Yule

Another holiday flies past without a post up!  We even did it last week, but alas the time to write escaped.  Or really I started watching Orange is the New Black and spent time lounging in front of the TV rather then being productive in the evening.

Anyway the real point of this blog post is to talk about what we learned about the Pagan holiday of Yule.  What another fun holiday that is completely relatable for the kids!  Yule is a celebration of light that takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 20 or 21.  In the Northern hemisphere, this is the shortest day of the year and all the days following will be longer until the summer solstice.  This holiday is a festival of the Sun, so the most important part of Yule is light.  This holiday is another time of feasting and merrymaking.  It is a festival or magic, rebirth, and renewal.   Those who celebrate it have traditional customs such as the Yule log, a decorated tree, and wassailing. 

For our craft and food we made the same thing, Dehydrated orange slices.  These are a good yule craft because they represent the sun with their sunburst shape.  They can be tied with ribbon and hung from the tree or remove the peel and eat them as a healthy real fruit gummy snack.

The various recipes I saw suggested using small oranges with a thin peel.  We had a crate of clementines already so decided to use those.  My two oldest sons each cut up a clementine and my youngest ate the other ones we had set aside.

Method:

  1. Cut oranges into slices 1/4 inch thick or less. (Discard the end pieces)
  2. Place in oven preheated at 200F and leave the door ajar. We placed ours on a cooling rack in the oven.  I sad directions to place straight onto the oven rack to prevent sticking, but the cooling rack worked perfectly.
  3. Turn oranges about every 10-15 minutes.
  4. The recipes I saw said it would take 2 hours, but ours were done in about an hour and 15 min.  When finished the slices will be thin, clear, and dry.
  5. Allow to cool over night.  Then tie up with ribbon to make into decorations or remove peel and eat!

 

 Embaressing that I allowed him to cut this way- but here you go-slicing the oranges

Embaressing that I allowed him to cut this way- but here you go-slicing the oranges

 Some eat and some lay out oranges for drying.

Some eat and some lay out oranges for drying.

 Thread a string through the dried orange.

Thread a string through the dried orange.

 Our final product- a sunburst orange ready for the tree.

Our final product- a sunburst orange ready for the tree.

In addition to the oranges I was interested in making a Buche de Noel cake (Yule Log cake) to celebrate Yule.  I am still going to make this cake that is a French tradition for Christmas but will incorporate it into my family's holiday meal or New Years meal, in other words I didn't do it yet-because I am too busy watching Netflix.  I had always known this as being a Christmas tradition, but with Yule Logs being a central craft of this holiday it seemed fitting to use it for Yule.  When I make it I'll tie it to both holidays.   I'll try to put pics of our cake on the Facebook page.

The Yule log is an interesting tradition.  When I was researching the Yule log I found that what you make the log out of will bring different blessings to your family.

"Because each type of wood is associated with various magical and spiritual properties, logs fromdifferent types of trees might be burned to get a variety of effects. Aspen is the wood of choice for spiritual understanding, while the mighty oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. A family hoping for a year of prosperity might burn a log of pine, while a couple hoping to be blessed with fertility would drag a bough of birch to their hearth."

 

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season and celebrated the solstice with something light and warm to celebrate our days getting longer!

 

 

 

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Buche-de-Noel

 

Bodhi Day

December 8th is the day that some followers of Buddhism celebrate the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment.  Siddhartha Gautama, who would later become the Buddha, was a prince from Nepal who would leave his wealthy family in search for the meaning of life.  After spending six years living the life of an aesthetic (which is a branch of philosophy dealing with the appreciation of the nature of art and beauty) and serving under six teachers, he still did not find what we was searching for.  Siddhartha vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until he had his answers.  He fasted and meditated under the tree for a week, and on the morning of the eighth day he came to several realizations which were to become the principles of Buddhism.  In all the pages I saw during my research for this post there was mention of Siddhartha meditating and watching Venus rising when we discovered "The Noble Eightfold Path" and "Four Noble Truths."  After this Siddhartha was referred to as Buddha, "The Enlightened One."

