Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hogmanay or Old Year's Night, December 31st

Absent Parties with Her Scottish Cousins


Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration of New Year's Eve. The most important way to celebrate Hogmanay is by eliminating all the negative parts of the old year in order to have a clean break from it, and to welcome in a young, New Year with a happy celebration.

This sounds mostly the same idea as our regular American New Year's celebration, but there are a few things that are different, more traditional than our "party until the ball drops" celebration.

  • Redding/Cleaning- The day of Hogmanay should be spent cleaning the home, because the New Year should be welcomed to a neat and tidy home to ensure the best luck. Messy homes are unlucky homes. Also, all debts should be paid or settled so you start the new year with a financial "clean house."

  • New Year's Bells- Bells should be rung at midnight. Just do it, don't think about the neighbors. Ring the bells for luck. And then you are supposed to link arms with your co-celebraters and sing "Auld Lang Syne" while the bells are ringing.

  • First Footing- Visitors should not arrive before midnight. At midnight, the household should make as much noise as possible to scare off any visitors or spirits with ill intent. In order to ensure good luck for the house for the rest of the year, the first foot in your home after midnight should be male, and dark-haired because dark-haired will mean that he is a fellow Scotsman, and will mean the household no harm, while a blond or red-haired man will usually be an invader, Norseman, Irish, Saxon... and they mean harm to a Scot and the Scottish household.

    First-footers not only have to be dark-haired, but they should also be handsome. Also they should not be a doctor, a minister, a thief, a grave digger, a flat footed person, or someone whose eyebrows meet in the middle (get the pluckers out). Women and red-haired people are the worse to have as the first-footer. To counter the bad luck of a bad first-footer, ask the guest to throw salt into an open flame.

    The First Footer should bring something symbolic like: coal, to heat the home; shortbread, so the house does not run out of food; salt, to add a little seasoning to life; a silver coin, to insure wealth to the household, or whisky, to warm the spirits.

  • Taking Turns or Singing E'en- Everyone in the house must spend the evening taking turns doing something. The turn taking can be singing songs, reading poems, telling jokes or telling stories. Think of things that you can do for entertainment in a evening around a fire.

  • Fire- It's good to have a bonfire, or at least a fire in the fireplace. Fires are cleansing, and will rid you of all the bad things of the previous year. Fires will also ward off evil spirits. If you can't have a fire you can light a torch, or a candle... just have some sort of flame near you.

  • Up Helly-aa- This is the tradition of burning a Viking ship in effigy. This was to scare away any Vikings who might invade the following year.

  • Fireballing- This tradition might be hard to implement in your neighborhood. You will need to construct a ball of chicken wire, tar, paper and other flammable material and attach it to a chain or non-flammable rope. Then the most daring person at the party will swing the ball round and round their head and body by the rope while walking through the streets, until finally throwing the ball into a large body of water. I suppose you could just have a bonfire instead, but doesn't fireballing sound so much cooler?

  • Creaming the Well- This is drawing the first water from the well in the New Year. There is good luck for the person who drinks from the first water drawn from the well. Also, single women, if you give the first water drawn from the well to the man that you want to marry, and he drinks it, he will marry you in the coming year.

  • Hogmanay Guising- Like Halloween night, children are to go door-to-door for oatcakes, pieces of black bun, shortbread, sweets or money.

  • Handselling- is the custom of gift giving on the first Monday of the New Year. And you thought you were all done with that.

The appropriate things to say on Hogmanay are:

  • Theacht mean oiche (heacht meawn eehe) which means "the arrival of midnight"

  • Og-Mhadainn or H'og maidne which means "the new morning"

  • Ocht mean oiche which means "eighth midnight" (Twelfth Night is coming)

  • Ceilidh which is a party where singing, dancing, and storytelling are the entertainment

  • Lang may yer lum reek!- this is a traditional Scottish New Year's toast which means "long may your chimney smoke." Basically, you are wishing someone wealth throughout the new year, wealth enough to buy coal to heat their home.

