Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Auld Lang Syne, or "For the Sake of Old Times”

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, people around the world sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

From its roots in a Scottish ballad by Robert Burns about unfaithful love, the song has become one that evokes nostalgia, reflection and a look to the future, especially on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight.

Over the years the song had revisions and changes, but the phrase, loosely translated from the original Scottish, means, "as time goes by," "old time's sake" or "old long since."

The words and music evoke sentimentality, nostalgia and affection for the people around us. And a thoughtful look toward the future.

No one could do the song like Guy Lombardo. Here's a YouTube video of the song by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians from 1953 (you can skip the ad). Enjoy


Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should all 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

And surely you will buy your cup
And surely I'll buy mine
And we'll take a cup o'kindness yet
For auld lang syne

We too have run around the slopes
And picked the daisies fine
We've londoned many weary foot
Since 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

We too have paddled in the stream
From morning sun to night
But the seas between us broad have roared
From 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
We'll take a cup o'kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Happy New Year to one and all. May 2014 be a great year.


Monday, December 30, 2013

To Wear Fur…..Or Not

Queen Elizabeth has been criticized by animal rights groups for wearing a fur coat on Christmas Day.
Credit: dailymail.co.uk
It seems the media were divided about whether to criticize her, or praise her for her thrift – the coat being more than 50 years old.

We all know the controversy surrounding the wearing of animal furs. Being an animal lover myself, I absolutely support the humane treatment of ALL animals in ALL cases.

Oh, I have heard the stories about the inhumane manner in which some animals are trapped and killed for their furs. It’s disgusting and I cannot bear to think about it.

But what about wearing leather? Or eating meat? There doesn’t seem to be the same outcry for these activities.

Some animals (minks) are farm raised for their pelts. Is this so much different from raising beef cattle or pork?

Is wearing a 50 year old coat going to bring back the lives of the animals who once wore the Queens’s coat? Or was she being castigated for what appeared to be an outward show of support for wearing furs?

Perhaps she wore the coat to keep warm! And in my opinion, the Queen should wear that coat whenever she pleases!

But what about the rest of us? Should we drag out our furs and wear them? Destroy them? Give them away for someone else to wear?




I bought mine more than 25 years ago. There wasn’t quite as much controversy on the subject then as there is today. My lifestyle then was such that I found occasions to wear them. And they are beautiful!

Now there are not that many days here that such a warm coat is needed. But when it gets really cold, nothing is as warm as a fur coat.

I haven’t worn mine in almost 20 years. Well, I take that back. I wore the long one a few years ago to walk the dogs on cold days. Is my mink coat now relegated to being worn in the fields and woods so that only the dogs see me?

I’ve been told wearing furs is not as controversial in other countries as it is in the U.S. What is your view on the subject.

I close this post with the story about a woman who inherited a fur coat. One day she was approached by an antifur campaigner who screamed at her, "What poor creature had to die so that you could wear that coat?"


Puzzled, the woman frowned and replied, “Why, my aunt. Why do you ask?”

I look forward to your comments and opinions.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cure for Dry, Itchy Winter Skin

It’s that time of year again. No, not for taking down the Christmas tree, making New Year’s Resolutions or cleaning out the closet.

For many of us, it’s that time when our skin starts to feel like bugs are crawling on it; when we want to claw our skin to relieve the terrifying itch.
Credit: scripps.org

Welcome to winter!

What to do? I’ve tried everything, or so it seems. I’ve used numerous products, even those remotely known to add moisture back to moisture-deprived skin.

My dry itching skin is not on my face at all, but rather on my midsection and lower legs.

It was time to find something that really works. So I’ve been researching it for us. Here’s what I’ve found.

Credit: health.howstuffworks.com
Yes, adding moisturizers to the skin is part of the solution. Use rich, creamy products.

But that’s only a part of the solution for dry and itching winter skin. Here are other recommendations from doctors:

Credit: amazon.com
Use a humidifier. I’m unpacking mine tonight and using it where I sleep. Any old kind will do so long as it adds moisture to the dry air.

Credit: extension.usc.edu
Drink plenty of water. We (or at least I) tend to drink less water during cold weather. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be drinking my at least 8 glasses each day.


Credit: grohe.com
Take shorter showers, no more than five minutes. The water should not be too hot or too cool. Lukewarm is the key here.

Two cautions here: If you see red blotches or severely scaly skin, your condition could be due to a rash or eczema, in which case you should consult a dermatologist.

Most sources agree that dry and itchy winter skin is due to two factors:
  • Less humidity in the air during cold winter months.
  • The drying affects of our home heating systems.


Wish me luck? Are you afflicted with this condition?

Have you had success with particular products or procedures for dealing with this problem? If so, please share.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Baking for Christmas

There are a few foods I make each and every year for Christmas. These food traditions are embedded so deep in me that I don’t feel the holiday is complete unless I have them on hand.