Several sites that I looked up said that beginning on Bodhi Day, trees are decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with beads to symbolize the way things are united, and hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the Three Jewels- The Buddha, The Dharma and Sangha,  Candles are lit for eight days starting on Bodhi day to symbolize the days of meditation leading to Buddha's enlightenment.  Since we do a Christmas tree in our house it seemed like a good idea to tie this holiday in with our existing tradition.  Stringing beads to make garland seemed like a nice idea, but instead of beads we used cranberries, just like my family used to do when I was a kid minus the popcorn.  So an old tradition from my childhood has found it's way into my house again but this time with a Buddhist lesson.  It was even nicer then usual doing this craft with the kids because my mom is here visiting so she got to do the craft with all of us!

All you need for the craft is cranberries, a needle, and thread.  We threaded the needle and poked it through a cranberry and then tied the end around the cranberry for our base.  We then threaded as many cranberries as we could fit on the thread.  At the end, we tied a knot and then my oldest and I hung out Bodhi day "garland" on our tree. 

 

 Needle, thread, cranberry

Needle, thread, cranberry

 Threading a cranberry

Threading a cranberry

 Totally goofy look and final product

Totally goofy look and final product

 Hung on the tree.

Hung on the tree.

A traditional food to be consumed on Bodhi day is rice and milk, because it was said to have been offered to the Buddha to help him regain his strength after his Enlightening meditation.  We did a take on this by making rice pudding, original recipe here.  My middle child was much more enthusiastic about cooking with his Nana here- so he showed off his skills in the kitchen and it turned out so well!

Ingredients:

  1. 2 1/2 cups of whole milk
  2. 1/3 cup of uncooked short grain rice (we used brown but white would work well too)
  3. Pinch of salt
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  7. 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  8. raisins (your desired amount)

Method:

Bring the milk, rice and salt to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes.   I had to stir the rice almost continuously because the milk would keep bubbling up if I stopped for more then 30 seconds.

 Measuring milk with Nana

Measuring milk with Nana

 He is an excellent egg cracker.

He is an excellent egg cracker.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the egg and brown sugar.  Then add the rice mixture a tablespoon at a time to the egg mixture.  Be sure to stir it in well with each scoop.

Put the mixture back into the saucepan and stir on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.  If the consistency of your pudding is not thick enough you may heat longer, for us our pudding was too thick so we thinned it out a little at the end.  Then remove from heat and add vanilla, cinnamon, and raisins. 

 Teamwork, one whisks while the other adds the rice mixture.

Teamwork, one whisks while the other adds the rice mixture.

This rice pudding was a little tedious with all the stirring, but it was so, so, so tasty!  We will definitely be making this again.

 Our final product- super yummy rice pudding!

Our final product- super yummy rice pudding!

Our first Buddhist holiday was a hit, I hope you enjoyed it too and thanks for reading!

 

St. Nicholas Day

Whoa we are into December already!  Are you ready for this holiday season and winter break? We are kind of ready.  Both the moms come to visit this month which means happy children and possible date nights for the hubs and me.  I'm happy to have extra hands to help me keep the kids happy and to help us on a holiday craft and food making spree!  December is another month with many holidays and the first one we talked about was Saint Nicholas Day.  This holiday is one I grew up with.  Saint Nicholas Day is one that is celebrated in Germany and the kids have been discussing it in their German class at school.  Traditionally children leave shoes out and they are filled with fruit, or small treats.  In my house growing up, we had our stocking hung early and that's what "St. Nick" would leave a small gift in for us on his celebration day.   For those of you that did not grow up in a Catholic home that celebrated St. Nicholas day here's what I can tell you about the holiday. Historically speaking, there not much really known about Nicholas.  Though he's one of the most popular saints in the Green and Latin churches, his existence isn't attested by any historical document. He was probably the bishop of Myra (Turkey) sometime in the 300s.  He was best known for his generosity.  One story that popped up over and over again in my research was his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters or marriageable age.  Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man's window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married.  Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into a custom of gift-giving on the saint's feast day.

For Saint Nicholas day I thought it would be fun to leave surprises for the boys teachers.  So for our craft we created our own paper candy canes to accompany some sweets.  Since this holiday is about giving, the boys and I are going to sneak the gifts into the classroom.  We just put a few gold coin chocolates and a little note saying Happy St. Nicholas day.  We have our craft all assembled and will just have to sneak around distributing them on December 5th.   

I found these cute paper candy canes here.

Here's how we made the candy canes:

First cut paper into square shape.

 Fold paper and cut off excess.

Fold paper and cut off excess.

 

Next draw lines on the paper as shown below.

 

 Draw different color lines on paper with a 90 degree angle.

Draw different color lines on paper with a 90 degree angle.

Roll up paper and secure with tape or glue dot.

