…Christmas History!!!

Christmas is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for coming together with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly decorated packages… But mostly, Christmas is for love. It was this love for which Jesus came to this world and sacrificed his life.

Thus Christmas is a celebration of love and mirth symbolized by the Nativity, the Santa, the caribou, the poinsettia and the evergreens. All that bring home the spirit of love and life. And this is the spirit that makes Christmas so popular throughout the world.

Though originated by the Roman Catholics who commemorate the December 25th as the day of birth of Christ Child, it has gradually come to be celebrated by the non-Catholics as well. As far as the United States goes, the celebration of X’mas is comparatively of recent origin. Much of the world was already well into Christmas celebrations by the time the United States began to wake up. In the first half of the 19th century the Sunday schools in America held Christmas celebrations. And the celebration of Christmas in America owes its origin to these schools. Alabama was the first state to grant legal recognition to X-mas in 1836. The DC did it in 1870. By 1893 all the states and territories had made similar acknowledgements.

So be it the United States or in other parts of the world Christmas is celebrated as the commemoration of the birth of Christ Child — very likely the holiest event ever to take place anywhere on the Earth, and an entirely worthy occasion to celebrate. But don’t we often wonder if we’ve got these things about it right? And why is the difference of opinion (however immaterial) regarding the date of birth? Is it even on the right date?

We bring to you a story of the Birth of Christ Child along and offer you a short tour across the world to know the way Christmas is celebrated in different parts. But before doing this please don’t forget to brush up some historical trivia regarding Jesus’ birth. Click here to know the answers to some simple yet vulnerable questions.

The whole world goes into the celebration mood during the mid winters. Long back even before the arrival of Jesus, Europeans started celebrating the light in the gloomiest days of winter. During the winter solstice, many of the Europeans began to celebrate because the tough time of winter was behind them and they felt it was the period of prolonged hours of sunlight.

Norse celebrated Yule from December 21 in Scandinavia. To celebrate the magic of sunlight, fathers and sons used logs and set them on fire. People around enjoyed these 12 days until the logs were not burned out completely. It was their belief that each fire spark represented a new pig or calf that would be born in the coming year.

Mesopotamians used to celebrate 12 days long New Year festival before 4000 years. This festival was called Zagmuth. The Mesopotamians, believers of multiple deities, started the celebration to honor their chief deity, Marduk. They used to believe that Marduk fought against the monsters of chaos at the onset of each winter season. It was believed that this was the festival where from the 12 days long Christmas had originated.

Most of the European countries thought that the end of December was an appropriate and ideal time for celebrations. It was a high time to celebrate because there were no cattle left for feeding as most of the cattle were already slaughtered. Celebration could continue with fresh meat and it was the only time of the winter when they had that opportunity. The fermented wine and beer during this time were the additional spice for the celebration.

During mid winter German people honored the time-honored Pagan God Oden. People of Germany were afraid of the nocturnal sky flights. They used to think that the Almighty had created that to observe and monitor his people of this world. They had also thought that the Almighty had the power to decide who would live and who would perish. Many of them decided to stay inside due to his presence.


Places like Saturnalia, Rome where the winter was not that strong and unkind like countries located in the northern tip celebrated holidays in honor of the God of agriculture, Saturn. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice was a special period when residents had bountiful food items and drinks to celebrate with. The month long celebration had the charm to convert slaves to even masters. Peasants used to control the city. To celebrate the time with fun and frolic all the schools and business organizations had decided to close their shutters.

Juvenalia, the feast honoring the Children of Rome, celebrated during winter solstice, was a prime carnival for Roman people as well. On December 25, the upper class of Rome used to celebrate the birthday of the infant God of the unconquerable sun, Mithra who was born of a rock. It was the most sanctified day of the entire year for few Romans. Easter, the main holiday, was celebrated in the early years of Christianity. However, Christmas or the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.

Romans started to exchange gifts and visit the homes of their friends and relatives during the festivity. It was believed that the ritual of exchanging greeting and gifts during Christmas had come from Rome.


The name comes from the Greek word onyx which means nail of a finger or claw. Legend says that one day while Venus was sleeping Eros/Cupid cut her fingernails and left the clippings scattered on the ground. Because no part of a heavenly body can die, the gods turned them into stone which later became known as onyx.

It is a member of the chalcedony family which also includes carnelian, agate, bloodstone, etc. Occuring naturally in a variety of colors, black onyx is polished to enhance appearance, a member of the quartz family.

Originally, almost all colors of chalcedony from white to dark brown and black were called onyx (SiO2 with impurities). Today when we think of onyx we often preface the word with black to distinguish it from other varieties of onyx that come in white, reddish brown, brown and banded. A variety of onyx that is reddish brown with white and lighter reddish bands is known as sardonyx.

