Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Good morning, friends.  If you are looking for my Nestivus post, I took it down. In the end I wasn't happy with it. It felt forced, and I never like for my posts to feel that way. Writing is something that flows easily for me, and I knew from the moment I began that I wasn't writing for the right reasons.  I don't think I'm ready, quiet yet, to take up posting her regularly again. No worries, I don't mean for an extended time.  I have plans in the works for the new year, and I may even post here again before then. But I'm enjoying this break and allowing more time for other things that I love, so I'm going to extend it a little, through December 31. As I said, I may post at least one other time, but I'm taking a break from an regular schedule. Though I don't always manage it, my goal in most cases is to post here M-W-F and then I often write up my Small Things posts on Saturday, but at least for this week, I'm going to allow myself the freedom to post, or not.  As for my recap of Nestivus, I'll be sharing that in a joint post, grouping the special elements from each day, some time next week.

Until then I want to leave you with a lovely passage from one of my favorite books, The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover (non-affiliate link)  It's a lovely passage about Winter, that I've posted before, but its well worth another read in this season.  I hope you will enjoy it!

Winter, while it can be one of the hardest seasons to embrace, has a lot to teach us about true beauty and wisdom. Stripped of her flowers, leaves, and warmth, the earth reveals her naked self through her skeleton branches and barren ground. She becomes completely simple, having discarded everything but the bare essentials. Her scarcity and fierceness command our respect and attention, and, without apology for not being a warm and gracious hostess, she retreats into frozen silence.

When we look to nature as our teacher, we see that she’s reflecting back to us a prolonged opportunity to hibernate and renew. Arriving with the shortest day of the year on the winter solstice, December 21 (June 21 in the southern hemisphere), winter slowly grows brighter from this day on as the sun’s presence gradually beams stronger and stronger until its apex on the next summer solstice.

Hanukkah, Advent, Christmas, and Kwanza, along with many other holidays and rituals, celebrate the return of this light. We’re reminded to connect with the sun within us, which is the bright potential of our souls, even amid the darkness and the holiday frenzy. We also celebrate New Year’s, a call to reflect on the past, appreciate the present, and dream about our future.

This truly is the time of year to go inside and ripen in our womanly wisdom before stepping out into the world again. Use the darkness all around you to explore your inner world. There you will find that flame inside of you that can never be extinguished. You can only make this descent when you commit to stillness, solitude, and deep soul-searching. You must become quiet, less social, more introverted, and–despite the negative connotations in most cultures–lazy. Just as fields need to remain fallow at times for their soil to stay fertile, we need to leave our innermost beings barren of new projects, adventures, and activities.”

If we don’t take time each year for deep rest, then authentic healing, rejuvenation, wisdom, and softening are not possible. It takes so much energy to burst forth into the world and to birth something new. This winter, treat yourself like a pregnant mama. Rest, nurture yourself, rebuild your vital life force, and prepare for the coming of new life. And if you don’t live in an area with a pronounced winter season, you need to be more disciplined about getting quiet. This is also an opportunity to listen to the subtler rhythms of nature. Yet while nature’s saying one thing, society’s saying another.“


 - Sara Avant Stover 
The Way of the Happy Woman

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Lingering in the Light of Christmastide


It is the eve of Christmas Eve, my friends and I'm popping in quickly to tell you a bit about my plans for what to me is one of the loveliest weeks of the year, the lull between Christmas and New Year's. And yes, I know a picture of my feet may seem an odd choice, but these are hands down my favorite Christmas / wintry socks, and let me just say, I own a few. I chose them, both to document my love for them, but also because they perfectly embody the soul of this post, so let's get to it. 

As most of you know I follow the liturgical calendar, which means that for us, Christmas doesn't truly even begin until December 25, and then spans through Epiphany, January 6, the true twelve days of Christmas!  So while so many are  putting away their decorations and taking down the tree, for us it is only beginning, and it is truly the loveliest time of the entire season. The shopping is done, the presents are opened, and now it is time to relax and simply linger in Christmastide.  

And while not everyone observes the liturgical calendar, based upon the following post I came across recently, a time of quiet recovery is sorely needed by many. Nestivus, "a day of reprieve from the pressures of holiday cheer and other related anxieties ; celebrated by returning to one's "nest" or place of comfort in order to recharge.", which just speaks to my wintry loving, hibernating soul! So whether you can devote a day or two, or the even the entire week to lingering in Christmastide,  I invite you to join me.

Now, before I begin let me say this. Laundry still piles up, and dishes still need to be washed. I'm not able to or encouraging an all out withdrawal from duty. But aside from perhaps a quick trip to the store for a few needed but otherwise forgotten necessities, the idea is to devote a day or more to rest and relishing in the season. If you typically take your tree down the day after Christmas, I encourage you to leave it up for a bit, and linger in its light through the new year. Wear you comfiest clothes, set out your favorite books, drink something warm. Whatever elements appeal to you that promote rest and the cozy comforts of home. I understand that many of you have jobs to return to, but you can still set aside your evenings to indulge in comfort, and with a little thought and planning, you can have everything at the ready when you return home. Also if you are a mother of small children, I understand those challenges, as well. But it doesn't take much to encourage children to join in if you set the stage! Do a puzzle together, play board games, have a read-aloud by candlelight before bed. Children often become rowdy because they are bored and don't know what to do with all of that energy, especially post-Christmas. By having a plan and setting the stage, you can direct them into more calming activities that they will love and enjoy!

Next week I'll be sharing more specifics of how I plan spend my days, but today I want to share one of the ways I already have mapped out, probably not surprising, by watching movies!  I may not get to all of them, but I hope to watch as many as possible, dressed in my comfiest clothes and cross-stitching and crocheting all the while! So here's my list . . . (Non-Affiliate links, simply shared for the inspiration!)

Miss Potter

Anne of Green Gables 

Anne of Green Gables - The Sequal

The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music

Little Women - my favorite adaptation

Then in traditional fashion, on New Year's Eve I'll begin watching The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I think one year we watched all six movies by the time the clock struck midnight on News Years Day, but now I have a more realistic goal to begin on New Year's Eve with the hopes of having watched all of them by Twelfth Night. We have traditional meals for New Years and this year I'm working on one for Twelfth Night, and I'll share about those in another post.

