Category Archives: Holidays

Kicking Off the New Year with Vegetarian Hoppin’ John

I am a superstitious person. Often times the superstitions that I adhere to are things that just make good sense. I don’t hold open umbrellas over my head indoors, I don’t walk under ladders and I like to eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.
vegetarian hoppin john

Eating Hoppin’ John is a southern tradition that is believed to bring a year filled with luck and prosperity. The peas in the dish symbolize pennies or coins and including greens in the meal represents money. Who wouldn’t want to add a little good fortune to a new year when you only have to eat a delicious meal?

Continue reading Kicking Off the New Year with Vegetarian Hoppin’ John

Holiday Celebrations: Julebukking

The Christmas Goat

straw animals
Christmas goats on display at the American Swedish Institute this season.

While New Year’s Eve revelers were waiting to drink their champagne at the stroke of midnight, another lesser known holiday celebration was winding down: Julebukking.

Continue reading Holiday Celebrations: Julebukking

FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (Dog Treats)

Day Five: Dog Treat Cookies

On the fifth day of Christmas Cookie recipes, my doggie gave to me… a big wet kiss in return for the homemade dog cookie!

This year when The Annual Cookie Bake Extravaganza yielded 11 different kinds of cookies to share with friends and family, I decided their dogs needed a treat too. How can you forget woman’s best friend during the holiday season? I looked through several doggie treat recipes and finally landed on this household favorite. Feedback from pet parents was unanimous that their dogs LOVED these homemade Carrot Apple Oatmeal Flax dog treats :
dog treats

Continue reading FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (Dog Treats)

FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (Rudolph)

Day Four: Rudolph Cookies

On the fourth day of Christmas Cookie recipes, my neighbor Peg gave to me… an adorable idea for Rudolph the Reindeer Peanut Butter Cookies!
rudolph cookies

These little cuties are a cinch to make using your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe!

Continue reading FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (Rudolph)

FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (Spiked Bites)

Day Three: Bourbon Balls

On the third day of Christmas Cookie recipes, my friend Emily gave to me… her family’s favorite recipe for Bourbon Balls!
bourbon balls

Emily’s grandma was a military wife and this recipe originally came from the Officer’s Wives Club of Okinawa. Emily said that her family waits for these treats every year – her dad talks about them for at least six months leading up to the holiday. That must be some cookie!

Continue reading FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (Spiked Bites)

FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (FUDGE)

Day Two: Crockpot Christmas Crack

On the second day of Christmas Cookie recipes, Just a Pinch Recipes gave to me… the most amazing recipe for Crockpot Fudge!
crockpot fudge

This recipe wasn’t kidding when it said it serves “a LOT,” next year I will attempt a half batch. Even with three of us making it, we quickly decided that dropping the fudge by spoonfuls on waxed paper would take too long. Instead, we lined two cookie sheets with wax paper and poured the fudge in, spreading it with a knife to fit the pans. Once cooled, we dropped the cookie sheets on a hard surface to loosen and then broke the fudge into pieces.

Continue reading FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS… COOKIES! (FUDGE)

Five Days of Christmas… Cookies! (Gingerbread)

Day One: Gingerbread Cookies Bars

On the first day of Christmas Cookie recipes, Mom Endeavors gave to me… the most amazing recipe for Gingerbread Cookie Bars!

gingerbread cookie bars

Continue reading Five Days of Christmas… Cookies! (Gingerbread)

A Christmas Carol

Father Christmas: Charles Dickens

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”  – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charles_Dickens-A_Christmas_Carol-Title_page-First_edition_1843
One of the most widely recognized Christmas stories of all time, A Christmas Carol was an instant success upon its publication December 17, 1843. While Charles Dickens was already a famous author, he had set out to create a mainstream success that would not only bring him some much needed cash, but would draw attention to the plight of the working poor in Victorian England. In addition to doing all of this, he also succeeded in creating many of the Christmas traditions that we now know today.

Christmas celebrations had declined in England in the 17th century, the result of the Puritan suppression of celebrating Yuletide. While some held to the traditions of the past, the lavish Yuletide celebrations of yesteryear were rarely seen during the Industrial Revolution. Dickens used his ghostly tale to show readers how they could adapt historic holiday traditions to one-day parties within their homes – emphasizing the importance of spending time with family over greed and consumerism, regardless of household income or social status.

Haunted himself by the conditions of the working poor in England, Dickens walked the city streets at night while writing. He “wept and laughed, and wept again as he walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed.” A great sympathizer of the poor, his own father was sent to debtors’ prison when Dickens was 12 years old. Forced to leave school to work in a boot blackening factory, that experience that left a mark on Dickens for the rest of his life. He used A Christmas Carol to show readers that the holiday season should inspire goodwill and generosity to all.

Charles Dickens wrote his “little Christmas book” in six weeks. Its initial printing sold out in three days and eight stage adaptations were in production within months of its release. Quite possibly the most well-known work of his career, his public readings of the book were also tremendously popular. The New York Times reported that “Mr. Dickens here showed a remarkable and peculiar power. Old Scrooge seemed present; every muscle of his face, and every tone of his harsh and domineering voice revealed his character.”

