Archive for the 'christmas' Category

a 1980’s christmas

Author: angiem, 12 19th, 2013

Beside me, my sister is asleep. The golden tiled fireplace in the corner of the bedroom heats radiates heat throughout the room. I get out of bed as quietly as I can, make my way into the freezing cold of the next room, and out into the hall. I put on my jacket and step into my boots, pull my wool cap low over my forehead and stuff my hands into mittens.

It is just a few weeks before Christmas. Uncles, aunts, and cousins are to gather at our house. Today is the day of the pig slaughter. There is a large table set up outside between the water well and the grape arbor. On it are several large bloodied knives. I am glad that the pig was killed before I woke up.

I walk from one group to another, but no one pays any attention to me. I stop to watch the men burn the pig over an open fire. They rub the pig’s skin with salt and cover it. The ham and the chops and the ribs get placed in separate pots. Some will be ground, some will be smoked and some will be used for the midday and evening meal.

The women prepare a lunch of polenta and thick slabs of bacon. Fast food before the making of sausage. They shoo me out of the way.

My sister awakes and the other cousins arrive. Now there’s a bunch of us underfoot. We are given little things to do, such as taking firewood to the smokehouse and turning the handle on the sausage-making machine until our arms seem about to fall off.

The men finish with salting and burning the skin. They mix the meat with fat for storage over the long winter months.  They help the women with the sausages and line up every piece of meat that is to be smoked next to each other in the smokehouse.

When the long day nears to an end, the men make a makeshift table running the length of the yard. We sit and have a last meal together of fried sausage and mashed potatoes, pickled peppers and black bread.  Everyone is tired, yet merry. We eat and drink until we’re stuffed. Someone mentions that it’s time for each family to their own house.

And then just as people start to leave, it begins to snow. The snow shimmers and sparkles and settles over the yard. My sister and I beg our dad to pull us on the sled, but he is too tired, and the snow is not deep enough.

With promises of sled rides in the morning we get sent to our warm bed, where I am sure we fall asleep right away. And so ends another day of a childhood that seems so far away.

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december days

Author: angiem, 12 26th, 2012

During the chilly days of December, these are a few of our favorite things to do:

Starting the day with a buttery pain au chocolat and a delicious foamy cappuccino.

Baking Christmas cookies.

Decorating the tree with ornaments silly and precious.

Creating art. And posing with it.

Shopping for special gifts.

Wrapping. And more wrapping.

Journaling to the gentle snores of the children.

Writing in my cozy spot.

Reading. Always reading.

Happy end of December. Happy end of 2012. May 2013 be filled with all your dreams come true, dear friends.

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a blessed advent

Author: angiem, 12 02nd, 2012

The Advent season has begun, and this is my favorite time of the year.  Our little family of four is big on rituals and festivals. This is a time of cozy fireside chats and rainy day board games, of starry evenings filled with music and lazy days of books, of intimate coffee dates with friends and parties into the wee hours of the morning, of sledding down snowy slopes and the making of homemade apple cider.

But this is also a time when the focus is inward. In the stillness of the house at midday when the children are in school, or in those early hours of the morning, when I’m the only one awake, this is the season when I peer into the deepest, most shadowy corners of my heart.

Wishing you all, my dear friends, a blessed Advent season. A time of joy, a time of peace, a time of love, a time of connecting to your true self, a time of allowing your light to shine into this dark and dreary world, a time for you to become the highest, best possible version of you. Happy Holidays!

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childhood memory: the christmas tree

Author: angiem, 12 20th, 2011

It is dark when mom awakens us from our nap. The rose painted walls are softly lit by the white world outside. Mom comes in and closes the wood shutters, turns on the chandelier overhead. The room is cold, the fire in the tiled corner fireplace, low. We bundle in our itchy woolen sweaters and follow mom into the hall. Dad comes in, snow glistening on his shoulders, dragging behind him a tall evergreen. He positions it into a corner of the square-shaped room where it will keep watch for the next few weeks.