As for next week, I have other plans as well, which includes baking, cooking, crafting, reading, and I'll be sharing all of that here with you in the days after Christmas But for today I simply wanted to put the idea out there and encourage you to join me! I'm sure this isn't new and perhaps you already have your own traditions that you observe during this time, and if so I encourage you share in the comments! It would be lovely to have a storehouse of collective ideas for observing this special time! 

Until then my friends, I wish you the happiest and most blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Magical Celtic Christmas

 Good morning, my friends! So perhaps what I need is not so much a "break" but to release myself from a self imposed obligation to post regularly over the next week. I've said so many times before, I am NOT an influencer and have no aspirations to be. I trust God to send out my offerings to those who will enjoy it and be blessed by it, whether that be one or a hundred people. That being said, while I do try to post with some regularity, if there are any "expectations" they are personally, my own. :). 

This week I came across the loveliest album on You Tube, that I'm actually saving for the solstice on Tuesday. It's too lovely not to share, so I wanted to make sure to provide you with a link to it. 

A Magical Celtic Christmas

Unfortunately there are ads between almost every song, so thankfully I was able to find it on Spotify. We have the family plan so we can listen without ads, so if you happen to have that as well, I would recommend listening to it there. 

Also, if you're looking for a lovely movie to watch (not Christmas but perfect for the solstice), I highly recommend watching Treasures of the Snow. A powerful story about the power of forgiveness and redemption. Based on a book by Patricia St. John, who has also written others.

Friday, December 17, 2021

A Christmas Break


 Good morning, my friends! I wanted to let you know that beginning today through December 26,  I've decided to take a little Christmas Break, so to speak, so that I can devote more time to savoring this lovely season with my family! Other than perhaps popping in on Tuesday for the Solstice, I won't be posting. I also might see if I can fix my the formatting on Part 2 of the Winter Solstice post, but at this point I've already spent several hours trying to fix it and I'm not sure what else to do. For now, I've linked to the original post from 2019, which has many of the same ideas but without the updates. you can find the link at the bottom of this post. If you follow me on Instagram I'll probably share some snippets there, if you're interested.I'm looking forward to meeting with you again on the 27th. 

I wish you all a merry and blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Celebrating The Winter Solstice - Part 1
Compiled and Updated for 2021


"Early nightfall. Crisp mornings. The sharp silhouette of leaf-bare branches. Orion marching across the evening sky. These are some familiar signs of winter. We often speak of turning inward during these darker months, becoming quiet and introspective, staying home more often, sleeping longer. Yet there’s another side to winter that contrasts with our natural inclination to rest and contemplate—a side that insists we shop til we drop, eat and drink more than we care to, and rush around busy airports. Regardless of our spiritual or cultural heritage, if we live in North America today there’s a good chance we find ourselves caught up, perhaps involuntarily or out of habit, in a commercial swirl known as “the holidays” that leaves us depleted in more ways than one."

- SUSAN WASINGER, Mother Earth Living


UPDATED FOR 2021! 
A compilation of several of posts from previous years.
WARNING: This post is LONG!, and it's only Part l!

Enter, the winter solstice, which will officially arrives one week from today on Tuesday, December 21 at 10:59 a.m. This day is one that holds special meaning to me, if for no other reason than I LOVE winter! I've always said that autumn is my favorite, but to be honest, I think I love winter equally as well.  Of course Christmas isn't far behind, but there is just something about the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year, that is special to me.

We have observed this day over the years with various, simple celebrations, but as the girls have grown up, my celebrations have become much more personal in nature. Building upon the traditions of the past and adding a few new, "just for me" touches,  I have made the observance and celebration of this day, for the most part, very much my own.  And so today, I thought I would take some time to share some of these traditions, both past and present, in the hopes that you might be inspired to indulge in your own celebrations. I will warn you now, this post is LONG, and it's only Part 1! Did I mention this was one of my favorite days? But before I get into the how to celebrate, lets first begin with why.

The winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year, meaning there are less hours of daylight and more hours of darkness on this day than on any other. This is in contrast, of course, with the summer solstice when there are more hours of daylight and less hours of darkness, the longest day of the year.  The world solstice comes from two Latin words: sol meaning "sun" and sistere meaning "to stand still" because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky.

"This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing."

- RICHARD HEINBERG
Celebrating the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony

Many years ago, for fear that the days might be becoming darker and that the the sun might never return, our ancestors began observing a number of customs that were designed to hopefully entice the sun from departing. And while there are some in christian circles (my circle) that would warn that such customs stem from pagan beliefs, I would argue that life itself has been washed in the bath of such beliefs (sin), since Eve first tasted the apple at Eden. Any ritual or tradition is made whole/holy simply by means of its focus and intent. My goal, based upon my personal belief in and relationship with Christ, is in a sense to "redeem" these customs by making Christ the ever present focus of my rituals and celebrations. But this is simply what seems right for me, you may, based upon your own personal beliefs adapt or omit any of these ideas as you see fit. My intent is neither to condone what some may seem as sinful, or to force my personal beliefs upon anyone. I would simply admonish (in love) that we each "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before God." Mine is not to judge, and I would request that same grace be extended.  Ours is simply . . . to love. 

And now, on to the celebrations!

THE BATTLE OF THE HOLLY KING AND THE OAK KING
One story tells of the battle of the Holly King (The King of Winter/Darkness) and The Oak King (The King of Summer/Light). This battle takes place twice a year, on the summer and winter solstice, At the summer solstice (around June 21—the longest day and the shortest night) the days begin to shorten and the Holly King defeats the Oak King and reigns supreme in the dark times (or days getting shorter). But in December, following the winter solstice, the days begin to lengthen and the Oak King conquers the Holly King and reigns during the light times. As odd as this may sound, and you may, perhaps think they have it backwards, but the truth is that the winter solstice actually welcomes summer, as with each successive day the light gradually increases and the days become longer.  And then in the summer the opposite happens, and the days following the summer solstice gradually become shorter.  So as you can see, our ancestors needn't have feared that the sun would not return!

