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Tired of Winter? Think Spring!

January 31st, 2011 by stephanie

I remember one of the first times I saw mustard and pickle relish in my potato salad. “Certainly,” I thought, “someone got this wrong”. In our family, the recipe that’s been handed down from my Pennsylvania Dutch Great-Grandmother, is considered the one and only way to eat potatoes as a salad side dish. Let’s see: potatoes, white vinegar, boiled eggs, mayo, salt and pepper. Yep. That’s it. And I have to admit, I still think it is the best I’ve ever eaten. “Sprinkle white vinegar on the potatoes first,” my grandmother or mother usually reminds me. “It removes the bitterness.” And so it does.

But winter isn’t usually a time when people ponder a summer or spring dish like Potato Salad. Although, I have to admit, folks in colder temperatures are longing for that first sight of Spring. Maybe that’s why Ground Hog Day managed to find its way to “holiday” status. When you crave something so desperately, it suddenly becomes very important.

But where the day originated from, I truly didn’t know. A little time searching the internet however, uncovered Ground Hog Day as a Pennsylvania Dutch (German) custom dating back to the 1700s. Our European ancestors it seems brought the tradition with them to the new world. Apparently, in the “old country”, a badger or “sacred bear” was the original weatherman.

For you trivia buffs, February 2nd also coincides with the Catholic Candlemas, and, it once also marked a Celtic holiday by the name of Imbolc. But back to our burrowing critter…

Punxsutawney Phil, is a superstar these days. His appearance from his hole now involves social events, food, speeches and entertainment. Crowds of up to 40,000 in attendance have been known to gather in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, since 1886.

The earliest American reference has been found in the diary of storekeeper James Morris (Berks County, Pennsylvania) :
February 5, 1841
“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

We, here in the South this year have had quite a white winter. I can only imagine that our friends above the Mason Dixon (who dwell in snow for months at a time) are hoping that our little hog avoids his nap and, rather, foreshadows a sweet sight of Spring. And that, none too soon.

Just my thoughts,

S.
HAPPY GROUND HOG DAY!

Be on the Alert. Stand Strong!

January 27th, 2011 by stephanie

Well known speaker and author Chuck Swindoll pointed out some words of wisdom from the Apostle Paul found in the book of 1 Corinthians. Paul was visiting with the Christians in Greece. The Greeks were educated, philosophized, cultured folk to be sure. But the admonition the Apostle gave them was anything but flowery and ethereal. It went more like this:

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
Let all that you do be done in love.

Hmmm. Not really something you’d get from a Socrates seminar. But poignant none the less.

But it was Pastor Swindoll’s personal take on the subject that I found inspiring. He put it a bit more like this:

Give it All You’ve Got.

When you first wake up to face a new day, give it all you’ve got!
When you’re dealing with a tough challenge, give it all you’ve got!
When you need to make a difficult decision, give it all you’ve got!
When it’s time to exercise and lift those weights, give it all you’ve got!
When you have to go on after a disappointment, give it all you’ve got!
When the day is long and you want to shut down, give it all you’ve got!
When a change is necessary and you must do it, give it all you’ve got!
When you lose someone close and have to go on, give it all you’ve got!
When the years pile up and you need to end well, give it all you’ve got!

Easy to do? No. But think about it. Regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, what if we all just gave life everything we had? The world, as we currently know it, would most likely be very different place.

Just my thoughts.
S.

REST on Sunday.

January 22nd, 2011 by stephanie

As many of you know, I love to dish about holidays, special days and the food that comes along with them in most cases! But my favorite day, I will have to admit, doesn’t come annually, it actually comes weekly and it falls on Sunday. Remember those tea towels you used to see? I guess nowadays you can only find them in antique stores, but there was one for each day of the week and they went something like this: Wash on Monday. Iron on Tuesday. Mend on Wednesday. Churn on Thursday. Clean on Friday. Bake on Saturday. Rest on Sunday.2083604989_71e8da415d
When I was a young girl, I attempted to embroider those sayings onto a set of my own tea towels. Mine had a big rooster on each one. If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t believe I completed the task. I do still have one or two in my dishtowel drawer however.