The box of fragile ornaments is brought in from the attic, as well as a box of baked goodies, and one of oranges recently received from the States. I am given permission to select an orange, which dad then peels and hands to us in slices. The citrus taste, so unexpected and refreshing, overtakes my taste buds. I am in love with this taste. In my seven I have never tasted anything this good. Of course I want more. We all do.

But mom counts the oranges, making sure she has enough for the carolers stopping by. She lines them up, threads them and hangs them on the tree. After the oranges comes the ribboned, golden walnuts, then the foil wrapped home-made chocolate, followed by the Christmas candy in its fancy paper, and finally the jewel-toned glass baubles. Mom does all the work. The rest of us are her audience. The last waxy candle is clipped to the branches and lit, and dad turns off the lights. We stare in silence at the enchanting beauty before us.

My dad starts an ancient carol about the holy mother and golden pears and silver apples. When his voice trails off my mother starts one she’s learned at her grandmother’s knee, about lambs, treasure and holy men. We end the carol singing with “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

The candles are extinguished and the light turned on. Even dimmed in its glory, the tree holds us spellbound. In the other room the table is set. The carolers are on their way.

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My earliest memories of Christmas are all involved around this delicious recipe from my mother.  She used to make platters of it, then cut it up, roll it into two inch long pieces and wrap it in crinkled paper and foil and hang it on the fresh cut Christmas tree my father had just brought in.  Also hanging on the tree were precious oranges, walnuts in their shells, prettily wrapped candy, cookies, and real candles dripping wax.  We lived in communist Romania back then and didn’t have strings of lights, electric trains circling the tree, nor ornaments weighing down the branches.  Life was much more simple, much more real.  Maybe because we lacked what we now take for granted, any unexpected treat was such a luxury and such a joy.

Eagerly we anticipated the carolers we knew were coming anytime between nightfall and the crack of dawn on that Christmas Eve night. We dressed in our finest, helped set out the pastries, the cookies, and the little fancy sandwiches my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother had worked on for the last several days.  The best china was brought out, for it was a perfect opportunity to show it off.  Butter, sugar, chocolate and coffee were precious commodities hoarded throughout the year, and only used for special occasions: Christmas, New Year, Easter, birthdays, weddings, christenings, and funerals.

The house filled up with guests who reminisced all through the night, feasting on sausages, creamed potatoes and delectable desserts.  The kids got to stay up too, and usually there were so many of us that when we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore, every available surface or parent’s lap held a softly snoring child.

725 grams (3 cups) powdered milk

5 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder unsweetened

500 grams (2 cups) sugar

1 cup water

2 sticks unsalted butter cubed and at room temperature

1 tablespoon (or more) rum

1 cup roasted walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

Coat a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or if you are seriously self-indulging, butter.  Have it ready and close by.

Sift the powdered milk and cocoa powder into a bowl, and combine with a whisk until well blended.  On medium heat make a syrup of sugar and water by pouring the cup of water into a deeper pan and gradually whisking in the sugar.  Don’t forget to stir!  Let it simmer a few minutes and check readiness by placing a teaspoon of it into a glass of water.  If it holds together it is ready, if not keep stirring! Add the blended powdered milk and cocoa and mix with a wooden spoon until it’s well incorporated.  It should have the consistency of batter - not too thick, not too thin. If it is too thick, you can add water, but only a little at a time. If it is too watery, add a little more powdered milk and powdered cocoa.  Work those muscles in your arms until it resembles a smooth chocolate frosting, otherwise you get air bubbles, or a mouthful of powder. Add the rum and the nuts, take it off the heat and stir in the cubed butter until all melted.  With the help of a spatula spread it on the prepared cookie sheet and let it cool at room temperature.  It will harden as it cools.  Enjoy it!  I guarantee it won’t last long.

By the way, I have no idea on the number of servings.  And since I have never made or eaten the American version of fudge I don’t know how closely it resembles it, in either recipe or taste.

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kids on truth

Author: angiem, 01 03rd, 2010

Isn’t it funny how as kids we believed everything our parents told us? Whether it was true or not, we swallowed it without much consideration. I know I asked a lot of questions just for the sake of asking as I liked hearing myself talk. And I also know my parents answered because it was easier to do that than to ignore me. Some of the replies I remember to this day, only because I find myself repeating the same absurdities to my own children.