Though I have never done so, I've always thought it might be sweet to make a couple of peg dolls in the form of the Holly King and the Oak King a have them displayed somewhere on a shelf, perhaps.  You can then share the story of the battle of the two kings with your children or grandchildren, and then the reigning king could be replaced on the shelf and the other tucked away until it is time to battle once again.

"The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, 
bursting forth into unexpected glory.

 - GARY ZUKAV
 A SOLSTICE HOUSE BLESSING 
Blessing the house is a traditional winter practice, filling the house and its inhabitants with spiritual light at the time of greatest darkness. I have adapted to the following blessing, originally recorded by Scottish folklorist Alexander Carmichael in 1900), to suit my personal beliefs and faith. Such blessings were used in the Scottish Highlands and Islands until the last century. Usually at the Winter Solstice. 

All hail, King Jesus, blessed is He,
The light of the world, who comes to dispel the darkness!
We ask for prosperity upon this dwelling, 
On all that you have heard and seen.
Bless this house and all that it contains, 
from rafter and stone and beam;
Deliver us to God from pall to cover,
Be the healing of men therein,
Be you in lasting possession of this house,
Bless us with health about this hearth,
And fill our hearts with joy!

 SOLSTICE BONFIRES
Many traditions include a bonfire, and this is one that we observed a few times over the years.  The idea is that the offering of warmth and light might appeal to the sun to warm the earth once again. One custom suggests that each person write down one habit they want to rid themselves of in the coming year and throw it into the bonfire.  If you decide to build a bonfire, it might be fun to make up some of the these spicy fire starters in the days before your celebration.  It might make your start up a little easier, and the fire starters themselves are quite lovely!

❅ THE SOLSTICE SPIRAL
The solstice spiral is one my favorite observances for this most special day, and is a celebration of the return of the light!  Solstice Spirals are popular in Waldorf schools, and you can read about that, here for context.

I do a much smaller table top version for my observance, using apples with white birthday candles, and in a pinch, I have also used tea lights and the presentation was just as lovely. I typically set it out on the kitchen table the night before so that it serves as a sweet reminder that we are cycling into a new season. This helps to build the anticipation, especially for young children. Then when the sun sets, I light the candles and allow them burn for awhile, our own little celebration of the return of the sun.

 CALLING IN THE FOUR DIRECTIONS
This is a tradition that I just discovered this year. It is designed to help you feel a connection to the landscape around you, by taking time to look to the horizon at each of the four cardinal points: north, east, south and west. If you make a solstice spiral (above) and make it large enough, you could mark the cardinal points with the apple candles. For some, the four directions are associated with the four elements, north - earth, east - air, south - fire, and west - water. Taken as a whole, along with the fifth unseen element of spirit, you have all the ingredients of creation held in balance and in harmony.  Though I have not taken the time to do so yet, my goal is to choose four verses from scripture that seem appropriate, and to speak them aloud as I face each cardinal point, followed by a simple prayer asking God for His blessing upon creation. These songs are now compiled together in a single playlist, linked below.

East
West

❅ A WINTER SOLSTICE WALK
This is a new tradition that I began last year and I plan to make it a regular part of my observance.  Thankfully we live in an area that plentiful with woods, and it makes for a lovely setting.  Last year I went early in afternoon to soak in the last rays of sunshine before the early darkness set in.  But this year I am considering taking it about thirty or forty five minutes before sunset.  I like the idea of returning to the warmth and shelter of home, lighting the candles on my solstice spiral, and then enjoying a festive meal, which I'll share more about below!  If you do decided to make your own solstice spiral, large or small, going on a walk might also serve the purpose of collecting some greenery.  And now, about my meal plans!

Traditionally, I always make a big pot of Grammy's Cabbage Soup.  Everyone in our family loves this hearty soup, which I really consider more of a stew, it's much heartier!  Although I was considering trying out this recipe, Crock Pot Cranberry Orange Pork Tenderloin, I think I might save it for the new year and stick with tradition. There is just something about keeping the menu simple that appeals to me, and I like the **homeyness** of a pot of stew.  I think I'll find a nice loaf of bread and serve it up with a cheese spread.  Once I have the particulars of my menu figured out, I'll post more about that.

But regardless of the main course, it wouldn't be the winter solstice without gingerbread and lemon sauce.  Gingerbread conjures memories from my childhood, when my grandmother would make it for me every time we visited!  I especially enjoy it during the long winter months, and traditionally make it for the time each season for the winter solstice.

❅ GINGERBREAD WITH LEMON SAUCE
Ginger is a favorite solstice and holiday spice, and gingerbread is a favorite from my childhood.  My grandmother made it for me often, and I always think of her when I make it today. And though I enjoy gingerbread throughout the year, I traditionally always make a loaf on the winter solstice.  Here's the recipe I have used for years.

Gingerbread
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup hot water

Lemon Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Dash salt
Dash nutmeg
1 cup half-and-half cream
2 large egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat shortening, sugar, molasses and eggs until well blended. Combine next five ingredients; add to molasses mixture alternately with hot water.

Pour into a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, for lemon sauce, combine first five ingredients in a small saucepan until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Gently stir in butter, lemon juice and zest, increasing juice if needed to thin sauce. Serve with warm cake. Refrigerate leftover sauce.

And while spiced cider has been our traditional beverage of choice, this year I'm giving serious consideration to this recipe for winter lemonade!  I may do dual service and enjoy a cup of cider over tea earlier in the day.

Another observance I began last year is eating dinner by candlelight.  In todays world, illuminated by  gadgets and technology, and faces aglow with constant media all hours of the day and night, the winter solstice is an opportunity to pause and give tribute to the natural rhythms of life. 


❅ WINTER SOLSTICE AND FOUR CARDINALS PLAYLISTS
Last year, as part of our solstice celebration, I compiled two lovely playlists. You'll find them here and here, if you're interested.


And NOW, I am going to close and I will continue in a second post with ideas for crafting, books to read and enjoy, as well as the recipe for the soup I mentioned above!  Two recipes in one post is just making this too long, even for my "wordy" self. 

Until then, my friends!  I pray your day is blessed!

"All blessings be upon you,
And all those you hold dear.
As the Yule log burns,
And friends gather near."


PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for Part 2 of this post, I had to delete it. Something in the formatting,which I spent hours trying to correct, was off and it caused my both of my sidebars to disappear. You can follow this link to the original post that I wrote a few years ago, though without the updates. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Savoring the Season - December 13, 2021


"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime."

- LAURA INGALLS WILDER

It is twelve days until Christmas, not to be confused with the Twelve Days of Christmas, which does not actually begin until Christmas day. And yet, in these beautiful days of awaiting, I feel called to stillness. The shopping is done, the wrapping awaits (traditionally on Christmas Eve while watching White Christmas). There is still baking to do, reading, crafting, watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music. I want to savor every moment.  Let's savor it together, friends. 

I've been listening to this, almost on repeat.

I was blessed by Kaetlyn's offering.


So many beautiful offerings at The Archives, free for the taking.








Saturday, December 11, 2021

Small Things - December 11, 2021

  "Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."

GLADYS TABER

In no particular order, here are six things that inspired me this week.

1. The Cultivating Project, "Cultivating Christmastide", is up.

2. Hearth and Field, a lovely, new-to-me website I just discovered this week. 

3. Jolabokaflod, a new tradition in our home this year, for me, anyway. I already ordered my book, it arrived yesterday but I'm keeping it sealed in the box!

4. Nestivus - a day of reprieve from the pressures of socializing, holiday cheer, and large noisy gatherings. celebrated by returning to ones "nest" or place of comfort in order to recharge.  Many people celebrate this on December 26, but any time in the week between Christmas and the New Year is good. I might take the whole week. Also known as Romjul.

5. Holiday Movie Night Recipes  Earlier this week I discovered this, at Walmart, so good! I was even thinking, I bet you could make this yourself, and then while searching for Christmas movie themed snacks, I came across a recipe that I think I like even better. So festive! I think it even looks like something the Who's down in Whoville would make, perfect for watching The Grinch. And be sure to scroll down to those cookie cutter pizzas, what a wonderful idea!

6. 55 Old Fashioned Christmas Ideas, in case you're still looking for inspiration.

Friday, December 10, 2021

From Grandma's Kitchen - Peppermint Brownies


When I was a little girl, growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, there was a supermarket chain called Buddies. It was a regional chain, not well known outside of Texas, but for many years it was the closest grocery store to our house. My mother never shopped there, regularly, she drove right past it every week because, "Buddies prices are too high!", to whatever store she did shop at, though the name of it escapes me. 

Aren't memories an odd thing? I remember Buddies (I'm pretty sure the picture above is the very store that was just a few blocks from our house), I recall my mother complaining, often, that their prices were too high, but I can't recall the name of the store that we shopped at every week.  What I do recall about that store is the smell of it! It wasn't necessarily an unpleasant smell, I would say rather, unique. A weird combination, I suppose of all that it housed, the deli, the bakery, the fresh vegetables, it was kind of a rump roast mixed with that rotting potato hidden deep in the bin kind of smell, you know?  I recall one day last year when we were traveling. We stopped off at this mom and pop store in a little town somewhere in New Hampshire, and the moment we walked in the memories from my childhood came flooding back. How is it that two different stores, thousands of miles apart could smell exactly the same and whisk me back to the early 60's like it was yesterday?

While I can't remember the name of the store, what I do recall is that the shopping center it was in had, and has to this day, one of those giant neon signs in the parking lot. When I moved back to Texas for a few years to take care of my mom, I was happy to find it still standing in somewhat working order, those the "shopping" lights apparently haven't lit up for years. Maybe it's too expensive now to keep these old signs burning, but I'm always tickled by the nostalgia anytime I come across one that is still in working order. 


**UPDATE** With the help of Google and my local friends on FB, I've discovered the name of the grocery store was Wyatt's! :)

But back to Buddies, sorry for the nostalgic diversion! While my mom didn't shop regularly at Buddies, with the exception of the five trips she made almost every year for the ingredients she forgot for Thanksgiving dinner, one thing they did carry in the bakery section were the absolute best brownies in the world! My dad and I just loved them! One of the things that made their brownies so good was that they were iced, which in my opinion, is really the only way to eat a brownie! Maybe Buddies ruined me, because so many recipes I have come across in my quest to re-create them do not call for icing. Not that it would be hard to whip up a batch for any recipe, but when you're trying to recreate a recipe from memory, not just any icing will do!

All that being said, growing up eating Buddie's brownies has made me a bit of a "Brownie Snob", I suppose you would say. I'm a hard critic when it comes to a good brownie, and until a friend of mine brought a pan to our small group, I had in my life-long quest, found nothing else that would suffice. Enter Peppermint Brownies! 

Now I'm going to start this recipe off by saying that these are NOT Buddie's brownies! I'm still on that quest! But, they are equally as good, especially with that hint of peppermint, which makes them the perfect and easiest dessert for your holiday parties! Just make them your go-to recipe, "I'll bring brownies", that's all you need to remember, other than the recipe, and now you have it!

PEPPERMINT BROWNIES
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar (I often use less)
8 tbsp. cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla (for mint brownies, sub peppermint extract for 1 tsp.)
1 c. oil (veg. or coconut--or even applesauce can work)
4 eggs
1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 350
Mix all ingredients and pour into 9x13 pan
Bake 30 min. or until done

Let them cool and then frost with chocolate frosting. For peppermint brownies, sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top.

For the icing, this is the recipe I use, more like a layer of fudge on top of the brownies. So good!
 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Advent Embertide (The Fast of the Four Seasons)
- December 15, 17, 18

Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie.

- OLD ENGLISH RHYME

Next week I will be observing Advent Embertide, which occurs this year on Wednesday, December 15, Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th.