The appropriate things to eat on Hogmanay are:

So, even if you don't do all this to celebrate your New Year, at least you have something to think about when you hear the words of that favorite son of Scotland-

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."- Robert Burns

Friday, December 29, 2006

My Christmas Trip to Oregon in Photos

Because I know that you all wanted to come with me to Oregon for Christmas, so I am going to share my experience in photos.

After sleeping only on the short plane trip from Salt Lake City to Portland, because I left all my packing until the last minute, as well as the last minute shopping, and the last minute apartment cleaning, I stepped out of the Portland airport to rain. Which was fine. I like rain. I miss rain.

Our family's Christmas Eve celebration was different from our usual tradition this year. Instead of Grandma's house, we went to what is referred to in my family as "the farm." This is some land near Amity, Oregon that has been in our family since the 1840's. It isn't really a "farm"... well, sometimes trees are farmed from the land.

My grandfather built a house there in the 1980s, and named it "The Highland House" in honor of our Scottish ancestry. My uncle lives there and manages the property now. I hadn't visited it in at least 10 years, so I got out and walked the property with my brother. It was nice to be outside and it was nice to have some alone time to catch up with my bro.

It started raining pretty hard while we were out walking. I loved how the rain was dropping off of the needles of the trees like little globes, little sparkly globes of water-light.

By the time we got back to the house, and the family party, we were drenched. I now cringe at how I must have looked, sleep deprived and drenched. That must have been why all the relatives were asking when I would be moving back to Oregon.

Uncle of the tree farm was quite insistent that I move back to Oregon soon, and then all my friends can come visit me at the farm and we can do things like bonfires, and swim in the ponds. It would be fun. There is a shadow of an idea in my head.

After Christmas Eve with the extended family, which was wonderful, my parents, my youngest brother, and I drove out to Cannon Beach, where my Grandmother owns a vacation home.

When we were all settled down, we realized that none of us had wrapped our presents. We also were really tired. Especially me. So we just went to bed. But, I made my brother promise that we would get out of bed before noon. (We have had a bit of trouble with him the last few years.) It ended up being me they had to tickle to get out of bed at 10 in the a.m.

Christmas morning we all wrapped the presents, one by one because we had only brought one pair of scissors and one roll of tape, and then unwrapped them one at a time, because there were only four of us and I insisted that we do it that way.

I liked the unwrapping one at a time thing. It was nice to thank everyone appropriately, and see every ones reactions to my gifts. I think that I did okay with the gift giving this year. Wahoo!

After we opened presents we noticed that it was raining. And we saw surfers. It was stormy and the waves were big. I think that the surfers were a little nervous. They stayed near shore most of the time.

After the surfers we saw Santa Claus and Mrs Claus walking on the beach. It was very nice to know that they also think that Cannon Beach is the perfect vacation spot.

My brother and I like to walk on the beach at night, and he had to work the day after Christmas. Even though it was stormy, we knew that we needed to take our walk on Christmas Day night. So, we planned a trek towards Haystack Rock for after it got dark.

After dark I was in my room, answering a few text messages. My brother was anxious to go and got frustrated because he had to wait for me to send a "Merry Christmas" text message off to a few friends.

I took my phone with me on the walk "just in case." It was the last thing my poor cell phone was able to do.

As we walked, both my brother and I were very surprised at the amount of debris on the beach, and the amount of foam on the water. I cracked a joke that Poseidon must be taking his annual bubble bath because of all the foam.

Shortly after my comment I tripped over some debris in the water and then several big waves came in rather quickly, before I could get up and away from the original tripping hazard. The waves went over my head and they knocked my brother down and soaked him completely too.

We both were wearing my brother's headlamps so that we could find seashells, but the headlamp I was wearing got swept away by the sea. (My head was under the water longer than my brother's.) In the chaos, I watched the light shine under the water, in an attempt to try to go after it, but found that I mostly needed to focus on keeping my head above the water. Poor brother's headlamp.

I guess Poseidon doesn't have a sense of humor.

My cell phone was in my pocket. Now it is dead. Poor cell phone. All sandy and corroded by the salt water. I hardly knew you... really, I just barely was figuring out how to save pictures on you. Now, I no longer have the picture of the really big tumbleweed that almost killed me, or the adorable apple-sized pumpkins. All I have is pieces of plastic, metal, and sand.