My son, possibly the smartest person in our house, isn’t buying it anymore. “Do you really believe that mom?” He often asks. Long time ago, before I was even married, I made a promise that I will not deceive my children. So I admit that no, I don’t, and ask him to repeat the question so I could give an authentic answer.

And so he does, but I truly hope he isn’t exasperated with me, because even knowing this I sometimes catch myself parroting my answer, and see his eyes roll.

Just the other day while visiting with friends, I asked a child my son’s age what Santa had brought. My son rolled his eyes, “Santa isn’t real mom. C does not believe in him anymore.”

“Why not?” I replied. “I still do!”

“Do you really, mom?”

“Well yes. Everybody’s got a Santa.”  I said.

“Kids don’t like to be made fools of, you know?”

Yes, of course. How could I forget? Here he is, almost 10, so eager for truth. So ready to dispose of the magic of childhood and demand to know the harsh realities of life. And he deserves to know. I just wish the truth wouldn’t disillusion him.

While I still may, I will hug him and kiss him and fill his head with enchanted stories.  Gotta pass those absurdities on.  Somehow.

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upon a christmas morn

Author: angiem, 12 26th, 2009

early christmas morn

early christmas morn

I apologize for the poor quality of the photo.  It was taken with my iPhone rather than with a good quality camera, because a good quality camera does not offer the convenience of an iPhone.  Or fit in my back pocket.  And also, since it was around 3:00am on Christmas morn, it’s probably a good thing that it isn’t too clear.

Christmas Eve day dawned foggy and cold.  I awoke before the darkness lifted though, as I was in charge of the family lunch and the house was a mess from the previous day’s baking with my mom, sister, and husband.  The kitchen was a nightmare, with pans piled on every surface!

I cooked and cleaned and washed and laundered and set the table, and before long everyone arrived, laden with goodies.  We sat and ate and talked and laughed and ate and drank some more.  The lunch stretched into the dinner hour.  Noticing the lateness and marveling at how quickly time passes, we put a stop to all the fun and festivities and prepared ourselves for church. On Christmas Eve we always go to church.

And, oh how beautiful it was!  The brass band blew away on their trombones, their tubas and their horns.  The one hundred person choir performed O Holy Night and Handel’s Messiah, and it truly felt as though the angels of heaven descended on earth with their tidings of great joy.  My spine was tingling and my hair stood on end, from the beauty of it all.

After church we hurried home and changed into comfortable clothing.  It was time to make our rounds to the Christmas Eve parties already in session.  We didn’t linger long for we wanted to be at the party where traditional carols and carolers would be.  And so we went to my friend’s beautiful estate high up in the wooded hills.  The food was amazing and in abundance.  The company awesome!  Even Santa paid a visit, handing out bonbons to the wide-eyed children.  There we stayed caroling and listening to visiting carolers, eating, socializing, and telling stories until 4:30 Christmas morning.

The kids who had been playing with the other 20 or so children, fell asleep the moment we put them in the car.  And we did too, just as soon as we brushed our teeth and tumbled in bed, 15 minutes later.

my darling babies on Christmas Day

my darling babies on Christmas Day

Christmas Day was quiet.  We got up around noon, opened our presents, and had our breakfast.  We read, watched movies and took long naps.  The skies were beautiful and blue, sunshine streaming brightly, but we just ventured out for a little bit as the wind was quick and sharp.  At night we read in front of the fire and fell asleep in a pile on the bed, the kids tucked in between us.

And so today, this second day of Christmas we celebrated some more, and tomorrow and the next we will too.  The presents that most children would receive on just one day are spread out until the twelfth night (January 5th), the eve of Epiphany.  On the 6th, on that Three King’s Day, we will have a special cake, wearing silver and gold (foil) crowns, searching in the richness of the cake for the King’s ring.

Then the season will conclude.  Our hearts will be lighter, our spirits richer, our bodies probably fatter.  But who cares?  Lent isn’t too far off.

