy for future generations at the Wisconsin Lions Camp and in other WLF projects.

Sweetest Day may have gotten its start with candy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to celebrate. We believe the idea behind the unofficial holiday is to celebrate with small acts of kindness. How will you celebrate?

Happy Sweetest Day from Lions Pride!

Celebrating Wisconsin Farmers

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“Small family farmers are the only things that can save us because they take care of the land. Future Farmers of America are going to be our heroes…” -Willie Nelson

When’s the last time you really thought about where your food comes from? If you are a regular grocery shopper, it can be easy to forget about the farmers behind the produce. After all, you’re likely busy scouring prices trying to get in and get out as quickly as possible. The focus is a little more front and center when you and your significant other are strolling through a farmers’ market on a sunny, Saturday morning.

Farmers are the backbone of America. They rise before the sun, willingly participate in back-breaking labor and battle every unpredictable obstacle that could be tossed a person’s way. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without dedicated farmers.

Saturday, October 12, is National Farmers Day; an unofficial holiday created for some of the hardest working individuals. Let’s get a head start by highlighting agriculture in our own state, courtesy of the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection:

  • Although Wisconsin is commonly known as the Dairy State, we produce more than just milk and cheese. Our state ranks first nationally for snap beans (for production,) cranberries, ginseng, mink pelts, dry whey for humans, milk goats and corn (for silage.)
  • There are nearly 65,000 farms located on 14.3 million acres in the state.
  • Approximately 62 percent of the nation’s cranberry crop comes from Wisconsin.
  • The dairy industry annually contributes over $45.6 billion to Wisconsin’s economy on its own.
  • Nearly 1200 licensed cheesemakers produce over 600 types, styles and varieties of cheese.
  • Wisconsin is listed as #12 among all states in the nation for the value of agricultural exports.

It should come as no surprise to learn that 2019 has been a particularly difficult year for farmers across America. Between excessive flooding, international tariffs and low prices, many family farms are left making extremely difficult choices. Some have decided not to plant any crops, while others have had to let go of businesses that have been part of their family for generations. Small family farms need our support more than ever before.

As you begin to wrap up your week, keep these farmers in your thoughts. If you see a farmer out and about while running your errands this weekend, be sure to say, “thanks!”

On behalf of the Lions Pride Staff and Board, we’d like to do a special shout-out to our Wisconsin Family Farmers. We appreciate your hard work and dedication to the agricultural industry. We don’t know where we’d be without your passion.

Happy National Farmers Day!