But, oh, you should have seen the sand that came out of our clothes. After we rinsed off outside I still had sand in the shower an inch thick, and it took three washings to get our clothes clean.

The day after I went down on the beach and took some pictures of the debris. As you can see, there were lots of things that I could have tripped on. That makes me feel a little less clumsy, and a little less like the whole dousing was my fault.

And here is even more debris... almost up to our house... which means the water was really high.

My parents asked me if I had learned any lessons from my experience. I say that the lesson learned is not to make fun of Poseidon's bubble baths. They think that I should have learned to not take my cell phone everywhere.

Sheesh. Parents.

While we were in the Cannon Beach area, we visited the Recently-Damaged-and-At-One-Time-the-Nation's-Tallest-Sitka-Spruce. I was really sad to see it in the condition that it is in. It will probably be have to be cut down, according to the Forestry Service. Sad.

That tree is (by most estimates) 750 years old. That means that it was a little seedling when the Magna Carta was being reissued and changed to get all the bugs worked out.

But, just in case you were wondering, there are still lots of other pretty trees in Oregon. I just worry they won't be around as long.

After we saw the Sitka Spruce, my mom and I walked into the town to do some shopping. I bought some chocolate, and soap. The soap smells good enough to eat. And so did the chocolate.

Then it started pouring. And boy did the wind blow. The weatherman said that we got 2.6 inches of rain in three hours, and winds gusts up to 45 miles per hour. Yep, we were walking in that.

By the time we got home, we were so thoroughly drenched that my mom's cell phone was making popping and crackling noises because the rain had thoroughly soaked it.

I guess cell phones are only for indoor use in Oregon.

My dad had gone into Portland with his cell phone, and my brother was gone to Eugene with his, so my mother and I were without ability to communicate further than our voices could carry for the rest of the day. And that was okay. We were at the beach.

But, the storm kicked up some killer waves, and wind gusts shook the house perfectly. It was just the right atmosphere for snuggling up with a book and hot chocolate.

Too bad we forgot to bring the hot chocolate, but triple wahoo for new Christmas books!

We finally did have one day of good weather. It was the last day we were there. The ocean was calm and blue. Perfect!

And, now I am back in Utah.

Bye! Bye! Oregon!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Absent's Still Absent...

It rains a lot in Oregon. A lot more than I remember. So much rain that the ocean has become polluted with lots of debris from the stream runoffs. So much pollution that when I run in the foamy ocean water with my brother in the dark, in the night, on Christmas Day, I trip over logs and fall face first in the water. And then huge waves pour over both me and my brother so both of us almost get swept away to sea. And that is where I ruined my cell phone. And so I will be absent from the real world. Again. Just like last year at Christmas. I guess, some Christmas traditions just cannot be avoided.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Procrastination

Since I cannot get on a plane without being sleep deprived, I have delayed my packing until four hours before I need to leave for the airport. And because I don't really like packing I am watching the Food Network and doing laundry and blogging instead of packing.

Well, since Edgy hasn't blogged in a really long time, I am re-reading his blogs from last Christmas. I just re-read this one and I realized that if Christmas traditions continue he should receive a middle-of-the-night-visitor tonight. Merry Christmas Edgy!

But, after putting some more thought into the theory, and after reading Foxy J's post and Master Fob's comment, maybe the no-sleep-before-Christmas tradition has been passed to them. Sorry Fobs! But, maybe that means that the tradition will be passed to a different Almanac-linked blog next Christmas. I am on the edge of my seat to find out who will be next...

But, until then, here are my favorite Christmas Eve/Christmas Day traditions from last year's blog posts

1. All animals can talk on Christmas Eve, but it is bad luck to test this tradition.
2. Light a candle on Christmas Eve and place it in your front window, and you will have an unexpected, but happy visitor.
3. To have good health throughout the next year, eat an apple on Christmas Eve.
4. If you eat a raw egg before eating anything else on Christmas morning, you will be able to carry heavy weights.
5. Place shoes side-by-side on Christmas Eve to prevent a quarreling family.
6. A clear star-filled sky on Christmas Eve will bring good crops in the summer.
7. From cock crow to daybreak on Christmas morning wicked elves roam about the land. (Christmas Eve)
And now I probably should get around to packing...