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happy christmas reading

Author: angiem, 12 16th, 2009

When I was a child my favorite Christmas story was The Story of Holly and Ivy, written by Rumer Godden. It is a lovely story about an orphan child wishing for a doll and a grandmother, and also the story of a doll wishing for a dear child’s arm around her.  My sisters and I loved it so much we kept checking it out of the library over and over.  As I got older I forgot about the magical story of a wish coming true, until I got pregnant with my son and started on making my dreams of a children’s library a reality.

For months and months I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Finally Powell’s Books, my favorite local bookstore, located a used copy for me.  And wouldn’t you know it, but a few years later there was a new printing of the book, and suddenly they were everywhere.

A new book I am adding this year is Jane in Winter by Elizabeth Wix.  I just ordered this fairy tale and can’t wait for it to get here.  Evil queen, forests, children, winter!  My favorite kind of story!  You can read more about it and order it from the author’s own site: #mce_temp_url#

Also, check out my friend Michelle’s Christmas blog: #mce_temp_url# Michelle loves books!  She’s got a collection close to 2000 of them, not counting the Christmas ones.  I’d love to spend a weekend in there just looking around.  Besides that she is one of the best book reviewers out there, and Christmas is her favorite holiday.

Following is what I consider to be essential reading:

The Gift of the Magi     O. Henry

The Fir Tree     Hans Christian Andersen

A Miserable, Merry Christmas     Lincoln Steffens

The Legend of the Christmas Rose     Selma Lagerlof

The Birth Of Christ     St. Luke 2:1-16

The Three Wise Men     St. Matthew 2:1-14

A Pint of Judgment     Elizabeth Morrow

The Miraculous Staircase     Arthur Gordon

The Story of Holly and Ivy     Rumer Godden

The Little Match Girl     Hans Christian Andersen

Jane in Winter   Elizabeth Wix

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe     C.S. Lewis

The Mitten   retold by Jan Brett

The Gingerbread     retold by Jan Brett

Toot and Puddle: I’ll Be Home for Christmas     Holly Hobbie

Christmas in the Big Woods     Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree     Robert Barry

Eloise at Christmastime     Kay Thompson

Are your favorites on my list?  If not, what are they?

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repost:baton de ciocolata (a variation of fudge)

Author: angiem, 12 14th, 2009

My earliest memories of Christmas are all involved around this delicious recipe from my mother.  She used to make platters of it, then cut it up, roll it into two inch long pieces and wrap it in crinkled paper and foil and hang it on the fresh cut Christmas tree my father had just brought in.  Also hanging on the tree were precious oranges, walnuts in their shells, prettily wrapped candy, cookies, and real candles dripping wax.  We lived in communist Romania back then and didn’t have strings of lights, electric trains circling the tree, nor ornaments weighing down the branches.  Life was much more simple, much more real.  Maybe because we lacked what we now take for granted, any unexpected treat was such a luxury and such a joy.

Eagerly we anticipated the carolers we knew were coming anytime between nightfall and the crack of dawn on that Christmas Eve night. We dressed in our finest, helped set out the pastries, the cookies, and the little fancy sandwiches my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother had worked on for the last several days.  The best china was brought out, for it was a perfect opportunity to show it off.  Butter, sugar, chocolate and coffee were precious commodities hoarded throughout the year, and only used for special occasions: Christmas, New Year, Easter, birthdays, weddings, christenings, and funerals.

The house filled up with guests who reminisced all through the night, feasting on sausages, creamed potatoes and delectable desserts.  The kids got to stay up too, and usually there were so many of us that when we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore, every available surface or parent’s lap held a softly snoring child.

725 grams (3 cups) powdered milk

5 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder unsweetened

500 grams (2 cups) sugar

1 cup water

2 sticks unsalted butter cubed and at room temperature

1 tablespoon (or more) rum

1 cup roasted walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

Coat a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or if you are seriously self-indulging, butter.  Have it ready and close by.

