I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. – Lily Tomlin

Archive for the ‘Around the House’ Category

Reasons for the Season

This time of year I feel inundated with Facebook status’ and Twitter updates telling me that I have to remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season“.  I feel the need to refer to a post I made last year about the origins of Christmas/Winter traditions.  Many of these festivals and traditions pre-date the birth of Jesus.  So in our house…. family, love, friendship are our reasons for the season.

Originally posted on December 17th, 2009:

Solstice

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Odin, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.

In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

Santa Claus

The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. After his death around 340 A.D. he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout Europe.

His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop’s mitre.

After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. Dutch colonists brought brought this tradition with them to America in the 17th century and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.

Christmas Trees

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.

The ancient Egyptians worshiped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.

Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.

Mistletoe, Holly, and Poinsettias

Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter.

The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.

Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

In Northern Europe Christmas occurred during the middle of winter, when ghosts and demons could be heard howling in the winter winds. Boughs of holly, believed to have magical powers since they remained green through the harsh winter, were often placed over the doors of homes to drive evil away. Greenery was also brought indoors to freshen the air and brighten the mood during the long, dreary winter.

A native Mexican plant, poinsettias were named after Joel R. Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico who brought the plant to America in 1828. Poinsettias were likely used by Mexican Franciscans in their 17th century Christmas celebrations. One legend has it that a young Mexican boy, on his way to visit the village Nativity scene, realized he had no gift for the Christ child. He gathered pretty green branches from along the road and brought them to the church. Though the other children mocked him, when the leaves were laid at the manger, a beautiful star-shaped flower appeared on each branch. The bright red petals, often mistaken for flowers, are actually the upper leaves of the plant.

Candy Canes

It was not long after Europeans began using Christmas trees that special decorations were used to adorn them. Food items, such as candies and cookies, were used predominately and straight white candy sticks were one of the confections used as ornamentation. Legend has it that during the 17th century, craftsmen created the white sticks of candy in the shape of shepherds’ crooks at the suggestion of the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

The candy treats were given to children to keep them quiet during ceremonies at the living creche, or Nativity scene, and the custom of passing out the candy crooks at such ceremonies soon spread throughout Europe.

According to the National Confectioner’s Association, in 1847 German immigrant August Imgard used the candy cane to decorate a Christmas tree in Wooster, Ohio. More than 50 years later, Bob McCormack of Albany, Georgia supposedly made candy canes as treats for family, friends and local shopkeepers. McCormack’s brother-in-law, Catholic priest Gregory Keller, invented a machine in the 1950s that automated the production of candy canes, thus eliminating the usual laborious process of creating the treats and the popularity of the candy cane grew.

More recent explanations of the candy cane’s symbolism hold that the color white represents Christ’s purity, the red the blood he shed, and the presence of three red stripes the Holy Trinity. While factual evidence for these notions does not exist, they have become increasingly common and at times are even represented as fact. Regardless, the candy cane remains a favorite holiday treat and decoration.

First Official SNOW Day!

Today is the first official snow day of the year!  We haven’t received much snow, but the temperatures are well below freezing.  Overnight temps (with the wind chill) were below zero.  This causes the salt and brine to not work on the roadways.  
The snow is definitely pretty to look at, but I’d rather view it on the internet from a sunny beachside cabin…

I Did It!!!

I got my yeast to rise!  On the first try too!  I’ve never made my own bread before, however, my mom used to make her own bread all the time.  Loaves, rolls, etc., if it could be made, she’d do it.  This year I decided I was going to try my hand at making my own dinner rolls.

Yummy goodness!

Not to toot my own horn (TOOT TOOT!!), but they were so very, very good!  I did have a bit of trouble getting it to be less than sticky while trying to roll walnut size pieces, but Mom just pushed me outta the way and rolled ’em right up.  We did have a few that rose in the pan a bit quicker than others and resulted in this…

But that just meant more the crusty, browned goodness that is the top of the roll.  Everyone agreed that everything tastes great, but I think my biggest accomplishment was getting that yeast to rise!

The Menu

This time of year we always make our rounds of family houses to partake in delectable Thanksgiving table spreads.  The past couple of years we’ve taken the plunge and cooked a wee bit o’ dinner ourselves as well.

Main dish:

-TURKEY, duh!  I was going to brine my turkey this year because I’ve never done that, but I couldn’t really find a fresh turkey to my liking.  That means all the fresh turkeys were too expensive so I copped out and bought a frozen one, but it’s a Butterball!  I am going to try my hand at making pan gravy though.

Side dishes:
-Mashed potatoes, but not my usual recipe.  This one comes with half and half, cream cheese, and lots of butter!


-Green bean casserole!  I’ve always kind of winged it with this recipe and this morning when I went to Campbell’s website to find the original, classic recipe, the server was “busy”.  So I guess everyone else was also waiting until the last moment to find that recipe.  Oops!  However, I remembered that I had seen the recipe in the Nov. 29th Family Circle magazine!

Homemade dinner rolls.  Never worked with yeast before, but better late than never right?  
Dessert:
I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin pie, although my mom tells me I loved it as a kid, so I found this great recipe for pumpkin muffins.

It’s a basic menu, but there are only going to be 3 adults and 2 kids eating so it’s best to keep it as simple as possible.  What kinds of goodies are you brewing up for this Thanksgiving holiday?

P.S. Thanks be to the great one, The Pioneer Woman, for her easy and delicious looking recipes.

*All images link back to source site.

Four Peas in this Pod + 1

Did anyone guess the announcement?  

We’re having another baby!

This was a huge surprise.  A seriously huge surprise.  I did stop taking birth control a little over a year ago, but I’ve been keeping tabs on ovulation and cycles.  I felt it was time to stop taking them since I’d been on them since Kaia was born in 2001.  The risk of cancers increases the longer you take birth control pills and with a history of cancers in my family, I didn’t want to take any unneeded chances with fate.