Absent Absent

The Almanac will be on hiatus for a week. I will not have internet access for the next 126 hours. I will also be in the most beautiful place on this earth. I am very sorry that you all cannot join me, because I will have lots of fun reading books that I anticipate I will get for Christmas, watching Season Four of Scrubs with my brother, walking on the beach in the rain, and eating yummy seafood with my parents.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2006

National Yarmulke Day, December 22nd

National Yarmulke Day

Soccer Dad let me know about National Yarmulke Day last month, so I would be sure to remember... and I almost forgot with all the excitement of the BYU/Oregon Bowl Game last night. (I just didn't know who to cheer for, but I decided to go with the better looking uniforms... which was my alma mater, not my native soil. Oregon's uniforms, I am sad to say, look too small on the players, and have some sort of pattern that makes the poor boys look like they got ironed with a running board on a big rig.)

But, never fear, even though Absent-minded Secretary is Absent-minded, she still is the Secretary of the Almanac and will not let a day pass without celebration of some sort.

I was a little hesitant to celebrate National Yarmulke Day because I did not know if women should wear the Yarmulke, and I didn't want to be disrespectful. Soccer Dad explained to me that wearing a yarmulke is a custom and not a law, and is primarily a male custom, but women are not restricted from wearing them. He said,

Most Orthodox Jewish men wear them - or another head covering - as a reminder of the One who's above them (us.)

It wouldn't be sacrilegious for a non-Jew to wear one; often when a non-Jew enters a synagogue he will put one on as sign of respect.
National Yarmulke Day is the creation of a 16-year-old student from New York. "Dan T" first initiated Yarmulke Day in 2003. He stated,
"Yarmulke Day is on the day before Winter Break when students of all races and religions wear Yarmulkes or Yamikas it sounds better. It all started when teachers waved the no hat policy for those Santa hats so I thought well then I want to wear a hat too. This year in New Paltz/The World Yarmulke day is December 22nd. The best part of this is Yarmulke are not considered Holy items like a Torah, and legally they can’t tell you to take it off. So show some support and add this profile to your top friends list! I am not sure how you want to look at this holiday, its either school rebellion or a peace statement or both Thanks." (
So, please, everyone, in the spirit of the holidays, as a peace statement, and to show holiday unity, join me in wearing a Yarmulke!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holy Icicles!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chocolate Pizza Day, December 19th

It's Chocolate Pizza Day. But, I can't blog about that right now, because I just had the best bath ever. This bath was so freaking good that I fell asleep in the tub. And, I have had a headache since Thursday, but now it's gone. Wonderful, wonderful bath!

If you want to have this same experience, first you need to do an evening yoga workout. Mostly for the five minutes of lying on the mat after the workout where you just listen to your heartbeat. Then you have to get a bath pillow. Probably do this before the workout. I got a bath pillow for my birthday and this was the first time that I used it. It was amazing. Then, and you will also probably need to do this before the workout too, get this little bath additive from Lush. You will die from the amazingness of the bath. I promise.

Then, if you want your sleepy-bedtime experience to continue, before your bath, don't forget your cell phone in your car so you have to get dressed in pink pajama pants and not-matching sweatshirt and flip-flops because you don't want to tie shoes on, to run back to the car, through the piles of snow, and breathing in the bitter dry-cold air. Because that will wake you up. And it might make you think that you have your headache again. And then you will be reminded that you were supposed to drive to Salt Lake after work, but it's too late to go now.

Sigh. If I could just sleep in that bath until Christmas...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bake Cookies Day, December 18th

Bake Cookies Day

It's going to be cold outside, so why not heat up the kichen with a little baking. If you need, I have half of a double batch of sugar cookie dough in my fridge that I will give away to anyone who needs some help getting the cookie rolling. I started baking for a party that got cancelled because of the weather. Sad. But, now I have a lot of cookies, and dough just waiting to become cookies, and I am willing to share, because the last thing this single girl needs is to eat five dozen sugar cookies just because they are there.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Procrastination

After I finished wrapping presents today, the presents that I have, and then made a list of the presents that I still need to get. I was feeling very good about my self. I looked at my tree, with the books wrapped nicely underneath and I felt relaxed, and unrushed. I start taking mental note that I am mostly done with the Christmas rush, just waiting for some orders to arrive, and that I need to go get a few more final touches for some of the special presents.