Though not widely observed by the church and perhaps little known to some, Embertide is observed four times a year, and is a time set aside to focus on God through His marvelous creation. These quarterly periods take place around the beginnings of the four natural seasons

The term “Ember” is derived from the Latin term Quatuor Tempora, which means four times. The Ember Days are a quarterly series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, taking place at the beginning of each natural season, that are set aside as a time of fasting and prayer: Michaelmas Embertide in September, signaling the beginning of autumn; Advent Embertide in December, ushering in the winter season; Lenten Embertide, which arrives in spring; and Whit Embertide which comes at the start of the summer season.These three days each season provide the faithful with an opportunity to contemplate the wonder of God through His creation—that is, the natural world—and to engage in self-reflection. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth century A.D., provides an excellent model for Embertide contemplation. He writes;

"If any man attempt to speak of God, let him first describe the bounds of the earth. Thou dwellest on the earth, and the limit of this earth which is thy dwelling thou knowest not: How then shalt thou be able to form a worthy thought of its Creator? Thou beholdest the stars, but their Maker thou beholdest not: Count these which are visible, and then describe Him who is invisible, Who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names."

 - St. Cyril  

The fasts are likewise known as "Jejunia quatuor temporum," or "the fast of the four seasons," and are rooted in Old Testament practices of fasting four times a year:

"Thus saith the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Juda, joy, and gladness, and great solemnities: only love ye truth and peace."

- Zechariah s 8:19

Ember Days are also often referred to “mini Lents” , being a time to pray, fast and to thank God for the gifts He gives us through nature, following the beauty and uniqueness of each particular season. However, unlike the solemnness of Lenten fasting, Ember Days’ fasting is joyful and thankful. The Church counts her blessings and rejoices in the gifts of nature, especially crops that contribute to the administration of the Sacraments.

WINTER // olives and oil, used for anointing the sick

SPRING // flowers and bees, used for altar and Baptismal candles

SUMMER // wheat, used for the Holy Eucharist

AUTUMN // grapes, used for the Precious Blood

Ember Days are observed on specific days in each seasonal cycle, always on Wednesday (the day Christ was betrayed), Friday (the day Christ was crucified) and Saturday, (the day Christ was buried), and following specific pinnacle dates on the church calendar. Our Israelite ancestors once fasted weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Christians changed the fast days to Wednesdays and Fridays ). The weekly two day fasts were later amended in the Roman Church to keeping only Fridays as penitential days, but during Embertides, the older, two-day fasts are restored. 

(Dates for upcoming year, 2022)

SPRING (Lenten) Embertide (after Ash Wednesday) - March 9, 11. 12, 2022

SUMMER (Whitsun) Embertide (after Pentecost Sunday) - June 8, 10, 11, 2022

AUTUMN (Michaelmas) Embertide (after Holy Cross Day) - September 21, 23, 24, 2022

WINTER (Advent) Embertide (after the Feast of Saint Lucy) - December 14, 16, 17, 2022

Their dates can be remembered by this old mnemonic:

Sant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia 

Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria.

Which means:

Holy Cross, Lucy, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, 

are when the quarter holidays follow.

For non-Latinists, it might be easier to just remember "Lucy, Ashes, Dove, and Cross" -- or "Lenty, Penty, Crucy, Lucy."

FOLKLORE ASSOCIATED WITH EMBERTIDE
Folklore has it that the weather conditions of each of the Ember day predicts the weather of the next three months respectively. For example;
The weather of Ember Wednesday of Advent (December 15), predicts the weather for January, 
Ember Friday of Advent (December 17), predicts the weather for February
Ember Saturday, for March (December 18) predicts the weather for March

and then again in each season;

Ember Wednesday of Lent - predicts the weather for April
Ember Thursday of Lent - predicts the weather for May
Ember Friday of Lent - predicts the weather for June

Ember Wednesday of Pentecost - predicts the weather for July
Ember Thursday of Pentecost - predicts the weather for August
Ember Friday of Pentecost - predicts the weather for September

Ember Wednesday of Michaelmas - predicts the weather for October
Ember Thursday of Michaelmas - predicts the weather for November
Ember Friday of Michaelmas - predicts the weather for December

WAYS TO OBSERVE EMBERTIDE
On the days of Embertide, we are admonished to observe the day in prayer and fasting. Fasting provides an opportunity to consider God’s gifts and how to use them in moderation. Fasting on Ember Days means one regular meal per day (two smaller meals in morning and evening, no snacks) on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with the addition of abstaining from meat on Friday.

Wednesday of Embertide
Fasting


Friday of Embertide
Fasting

Abstinence
- No meat


Saturday of Embertide
Fasting


*In addition to the penitential fasting and alms-giving of this time, it is good to consider our stewardship of the earth, a responsibility God gave to us in the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Genesis 1:28-30:

"God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth. And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat: And to all beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon."

The point is also beautifully made in the eighth Psalm:
"O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth! For thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise, because of thy enemies, that thou mayst destroy the enemy and the avenger. For I will behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers: the moon and the stars which thou hast founded. 

What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour: And hast set him over the works of thy hands. Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen: moreover the beasts also of the fields. The birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, that pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in all the earth!"

Be mindful of your effects on our dear earth and don't allow people to "politicize" the issue of our stewardship of God's creation! But to be mindful of nature, it helps to actually see her first. Go outside and look! And praise God for all you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste as you allow His glorious works to touch your senses!
 
The Natural Season

Psalm 147:12, 16-17 
"Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: 
praise thy God, O Sion. 
Who giveth snow like wool: 
scattereth mists like ashes. 
He sendeth his crystal like morsels: 
who shall stand before the face of his cold?"

Winter is a time of reflection, when human activity is stilled and snow blankets the world with silence. For the Christian, Winter symbolizes Hope: though the world now appears lifeless and makes us think of our own mortality, we hope in our resurrection because of the Resurrection of the One Whose Nativity we await now. How providential that the Christ Child will be born at the beginning of this icy season, bringing with Him all the hope of Spring! Also among our Winter feasts are the Epiphany and Candlemas, two of the loveliest days of the year, the first evoked by water, incense, and gold; the latter by fire... 

Yes, despite the typical, unimaginative view of Winter as a long bout with misery, the season is among the most beautiful and filled with charms. The ephemeral beauty of a single snowflake... the pale blue tint of sky reflected in snow that glitters, and gives way with a satisfying crunch under foot... skeletal trees entombed in crystal, white as bones, cold as death, creaking under the weight of their icy shrouds... the wonderful feeling of being inside, next to a fire, while the winds whirl outside... the smell of burning wood mingled with evergreen... warm hands embracing your wind-bitten ones... the brilliant colors of certain winter birds, so shocking against the ocean of white... the wonderfully long nights which lend themselves to a sense of intimacy and quiet! Go outside and look at the clear Winter skies ruled by Taurus, with the Pleiades on its shoulder and Orion nearby... Such beauty!

