Monday, November 13, 2017

Toy Hall of Fame

 Toys Beloved By Generations

In a culture that places a high value on the 'work ethic', it's refreshing to know there is a museum that chronicles and honors play. The National Toy Hall of Fame includes folk toys and education and has recently announced its 2017 inductees. They are:
1) paper airplane, 2) Wiffle ball, and 3) Clue.

The hall, which is located inside Rochester, New York's interactive The Strong museum, was designed to showcase new as well as classic beloved toys. Nominations can be made by anyone an final selection advice comes from historians, educators, and others who support or engage in creative  toy-related careers and activities.

More than 65 toys have been placed in the hall of fame, including crayons and dominoes. All of them foster creativity and discovery. Here’s a brief look at a few of the most recent additions:

Paper Airline

No one is really sure about the origins of this toy which is fundamentally made of paper. Some credit the ancient Chinese with inventing papyrus paper that could be folded and flown. Others note that Leonardo DaVinci considered the dynamics of parchment airplanes. Researchers and experts say that the principles that make an airplane fly are the same that govern paper versions. Even so, paper airplanes can be made of manly shapes, colors and weights. Consider Pop artist Peter Max’s 1970 book of psychedelic paper airplane templates.


This murder mystery game has been around since 1949. While there were other murder-solving games prior to this one, Clue has been noted by hall of fame advisers that none "Combined its simplicity of play with the enjoyment of solving the 'whodunit', not to mention the 'where' and 'what' of the game's pretend murder. The board game's success is linked to pop cultural interests of the time. Murder mystery novels and suspense films were a big hit in the 1950's. It is interesting to note that it remains one of the more popular board games.

To learn more about nominating a toy, click here

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sugar Skulls

 Why Sugar Skulls?

Calaveras (skulls) made of sugar are among the more colorful folk art staples of El Dia de Los Muertos which occurs November 1 (or Los Dios de los Muertos for those who recognize both November 1 and 2 as days of remembrance). 

Calaveras History

The tradition dates back to the indigenous Aztecans and Mayans of several thousand years ago who celebrated the death of ancestors with rituals that included displaying skulls during ceremonies to symbolize death and rebirth.

Today’s Calaveras are made of molded sugar and are often placed on community and home altars alongside marigolds, candles, photographs, and a sampling of the deceased favorite foods. Ornately decorated with festive papers and foils, glitter, and brightly colored icings, they also carry a special message for the departed or are inscribed with that person’s name.

Years ago, a sugar artist made one for me to honor the loss of my younger sister, Fortunee. During the year the skull is preserved in the freezer until Dia de los Muertos. I then place it alongside the skeleton figures I have collected over the years. These include the bride and groom of death, a skeleton riding a horse and a few hand painted Catrinas. She is the Lady of Death who is the modern-day version of the original celebration’s goddess Michtecacihuatl.

According to Azetcan mythology she is the Queen of Mictlan, the underworld. She ruled over the afterlife alongside her husband Mictlantechutli. A powerful diety, she watched over the bones of the dead and presided over festivals that honored those who had died.

Calaveras generally are not gruesome or scary. They are most often pleasing to the eye which is fitting as they are intended to welcome the traveling spirits of the dead.

Make Your Own

As a folk art, sugar skulls can be a fun family project. To find out more, here is one easy to follow recipe.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October Shape Shifters

 Werewolfs & More

Around the world it is believed that fall may be the best season for human beings to shape shift into beast or half-beast forms. This process is known as therianthropy and the most common reference people have for this is the werewolf.

This idea has long been present in mythology. Consider the dog-headed Ra figures of Ancient Egypt or the Neolithic cave drawings of France. Other examples include Central Asian stories about human-canine shapeshifters who can turn others into animals and European werecats.

Other Examples

Skin-walkers. Native American legends reference skin-walkers who are able to turn into any animal they desire. To do so they must first wear the pelt of a specific animals. 

Turkish Wolf. The wolf of Turkish mythology is revered. Turkish legends say people descended from these animals. It is believed that in a raid upon a small village, one baby was left behind. A she-wolf nursed the child and later gave birth to Turkish half-wolf, half-human cubs.

Congo Leopard. Folk belief of the Congo’s Banana area states that the use of magic potions can turn them into leopards. If they harm others, they will not be able to return to human form. 

Malay Tiger. Tradition among the Malays states that priesthood can only be passed on if the soul of the dead priest takes on the form of a tiger that can then pass into the body of his son. 

Oceania’s Tamaniu. In Melanesia the tamaniu is an animal counterpart to a person. It may appear in the form of an eel, a shark, a lizard, or some other creature. It shares the same soul and can understand human language. In some cases, any death or injury to one may affect the other.

There are many more myths, legends and tales about these supernatural creatures who seem to appear with greater frequency during the darkest times of the year. So take care and remember to be kind to any animals that cross your path. You never know, one of them may be an October Shape Shifter.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

October Harvest Time

October Festivals and Harvests

Harvest time in October means it is festival time! People are gathering across the country to celebrate the foods and traditions of their region. From New England cranberries to Oregon pumpkins, there’s a lot to see and do. 

Our Favorites

21st Annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival
This is all about bringing the sheep home and other livestock home from the mountains to their winter pasture. The streets fill with sheep as people gather to celebrate and preserve the history and culture of sheep herding in Idaho and the West. 
Where: Sun Valley, Ketchum, and Hailey, Idaho
When: October 4-8, 2017
Juried arts and crafts show offers handmade items made of wool, alpaca, wool blends or items of a 'sheep' nature such as soaps and lotions from lanolin, sheep cheeses or items that augment cooking with lamb.

14th Annual Cranberry Harvest Festival.
This New England tradition is the highlight of the harvest season in Massachusetts. Bog tours, paddleboat rides and more.
Where: Wareham, Massachussetts
When: October 7-8, 2017

Circleville Pumpkin Festival

Established in 1903 by the Mayor, it began as a small exhibit of corn and pumpkin decorations. Today it offers so much more.
Where: Circleville, Ohio
When: October 18-21, 2017
Parades and delicious fall treats. Plus, more than 10,000 pounds of pumpkins, squash, and guards beautifying the streets! More:

Other Fun Festivals:

Hood River Valley Harvest Fest
Where: Hood River, Oregon
When: October 13-15, 2017
For more information:

Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival
Where: Stowe, Vermont
When: October 14-15, 2017
For more information:


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