Physical Properties of Onyx
Onyx is a form of chalcedony, part of the quartz group. Like the other stones in the chalcedony family, onyx has a smooth, waxy luster. Onyx can be found in a wide range of colors, often layered.

Specific Gravity : 2.58 – 2.64
Refractive Index : 1.55 – 1.54
Hardness : 6.5 – 7.0 on Moh’s scale

Chemical Properties of Onyx
Formula : SiO2
Elements : Si and O

Uses of Onyx
Black Onyx is often used as a backdrop in jewelry, such as cameos. It is also used as cabochons and as a building material.

Enhancements of Onyx
Black and colored onyx is always dyed. Onyz is easily dyed, so beware of the more “unnatural” looking colors, such as bright blue, etc. Onyx with red and white bands is sometimes referred to as “Sardonyx”. Onyx is the black variety of agate. However some parts are more or less translucent. This is why it is often heated to accentuate the intensity of its color.

Ocurrances of Onyx
Mexico Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Puebla
Arizona Ash Fork, Mayer, Prescott
Algeria Ain Tekbalet



Industrial Minerals



Natural Stones
• Granite
• Limestone
• Marble
• Onyx
• Quartzite
• Sandstone
• Slate
• Travertine

Dimensional Stones

• Stone Tiles
• Stone Slabs

Paving Stones

• Stone Tiles
• Stone Steps
• Stone Cobbles
• Stone Circles
• Stepping Stones

Architectural Stones

• Stone Treads & Risers
• Stone Copings
• Stone Roofing Tiles
• Stone Bricks
• Stone Strips
• Stone Blocks
• Tumbled Stone

Landscaping Stones

• River Bed Pebbles
• Stone Circles
• Stone Cobbles
• Stone Steps
• Stepping Stones

Apple Cake

Prep: 40 min. Bake: 50 min. + cooling Yield: 12 Servings

•1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
•2 cups sugar, divided
•4 eggs
•1 cup canola oil
•2 cups all-purpose flour
•2 teaspoons baking powder
•2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/4 teaspoon baking soda
•2 cups chopped peeled tart apples
•1 cup shredded carrots
•1/2 cup chopped pecans
•PRALINE ICING:•1/2 cup packed brown sugar
•1/4 cup butter, cubed
•2 tablespoons 2% milk
•1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
•1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
•1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

•In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in 1 egg; set aside.
•In a large bowl, beat oil with remaining sugar and eggs until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda; gradually beat into oil mixture until blended. Stir in the apples, carrots and pecans.
•Transfer half of the apple batter to a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan; layer with cream cheese mixture and remaining apple batter.
•Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
•In a large saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat; whisk in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with pecans. Yield: 12 servings.

Nutritional Facts
1 slice equals 614 calories, 36 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 102 mg cholesterol, 407 mg sodium, 68 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

Originally published as William Tell’s Never-Miss Apple Cake in Country Woman August/September 2010, p37

Color Of The Month …. Onyx Carmel

Carmel onyx is quarried from a dyke quarry in Azerbaijan, Turkey. This unique stone is found in a thin layer about three feet thick. The blocks are quarried horizontally in order to cut large cross-cut slabs. For millions of years, intense heat and pressure have fused together the quartz crystals that make up this delicate stone. A special quality of onyx is the transparent portions of the slab that, when back lit, will allow light to pass through, illuminating the stone.

Onyx is one of the softer and more fragile stones in the industry and is prone to scratching. Therefore, after installation, careful maintenance of the slab is highly recommended. Due to the qualities of this stone, the slabs are book-matched, in which slab one and slab two will be cut and polished to create a mirror image of each other. These are then kept in sequence which allows for a consistent flow in pattern. During the polishing process, an epoxy resin is applied to the surface of the slabs to fill in any natural pits, cracks or fissures that may exist in the stone. This does not affect the durability, maintenance or beauty of the slab. It is possible for some of the more minute pits that are too small to effectively hold the resin, to reopen during other finishing stages. However, this will not detract from the overall quality or appearance of the stone. Finally, a mesh backing is adhered to the back of the stone to ensure safety while handling and fabricating the slab. As a natural stone product, it is recommended that this be sealed to extend its longevity.


Keeping hardwood floors looking beautiful is easier than you think.

Keeping hardwood floors looking beautiful is easier than you think.
No matter what the setting, the good looks and durability of hardwood floors can be maintained with minimal effort. It’s simply a matter of proper care and maintenance.

The American Hardwood Information Center, in conjunction with the National Wood Flooring Association suggest the following care and maintenance guidelines to keep hardwood floors looking beautiful today, and for years to come. Here’s how to begin.

