Saturday, December 26, 2015

Some Christmastide books that we are enjoying

Some of my favorite books from the Christmastide half of my family's Christmas book basket...

 Jan Brett, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Jan Brett, Tomie dePaola, and Trina Schart Hyman are my three favorite children's book illustrators. It was a very happy day when I found this book at the thrift store for a dime- but nothing compared to fellow Church Lady Mary Liz when she got to meet Jan Brett a few weeks ago.

Jan Brett, Gingerbread Baby.
A unique retelling of the classic tale. I appreciate how the dialogue is much less repetitive in this version than most.

Tomie dePaola, Christmas Remembered
In chapter-long reminisces, Tomie dePaola reflects on Christmas past, from childhood holidays in New England to time spent at a Benedictine abbey and life in the American Southwest. As a fan, it was interesting to learn more about his life.

Tomie dePaola, Tony's Bread.
A sweet story about the origin of panettone, an Italian Christmas bread.

"Merry Christmas" chapter from The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Last winter, my family listened to this book on CD while traveling to visit family at Christmas.  The Ingalls' family's hardships were incredible. At some points, the cost of groceries were inflated to the point of today's costs- nearly 150 years later. Yet Ma still managed to make Christmas Day special for her family.

Books were either purchased myself or checked out from the library.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

 For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Lk 2, 11)

Image source: Carlo Maratti, "The Holy Night," 1650s

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

O Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Image source: Bernardo Zenale, "Nativity"

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

O Desire of Nations

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Image Source: Carracci, "Christ in Glory," 1597-98

Monday, December 21, 2015

O Dayspring

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

O Key of David

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Image source: Raphael, "The Liberation of St Peter," 1614

Saturday, December 19, 2015

O Root of Jesse

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Image source: Geertgen, "The Tree of Jesse," 1480s

Friday, December 18, 2015

O Lord

O come, O come, Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Image source: Guido Reni, "Moses with the Tablets of the Law," 1624

Thursday, December 17, 2015

O Wisdom

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Image source: Tiziano, "Wisdom" c. 1560

Monday, December 14, 2015

Some Advent books we are enjoying

Is there anything more cosy than a basket of Christmas books on a cold afternoon? My mother always saved the Christmas books for December and early January, so it was a special treat when they came out. Even though my kids are still quite young, we have amassed quite a collection of Christmas books, so I split our books into those better suited for Advent and those that can wait until after the feastday.

 The Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider. My almost five year old loves this book- partly, I think, because he shares a first name with the protagonist. Each day, Benjamin Bear journeys one day closer to Bethlehem. The illustrations are very tender and engaging.
 Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. Strega Nona and her assistant Big Anthony spend Advent preparing for the village Christmas feast- or so she thinks! Just before Christmas Eve Mass, Strega Nona discovers that Big Anthony has let her down- and that "Christmas has a magic of its own." 
 The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola. This may be my favorite depiction of the Nativity story. The sweet words of the carol pair with Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and the illustrations gradually reveal the Christ Child.
 The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola. I was surprised at how much my older son to this book, since he had previously shown no interest in the similar "Legend of the Indian Paintbrush," and "Legend of the Bluebonnet." Lucida is devastated when her mother is taken ill and can't complete their family's gift for Baby Jesus. But she learns the spirit of giving elevates the most humble gift.
Silent Night by Margaret Hodges. From the author of St George and the Dragon, Silent Night traces the history of the beloved Austrian carol from the evening it was composed to the modern day.

 Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. From the author of Pippi Longstocking, Christmas in Noisy Village follows the activities of Scandinavian farm children on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Peter Spier's Christmas. This wordless book about a British family's preparations for Christmas continues in Spier's trademark illustration style, with a keen eye to detail and touches of humor.

What are some Advent books that are being enjoyed at your house?

Books were either purchased myself or checked out from the library.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

St Nicholas Day preparations

This afternoon, we got things ready for St Nicholas Day.

The stockings were hung from the chimney with care, in hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
(Since I have never been home on Christmas Day since my marriage, we use our stockings instead of shoes.)