Some recipes have come and gone, others have been added, but these are my favorites:
I haven't made these YET, but Christmas is still three days away. This is a Google image.

Viennese Crescents
(This cookie is known by other names, among them, Mexican Wedding Cookies. I have been making these crunchy little nuggets for more years than I can remember. It’s very easy.)

Set the oven at 300 degrees.
Cream thoroughly
 1 cup butter (don’t use margarine!)
Add
¼ cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup ground almonds (unbleached)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix well. Shape with fingers into crescents about 3 inches by 1 inch and ½ inch thick. (NOTE: To ensure consistency in size, I shape them into smallish balls, which is much easier than crescent shapes.) Roll in
Confectioners’ sugar

Place on cookie sheets. Bake 35 minutes (but watch them so they don't get too brown. Cool. Roll in sugar again. Makes about 36.
Note: If you substitute hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, decrease flour to 1-3/4 cups.
Store in a tin. Keeps well.



Pecan Tassies
Mini pecan pies

Crust
1 cup butter
6 ounces cream cheese
2 cups flour
Mix softened butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add flour in fourths; work into smooth dough. Chill Shape into 1-1/4 inch balls and press into small muffin pans to make shells.
Filling:
1 box light brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Dash of salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans.
Slowly beat sugar into eggs. Mix in butter, salt and vanilla. Place ½ teaspoon nuts in each shell, add filling to about ½ full. Top with more nuts. Bake 25 minutes at 350 until set. Better made 1-2 days ahead. Put waxed paper between layers to store. Keeps well.


Sausage Balls
Delicious for breakfasts around Christmas time. Nothing could be easier:
1 lb. pork sausage (I use sage flavored)
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups Bisquick or self-rising flour
A shake of cayenne pepper if you prefer it hot, or use hot sausage for similar effect)
A few drops of water if needed for mixing
Mix all ingredients in food processor or by hand. Roll into balls. May be frozen before baking and removing from freezer as needed. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 and bake for about 30 minutes. Just watch them to prevent overbrowning. Line cookie sheet with parchment to prevent sticking.

These are not the "prettiest" Christmas cookies to be found, but they are oh-so-melt-in-your-mouth good!

Nurnberger Elisen Lebkuchen
(A variation of the traditional gingerbread-type lebkuchen. This recipe, which uses no flour, is from my mother-in-law and my husband’s favorite cookie. She gave me the recipe in grams and I haven’t bothered to translate into ounces, as I have a scale that weighs in  grams. I usually double or triple the recipe, as these don’t last long at our house. My mother-in-law always baked these on thin oblaten wafers but I find baking on parchment paper prevents sticking just as well.)
2 eggs
200 grams sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar (I don’t always have this on hand so I simply add about ½ teaspoon vanilla to 3 tablespoons sugar for a similar effect)
Big dash ground cloves
1 t. cinnamon
½ shot rum
1-2 drops lemon extract
75 grams candied citron
125 grams almonds
¼ teaspoon baking powder
125 grams ground hazelnuts

Set oven at 350 degrees
Beat eggs and sugars until thick and creamy. Add spices.
Grind citron and nuts together
Mix egg mixture with nut mixture
Bake 25-30 minutes. Best when aged in sealed tin a few days. Half an apply may be added to retain moistness.
(Nuts are best ground with a manual grinder in order to obtain a consistency similar to flour. If ground in a food processor the result is not the same. Regarding the citron, I simply chop it finely so as to not gum up the grinder with stickiness.)
If you bake these, I suggest baking a test cookie before loading up an entire cookie sheet. Why? Because oven temperatures vary and you don’t want these to cook too fast and brown over before getting fully baked. I find my cookies turn out better at 325 degrees and adding about 10 minutes to the baking time.

A colorful sweet bread for Christmas, and I made it for many years. But it dries out so fast that I have discontinued the tradition.....at least for now. Credit: The Swiss Colony


I used to bake Christmas Stollen each year, but after so many years of it drying out too quickly, I prefer just making a yeast bread Danish pastry, or purchasing a Panettone.


A new one this year: Linzer Cookies


I have always wanted to make these cookies because of the way they look. I found one of the special cookie cutters this year, so this was my first attempt. I was not at all pleased with the difficulty involved, primarily because the dough stuck horribly inside the little design cut-out for the top cookie. I’m not bothering to post the recipe because I won’t be making these again! But they are quite good.

From the looks of my baking (and I have not featured everything here, as I also made chocolate truffles, haystacks, pumpkin cookies and peanut butter fudge) one might think we do lots of eating around here. The fact is that I give away many of these sweet treats.

Baking is a lot of trouble and takes much time. However, being in the kitchen is one of the ways I enjoy Christmas. Put on the music, light a pine or cinnamon scented candle and bake away!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Limping Toward Christmas


It’s been slow coming – this getting ready for Christmas business. I’ve always envied those who can think about Christmas and plan accordingly for months in advance. Well, sort of, anyway.

