Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year friends!

Some New Year trivia...

Burning "Mr. Old Year"
In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico families stuff a life-size male doll with things that have bad memories or sadness associated with them, and then they dress it up in old clothes from each family member. At the stroke of midnight, this 'Mr. Old Year' is set on fire.

Eating 12 Grapes
In Spain people eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight (one each time the clock chimes) on New Year's Eve. This peculiar ritual originated in the twentieth century when freak weather conditions resulted in an unseasonable bumper harvest of grapes. Not able to decide what to do about so many grapes at Christmas time, the King of Spain and the grape growers came up with the idea of the New Year ritual.

Eating Noodles
Late on the evening of December 3 1, people of Japan would eat a bowl of buckwheat noodles called "toshikoshisoba" ("year-crossing noodles") and listen for the sound of the Buddhist temple bells, which were rung 108 times at midnight. The sound of these bells is said to purify the listeners of the 108 sins or evil passions that plague every human being.

White Clothes
In Brazil most people wear white clothes on New Year's Eve to bring good luck and peace for the year that will follow.

Carry a Suitcase
In Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, those with hopes of traveling in the New Year carry a suitcase around the house at midnight. Some even carry it around the block to ensure traveling at greater distances.

Burn Crackers
The people in China believe that there are evil spirits that roam the earth. So on New Year they burn crackers to scare the evil spirits. The doors and windows of every home in china can be seen sealed with paper. This is to keep the evil demons out.

thanks to

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Holiday Trivia

* The word Christmas is Old English, a contraction of Christ's Mass.

* The first president to decorate the white house Christmas tree in the United States was Franklin Pierce.

* Germany made the first artificial Christmas trees. They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.

* Electric lights for trees were first used in 1895.

* The first Christmas cards were vintage and invented in 1843, the Victorian Era.

* "It's a Wonderful Life" appears on TV more often than any other holiday movie.

* "Rudolph" was actually created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930's for a holiday promotion. The rest is history.

* "The Nutcracker" is the most famous Christmas ballet.

* "Jingle Bells" was first written for Thanksgiving and then became one of the most popular Christmas songs.

* If you received all of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," you would receive 364 gifts.

* The poinsettia plant was brought into the United States from Mexico by Joel Poinsett in the early 1800's.

* Holly berries are poisonous.

* Contrary to common belief, poinsettia plants are non-toxic.

* Mistletoe was chosen as Oklahoma's state flower in 1893 and later changed to the state floral emblem.

* In 1843, "A Christmas Carol" was written by Charles Dickens in just six weeks.

* The first state to recognize the Christmas holiday officially was Alabama.

* Christmas became a national holiday in America on June, 26, 1870.

* An angel told Mary she was going to have a baby.

* Clearing up a common misconception, in Greek, X means Christ. That is where the word "X-Mas" comes from. Not because someone took the "Christ" out of Christmas.

* Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down after Epiphany.

* More diamonds are sold around Christmas than any other time of the year.

* In Mexico, wearing red underwear on New Year's Eve is said to bring new love in the upcoming year.

all this according to

Monday, December 14, 2009

Okay, I am still gobsmacked that I was able to tour the White House. I walked the hallways Lincoln and JKF did, well I actually squeaked where they walked! :-)

Did you know the White House has 132 rooms on 6 floors served by 3 elevators. There are 412 doors for privacy and 147 windows to let the sun shine on government. Residents can start cozy fires or burn secret tapes in 28 fireplaces, or hide them under 7 staircases. Oh, feel free to clean the toilets in the 35 bathrooms.

We call it home.
President Teddy Roosevelt gave the White House its current and official name in 1901. Over the years, it has been called the "Executive Mansion," the "President's House," and worst choice of all, the "President's Palace."
We're having a few people over.
Not only does the White House host hundreds of fancy get-togethers for thousands of world leaders and celebrities annually, it is visited by more than 6,000 plain old people every single day.

I'm bringing some old Congress buddies over for dinner. Okay?
The five, full-time expert chefs employed by the White House can whip up a gourmet dinner for as many as 140 elite guests who will quickly devour the over 1,000 tasty hors d'oeuvres prepared for most gatherings. The President and First Lady are charged for all meals and incidentals, but the President gets an expense account for those costs. Guests of the First Family stay free, but are billed for outside services.

No, we'll just stay with white for now.
Some people think the outside of the White House is, or should be made of armor plate. Sometimes, the Chief-Occupants probably wish it were covered some sort of "stealth" technology material. But the fact is, most of the exterior walls of the White House are made of plain old wood that requires 570 gallons of paint, white of course, to cover.

First things first.
If they accomplish nothing else during their stay, residents of the White House have been trend setters. Second President, John Adams was the first resident of the White House while it was still under construction. President John Tyler (1841-1845) became the first president to have his photograph taken. (Many more would follow.) Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) walked out the front door of the White House one day and became the first president to ride in a car. Teddy was also the first president to leave the USA when he went to Panama.

Getting a little exercise.
Should the First Family feel the need to recreate at home, they can avail themselves of indoor tennis courts, a swimming pool, movie theater, running track, billiard room and a bowling lane.

This Old House -- is pretty expensive.
The annual budget for "the care, maintenance, repair and alteration, refurnishing, improvement, heating, and lighting, including electric power and fixtures, of the Executive Residence at the White House and official entertainment expenses of the President," runs about $9,260,000 or about $25,370 a day. The cost of lawn and garden care around the White House is included in the $5,427,000 a year spent to maintain the grounds of all the Capitol-area federal buildings.

The White House is just one of many buildings under the care and supervision of the Architect of the Capitol.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What I saw in the White House

Thanks to the Washington Post I can show you what I saw on my tour of the White House! No camera needed after all!