Anyway, my grandmother has shared with me on numerous occasions about how strictly her parents heeded the “Rest on Sunday” part of the week. They literally did nothing on that day. Except worship and eat, of course. They went to services, returned home, ate the food that had been prepared the day prior, and then literally–rested. No chores. No radio. Gasp..no TV! I don’t even know if they were allowed to read. (Although I do think they were allowed to read the Bible.) And too, it was pure family time.

As I was enjoying a Sunday afternoon recently , it dawned on me that I could not blame my great grand mother for holding firm to that resting part of the traditional Sunday. Think about it, she must have been completely worn out and exhausted by the time Saturday night rolled around. Sundays were her only holiday to be sure. Vacations were not really an option for her working class level in her era. Spare time? That too was a luxury that only the affluent could afford. And if people think women back then had time to grab a cup of coffee and sit on the deck for a little quiet time, I highly doubt that was a feasible daily experience. But I could be wrong.

But back to the point. I love Sundays. Like my great grandmother, I can’t wait for my special day of rest. I take it seriously. And I have truly come to make it part of my “religion”. Now don’t panic. I haven’t slid off into rulesville. It’s just something I have made a part of my life. I go to worship service, I eat lunch with friends, but then…I head home to take a nap. It’s simply the perfect day.

I realize that not all folks have the luxury of that type of Sunday. For one, a friend of mine is a charge nurse in the emergency room of a nearby hospital. That’s exactly where I want her, and so would you, if something goes very very wrong. There are firemen, policemen, military…the list goes on. But someway, somehow, everyone needs to find their “Sabbath”. I hope that if you don’t have one, you will work towards making that a part of your life. Soon.

Just my thoughts.
S.
Ex. 20:8-11 ¶ Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

Have Your Cake and Eat it too!

January 10th, 2011 by stephanie

I just might be the first person to wish you HAPPY CARNIVAL SEASON.

Most of you may be thinking, “But it’s too cold for a fair.” Nope. Not that kind of amusement, but the kind of carnival season that leads up to Mardi Gras. And believe it or not, it’s already in full swing.

In case you didn’t know, Carnival Season officially kicked off last week on January 6. The day known as EPIPHANY, or Twelfth Night. And, if you have a New Orleans connection, you most likely had a piece of King Cake to kick off the festivities.

What I find fascinating is that this celebration occurs every year but few know what’s really being celebrated. Here’s the break down:
1. Epiphany (Twelfth Night) celebrates the visit of the three Wise Men who journeyed to worship the baby Jesus.
2. On that day a King Cake is made with a tiny baby figurine hidden inside.
3. The cake is decorated in three colors.
3. When the cake is cut, whoever gets the piece with the baby Jesus is “king” for a day.

For me, like any festival, it’s all about the food. And for those in the Deep Southern states, who do the Mardi Gras thing, it’s all about the King Cake or Twelfth Night Cake. Supposedly, the Wisemen’s journey lasted 12 days and found them arriving on January 6-Epiphany. Coming together for you a bit?

This cake is similar to the All-American cinnamon roll, topped with icing or sugar, usually baked in a ring shape, and, frosted or iced with the three colors of Mardi Gras: gold, green, and purple (symbolic of power, faith, and justice). And of course, in honor of our three kings.

The baker of the King Cake hides a surprise in the cake, usually a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby representing the Christ child. When the cake is cut whoever gets the piece with the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year. Tradition used to be that you were king for a day. Nowadays, you have to bake the King Cake or throw the Mardi Gras party next year.

Whatever the case, I am always amazed, that if you look deep enough into most holidays or festivals (at least those created prior to the 1900s) you will find a religious connection or symbolism.

And now you know. I’ll share more on Carnival itself later.
Just my thoughts,
S.

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Link to article on Carnival Season

My 500th post!

January 7th, 2011 by stephanie

A very special thanks to any and all of you who have graciously stopped by now and again. Hard to believe that today marks my 500th posting of this blog. When I started back in 2006, I didn’t even know what a blog really was. So I think I was mostly ramble journaling. But in time, I tried out and learned some techniques that I hoped would bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye. Ok, so that was a bit cheesy, but you get the idea.
With that. It’s a new year. And as always, if I am not talking about holidays, or history, I find someway to incorporate food. Most of all, I love to try to find things you may have never heard about, or simply forgotten. how about this one: Epiphany (by the way…I hope you will click here to subscribe to this blog. Forget the bookmarking thing, it’s a hassle!)