I have four Christmas parties down, one cancelled and two to go... not bad for scheduling purposes. Not over scheduled, not under scheduled. Just right.

I just sat and thought that I was so far ahead of where I was last year, until I read this. Yep, on Bake Cookies Day last year I was all done with my Christmas shopping.

Obviously, there are some issues that I need to face regarding procrastination.

Cookie Cutter Day, December 17th

Cookie Cutter Day

Mmmm... yummy sugar cookies. Just don't look up "cookie cutter" on or you just might think that cookies made with cookie cutters are too pedestrian for your tastes. Not I! Yummy, yummy cookies!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

National Lemon Cupcake Day, December 13th

National Lemon Cupcake Day

If you are looking for something yummy to eat today as a reward for being a good person, or if you forgot to pack a lunch and therefore feel that no rules of being an adult apply to you for the day because you were so irresponsible to forget to pack a lunch, then perhaps you should think about picking up a lemon cupcake. After all, it is National Lemon Cupcake Day, and who are we to not celebrate a national food day. It seems unpatriotic.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hi Neighbor Day, December 11th

Hi Neighbor Day

Today is Hi Neighbor Day. Today everyone should take a moment to introduce themselves to their neighbors, physical or electronic, in order to make the world a happier place.

For example:

Hi neighbor! My name is Absent-minded Secretary. I have a professionally decorated Christmas Tree, I would invite you to come see it, but it is resting today. It needed a break after the rush of holiday cheer that it received yesterday. I coerced my friends Edgy and Dec to come decorate my tree for me because I just wasn't in a Christmasy mood. I made them dinner, which was fun, and now my apartment is all Christmasy. I also got to try out some of my new cooking ideas that I got from watching my gastroporn shows.

I'm sorry, did I just shock you? Apparently, you didn't know that cooking shows are filmed with the same film techniques as porn. It makes sense right? Both are trying to document a sensory experience that cannot be replicated across the medium.

For last night's Christmas decorating party, I tried out a recipe using ideas from Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentiis, this recipe for Pearl Onion Jam, and other stuff rolling around in my head. Probably the two biggest influences on the dinner were the Pearl Onion Jam (because I am from the Northwest) and Ina Garten's butterflied pork loin (because it looks cool). Getting the butcher to butterfly the pork loin was an adventure.

I guess you can tell that I like to cook, but lately I have been forgetting to put eggs in stuff. Yesterday, I made a pecan pie. It turned out very not right. I think I forgot to put in one of the eggs. Edgy and Dec were very nice about it; they both ate all of their pie. When I blogged about making pecan pie, I forgot to put in the number of eggs in the recipe. The correct number of eggs for a pecan pie is three.

Also, I can make a horrible mess with an immersion blender, garlic cloves, raspberry vinegar and hazelnut oil. You, dear neighbor, want me to come over and cook for you, don't you.

You seem to be looking at my eye, dear neighbor. I don't blame you. It is a bit red. You see, I have an eye thing. Do you remember the Friends episode where Rachel has an eye thing? Yeah, that's me.

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, because I just generally avoid the whole eye-drop thing, but I recently got a scratch on my eye when my eye doctor was removing a cyst, after he told me not to move, and now I look like Darth Maul... or at least one eye does.

To remedy the red-eye, I am having to ask my friends and co-workers to drop my drops into my eyes, and that isn't always convenient. When I have to drop the drops in myself, I have to tape my upper eyelid open and lie down on my bed so my eyelid and eyelashes don't flutter shut diverting the drops all over my face.

Edgy (who is also a neighbor of my cousin, a fact I didn't realize until Saturday night, and they could say "Hi" to each other) showed me a cool trick to help me keep the eye-drops in my lower eyelid pocket, so that I can drop the drops in without the danger of loosing all my eyelashes to Scotch Tape. I'm working on perfecting the technique. Maybe someday, if I practice lots and lots, I will become an expert eye-drop-dropper... or maybe tonight I will be knocking on your door, eye-drops in hand.