For the 2009 holiday season, first lady Michelle Obama embellished the Red Room with cranberry garlands and wreaths. Two Fraser fir trees in gilded Versailles boxes are accented with cranberries and deep red velvet and taffeta ribbons.

The East Room is decorated for the 2009 holidays with fresh garlands, blue hydrangea, seeded eucalyptus and beaded fruit.

The State Dining Room displays the White House's annual gingerbread house, designed and constructed by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses and his team. I had the honor of meeting Bill as they just finished putting the cake in place just as I passed to gawk! I shook his hand and he beamed ear to ear as I drooled over his creation! This year's additions to the miniature White House include depictions of the Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn and a shadow box that lets viewers glimpse a gingerbread version of the State Dining Room.

The State Dining Room's 2009 decorations were designed to complement the coloring in the William Cogswell portrait of President Abraham Lincoln, which hangs above the fireplace on the west wall.

All photos - Marvin Joseph-TWP To see the whole presentation go to

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Withdrawal Symptoms

So I find myself staring at the neat stack of clean underwear in my cupboard and feeling myself getting withdrawal symptoms from traveling and living out of a suitcase!

What is wrong with me?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Long Train Ride Back To Texas!

Washington, DC back home to Texas! Boy, I am actually ready to go home. What an awesome trip this has been and what a blessing to explore a bit more of this amazing country! Go US, Go US, Whohohooo!

Currently I am in St Louis, MO on my final train trip and boy what a long two days to get here. I left DC on Thursday and will arrive home early Saturday morning. The train to Chicago was packed, packed to the brim with all sorts of interesting people and not necessarily the good interesting people you would like to have on a trip of this magnitude.

Behind me was a guy with the most annoying whiney voice who talked on his cell phone all the way to Chicago. Who calls at 2 am!? This guy does! Seriously, I am certain there must have been patches without coverage. This guy soldiered on! In front of me was a pony tailed truck driver on one side of the aisle who hooked up with the blond lady in her 50’s across the aisle from him, and boy, did they get along well!

Somewhere in the wee hours of morning she was sitting on his lap! Next to me were two of the most gentlest of Amish guys who did not know where to look. So needless to say, I arrived in Chicago a bit sleep deprived. Before you ask why I did not change seats, there were none available, but hey, it is all part of travelling.

A five hour layover in a packed waiting room in Chicago with running kids, stressed moms yelling at them… and now on my – thank you Jesus – quiet train ride home. Have been nodding off as you tend to do and woke up startled and what a sight I must have been as I seemed to have sprung a slight drool on the left side of my face! Haha.

One thing I have been enjoying very much about the train rides is to travel through small town USA and see the houses all lit up with Christmas lights. You can tell which streets compete and which ones don’t. Another curious thing is that some towns would not have one little colored light on - either at homes or corporately - while their neighboring towns must be visible from space! I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it in all my travels across the world. It does make Christmas quite jolly and festive.

So this is it for this particular adventure with my squeaky shoe and thank you for your patient reading. It has truly been a blast and a HUGE blessing. I am thankful for the break and rest and for the invigoration of the body and soul and thank you for your encouragement. Thank you also for my sponsors who generously supported in both finances and in prayers through out the year.

God bless.

Meeting up with Tianna and Brenda (Plonis) Steffen at Union Station in DC.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

White House!

Okay, so I basically live in a town with a population of 12. I kind of misjudged rush hour. Oh goodness, where do all these people come from! Well, the answer is Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Started my trip with 7 people on the train... ended with what looked like a few thousand. Then who all decided to get off at the same station as me. I then had to find luggage storage to store by bag and umbrella and camera etc as these are all forbidden in the big white house. I had 7 minutes spare to get to the precise yet unknown gate etc. Let's just say that South West is not necessary in the same spot your internal compass tells you it would be...

So, I came around the corner at speed huffing and puffing along only to be confronted with a huge line of people, then being waved forwarded by the secret service agent dude person and asked if I have an appointment. I did and he pointed to my name on his list. Hehe, I was one up from the party crashing couple that is in the news so much... My name was on the White House list! Dang it, if I only had a camera! So, off I went.

So there I was , perusing and you know, thinking that maybe red was not a good color for that wall, as you do in other people's houses, when I realised that my shoe is extra squeaky today. Well, what gave it away was that as I was squeaking along you would have a secret service agent's head popping from behind a pillar looking at me with a certain astonished look. So I tried my best to be less squeaky and walked with a funny walk the rest of the time. How much china do you need in one house!

There are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence. There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.

At various times in history, the White House has been known as the "President's Palace," the "President's House," and the "Executive Mansion." President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901.

Presidential Firsts while in office... President James Polk (1845-49) was the first President to have his photograph taken... President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) was not only the first President to ride in an automobile, but also the first President to travel outside the country when he visited Panama... President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45) was the first President to ride in an airplane.

With five full-time chefs, the White House kitchen is able to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d'oeuvres to more than 1,000.

The White House requires 570 gallons of paint to cover its outside surface.

For recreation, the White House has a variety of facilities available to its residents, including a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater, and bowling lane.

It was a bit emotional and overpowering to realise you are standing at the seat of the most powerful man in the world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A picture perfect day in DC!

After yesterday's relentless rains it turned ou to be an beautiful blue skied day today! Gosh, what a beautiful city. Today I heard it described as an epic city, beacause of all the history behind every building and I have to agree. Next to Chicago, I think I found my second favourite US city.

Quite excited as I get to tour the White House and the Capitol tomorrow. What a blessing! I also saw Marine One (the President's helicopter) come in to land at the White House! Hmmm, wonder if he was on it. I tried calling but he did not answer...

I met up with Paula Kirby and Tianna Buckwalter for lunch just before Paula left for Virginia Beach to visit her supporters.