Dickens’ final public appearance was a reading of A Christmas Carol. According to The Telegraph, he closed by saying, “From these garish lights, I vanish now for evermore, with a heartfelt, grateful, respectful, and affectionate farewell.” He raised his hands to his lips in an affectionate kiss, tears running down his face and exited. He died three months later at age 58, but has hardly vanished. The next time you hear a hearty “Merry Christmas!” or sit down to a Christmas dinner, thank him for the celebration of Christmas he revived in Victorian England that spread around the globe.

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Primary sources:
http://history1800s.about.com/od/authors/a/Christmas-Carol-By-Dickens.htm
http://billpetro.com/history-of-a-christmas-carol
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/charles-dickens/9724579/Ten-things-you-never-knew-about-Charles-Dickenss-A-Christmas-Carol.html
http://history1800s.about.com/od/authors/a/Christmas-Carol-By-Dickens.htm

Christmas Lights on Winter Walks

The title of this blog post feels dishonest because it doesn’t feel like winter in Minnesota at all. With temperatures in the 50s over the weekend, our snow has melted and the streets are a sloppy mess. Most people seem thrilled by this turn of events, I am not. I love the snow. I love  bundling up in my homemade knitwear, hearing the crunch of snow under my feet, and feeling like I have the  world to myself on cold winter days. I love the fresh blanket of white that changes the world and how my dog eats it whenever he gets a chance, like the world is his personal snow cone.

A holiday season without snow feels incomplete. Neighborhoods have been transformed with lights and decorations, but the holidays are missing a primary ingredient. While I wait for Santa to bring me some magic snow to make my holiday season brighter, I will continue enjoying the new world that Christmas lights have created for our evening walks. Hopefully Santa doesn’t wait too long to make my Christmas wish come true.

christmas lights

10 Little Known Facts About Thanksgiving

A Brief Thanksgiving History Lesson

wild turkeys

It’s that time of year where families and friends gather together across America to gorge themselves on green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and turkey – or for the vegetarians out there, Tofurky. Everyone has their own way of passing the day, but how much do we know about this holiday? I looked to Google for answers, here are my Top 10  favorite finds:

  1. The first Thanksgiving took place in America in 1621 but was not called “Thanksgiving” and was not a widely celebrated tradition until more than a century later.
  2. The pilgrims originally planned on spending the day in prayer while fasting, but it turned into a non-secular harvest feasting celebration with the Wampanoag Indians that included dancing and games.
  3. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday in 1863 at the urging of Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Ladies Book (a popular women’s magazine at the time). Sarah spent 17 years lobbying five presidents to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
  4. While Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday, he did not fix the date. Presidents had to proclaim Thanksgiving every year until 1941 when Congress approved the official date set by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 – the fourth Thursday in the month of November.
  5. Not only did Sarah Josepha Hale advocate that Thanksgiving be declared a federal holiday, she was also the visionary behind the Thanksgiving menu as we know it today. Sarah wrote extensive descriptions of the Thanksgiving meal in addition to publishing recipes for the traditional items we associate with the day. (Unrelated side note, Sarah also wrote the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”)
  6. It is unlikely that turkeys were eaten at the first Thanksgiving, those lucky birds had tough meat and were hard to catch.
  7. It is possible that cranberries were on the table in 1621 because they were native to New England and were part of the diet during the 1600s, but they were not eaten jellied. The rest of the America was introduced to cranberries in 1912 when Ocean Spray Preserving company began packaging and shipping them around the country.
  8. While they likely ate pumpkins, there was no pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving because there was no flour in 1620s New England. The majority of pumpkins grown in the United States today are turned into pumpkin puree.
  9. Abraham Lincoln allegedly saved a Thanksgiving turkey at the request of his son, but the first turkey officially pardoned was by George H.W. Bush in 1989.
  10. Those images of pilgrims with buckles on their hats and shoes? Not accurate representations of the poor, conservative settlers in Plymouth. Buckles didn’t come in come into fashion until late in the 17th century and since they were more expensive, were often a status symbols.

Want to learn more about the history of Thanksgiving? Watch this fun video from the History Channel:

The Great Pumpkin

For Day Three of my Five Days of Halloween celebration, I bring you The Great Pumpkin. No, I’m not talking about the Charlie Brown Special, I’m talking about the big squash that is carefully selected for carving into the terrifying specter of Halloween night:

jack-o-lantern
Mine is the one with the eyebrows.

When it comes to jack-o-lanterns, it is important to put serious thought into the pumpkin selected. For maximum success, it is best to have several to choose from:
pumpkins

Consider the pumpkin’s shape in addition to stem:
pumpkins

You know you’re on the right track if other iconic Halloween creatures are attracted to it:
pumpkins

Don’t be afraid to start carving your pumpkin without a plan, those can have the best outcomes. My dad taught me to add personal touches like eyebrows, mustaches and nose holes, I encourage you to do the same:

jack-o-lantern

And never forget the best part:pumpkin seeds