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Black History Month - how it began

Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied-or even documented-when the tradition originated. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.

Blacks Absent from History Books

We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population-and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.

Established Journal of Negro History

Woodson, always one to act on his ambitions, decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. However, February has much more than Douglass and Lincoln to show for its significance in black American history. For example:

  • February 23, 1868:W. E. B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.
  • February 3, 1870:The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.
  • February 25, 1870:The first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took his oath of office.
  • February 12, 1909:The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.
  • February 1, 1960:In what would become a civil-rights movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.
  • February 21, 1965:Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was shot to death by three Black Muslims.

How to carve a pumpkin for halloween

Just in time for Halloween, here are some great ideas for pumpkin carving and some tips for making your pumpkin last longer after it's carved, courtesy of Howdini guru of fun Bruce Littlefield.

Recipe: Halloween truffles with candied walnut brains

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutesMakes: 12No need for expensive white chocolate, white chocolate chips will work fine. Store the truffles in the refrigerator before your party and serve at room temperature.1 cup (about 6 ounces) white chocolate chips2 tablespoons unsalted butter1 tablespoon heavy creamPinch of salt1 tablespoon liqueur, optional2 tablespoons powdered sugarRed food coloring12 whole walnutsIn a medium saucepan over low heat, warm chocolate, butter, cream and salt until chocolate is just melted. Remove from heat and be sure everything is well mixed. If you're using liqueur, stir it in now. Set aside 1/2 cup.Transfer remaining chocolate mixture to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, about 1 hour.While chocolate is firming, stir food coloring into reserved chocolate mixture until you have the desired color. Arrange walnuts on a wire rack over a piece of parchment paper. Spoon colored chocolate over walnuts to cover. Allow chocolate to set. Put walnuts aside until ready to make truffles.Use a teaspoon or small cookie scoop to make 1-inch truffles. Roll each truffle in powdered sugar, then top each with a walnut brain. Store truffles in refrigerator for up to 1 week.Per serving: 160 calories (percent of calories from fat, 72), 4 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 13 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 9 milligrams cholesterol, 20 milligrams sodium.

Spooky and kooky ideas for Halloween

There are plenty of ideas on the Internet for disgusting Halloween food. We prefer a classier spread. And you don't have to spend days getting ready for your party. In an hour's time you can make Herbed Pumpkin Seeds, Spider Web Eggs and Truffles With Candied Walnut Brains. The Devilish Eggs and Ladies' Fingers take more fiddling, so if you're in a hurry, try the Quicker Ladies' Fingers and Spider Web Eggs.Halloween is all about disguises and things that are not what they seem.If you're hosting a party on Halloween, your guests will be expecting food that is creepy, spooky and maybe a little odd.They're also expecting you to stick to the traditional Halloween color scheme of orange and black, with a splash of blood red.You're likely to spend a bit more time fussing over the food and cocktails than you might for a run-of-the-mill party.After all, for most of us, serving body parts isn't part of our everyday dinner rotation.There's no doubt that Halloween celebrations have changed and that Halloween has become big business. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend almost $6.86 billion this year on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations.And instead of being just a holiday for kids, it's become an event for all ages. The federation says one in three people is going to throw a Halloween party.It wasn't that long ago that a Halloween party meant bowls of cheese puffs and cheese curls, black olives, nacho-flavored corn chips and maybe an orange punch of some sort.I think it was the folks at Martha Stewart Living who really upped the game. Surely no one has more fun with the holiday than the Stewart elves who dream up new ways to decorate pumpkins, homes, ourselves and our menus.Its first stand-alone Halloween magazine came out in 2000.You're not likely to see special issues on celebrating the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving. The buzz is all around Halloween.Now every Food Network star and women's magazine has suggestions for creepy cakes and freaky party food.The beverage companies have gotten into the mix, and you can buy black vodka with which to make all kinds of dark and stormy cocktails.So throw that Halloween party. Invite your guests to enjoy your frightful but delicious finger food. Stock the bar and you're ready to enjoy this holiday that's not just for kids anymore.