Sift the powdered milk and cocoa powder into a bowl, and combine with a whisk until well blended.  On medium heat make a syrup of sugar and water by pouring the cup of water into a deeper pan and gradually whisking in the sugar.  Don’t forget to stir!  Let it simmer a few minutes and check readiness by placing a teaspoon of it into a glass of water.  If it holds together it is ready, if not keep stirring! Add the blended powdered milk and cocoa and mix with a wooden spoon until it’s well incorporated.  If it is too thick, you can add water, but only a little at a time.  Work those muscles in your arms until it resembles a smooth chocolate frosting, otherwise you get air bubbles, or a mouthful of powder. Add the rum and the nuts, take it off the heat and stir in the cubed butter until all melted.  With the help of a spatula spread it on the prepared cookie sheet and let it cool at room temperature.  It will harden as it cools.  Enjoy it!  I guarantee it won’t last long.

By the way, I have no idea on the number of servings.  And since I have never made or eaten the American version of fudge I don’t know how closely it resembles it, in either recipe or taste.

Also:  HUGE congratulations to Autumn of#mce_temp_url# for winning this week’s $25.00 giveaway to Target.  Now leave me a comment and go check out her site.  Don’t forget any comment from today on qualifies you for the next $25.00 giftcard giveaway.

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Christmas stories for young and old

Author: angiem, 12 09th, 2008

Since we gave up our television set a little more than a year ago, we have been doing a lot of reading.  In the beginning it was a bit hard to get used to the seemingly empty evening hours and I confess I was anxious to fill the time with anything that would make the hours pass.  After a few nights of going online to get the news and chat with friends, we realized that our decision to kick the TV out had been in fact a desire to create a bond between us, and not just to prove our superiority to our family and friends.  

So we brought out the cookbooks and cooked up elaborate meals with the kids participating, stocked up on board games and delegated Sunday night ‘family game night,’ and went to the public library and made library cards for each one of us.  (As I am writing this, I am looking out the window at an elderly woman walking along and reading a paperback.  I see her everyday at about this time and sometimes she stops and reads, flipping the page, as though wondering what she missed.  I want to ask her what she’s reading so intently that she can’t wait until she gets home or to the bus stop.  It must be good if she’s willing to risk falling or tripping and breaking an ankle!  I have done that a few times, dragging myself off the couch and walking around the house in an attempt to get some exercise in besides my reading.  I have ended up either stubbing my toes or bumping my head on a wall that suddenly came up. Consequently, I have determined that I much rather work out my brain.)

I am thrilled to say that reading became our favorite pastime. Every evening (unless I go to one of my two book clubs, on a date with my husband, or to the bookstore or library with the family), following a yummy dinner where we sit and chat about our day, school, work, current events, books we’ve read, etc., we all retreat to our cozy family room lined with brimming bookshelves and depending how cold it is outside, a blazing fire, and read until time for bed.

It doesn’t take much to get us into the holiday spirit, even without a TV, or without trips to congested malls.  The kids open the respected day’s flap on the advent calendar, select a book from the overflowing holiday bookshelf, my husband and I find our places in our books, and we’re on our way.  Silent reading is the best!  Nonetheless, memories are made while reading to one another, so we try to remember to include that in our nightly ritual.  Following is our recommended holiday list.  Pick one, pick all, just sit back, sip something comforting (a little spiced apple cider?, a hot cocoa perhaps?), and enjoy making memories!

The Gift of the Magi     O. Henry

The Fir Tree     Hans Christian Andersen

A Miserable, Merry Christmas     Lincoln Steffens

The Legend of the Christmas Rose     Selma Lagerlof

The Birth Of Christ     St. Luke 2:1-16

The Three Wise Men     St. Matthew 2:1-14

A Pint of Judgment     Elizabeth Morrow

The Miraculous Staircase     Arthur Gordon 

The Story of Holly and Ivy     Rumer Godden

The Little Match Girl     Hans Christian Andersen

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe     C.S. Lewis

Toot and Puddle: I’ll Be Home for Christmas     Holly Hobbie

Christmas in the Big Woods     Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree     Robert Barry

Eloise at Christmastime     Kay Thompson

 

HAPPY READINGS!!

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