General Maintenance Guidelines
All hardwood floors should be cleaned regularly to remove dirt and grit from between the floor boards. Avoid using a wet mop which can dull the finish. Instead, sweep with either a dust mop or broom that features exploded tips, or vacuum the floors using a vacuum with special hardwood floor attachments or one with the beater bar turned off.

Wipe up any spills immediately, using a soft, dry or slightly damp cloth, starting at the edges of the spill and working toward the center. Allowing spills to remain on hardwood floors could damage the finish, as well as the wood.

Avoid walking on hardwood floors with sports cleats or high heel shoes in disrepair. These can scratch the finish, or even dent the floor. Placing felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs will also minimize scratches.

Further minimize scratches by placing scatter rugs at all entrances to help keep small stones and debris out. But choose wisely. Scatter rugs with rubber backs can discolor wood floors. Special rug mats can be purchased from a wood flooring retailer that will protect the floors from discoloration.

General Maintenance Guidelines
Knowing which type of finish applied to protect the hardwood floor is important. Different flooring finishes require different kinds of care, so if or when in doubt, contact the flooring manufacturer or a wood flooring professional in your area.

There are three major types of wood flooring finishes available – surface finishes, wax, and acrylic impregnated – and the experts at the National Wood Flooring Association, www.woodfloors.org, stress that using the right maintenance products will protect and prolong the life of the floor.

Surface finishes, also referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes, are practical and very popular. They remain on the surface of the wood and form a protective coating that is water-resistant, durable and requires minimal maintenance.

For cleaning purposes, use products recommended by the flooring manufacturer. If the floors were finished or refinished on site, contact the installer. If neither is known, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner which can be purchased at a retail flooring store. Never use wax-based or petroleum-based products on a surface finish floor, as they will damage the finish.

Wax finishes soak into the wood, harden to form a protective penetrating seal, and when needed, are maintained with additional thin applications of wax. Only solvent-based waxes, buffing pastes or cleaning liquids made specifically for wax-finished wood floors should be used.

Use cleaning products, available at retail flooring stores, made specifically for wax finishes. Follow the directions carefully to determine how long the cleaner should remain on the floor. Once the floor is clean, apply a new coat of wax to restore luster.

Acrylic impregnated finishes are injected into the wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. These finishes most often are used in high traffic areas of malls, restaurants and other commercial settings.

Cleaning an acrylic impregnated floor depends on the finish. If the floor has a urethane-based finish, follow the same procedures suggested for surface finished floors. If the floor has a nonurethane-based finish, use a spray and buff system, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Don’t hesitate to investigate

It pays to be knowledgeable. Proper care and maintenance will protect and prolong the performance of hardwood flooring for a lifetime, and even longer.

Outdoor Kitchen


An excellent choice for outdoor kitchen countertops, floors, and other heavily used surfaces

 Outdoor Kitchens: The Joy of Eating Outside
Last week’s granite bar post got us thinking: outdoor kitchens are a pretty nice deal if you can swing it. For every homeowner or homebuyer, outdoor entertaining is a must have in their households.And new trends in design are aiming precisely to open-air constructions of rooms that usually have an indoor concept, entering the kitchen. What most designers and homeowners around the world are discovering is that an outdoor kitchen can be both functional and attractive, not to say original.
A sit down and dine outdoor space.
“The outdoor kitchen is not an area looked at as a ‘work’ space, but it is a place to express hospitality and creativity – and to enjoy family and friends”, said Barbara B. Berry, sales associate with Downing-Frye Realty.

To build or remodel a full scale outdoor kitchen, one must decide on a specific style to combine cabinets and backsplashes. Nowadays, with a blink of an eye, you can have a new and elegant kitchen in your backyard to enjoy what life has to offer. And don’t forget that your design will reflect your taste and needs.
Tiki hut style?
To have a practical and functional outdoor kitchen, be prepared to at least equip it with a refrigerator / freezer and a quality grill. Unlike a conventional kitchen, you don’t need to have all the appliances there.

Outdoor kitchens can give you multiple benefits. And the fact that guests and family will be more involved in the cooking is one of the best ones. Open-air activities always tend create collective bonds. The more relaxed everyone feels, the more enjoyable the experience will be, and the more often you’ll want to cook outside.
…or build it closer to the home.
Also, keep in mind that most of the delicious ingredients you love to cook with, such as fish or curry, are easier to prepare outside, due to the lingering odor they tend to emanate. When it comes to enjoying life, fresh air and sunny days, nothing beats the comfort of being in your own house. An outdoor kitchen can give you that advantage.

And what better setting for an ideal al fresco dining and entertaining year-round.


Marinated Thanksgiving Turkey


My family enjoys this turkey because it cooks up tender, tasty and golden-brown. The marinade flavors the meat very well. I like grilling it since it adds that tempting barbecued flavor.