This week was the celebration of EPIPHANY. Do you know what that is or where it came from? Interestingly too, the 112th Congress officially opened on Epiphany this year. (They were ushered in on the heels of one of the most historic elections since 1921!)
Epiphany, in Greek, means “appearance”, “manifestation” and it is has been known for centuries as the Christian feast day which celebrates the revelation of God made Man in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Italy, children, on the eve of January 6 fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad.

Over in France, people eat the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in other regions. This is a kind of king cake, with a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine of a king) or a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes “king” for a day.

Abigail Adams (wife of President John Adams), while in France on behalf of America, wrote a letter to her sister about one particular occasion in Paris where her family was eating a King Cake. While excitedly looking for the bean, the future President Adams landed the prize much to the dismay of their son, John Quincy Adams.

For many of us, it’s not about the bean or the baby king. The word “epiphany” has become known as the word defined in Webster’s which means: a moment of sudden realization or insight.

Perhaps this bit of info was an “epiphany” of sorts for you today. If anything, the real epiphany for all of us is that we face the reality of a New Year. May it be a good showing, or appearance, in your life this year. And keep an eye on those upcoming feast days and holidays. You can be sure that I will be here doing the same!

Best to you!

Stephanie

A Time to Begin…again.

January 1st, 2011 by stephanie

As I write this, the sky is lit up with fireworks and the sounds of crackles, pops, and explosive bursts fill my room as the breeze blows lightly through the window. Just think. This type of fireworks extravaganza goes on world wide every year at this same time. If any astronauts are up there tonight, it must be quite a sight!

It’s the New Year. A time to celebrate. A time to reflect. A time to look forward to a fresh start. But, most of all, a time to let go of the past. Starting over, or new, is easy. It’ the letting go that can sometimes be the real challenge.

If you’re anything like me, letting go of the past and moving forward can be tough. As much as I would like to think I do it without much effort, at times I struggle. I have a really good memory. Especially if things have not worked out the way I thought they should, or if someone has done me wrong, or been unkind. I am not proud of that characteristic, but I would be lying to you if I did not admit that part of my humanity. Sometimes things, for me, just die hard. But I am working on it. And I think I am making improvements!

Maybe for you the new year holds the reality of letting go of something near and dear to your heart. Or perhaps something that just needs to go away. Like my fruitcake for instance. I realized a few years back that carrying on a family tradition for the sake of my grandmother, may not in the end really be the best project to devote my time and energy to every year. Let’s face it, as good as it is, few ate the dad gum thing, and, few in my circle will even give the poor concoction a try. Just because the recipe is almost two centuries old doesn’t validate forcing it on innocent bystanders or guilt-ridden family members. Somethings are just better off left to the past. As my friends say, “Move on.”

Think of it this way. There are certain things in life that we just cannot understand and other things that we can not change. Like a spouse who has left, or a child who has wandered off of the good path, or perhaps a disease that refuses to be cured. Sometimes, it’s best to just quit trying so hard and let things be. I will explain.

Maybe you were hoping for a situation to be resolved or a prayer request to be answered before the clock struck midnight on December 31 — but the solution or the answer never came. The chimes from the clock tower came and went just like the fireworks, but as you looked for resolution, once the smoke cleared, you were left in the fog to carry on in 2011

Allow me to encourage you to not give up. Thank goodness God does not answer our prayers because we are good little boys and girls. It would be a terrible shame if He worked off of a naughty or nice list. If He did, it wouldn’t be grace at work. And His sacrifice for us at the cross would have been in vain.

No, God works in His time. In His way. And, fortunately, in His wisdom. He doesn’t decide if I am worthy or not of my requests and prayers, and best of all, He doesn’t hang on to my past either. He lets it go. And I am oh, so grateful for that! He truly moves on. And He does it so much better than you and I could ever dream.

Please remember my friends, that He is not only the Lord of the past, He is the Lord of the present and the future. Our future.

Hugs and Happy New Year.

Stephanie

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