Recipe: Devilish Eggs

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 30 minutesMakes: 24Adjust the "devilishness" of these eggs by adding more or less cayenne.12 hard-cooked eggs, see method above3 roasted red peppers, finely chopped1/2 cup mayonnaise2 teaspoons Dijon mustard1 teaspoon hot sauce1/2 teaspoon black pepper1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika1/4 teaspoon cayenne1 small red bell pepper, cut into small triangles, for garnish1 green onion, dark green portion cut into small triangles, for garnish2 chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, for garnishCarefully peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Place whites in a plastic food storage bag and refrigerate.For the filling: In a medium bowl, mix yolks with roasted peppers, mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, black pepper, paprika and cayenne. Stir until smooth. Adjust for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made up to 2 days in advance.When ready to serve, spoon filling into white halves. Use red bell pepper triangles to make horns, green onion triangle to make a goatee and chive pieces for mustache.Adapted from www.marthastewart.comPer half-egg: 74 calories (percent of calories from fat, 77), 3 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 108 milligrams cholesterol, 72 milligrams sodium.

Classroom Halloween party tips & tricks

Reprinted with permission from


Your child's Halloween class party is one of the most exciting days of the new school year. Whether you’re the room mom, teacher, or the parent who volunteered to help with the party, a little planning makes for a fun, memorable, and stress-free event.

3 Steps to Halloween Party Fun

1. Plan it

Organize the class party into 'stations' with small groups of kids rotating through activities to keep the pace moving for the kids and the group-size manageable for parent volunteers. Everyone comes together for the final station, story time.

Simple, fun crafts include cardboardtube mummiescrayon resist fall leaves, decorating mini pumpkins, thumb print witches and spiders, and face painting.  

Consider space limitations when choosing party games. Four Halloween favorites:

  • Mummy-wrapping races: teams of 3 wrap a ‘mummy’ (child) with toilet paper, first to finish their rolls, win.
  • Apple or mini-pumpkin relay: teams compete to pass an apple or mini pumpkin under their chins kid-to-kid without using any hands. If it drops, start over.
  • Pin the nose on the pumpkin 
  • Halloween BINGO

Tip: Check out our Classroom Party Guide with 10 fun craft and game ideas for Halloween and Fall celebrations.

Stories about pumpkins, spiders and witches are sure to please.  Ask your children's librarian to recommend spooky tales that are age-appropriate. 

For snacks, consider sliced apples dipped in caramel sauce, pumpkin muffins with cream cheese, popcorn monster hands, and warm apple cider.

Tip: Ask the teacher if any kids have food allergies and if the school has policies limiting sugary treats.

2. Get Help

Ask class parents (and grandparents) to pitch in and volunteer either during the party or by contributing supplies and food. Remember to plan for craft and game supplies, snacks,  paper ware, and simple decorations (think plastic table cloths and mini pumpkins).

Tip: Free online signup sheets from make it easy to coordinate parent helpers. With the click of a mouse or a tap on a smartphone, parents can quickly choose when to help and what to bring. Automated reminders keep everyone on track.

3. Have Fun!

Be ready for joyful chaos! When things don't go exactly as planned, don't stress. Instead, put on a big smile and know that the kids will have a great time no matter what. Be sure to take lots of pictures, party day is a very special day at school!

Tip: Bring a child's wagon to help carry supplies from your car to the classroom

Happy Halloween!


About the Author


Karen Bantuveris is the founder and CEO of VolunteerSpot -- free online signup sheets save time and make it easy to organize parents to help for just about anything: classroom helpers, snack schedules, carnivals, library volunteers, parent-teacher conferences and more. Karen lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.

When you lose weight, this is where the fat goes

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In what seems too good to be true, a new study says the key to losing weight is something you already do every day. In fact, you're doing it right now.

All it takes is a little of this inhale, exhale action. Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia say breathing is how you can shed those extra pounds. (Video via Animated Biomedical

They set out to answer the question, when you lose weight, where does it go? (Video via YouTube / davidlloydleisure

You see, scientists have known for some time that the excess carbs and proteins you consume are converted into a fat called triglycerides. It's a mix of three kinds of atoms — carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

What they didn't know is what happens to that fat when it's burned off during activity. The common assumption was that it converts to heat or energy. But these researchers say that's not the case. (Video via BiProUSA

Instead, 84 percent of that fat turns into carbon dioxide and escapes the body through the lungs. The other 16 percent turns into water that leaves the body through urine, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids. 