Even if you are not a "winter person," consider that Shakespeare had the right idea when he wrote in "Love's Labours Lost":

Why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in an abortive birth? 
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

*Text derived from Fish Eaters. For additional resources for Advent Embertide, see this post.

If you would like to learn more about Ember Days and ways that you can incorporate the observance of them into your faith, here are some additional resources.


On December 15, 17, and 18, you may voluntarily choose to adopt practices such as increased prayer or scripture reading, abstaining from meat or alcohol, fasting, almsgiving, or any other penances you prefer. It is a beautiful and traditional way to increase your awareness of Christ’s suffering and self-offering, and a nice way to prepare for the joy of Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Saint Lucy's Day - Monday, December 13


Monday, December 13th  is the Feast of St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia Day. 

THE LEGEND OF SAINT LUCY
Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia) was a young virgin martyr in Syracuse, Sicily (Italy) in the late 200s A.D. who was put to death in 304 A.D. Excavation in Syracuse revealed a tomb dating to the 4th century with an inscription that it belonged to St. Lucy (her relics were removed hundreds of years after her death and are believed to currently be in Venice, Italy). Beyond this, little factual information is known about St. Lucy. Her name, Lucia in Italian, is believed to be derived from the Latin Lux, a term for “light.” The earliest known written information about St. Lucy’s story is from the late 400s, Acts of the Martyrs, which indicates there was already veneration shown to her by that time. By the 6th century, legends about St. Lucy had spread throughout Italy and other parts of Europe. Although the stories vary somewhat, the common theme in all of them is that St. Lucy dedicated herself to Christ and to serving the poor, which angered the pagan to whom she was betrothed. He denounced her as a Christian to the authorities, who then attempted first to drag her to a house of prostitution and then, when they could not physically move her, to burn her – which was also a failure. Ultimately, they ended St. Lucy’s life with a dagger or sword to her throat.

St. Lucy’s legend holds that her eyes were gauged out and God then provided her with new eyes. This came about, it is said, because her pagan suitor loved her beautiful eyes. In some versions of this story, St. Lucy plucked out her eyes herself and gave them to her suitor; in other versions, her eyes were removed by her persecutors. St. Lucy is often depicted holding a small plate with two eyes on it. She is the patron saint of the blind.

Legend has it that St. Lucy delivered wheat and bread to the poor and homebound, and possibly to Christians staying in the catacombs, often in the darkness of night to avoid detection. She would carry a lamp or wear a crown of candles (to free her hands for carrying food) to light her way. Because of this, the lamp and wreath of candles are symbols of St. Lucy

While it may be hard to distinguish fact from legend surrounding this patron saint, one thing is certain: This 3rd century Christian dedicated her life to Christ and to serving others and is an example to us for how we can use our time, talents, and treasure to carry the light of Christ to others in their time of need.

HOW TO CELEBRATE THIS LOVELY DAY
In Sweden, the oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy's Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of martyrdom. On her head she will wear a wreath of greenery and lit candles, and she is often accompanied by "starboys," her small brothers who are dressed in white gowns and cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. "St. Lucy" will go around her house and wake up her family to serve them special St. Lucy Day foods." - from Fisheaters

Traditionally the special food is known as Lucia Buns, which is saffron bread, you can find a recipe here. This recipe calls for the bread to be topped with almonds, but I've seen others that called for dried cranberries, grapes or dates. I personally think the dried cranberries add a lovely touch.

Please note (as we did this almost every year), it is also perfectly fine to subsititute the bread with something much simpler, such as . . . canned cinnamon rolls, and apparently we were not the only ones as I've seen literally dozens of posts over the years where families did the same. I did particularly like this idea, however, of braiding the canned dough to form a ring. I don't think I was that creative when my girls were growing up, I just baked them as is, placed them in a circle on the plate and adorned them with candles, which is fine to do as well! The traditional Lucia Buns are shaped into an S, which you will find here, and you could do the same with the cinnamon roll dough. There is no wrong way to make them, so do what is right for your family based upon your time and needs.

We also never had the white dress, red sash, not even the ivy crown with candles, although I always wanted to and "planned to do it next year". Not being a part of a church community that recognizes such things, keeping up with the liturgy was often difficult for me, especially when the girls were little and we were busy with homeschool. Saint Lucy's day was one of those celebrations that was often overlooked, though always with regret because I do find the observance of it quite lovely.

So if your daughter happens to have a white dress, you could easily purchase a length of red ribbon (easy to find this time of year), to make a sash, and as for the crown, there are several lovely options that you can make up in a pinch, including this one made from paper, which I think it lovely and probably my favorite.  There are also instructions for some quick and simple star boy hats for the boys. I always thought the crown would be lovely to make out of felt, but I never got a round to it. You can find an example, and a free pattern, here. But for this year, since I waited SO late to post, you can also find this lovely free printable crown, here.

Other ideas that I've seen that would be easy to pull off are;

If you don't have children in the home, you could easily create a round centerpiece for our dinner table with four white taper candles to symbolize Saint Lucy's crown.  Choose red and white as the the theme for your tablescape, as a nod to the white dress and red sash that she wore.

Apple Star Ornaments - I've always associated stars with St. Lucy, as well, because of the star boys.
or you could make these, which sound delicious and look lovely, too!

Orange and Chocolate Star Cookies

I also found this lovely vintage Betsy McCall paper doll, depicting her celebrating St. Lucy's day. Might be fun to print out for your girls!

Another idea that I think is a lovely tribute, is to honor St. Lucy as the "bringer of light" by going out to see Christmas lights.

And, as is common with so many feasts, a lantern walk at dusk is perfectly lovely idea, as well.

Here is a lovely you tube video of the traditional song being sung by a children's choir in Paris, and below are the words to the song.