It's amazing what you can find with a $5 limit per person. Candy canes for all, a thrift store sweater for Mom, an intriguing bottle from the clearance table for Dad, and Christmas tree ornaments for the kids (that they will take with them for their own tree when they leave home).

A Thanksgiving guest brought a package of spekulatius, a traditional cookie for St Nicholas Day, saving me from baking my own. Some years I have made gingerbread instead. We'll have these with tea before Vespers at the Abbey tomorrow afternoon.

"St Nicholas" and I also put together some care packages for neighbors, which we will deliver before Mass tomorrow. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Frugal Christmas: Frippery Pillow covers

Three weeks until Christmas. 

A few summers ago, I pieced a full size Frippery quilt (free pattern) entirely from thrift store fabric and outgrown clothes. The 16" block and large rectilinear made for quick piecing. As I looked at the incomplete quilt still in my sewing area, I thought to myself a few blocks would make great throw pillow covers. You can include the insert for local recipients or mail the cases alone. The project is a great stash buster, and I was able to whip up both cases within 90 minutes. I opted to use an envelope closure, as I fear my zipper foot and also to keep cost down.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Preparing for Winter

Copying country-bred Mr. Ray who always "put down" staple foods for the winter, Joe and Betsy stored in their basement a barrel of apples and baskets of potatoes, turnips, and onions.  But it was Aunt Ruth's idea to lay in a big sack of flour.  "In Butternut Center they used to say 'Uneeda loaf of Ruth Willard's bread,'" she told them roguishly.
(Betsy's Wedding, Maud Hart Lovelace)

I am the first to admit: with a butcher/corner grocery store three blocks away (who delivers!), I was not in the habit of keeping a lot of food on hand in my pantry.  After all, if I had no plan for dinner, I could walk down or phone the butcher for a whole chicken, a few sweet potatoes, as well as a head of broccoli, and have two night's dinners for $10. But with multiple little ones and the treacherous conditions of our cobbled streets after snowfall, I needed a better plan for the winter.

Although my 1883 Victorian house does have a root cellar, it is only accessible through a hatch in the backyard and runs a bit warm for perishable food storage. But I am fortunate to have a floor to ceiling pantry cupboard in my kitchen. (My only complaint is that it is too deep, since it was built the same width as the range. First world problems...)

I took the advice of Mr Ray, and buy a five pound bag of carrots, potatoes, and flour, as well as a few pounds of celery, onions and apples every time I do my staple grocery shopping (about every other week). That way, if weather intervenes to keep me housebound, I can still make a few days worth of nutritious meals for my family. I find that for four eaters, this is the quantity we can eat through before the produce stored at room temperature goes bad. I don't kept powdered or evaporated milk on hand; in our climate, storms don't tend to come up suddenly, and we have never been truly housebound. If you aren't prone to losing power in storms (we are) I would also recommend keeping a bag of frozen chopped spinach in your freezer- it adds a lot of freshness to dishes.

Here are a few favorite pantry meal combos:
  • Canned clams plus onions and potatoes= Clam Chowder
  • Dried beans plus canned tomatoes plus carrots and onions = Minestrone Soup
  • Dried black bans plus carrots and onions= Black bean soup 
  • Dried beans plus dried chiles plus canned tomatoes= Vegetarian chili
  • Lentils/beans plus pasta = Pasta e Fagioli
  • Dried chickpeas can be cooked into hummus, served with carrot and celery sticks
  • Dried chickpeas plus olives plus sun-dried tomatoes plus couscous = Middle Eastern dinner
  • Canned salmon becomes salmon patties, served with potatoes
  • Potatoes plus onions = Potato pancakes
  • Potatoes plus onions plus canned pimentos = Delmonico potatoes
  • Pasta plus canned clams plus canned tomatoes = Linguine with Clams
  • Pasta plus canned tuna or shelf stable smoked sausage plus capers, olives, and canned or sun-dried tomatoes = Pasta Puttanesca
  •  Apples are delicious for fresh eating, applesauce, and baked apples.
  • Flour plus vegetable shortening = biscuits or pie crust
What are some of your favorite pantry meals?