Candy, Flowers, and Cards! Oh My!

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950-1960

Image via Wikipedia

How are these tied in with St. Valentine’s Day? Was there really someone named “Valentine”? What did he do to have a holiday named after him?

There are many stories about the origin of St. Valentine’s day. We do know there was a man by the name of Valentine, that he was killed for being a Christian during the time of the persecutions, and that he died around the year 270 A.D. Other than that, stories about his life are pure speculation.

The version of the story I like has to do with a bitter, mean Emperor named Claudius. He was the leader of a large army, but his soldiers were getting tired of fighting. They wanted to go home to their wives, sweethearts, and families. So Claudius devised a plan that he thought would keep the soldiers focused on fighting battles. He sent out a decree over all his lands that the soldiers were not to get married or become engaged to be married. He thought, “Heh, heh, this will really keep them focused on wiping out the enemy and we will be winners!”

But his plan didn’t work well at all. He failed to realize that love is stronger than any decree.

The soldiers were able to go behind the back of the Emperor and find a priest who would marry them in secret, still very legally. His name was Valentine. Couples came from all over to be married by him. However, the Emperor discovered this little scheme and had him thrown in prison and sentenced to die. While in prison, Valentine become friends with the jailer’s daughter. It is said that she was healed through his prayers. On the day he was to be put to death, on February 14, he left a message for the jailer’s daughter, signed “From your Valentine.”

So St. Valentine’s legacy lives on. It is a special day of showing even more love and affection than usual to those around us. This may include sending cards and flowers and candy to those we love.

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Children’s Activities for Snow Days

You say, “What will children do again today since we have another snow-day?” This has been a recurring question and theme these last winter days – at least here in the Midwest, as I am sure in many parts of our country. The children, and you, are probably tired of looking out the window at the snow coming down, or watching the birds at the bird feeder. Some may have even ventured outside, but I wouldn’t recommend it if your area is as cold as it here in Missouri.

Having something to do can be a problem, or a fun challenge, especially if the “vacation” has been extended. I always found it helpful to pack away some toys, especially around Christmas time, and then when the novelty of holiday toys had worn thin, it was time to bring out the long forgotten ones.

Hopefully, video games or TV are not the prime activity during these days. We hear so much about the sedentary life style of all age groups, including children. It’s important to plan some active games – to get out and move. This is also one way to stay warm! Maybe you and your child or children can take turns using the exercise equipment you have acquired. Get out the jump rope and see how many turns can be made before the timer goes off. Or jump on one foot. Turn on some music. Kids love to dance to music.

There are quieter activities, too, such as reading, drawing, coloring, and playing board games. Kids like to be creative. This can be seen in their dress-up play and their manipulative play. Cooking is always a good activity to engage in. They love to pour and measure and taste.

For an activity that uses food products, but is not to be eaten, is to make play dough. Here is the recipe from Amy Houts’ new cookbook, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities.

Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
Food coloring

Children can help measure and pour ingredients into a medium-sized saucepan. use a few drops of any food coloring you desire.

An adult can place pan over medium heat, cooking and stirring until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from pan and let COOL. (This is important, as children will want to dig right in – it is so appealing, but so hot!) Keep in an airtight container in a cool place. This play dough stays soft and pliable.

Keep those creative juices flowing and help your kids have some fun, safely, while you are all snow-bound. They may not remember how cold it was, but they remember how you played with them and how much fun they had when the snow came down.

Lee Jackson
Books for home and family

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Holiday Cookbook

I had a note from a reader of Amy Houts’ new book, Cooking Around the Country with Kids: USA countrycomp75Regional Recipes and Fun Activities that said: “This book is an excellent way to introduce children to new tastes and new cultures.” It’s always good to hear from satisfied customers!

Amy is doing a book signing at Maryville Public Library on Saturday, December 19 from 1 -3 p.m. Refreshments from her book will be served.

There is still time to order her new book at

Lee Jackson, publisher
Books for children, families, and parenting professionals

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The Cat Family’s Christmas


Cats have traditionally been featured on Christmas cards, decorations, and ornaments. This children’s story book, The Littlest Christmas Kitten, reveals the legend of the Christmas Cats and why they have been part of this holiday for centuries. It will inspire everyone to take another look at the story of the First Christmas and the rich history of the cat family.

In this story Mother Cat searches frantically for her kitten. Scampering to hide from two travelers entering the stable, she jumps into a manger. There she discovers her sleeping kitten. This same manger will later become the bed for Baby Jesus.

The night’s events leave a lasting effect on all the animals, especially the cats.

To order this heartwarming story that children will want read over and over again, go to ChristmasKittenBook.

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New Cookbook Almost Ready!

When you take a look at our website  you should be able to turn the pages on our new cookbook by Amy Houts, Cooking Around the Country with Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. It’s fun to see it coming together and looking very good – we’re excited!  Go ahead and see what you think:  see NEW COOKBOOK.

On the page it says the author has not put in the ordering information yet – but on the website order page, you can order the book and it will be shipped as soon as it gets published.  This way you can receive one of the first signed and numbered copies.  Would love to hear from you.

Lee Jackson

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Happy First Day of Spring!

Garden with some tulipsImage via Wikipedia

Everyone is anxious to see the flowers come up, leaves bud out on trees, and weather warm up. With spring there is new hope.

It is good to be hopeful. This tends to lift the soul and put a smile on one’s face. It makes a person healthier and happier. Having hope may even create better relationships with family, friends, and community members.

Dr. Charles R. Synder is a psychologist at the University of Kansas who studies hope. According to him, there are certain characteristics hopeful people have that others do not. Some of these include:

  • being more confident in reaching goals
  • staying flexible in finding ways to reach goals or aiming toward similar ones
  • turning to others to help them reach goals
  • believing that things get better with time

What are some things you hope for?

Is it perhaps that you will always have friends?
To have a loving family?
To have a healthy family?
For nice teachers?
For no more bullying or fighting?
For peace and justice in the world?

Springtime is a time to renew our hope and inspire that hope in others.

I hope you have a wonderful spring!

Chef Crombie

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