Santa Lucia, Thy light is glowing,
Through darkest winter night, Comfort bestowing,
Dreams float on wings of night, Comes then the morning light,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia

Through silent winter gloom, Thy song comes winging to
Waken the earth anew, Glad carols bringing,
Come thou, oh Queen of Night,
Wearing thy crown so bright,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia, Christmas fore-telling,
Fill hearts with hope and cheer, Dark fear dispelling,
Bring to the world's call,
Peace and good will to all,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia



Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Tuesday Afternoon Tea - December 7, 2021


Good morning, my friends, and welcome once again to another Tuesday Afternoon Tea! I want to start off by letting you know that my post is more of a Tuesday Morning Coffee post. I have a very full and busy day today, and I'm not sure that taking time for tea is in the cards. But, since I didn't want to delay our post, once again, I'm simply altering it a little. So whether you're drinking coffee, or tea, or maybe a lovely warm winter cider, I welcome you!

Today our topics of conversation are

Cozy Homes * Warming Spices * The Movies and Music of Christmas

So let's begin, shall we?

 COZY HOMES 

One of my favorite days of the week is Friday. Even as a stay-at-home wife and mother, my days are filled with needful tasks, which is all well and good, I'm happy to have a family to keep a well organized and tidy home for. But as with any "job", it is nice to take some time off, which may seem harder to come by as a homekeeper. However, with a little intentional thought and planning, it's certainly not out of the question.  I've mentioned before about a lovely ritual I observe every Friday, Blessing The Weekend.

Among the things I do on this day is changing the sheets on my bed (pictured right). You can see by this picture that when I say red and green are my favorite colors year round, I mean that, honestly! I have three sets of sheets that I rotate on a schedule, Light Green, Red and Dark Green. I bought extra pillow cases for each set so that I can mix and match them as you can see in this picture. The set of red sheets is used twice a month, every other week, and then the light green and dark green on the other weeks. I love all of them, and they each lend a bit of a different mood to the room. I have a lovely down mattress topper on my bed which makes it so soft and inviting, and in this season an extra blanket for warmth.  I also have several throw blankets in deep greens and a bright red, for those times when I might want to take a quick nap without messing the bed up too much.  We keep our apartment fairly cool, as a I prefer to wear warm clothing and cover up for added warmth. It helps to keep our heating cost down, and it doesn't dry our skin out as much. In fact, unless the temperature dips into the 20's or below, I keep my bedroom window cracked year round. For me there is just nothing better than a crisp, cool room and to burrow down deep under a warm blanket! So cozy!

Another thing I like to do when making the bed is spritzing it with a homemade linen spray. If you follow that link you'll find ideas for several lovely blends, but the blend I've been using for awhile now is a sugar cookie scent that I just love! A lot of people prefer lavender for its calming properties, but I've never been a big fan. I much prefer the muskier scents of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and the like.  The sugar cookie blend I'm currently used is pre-mixed, so once I run out of it I plan to find a recipe for a similar blend that I can mix myself in larger quantities.

 WARMING SPICES

Another way that I like to keep my home cozy is with simmer pots! I typically keep on going year round, but especially in autumn and winter! I had a lovely brew on the burner yesterday that I really enjoyed, 

CINNAMON PINE AND PEPPERMINT 
2 peppermint sticks (make sure it has peppermint oil in the ingredient list) 
 2 sprigs of pine 
 2 cinnamon sticks

One little trick I've found adds a lot of fragrance to your simmer pots, especially during Christmas, is to use apple juice, cider or orange juice as your base instead of water. Just be sure, of course, to keep an eye on the level so that you don't end up with a burned up sticky mess. I know a thing or two about that! :)

 THE MUSIC AND MOVIES OF CHRISTMAS

And finally, I'd like to introduce you to a few of my favorite classic Christmas movies! I know that the availability of Christmas themed movies is almost endless, and it just seems to grow every year! But you may not be familiar with these gems. 

Christmas in Connecticut
This movie is one of my absolute favorites and it deserves, and will receive, an individual post all of its own. If you've never seen it, you owe it to yourself to rent it and possibly add it to your seasonal movie collection.

I just adore Barbara Stanwyk, some of you might remember her from her Big Valley days. But some of her earlier works are simply charming, and Christmas in Connecticut is, in my opinion, the absolute best, not to mention the beautiful setting! I don't want to give too much away in this post, because as I said, I'll be sharing more about it in later this week. But if I ever had a dream house, it is definitely the one depicted in this movie.

Christmas In Connecticut - Rent for $3.99 (non-affiliate link)

And that brings us to another timeless classic that I love, It Happened on 5th Avenue. As with Christmas in Connecticut, this movie deserves its own post, so hopefully I'll be able to find the time to share more about both of these wondeful movies. In the mean time, if you're interested in learning more about them they are both easy enought to google. But if you're looking for a few heartwarming movies that both young and old will like, you can't go wrong with either of these selections.

As for the music of Christmas, well, that topic might be better suited if this were an entirely Christmas themed blog, because I love Christmas music so much I could probably write a post almost daily about a different song. I do have a few more post on the topic coming up, and I've already shared one with you last week. You'll also find all of my favorites if you listen to my Christmas Playlist, and there are even more offerings, along with some lovely vintage images to help set a cozy mood that I shared with you in this post. You're sure to find a few that you'll love!

And that brings us to the close of another tea time, although in this case, without the customary tea and treat! I do hope you've enjoyed your time here, that you'll try out that lovely simmer pot blend and give one of the movies a try, I just know you'll love them both! I'll be sharing more about both movies as well as more of my favorite holiday songs in the days ahead, so be on the look out for those, if you're interested!

Be sure to leave a comment or link to your own post for your chance to be entered in a drawing for a COZY WINTER WELLNESS KIT which I'll send out mid-January. You'll find all the details here.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Tuesday Afternoon Tea
- The Monday Make Up Edition!


Good afternoon, my friends! I hope your week is off to a marvelous start! It's been a busy Monday for me, but that is primarily due to the fact that I took the weekend completely off from duties and responsibility, so today it was time to get back to business.

I want to welcome you to our Monday Make-Up Edition of Tuesday Afternoon Tea, which I was unable to post last week. That is the nature of hosting regular weekly posts, life happens and often things get off schedule. But no worries, if there's one thing I need for this space to be it is gracious and easy.