But don't cancel that gym membership just yet — the more you exercise, the more carbon dioxide you'll lose. 

In case you weren't convinced, the study found a 154-pound person who is just sitting around exhales about 8.9 mg of carbon with every breath. But if that same person is exercising, he or she can lose an extra 40 g of carbon from the body. 

So really, this study only confirms what we already knew. If you want to lose weight, eat less, move more. As the authors of the study put it: "None of this biochemistry is new, but for unknown reasons it seems nobody has thought of performing these calculations before."

The researchers are clear on one thing: Simply breathing really fast will only cause you to hyperventilate. For more on what not to do, check out the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.

This video includes images from Patrick J. Lynch / CC BY 2.5U.S. Air Force and Iain Watson / CC BY 2.0.

Residents reenact nativity scene after its removal in Dallas

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A community is outraged that their nativity scene is no longer allowed on the steps of the Dallas courthouse.Residents tell Channel 9 they have no plans to stop protesting until the scene is returned to the courthouse.

Town of Dallas forced to move nativity displayProtesters waved as drivers passed by Monday night in Dallas, getting more energy with each honk of the horn.“I love hearing the honks! It makes me feel good,” said Brandi Rote. Rote said she’s proud to hold a sign in support of a nativity scene that was recently moved away from the courthouse square. Someone spotted the display and called the Freedom from Religion Foundation.The group sent letters warning the town board that it’s against the law to have religious displays on public property. For the first time in 40 years, the nativity has  been moved to private property.Rote said she and her church members want it back. “I was here for six and a half hours yesterday. My church had church our here, like we called all of our members and said ‘hey, we’re going to have church outside today. You know, today we’re going to have it out in Dallas,’” Rote said.People dressed up Monday night to reenact the scene that was on display in an effort to persuade the town to bring the nativity scene back. Until then, they’ll continue their fight.“My plan is just to stay here and hold the sign and just listen to what’s going on,” Rote said.A rally event is planned for Wednesday, click here to learn more.

Officers surprise four families with early Christmas

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Some of Santa's elves must be in law enforcement. Police in San Diego delivered gifts for the man in red to four very deserving families. 

"The kids were nominated by their schools, students who are doing well, despite the hardships that they face at home," KGTV reporter Marie Coronel says.

"It means a lot, we've been through a lot of stuff, and yeah, we're really happy,"recipient Nancy Mejia says.

The police officers gave the families presents, food and money, which was collected by the Filipino-American Law Enforcement Officers Association, whose members are both active and retired law enforcement personnel. 

"Definitely brings our spirits up," recipient Randy Goldberg says.

This is the second year in a row Santa has asked the officers to help out San Diego-area families. 

And ol' Saint Nick has been hitting up the men and women in blue this year. Last week, a police officer pulled people over at a routine traffic stop and surprised them with gifts from their wish lists.

"This just turned my bad day into a good one,"one woman says.

"What? Are you joking?" another woman asks.

"No, it just fell off the back of a truck, you didn't see the guy in the red sleigh? Sorry the wrap job isn't perfect, it's a little windy out,"Officer Scot VanSolkema says.

"How did you do this?" the woman asks. 

And after a thief stole gifts from under a Minnesota family's Christmas tree, officers again stepped up.

"Hopkins police had a plan of their own, surprising the Hills by replacing almost all of the $600 worth of gifts that were stolen," KMSP reporter Leah Beno says.

"Thank you so much," mother Maritha Hill says.

This video includes footage from the City of Lowell. 

Entire California neighborhood lights up sky with synced light display

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An entire neighborhood in Yucaipa, California, managed to set all of their Christmas lights to sync with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song.

The video, which is just over three minutes, was apparently shot from a drone at dusk and shows the various Christmas lights flash in time with the music.

According to The Daily Mail, 16 neighbors spent months preparing the display. Jeff Maxey uploaded the video to his YouTube channel as well as a display synced with Maria Carey's "All I Want for Christmas."

Read more here

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