Just remember that I am not in the contagious stage of Pink Eye, I just have a scratch on my eye from a surgical instrument... because I flinched.
Anyway, that is how one would celebrate Hi Neighbor Day. If one were inclined to celebrate, or perhaps if one had a socialization problem.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Lovely Are Your Branches

Thank you to Edgy and Dec who have decorated me a lovely Christmas tree. Lovely company, lovely tree. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now I will have a happy Christmas.

Saturday, December 9, 2006


If you make pumpkin bread with ground cumin instead of ground cloves, it may still look pretty, but it won't taste yummy.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Bad Hair Day, December 8th (or Take It In the Ear Day)

Bad Hair Day

Do you ever wonder how the term "bad hair day" came to describe one of those days when nothing seems to be go as planned. According to The Phrase Finder the term "bad hair day" came into common usage after the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy (Kristy Swanson) to the one-armed vampire Amilyn (Paul Reubens):
"I'm fine but you're obviously having a bad hair day.".
Apparently, the term had been used before, but it was not "cool" to say until after a blond girl named Buffy said it, and now we all say it.

Take It In the Ear Day (see previous post).

If you are not having a Bad Hair Day, you can work on figuring out how to celebrate Take It In the Ear Day. I would not recommend celebrating with at wet willy. Wet willies are gross.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Write a Letter Day, December 7th

Write a Letter Day

What is there to do on a cold Thursday in the begininng of December? Write a letter! You can write a letter to Santa, start personalizing your holiday cards,(or, if you are as indecisive as I am, you can spend two hours going to four stores to find the right cards), you can write a letter to your Senator requesting more money for homeless shelters, or, since it is also Pearl Harbor Day, you could write a letter to someone currently serving in the U.S. military.

Less traditional letter options could include blog entries, blog comments, email, memos, secret santa cookies, or helping your BFF (girl version) decorate her Christmas tree...

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

St. Nicholas's Day, December 6th

St. Nicholas's Day

Most Americans know about St. Nicholas because of the popular song "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" which tells of a man more like our comercialized American "Santa Claus" than the quietly kind, European, version of the legend of the man who brings needy, but generous children gifts.

As such, we Americans loose a bit of the charm of this day. After we have done a little research on our own to study up on the life of St. Nick, are we able to separate Santa Claus from Saint Nicolas, and properly celebrate a Day of St. Nicholas, and acknowledge his influence on the legend of Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas's Day celebrates the memory of a man who know during his time for being kind and generous. St. Nicholas was a bishop of the city of Myra in the 4th century. It is often told that Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering, that he dedicated his life to serving God.

St. Nicholas brings gifts to everyone who leaves their shoes by the front door, filled with hay and treats for his horse. He replaces a kindness with a kindness. St. Nicholas also has a special relationship special groups of people as a guardian of virgins, of children, and of sailors. He even came to be regarded as the patron of robbers. Sort of in a Robin Hoody way. So, if you are of one of these groups, you especially will want to take some time to honor St. Nicholas today.

Saint Nicholas's Day,

December 6th, is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas' Day is celebrated with the sharing of candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child. (St, Nicholas Center)

Ways to celebrate St. Nicholas are to prepare a feast in honor of him. If you are not up for cooking a feast in the middle of a workweek, then make some cookies. Speculaas are traditional for St. Nicholas's Day
Speculaas cookies (From Women for Faith)
1 Cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, at room temperature
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the lemon rind.

Sift the spices and salt with the flour and baking powder, and stir gradually into the butter mixture. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight. (in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch, or for larger figures to about 1/4 inch. Cut out with cookie cutters, or trace around a heavy paper pattern with a sharp knife. This dough can also be used with a cookie mold, or can be molded by hand.

Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. If you like you cookies soft, remove them from the oven when they are just set -- the longer the baking time, the crisper the cookie.

Yield:: approximately 3 dozen cookies or fewer large figures.
And don't forget, these cookies are supposed to be shared, or you will not have much of the spirit of St. Nicholas with you to help you celebrate!