 

 Roll and secure paper.

Roll and secure paper.

Then curve one end around a marker to make the top of the candy cane.

 

 Curving the end of the candy cane.

Curving the end of the candy cane.

 Finished product.

Finished product.

For our Saint Nicholas treat we decided to make Marzipan.  At the Christmas markets I have seen St. Nicholas man-shaped breads and marzipan candies.  I chose the easier of the two for our food and found this Dutch marzipan recipe for us to try.

Marsepein (Dutch Marzipan)

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup blanched almonds (We used almond meal so we could skip the grinding)
  2. 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  3. 1 egg white
  4. ¼ teaspoon water (original recipe called for lemon juice)

Method:

Grind the almonds. Add the sugar, the egg white and the water. Grind the mixture very fine. Let the marzipan stand for 24 hours, under a damp cloth. Form hearts, dolls, letters, animals and other fancy figures.

From The Real Dutch Treat Cook Book, by Rie Ykema-Steenbergen, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949

 Almond meal

Almond meal

 Sugar

Sugar

 Shaping his marzipan into a hovercraft

Shaping his marzipan into a hovercraft

 A few more traditional shapes

A few more traditional shapes

The marzipan was very easy and basic.  It was almondy and sugary and much like store bought or Christmas market bought marzipan I wasn't completely impressed with it- but the children thought it was good and it was like a grainy playdough which made a fun time for all.  

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

Hanukkah

When I was in fourth grade I had my first introduction to Hanukkah.  My friend explained the lighting of the menorah and we played dreidel and that there were 8 days of gift giving in her family.  Seemed so unfair, we only got one day with Christmas, this Hanukkah thing was like Christmas on steriods.  However, as I got older and learned more about different religious holidays I learned that Christmas and Hanukkah don't really have anything in common except their close proximity on the calendar.  So what is this holiday actually about you ask?  Well according to reformjudaism.org:

Hanukkah (alternately spelled Chanukah), meaning "dedication" in Hebrew, refers to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and "rededication" of the Temple in Jerusalem.  For more history on Hanukkah please read here.

For our craft we actually did two things.  First I had the boys make a card for their Aunt and Uncle- we did this with handprints as the Menorah.  Please read below for info on the Menorah:

Menorah is a Hebrew word meaning “candelabrum” and refers to the nine-branched ceremonial lamp in which the Hanukkah candles are placed and blessed each night of the holiday.  The nine branches include eight branches, one for each day of the holiday, and one branch for the shamash (servant) candle that is used to light the other candles. In ancient times, oil was used in the menorah. Over time, candles were substituted for oil. The Hanukkah menorah can also be called a hanukkiyah. (Seven-branched candelabra, one of the major symbols of the State of Israel today, are used for kindling the lights of Shabbat.) 

To make the menorah out of handprints, I had each of my older two sons cover one hand each in ink and place onto a piece of paper with their thumbs meeting in the middle so that there were 9 branches.  They then drew the "fire" above each finger.  Our ninth branch still ended up with two flames-the kids have the artistic license though to do as they will for handmade holiday cards:)

 Inking up his hand.

Inking up his hand.

 Adding the fire.

Adding the fire.

 Our handmade Menorah

Our handmade Menorah

We did two crafts for Hanukkah- I know I slacked all month and now I'm doing two for one.  Well- I had to do dreidel with the kids.  I loved playing when I was younger and I needed a reason to open up and eat the bag of m&ms in the closet.  So we played dreidel with our own version made of paper and a pencil.  Information on the dreidel game is below and our dreidel instruction can be found below that.

The word dreidel derives from a German word meaning “spinning top,” and is the toy used in a Hanukkah game adapted from an old German gambling game. Hanukkah was one of the few times of the year when rabbis permitted games of chance. The four sides of the top bear four Hebrew letters: nun, gimmel, hey, andshin. Players begin by putting into a central pot or “kitty” a certain number of coins, chocolate money known as gelt, nuts, buttons or other small objects. Each player in turn spins the dreidel and proceeds as follows:

  • nun – take nothing;
  • gimmel – take everything;
  • hey – take half;
  • shin – put one in.

Over time, the letters on the dreidel were reinterpreted to stand for the first letter of each word in the Hebrew statement “Neis gadol hayah sham,” which means “A great miracle happened there” and refers to the defeat of the Syrian army and the re-dedication of the Temple.  In Israel, one letter on the dreidel differs from those used in the rest of the world. The shin has been replaced with a pey, transforming the Hebrew statement into Neis gadol hayah po, which means“A great miracle happened here.

