April 30 – Anniversary of Louisiana's Statehood

Posted on April 30, 2016

Most people who grow up in the U.S. know that “the Louisiana Purchase” – made by the U.S. government led by then-President Thomas Jefferson – bought from France a lot more than the current state of Louisiana!

Actually, it was James Monroe, special envoy to Napoleon, and Robert R. Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, who took advantage of France's surprising offer of more than 800 thousand square miles of territory, including the vital port city of New Orleans. 

It was such a good deal (about 3 cents an acre) that Monroe and Livingston felt that they couldn't even wait for presidential approval for the purchase. 

The two men had gone to France to offer up to 10 million dollars for the city of New Orleans and a bit of surrounding land – and they came back with an agreement to trade $15 million dollars for enough land to double the size of the country!

It was on this date in 1803 that they closed the deal. So it is very appropriate that this date was chosen, in 1812, for the state of Louisiana (which had formerly been called the Territory of Orleans) to join the union.

Why are Louisiana and New Orleans so important?

Especially in the olden days, the Mississippi River was crucial for moving crops and goods through the U.S. and to the world. And the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.

Because of that fact, Louisiana promoters say things like, “Much of the world's food, coffee, and oil pass through the Port of New Orleans.”

New Orleans is connected to 14,500 miles of inland waterways!

With its colonization by Spain and France, with its large number of Native American tribes, with its large population of African-Americans, and with the post-Civil War emphasis on Anglicization (promotion of the English language, for instance), New Orleans has a vibrant mix of cultures and architecture and is famous for its cuisine (for example, gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish, beignets, and po-boys) and music (especially jazz). Its also famous for Mardi Gras!

Learn more at Louisiana Fun (Facts.com). 

Here are some New Orleans highlights:

My two TOP favorites things about New Orleans are:
(1) beignets at Cafe du Mond, above, and
(2) the art galleries, especially those on Royal Street.

The two most famous things about New Orleans have to be:
(1) jazz music, which was invented in New Orleans, above, and
(2) Mardi Gras festivities, below.

The architecture of New Orleans is wonderful and varied.
I stayed in a wonderful apartment like the one pictured here, above
- and I loved listening to the saxophone player in Jackson
Square as we sat on the balcony!

Also, I enjoyed the green-green parks, cemeteries, and
yards, and all the charms of the Old South.

Also on this date:

Eeyore's Birthday Party

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April 29 – Teach Children to Save Day

Posted on April 29, 2016

Saving money for a “rainy day” – and saving up for big purchases – are great ideas, and teaching kids to save when they are still young is smart, too.

I have to admit, the greedy shenanigans some bankers were up to – you know, the shenanigans that caused so much devastation, pain, poverty with the 2008 financial crisis – makes me feel a twinge of cynicism as I contemplate the American Bankers Association's involvement in creating this holiday.

But we have to remember that most bankers are community members who are working for a strong local economy as well as a stable global finance system. So I'm pushing my cynicism aside and letting you know some bankers are volunteering, teaching kids, and providing educational materials.

Of course, many families struggle with having enough money for their bare-bone needs RIGHT NOW – and that should be of concern to the community at large.

But families who can afford to should have good conversations about spending, saving, donating, and investing. They should discuss the difference between needs and wants. And they should encourage kids to save regularly, even if just a bit. “Just a bit” every month adds up!

  • Money Savvy offers a special 4-chambered piggy bank. 

  • Money Toolkit$ provides a super simple video about how banks work. 

Also on this date:

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April 28 – Biggest Sand Castle in the World!

Posted on April 28, 2016

A sandcastle four stories tall! Yi-i-ikes!

On this date in 1985, the world's record for largest sand castle in the world was set in Treasure Island, Florida.

It looks like a sand village to me, rather than a mere castle:

Called Bluebeard's Castle, the sand sculpture was 37 feet high and comprised some four THOUSAND tons of sand. It cost the town $25,000 to hire a famous professional sand sculptor, and it took 12 workers plus 500 volunteers 12 days to make. But the payoff was spectacular – the sand castle attracted 150,000 sightseers and lots of coverage in the media in its first weekend alone.

Notice that I used past tense – like other sand sculptures, of course Bluebeard's Castle was temporary. And the world's record, too, fell. But what Treasure Island started has become a thing – the city has been promoting sand sculpture events ever since. It is called the Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida, and it is the home of “Sanding Ovations,” a company that sculpts sand around the world.

I gather that the record for the tallest sandcastle is now set at 45 feet, 10.25

And the tallest sand sculpture is an astounding 73 feet, 7 inches!

There are lots of cool sand castles built every year. I love this one:

I've always liked making drip sand castles like this:

But some people use sticks and fishing line to make drip sand castles that seem to defy gravity!

In many places in the world, the beach is a bit cold for going in the water. But maybe not for a little architectural fun...using sand!

Also on this date:

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April 27 – Independence Day in Sierra Leone and Togo

Posted on April 27, 2016

Two West African nations celebrate their independence today.

Here's a difference:

Togo became independent of France on this date in 1960, and Sierra Leone became independent of the United Kingdom on this date in 1961. Because of this difference, Togo's official language is French, and Sierra Leone's is English.

Here's a similarity:

Both countries celebrate in typical ways: speeches by government officials, marches and parades, work holidays and gatherings and banquets.

Here's a difference:

Togo relies mostly on agriculture, but Sierra Leone is rich with mineral wealth, such as diamonds, titanium, bauxite, rutile, and gold. The latter is also blessed with one of the world's largest natural harbors.

Here's a similarity:

A majority of the people in both nations are poor, and life expectancy in both nations is low, people averaging lifetimes of only 56 or 57 years. These sad truths must stem partly from the fact that both nations were ravaged by centuries of slavery and partly from the fact that the governments of both nations have been unstable; Togo suffered from a military coup and 38-year dictatorship, and Sierra Leone suffered from a deadly civil war and the recent Ebola outbreak.

And here are some interesting things to see in Togo and Sierra Leone:

TOGO - Koutammakou, land of the Batammariba, with their two-story mud “tower houses”

SIERRA LEONE – Bunce Island features a British “slave castle” – thankfully, now long unused and being reclaimed by the forest!

TOGO - The fetish market, where you can buy feathers, skulls, skins, and herbs

SIERRA LEONE – Outamba-Kilimi National Park features loads of wildlife plus ancient rainforests

TOGO – The Grand Marche, an open-air market extraordinaire!

SIERRA LEONE – The “banana islands” are rather banana shaped – and lovely!

TOGO – Hikes and sights near Kpalime

SIERRA LEONE – Lumley Beach is becoming far more developed, but parts still look like this

To learn more about Togo, check out this earlier post. And this post is about Sierra Leone.

Also on this date:

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