If baking isn't your things, you can donate to programs that assist families during the holidays. Every mall will have a giving tree; shelters will always need food, and hygiene product donations. Any public agency can find some way for volunteers to make a difference, and mostly volunteer opportunities can be done quickly. Just think, it will only take an hour or two to honor St. Nicholas today!

But, don't forget to leave the hay in your shoes for St. Nicholas's horse, or you might miss all the fun!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Bathtub Party Day, December 5th

Bathtub Party Day

Everybody Party in the Tub! If you are having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit, perhaps you just need to have a party in the tub.

If you are not a bath person, or a party person, or a bath party person, then perhaps reading about a bathtub party will be enough. I recommend King Bidgood's in the Bathtub. It's a very quick read, (it's a children's book) and the illustrations are very well done. The story is told in verse, which always makes me happy, and the pictures are animated enough that prereaders can follow the story if they just pick up the book, which is a feature that I always look for in picture books. Also, the pictures add enough dimension to make the story interesting for adults during the multiple retellings when it becomes the favorite-three-year-old's favorite book.

"Help! Help! cried the page, when the sun came up.
King Bidgood's in the bathtub, and he won't get out!
Oh, who knows what to do?"
"I do!" cried the Knight when the sun came up.
"Get out! It's time to battle!"
"Come in!" cried the King, with a boom, boom, boom.
"Today, we battle in the tub!" (King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, by Audrey Wood and Don Wood)
So, there we are. Time for fun in the tub, literally or literaturally.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Wear Brown Shoes Day, December 4th

Wear Brown Shoes Day

Just wear brown shoes. It's such an easy wardrobe choice. And then you will feel happy and all celebratory inside. And you will probably feel a surge of comraderie with the other people around you who are also wearing brown shoes and therefore celebrating Wear Brown Shoes Day, without even knowing they are.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Weeks of December

The Weeks of December

December 1st-9th
Cookie Cutter Week, Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week, Tolerance Week, Recipe Greetings for the Holidays Week, Clerc-Gallaudet Week, National Handwashing Awareness Week

December 10th-16th
Human Rights Week, International Language Week

December 15th-23rd
Halcyon Days

December 24th-31st
It's About Time Week

December is...

If cold December gave you birth,
The month of ice, and snow, and mirth,
Place your hand on a turquoise blue,
And success will bless whatever you do!

December is...

December is the twelfth month in the Gregorian calendar, which we use now. But the name "December" comes from the word "decem" which means "ten" in Latin, so it makes sense that December was the tenth month in the Roman calendar. In Finnish, since about the 18th century, December has been called Joulukuu, meaning "month of Christmas." Before that it was called Talvikuu, meaning "month of winter." In Irish, December is called Mí na Nollaig, also meaning "month of Christmas".

The weatherlore for December states:

  • "A green December fills the graveyard."
  • "If you see the stars on Christmas Eve, there will be good crops the next spring."
  • "Snow on Christmas means Easter will be green."
  • "If Christmas Day be bright and clear, there be two winters for the year."
  • "Lengthened winter and tardy spring are both good for hay and grain, but bad for corn and garden."
  • "December changeable and mild, the whole winter will remain a child." "A green Christmas, a white Easter."
  • "December cold with snow, brings rye everywhere."

December is... Bingo's Birthday Month, Drunk & Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month, Hi Neighbor Month, Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month, Read a New Book Month, Safe Toys and Gifts Month, Sign Up for Summer Camp Month, Spiritual Literacy Month, Stress-free Family Holidays Month, Tie Month, Universal Human Rights Month, Write a Friend Month, Holiday Thank-you Month, Interfaith Month

Skywatch for December includes: December 5th-Full Moon; December 14th- Geminids Meteor Shower. Considered by many to be the best meteor shower. Produces up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at the peak. The peak night this year is December 14th. Meteors should be visible from December 6th - 19th; December 20th- The Winter Solstice: The Sun is at its lowest point in the sky and it will be the shortest day of the year, the first official day of winter.

The birthflowers for December are the narcissus and holly.
The birthstones are turquoise, lapis lazuli, zircon, topaz (blue), or tanzanite. (Blue is a good color for Decemberites.)