I checked with the insurance company to find a midwife in my area.  This morning I call to make an appointment, get through all the information, only to find out she doesn’t do pre-natal care anymore.  I asked if they could recommend another midwife in the area and she said she didn’t know of any.  Great…  I had to fall back on the crazy busy OB/GYN whose receptionist was sweet, nice, and kind.  Guess that’s what I was meant to do in the first place.  My first appointment isn’t until the 22nd though.

I phoned the local health department to schedule an appointment for a test and to apply for WIC.  I used WIC with both of my other children and it was so helpful.  They were pleasant and polite.  That appointment is on Wednesday.

Then I made the mistake of calling the Cabinet for Families and Health Services.  Is it a requirement to be as big a bitch as you can possibly be to work for these people?  Right off the bat, she was very uninterested in even answering the damn phone.  In the most monotone voice available… “This is Tabitha.  How can I help you.”  I smiled because I’ve been told that if you smile while talking on the phone you sound kind, then said I needed to make an appointment.  She went through the routine of asking my name, social, blah, blah, blah… Then asked what my income was.  When I told her that I did not have one, but my husband did, I audibly heard her sigh then say, with a bad attitude, that she was going to need his pay stubs for the entire month of September and October.  I told her that my husband doesn’t get a paper pay stub because his employer had gone green.  She again sighed loudly then informed me that I had to produce something, she would not take a bank statement because that doesn’t show gross income, that she would not take a monthly summary either, she has to have copies of every single paycheck.  Then she informs me that I have to have a statement from someone who is not related to me showing that I wasn’t employed and had no income, plus a statement from my mother-in-law stating how much we pay in rent monthly.  I’m not proud to say I was considering applying for food assistance from the government, but as she was the most unpleasant, rude, aggravating person, I am proud to say that I won’t be doing so now.  It’s already testing of ones pride to ask for assistance, but to be treated so poorly in just the first phone call, was not necessary.  Every little bit helps, but I won’t subject myself to being treated that way.  So screw you Little Miss Tabitha from the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Health Services, you are a bitch.  I hope you get a UTI.

So yay for our family!  We’re having another baby!!

Turning Bears into Tigers

Back in early October Kaia found herself a wooly worm.  They are technically called a Wooly Bear Caterpillar and they will turn into Isabella Tiger moths in the Spring.  She wanted to keep it, but I told her that we had to let it go so it could prepare for the coming winter.  It wasn’t until after we had let it go that I discovered, you CAN keep them!  So about a week ago, she found another little wooly worm minding his own business and scooped him up.  

He has his own little habitat in our dining room.  He really doesn’t require too much in the way of care.  He has a stick and every day we clean out the old grass (and caterpillar poo) and give him fresh grass.  I try to make sure I get grass in the morning when there is still dew on it.  He’s pretty much become part of our family.  She named him “Catty”… ’cause he’s a cat-erpillar…  She’s so original.

Guess what I found out today?!  Brittany at MommyWords is giving away a Flip Ultra HD camera!  You still have a chance to enter the giveaway by visiting her site here!  The contest ends tomorrow at 9PM so hurry over there and get your name in the pool!

I’m in love.

I’m in love. I’ll admit it.  In love with this Fall weather!  Because of this I’ve kind of been missing from the blog and the internet in general.  I didn’t even do a Friday Flip-offs post!  I didn’t really have anything to flip off this week.  The trash man actually came on the correct day and ON TIME!  Do you think that ass hole might have read my blog?

Check out all that I’ve been doing with my Fall self…

Hobby Lobby was having a sale on their Fall decorations so I got nearly all this stuff for half off!

I have a real problem with those horrid light fixtures, but there isn’t much I can do about them so I decorated them with candle rings.  The glass owl was among some of my mom’s stuff that I snooped through and claimed for myself.  The corn… it’s real corn.  Neil-age brought it over from the harvest corn field.  Since the fireplace is a non-working one I had to do something to fill up that space.  The mirror is an old antique one that had been my mom’s as well.  I bought some cinnamon spice potpourri to put in the glassware and I can’t smell that shit for anything.  I thought it was because I had gotten used to it, but no.  It just doesn’t smell.  The plan for the “B”‘s is that eventually I want to have lots of different sizes, patterns, and shapes on the wall above the mantel.  I’ve just not done it yet.  I’m thinking of grabbing a couple of baskets for the magazines on the hearth.  What’d ya think?

It was seriously chilly here today.  Sixty two was the high, 38F is the low.  Brrrr… can we say hot cocoa weather?  When the sun was actually shining Kaia Papaya and I went outside.  I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that the Oak trees haven’t been producing as many acorns, but this year our Oak tree has tons of them.  The squirrels will have a very stocked up Winter.  She suggested we cram as many of them in our pockets as we could fit, then gathered up some pine cones and pine sprigs.  She wanted to put them in a bowl on our table.

I threw in some little fake apples for color, but I thought she did a pretty good job.  I imagine the pine sprigs will be brown in a couple of days, but that’s ok.  I’ve got a huge tree outside I can steal more from.  We brought in a couple of bugs too, but we collected them and took them back outside.

Speaking of bugs…

Kaia Papaya brought in a wooly worm on Saturday morning!  I was surprised that she was actually touching an insect, but I hid it because I didn’t want her to drop that shit in the living room floor!  I actually learned lots of stuff about wooly worms.  They are actually Isabella Tiger moths!  You can “raise” one by capturing it in October and doing a few things to make it cozy through the Winter.  Who doesn’t know that you can predict the coming Winter weather by the color of the brown band on a wooly worm?  According to our wooly worm find, we should have a mild one.

What cool Fall finds have you come upon?