To make our paper dreidel you will need, a piece of paper, tape, and a pencil.

First fold one corner of paper to the side so you have a triangle.  Cut the excess paper off so that when you unfold the paper you have a square.

 Fold a piece of paper to make a square.

Fold a piece of paper to make a square.

Then open the paper and fold so the other ends come together so that you have creases that run from the corners of the square to the middle.  At that center point you will make a hole that your pencil can go through.

 Fold again and pierce the center.

Fold again and pierce the center.

Remove pencil.  Fold the ends of the square to the center.  

 

 Fold ends toward the center.

Fold ends toward the center.

 After finished folding the first corners to the center,  do a second round of folding toward the center.

After finished folding the first corners to the center,  do a second round of folding toward the center.

 Write the symbols on the side of paper that is flat, as pictured.

Write the symbols on the side of paper that is flat, as pictured.

 Fold paper in half and put fingers into the little "sleeves" and prop open.

Fold paper in half and put fingers into the little "sleeves" and prop open.

 You should now have one of these.  Some of you may remember it as the fortune telling paper game of middle school times.

You should now have one of these.  Some of you may remember it as the fortune telling paper game of middle school times.

 Now insert pencil into the pre punctured hole and push in the sides to the center.  Secure paper to pencil with tape or glue dots.

Now insert pencil into the pre punctured hole and push in the sides to the center.  Secure paper to pencil with tape or glue dots.

 Grab the thing you will play with- we did the previously mentioned m&ms and play!

Grab the thing you will play with- we did the previously mentioned m&ms and play!

 We definitely liked the dreidel game!

We definitely liked the dreidel game!

For the food portion I had to make latkes.  Jelly donuts also sounded good, but something savory was on my list after all those m&ms.   The traditional Hanukkah food is a food cooked in oil to serve as a symbol of the legend of the jar of oil that lasted for eight days.  More on that can be found in the link on history of Hanukkah.  There were so many wonderful recipes.  Even more this year since Hanukkah is falling over Thanksgiving which has led to many amazing sounding recipes to celebrate Thanksgivukkah.  By the way this is the first Thanksgivukkah since 1888 and it won't happen again for another 76,000 or so years.  So for our latkes we did a slight Thanksgivukkah spin and made them with sweet potatoes and added a little cranberry to the apple sauce.  If I hadn't been set on latkes, we would have done this recipe here. Not only did the pumpkin blintzes sound amazing but the wonderful blogger of Spontaneous Tomato was in fact the first friend to introduce me to Hanukkah, the menorah, and the dreidel when we were just a couple of kids.  She also introduced me to the Marx brothers and The Hobbit so kind of an amazing person all around!

So we made simple yummy latkes and some crockpot applesauce with some cranberries thrown in to top off the latkes with.

Ingredients:

For latkes:

  1. Sweet potato
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 tbsp flour
  4. 1/4 tsp baking powder
  5. salt and pepper to season
  6. vegetable oil

For the applesauce:

  1. 4 apples
  2. 1/4 cup sugar
  3. handful of cranberries

Baby supervised the shredding of the sweet potatoes.  

 Potato shredding with baby supervision.

Potato shredding with baby supervision.

Then we added an egg a tablespoon of flour and a 1/4 tsp of baking powder, and a little salt and pepper.  Then we dropped in pancake size blobs into some vegetable oil and flipped when nice and golden brown.

 

 Egg cracked into the mixture.

Egg cracked into the mixture.

 

For the apple sauce we cored, peeled, and sliced apples then added sugar and a handful of cranberries straight into the crockpot.  Cooked on high heat for 2.5 hours and it was done.  A yummy tart applesauce.

 Cored, peeled, sliced, and sugared!

Cored, peeled, sliced, and sugared!

 

My oldest only liked the latkes, and the middle only ate the applesauce, but baby was a champ and ate it properly dipping the latkes into the sauce.  We ate them up so fast I almost forgot to get a picture.  So here it is the last lone latke before it was eaten up by me :)

 Last delicious latke seconds before its eaten!

Last delicious latke seconds before its eaten!

I hope after all my missed posts this epic one makes up for the absence.  My mom and then mother-in-law will be visiting us over the next month and a half so I should have lots of help in the crafting department so December shall be in full swing again!  Happy Hanukkah!