Prep: 10 min. + marinating Grill: 2-1/2 hours + standingYield: 8 Servings10 150 160

•1-1/2 cups chicken broth
•2 cups water
•1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
•2/3 cup lemon juice
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
•1 teaspoon pepper
•1 turkey (12 to 13 pounds)

•Combine the first seven ingredients; set aside 1 cup for basting. Pour remaining marinade into a 2-gal. resealable plastic bag. Add the turkey and seal bag; turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight, turning several times. Cover and refrigerated reserved marinade
•Drain and discard marinade.
•Grill Method: Prepare grill for indirect medium heat. Tuck wings under turkey and place with breast side down on grill rack. Grill, covered, for 1 hour.
•If using a charcoal grill, add 10 briquettes to coals; turn the turkey. Baste with reserved marinade. Cover and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, adding 10 briquettes to maintain heat and brushing with marinade every 30 minutes until meat thermometer reads 180°. Cover and let stand 20 minutes before carving.
•Conventional Roasting Method: Place turkey on a rack in a large roaster. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until meat thermometer reads 180°. Baste frequently with reserved marinade. When turkey begins to brown, cover lightly with a tent of aluminum foil. Yield: 8 servings.

Originally published as Marinated Thanksgiving Turkey in Taste of Home October/November 1995, p31

White Springs … Color of the Month

White Springs is quarried from a bedrock quarry in Espirito Santo, Brazil. Having a white background with burgundy and gray movement, this granite has beautiful, subtle character. It is possible to have some gold spots in this granite, which are due to oxidation of small amounts of iron in some of the blocks. During the polishing process, an epoxy resin is applied to the surface of the stone to fill in any natural pits, cracks or fissures that may exist. This does not affect the durability, maintenance or beauty of the stone. It is possible for some of the more minute pits that are too small to effectively hold the resin, to reopen during other finishing stages. However, this will not detract from the overall quality or appearance of the stone. Due to the qualities of the stone, the slabs are book-matched; meaning slab one and slab two will be cut and polished to create a mirror image of each other. These are then kept in sequence, which allows for a consistent flow in pattern. As a natural stone product, it is recommended that this be sealed to extend its longevity.




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This substantial barrier, the Dry-Treat barrier, not only provides great stain protection, but is also able to protect from serious common structural damage caused by liquids, including: salt attack, efflorescence, freeze-thaw damage, spalling and picture framing and inhibits the growth of mosses and moulds in the pores of the treated material.

Dry-Treat Innovation
Dry-Treat began in 1991 as a premium developer of specialist concrete sealers for the civil engineering industry, to protect large concrete structures such as bridges, high rises and factory floors in harsh conditions, including seawater and alkaline soil. For over 2 decades, Dry-Treat’s team of engineers and chemical scientists have continued to develop unique sealers to provide premium protection for a wide range of porous materials, including natural stone, tiles, brick and paving.

The Dry-Treat Difference
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STAIN-PROOF Original™ – the world leading, permanent impregnating sealer developed by Dry-Treat:

•Unique impregnating sealer technology. Specially engineered molecules penetrate much deeper, and bond permanently inside the sealed material.
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•Permanent sealer designed for indoor or outdoor use.
•Protects against water and oil-based staining.
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•Protects from salt attack and freeze thaw damage.
•Ideal as a wall, counter-top, facade or floor sealer.
•Engineered for sealing natural stone, paving, tiles, grout and concrete.
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Dry Treat 15 Year Warranty

Pool Surround

Slate Flooring




Peanut Butter and Jelly Omelet Recipe

Peanut Butter and Jelly Omelet Recipe

Kids will absolutely devour this scrumptious omelet with peanut butter and jelly. Serving several for dinner? Fill each omelet with a different type of jelly for a fun change of pace. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen

This recipe is:

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Prep/Total Time: 20 min.Yield: 1 Servings10 10 20

•1 tablespoon butter
•3 eggs
•3 tablespoons water
•1/8 teaspoon salt
•1/8 teaspoon pepper
•1/4 cup sliced ripe banana
•2 tablespoons strawberry jelly
•2 tablespoons peanut butter
•Confectioners’ sugar

•In a small nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Whisk the eggs, water, salt and pepper. Add egg mixture to skillet (mixture should set immediately at edges).
•As eggs set, push cooked edges toward the center, letting uncooked portion flow underneath. When the eggs are set, place banana, jelly and peanut butter on one side; fold other side over filling. Slide omelet onto a plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Yield: 1 serving.

Nutritional Facts
1 omelet (calculated without confectioners’ sugar) equals 639 calories, 43 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 665 mg cholesterol, 736 mg sodium, 42 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 27 g protein.

Originally published as Peanut Butter and Jelly Omelet in Simple & Delicious April/May 2011, p21