So as you might have gathered from that scrumptious photo above, today my tea-time treat is a delicious Peppermint Brownie! A friend of ours brought these to our small group one year, and it is without a doubt the absolute best brownie I have ever tasted! I love them so much that I only made a fourth of the recipe, about four brownies total, because, well, I have no business eating an entire 9 x 13 pan of brownies and my daughter isn't really into sweets. I had actually already enjoyed one of them by the time I took this picture! They are just so good! I'll be sharing the recipe with you below, but for now lets turn to my tea cup and my choice of blend for today.

Since I was already indulging in peppermint, I carried that flavor over and steeped a cup of Bigelow's Peppermint Tea. It is one of my favorite blends, especially this time of year, but honestly, I love peppermint pretty much year round.

As for my place setting, this little black and white stoneware cup and plate are a set I picked up at the beginning of the summer of, at all places, Dollar General! I have two cups, two bowls and two dinner plates and I think they may be my favorite set of dishes. I honestly wish now I had gone ahead and purchased two more sets. I've been checking back periodically to see it they re-stock them, and they do have a few single pieces, but unless I can purchase two more full sets I guess I'll just have to be happy with a service for two. 

I had a friend over for dinner on Saturday night prior to going out to see a local display of Christmas lights, and I served with these dishes. The lights were a bit underwhelming, but it was very nice to spend some time with my friend. 

And now on to today's tea-time conversation topics

A Homemade Christmas * Oranges * Pleasant Pastimes

To be honest if I'm not careful I can be a bit of a Rodger's and Hammerstein's production this time of year! There are just SO many things that I want to do, and every year Pinterest only adds to that list. Thankfully a lof ot the crafts and projects are equally suited for the winter months, so I have plenty to keep me busy as they days become colder.

As I mentioned last week, today is also St. Nicholas Day, one of my absolute favorite feast days of the Liturgical Year.  If you don't know about St. Nicholas of Myra, who our Santa Claus is based upon, you can learn more about him here. There are many traditions associated with this feast day, and it is a day that our family looks forward to every year! I am 60 and my daughter is 22, and I can tell you that we would sadly miss not observing this special day and continuing on with our traditions.  Every year on the evening of December 5 we lay out our shoes by the fire (or in this case our non-working pot bellied stove), and when we awake  the next morning we find new socks or slippers, gold candy coins, a peppermint stick, an orange, and usually a few other small gifts to round it out. This year that included a Hershey's Kiss Santa Hat and a Yankee Candle Balsam & Fir candle. The gold coins are taken straight from the pages of the story of St. Nicholas, who left gold coins in the stockings of poor children. The orange is also symbolic of the gold coins, but it makes such a lovely presentation I always include both, and as oranges is of one our themes this week, it is equally fitting! Some years I include nuts and other candies, and when the girls were little they each got a new book. But now that it's just myself and our youngest daughter I changed it up a bit this year. I love this day so much that I fully expect that I will put my shoes out every year that I am still living, even though I am the one who is filling them up. It's just a tradition, filled with so many happy memories that I don't want to let it go! For years I also made Santa Claus pancakes for the girls for breakfast, and I considered that this year, but I had such a long to do list that I changed my mind. Perhaps another day. The certificates you see in the picture is something new that I did this year. I thought they were so cute when I saw them online, and what better day to get your official "Nice List" certificate than on St. Nicholas Day. I wish I had discovered them years ago, I would have done it every year! 

Typically on St. Nicholas Day I always try to make some kind of craft with an orange. For many years the girls and I would make orange pomanders, but now I do that closer to the Winter Solstice, which is coming up on the 21! Other than Christmas the Winter Solstice is my absolute favorite day of the year and we love to celebrate it, so be looking for those posts coming up soon.

Today I made these cute little orange tea-light holders and I am so pleased with the way they turned out. They are so simple and easy to make, and they'll make a nice addition to my dinner table tonight for the Feast of St. Nicholas. I don't have a traditional menu for this night, although I should, but tonight I'm having the most delicious roast served over a bed of garlic roasted mashed potatoes and english peas. I can hardly wait, it is so good! The recipe for my roast is one I need to share with you here, because it always comes out so juicy, tender and flavorful every-single-time! It's the recipe my grandmother passed down to me, and it's a keeper! If you want to make your own candle holders, I got the idea here. I love the pattern they used on theirs, which is inspiring me to make a few more, perhaps for the solstice!

There are so many lovely, pleasant ways to pass the time in this season! And if you're like me there almost isn't enough time to do all the things I want to do. Being a homebody and an introvert I often have people ask how I "manage to stay home all the time", and goodness me, I hardly know how to answer. But I can assure you I stay busy! With all the hobbies I have, cross-stitching, crocheting, crafting, reading, blogging, watching old movies and sit coms, listening to podcasts. There is never a dull moment here! I live a very full, rich life and I love every moment of it. My husband once said that I "suck the marrow out of life", and I think that's a fairly accurate statement.

So now before I close, here's the recipe for the Peppermint Brownies, as promised! 

PEPPERMINT BROWNIES
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar (I often use less)
8 tbsp. cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla (for mint brownies, sub peppermint extract for 1 tsp.)
1 c. oil (veg. or coconut--or even applesauce can work)
4 eggs
1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 350
Mix all ingredients and pour into 9x13 pan
Bake 30 min. or until done

For peppermint brownies, let them cool and then frost with chocolate frosting. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top.

Once you've tried these you'll never make another recipe! I'm picky when it comes to brownies, and in my opinion, these are the absolute best! You can also omit the peppermint and just make regular brownies and they are just as good!

And now my friends, I'll close for now. Since this was a make-up post I'll be back tomorrow when our topics of conversation will be

Cozy Homes * Warming Spices * The Movies and Music of Christmas

Remember everyone who participates will be entered in a drawing for a COZY WINTER WELLNESS KIT which I'll send out mid-January. You'll find all the details here. The only thing I do ask is that you not post ahead of my post, meaning that if I have another day when I have to postpone, then I do ask that you please not post your entry and link it until my post for the week is up. It just makes things a little awkward, since I'm hosting, if people follow the link and my post isn't up yet. So just be on the look out for each week's post from now until December 28 and once it's up, then feel free to post your entry and link it!