It must be mid-December before I can even begin thinking and planning for it. Perhaps it's more difficult, but the “last-minute” shopping, baking, decorating – even listening to the music that’s been going on for weeks – are what gets me “in the mood” for Christmas.

I managed a bit of shopping yesterday, accomplished some baking and house decorating this past weekend, and am slowly trying to psych myself up for the coming day.

How about you? Do you find it more difficult each year? Or is it just me?

Here are a few pictures of the limited decorations I’ve placed in the house this year.

My next post will include some of the food I’ve prepared – cookies, candies, etc.
My favorite holiday decorations are the tiny bright lights that I place on tabletops -- in a different way each year. This time, I just left the dried hydrangea arrangement on top of the dining room buffet and placed the lights and artificial greenery around it.


Just a few simple white candles in front of the living room fireplace.

More lights around another dried hydrangea arrangement on a side table in the living room.

White lights and candles on the mantle. Nearer Christmas, I'll probably gather fresh magnolia leaves to add to the arrangement.

I dug out the Christmas piano music for display. The two books are childrens story books that I received as gifts when I was six years old!

Three glittery trees that I like for some reason and place them on the coffee table each year. Notice that presents have not yet been placed under the tree. That's because nothing is yet wrapped!

The tree - very simple with all red and white decorations. I have many boxes of ornaments collected over the years but chose not to use them this year. Maybe next year, when Katie will be old enough to notice them!

What preparations have you made for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Laugh for the Day

This image is going around. Perhaps you've seen it; maybe not. It just strikes me as the funniest thing! All those clever people out there coming up with such things sometimes amazes me!

Credit: kulfoto.com
Just for the record, we did not have snow here this morning. Just cold.

Monday, December 9, 2013

It Feels Like Losing a Friend.


For the almost two years since I established my blog, I have come to feel I know some of the people who read and comment here. 

Even though they live far away, on other continents even and I know I’ll never meet them, a friendship of sorts develops over time.

Credit: greeningofgavin.com
 That’s why I felt sad that our friend Mette from Finland wrote her farewell post last week. I understand completely why. She is moving on with her life, especially since the much looked forward to birth of her first grandchild.

Blogging is time consuming. Reading others’ blogs and commenting on the ones you read takes time as well. So yes, I understand why people stop.

Credit: imperiusdominatus.com


And yet….. I will miss reports of what’s going on at Haugland (I trust I have spelled it correctly). We have come to know her precious dog Morty, her beautiful horse Hemple. We will miss getting a small glimpse of her stylishly and tastefully decorated home. We shall miss seeing what’s available in stores, as she often posted the latest offerings in clothes/handbags/shoes and home d├ęcor/accessories.

Heck, we even “met up” once in Helsinki for coffee and show off our dogs!

Mette’s was one of those blogs I looked forward to reading each day or so. She was always real, honest and frank on both her posts and comments on others’ blogs. Refreshing.

So I say farewell, Mette, hopefully not forever, though. I hope you’ll stop by and say hello from time to time. And who knows, perhaps in the future you’ll decide to start blogging again.

If so, many of us will be here and anxious to greet you once more.

Good luck, Mette, in all that you do. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I’m Dreaming of a Kringle

Ah, kringles. That rich, buttery, light and flaky pastry unknown to me until I spent some time in the State of Wisconsin.
Credit: what'scookingamerica.net
The South may be known for its Peach Cobbler Pie, Banana Pudding or Lane Cake, but when you’re in Wisconsin you eat kringles.

So what the heck IS a Kringle, anyway?

Credit: Racine Danish Kringle
A type of Danish pastry which is specially worked and kneaded so that it becomes light, flaky, and very rich, it is almost like French puff pastry, which is then filled with a nut or fruit filling.

They were first introduced to Racine, Wisconsin in the late 1800s by immigrant Danish bakers. In Denmark, they are traditionally pretzel-shaped, almond-filled coffee cakes called Wienerbroth (Viennese bread).



At one time Racine was home to more Danes than anywhere else in the country and as a result there are more kringle shops in Racine than you'll find anywhere else in the U.S.

The Kringle became the Official State Pastry of Wisconsin on June 30, 2013. Racine has historically been a center of Danish-American culture and kringle making, both an important part of Racine's cultural identity.

While traditionally round, kringles are sometimes formed into a rectangle shape.
Credit: Huffington Post
A typical Racine–made kringle is a large flat oval measuring approximately 14 inches by 10 inches and weighs about 1.5 pounds.

Credit: Food Network
If you want to order kringles Racine Danish Kringles has a cyberMonday special (three for the price of two). Or if you want to make your own, find a less complicated version at What's Cooking America. This version doesn't 
require the tedious process of rolling out layers of butter and dough but the result is similar and very, very good (in fact fantastic).

Here’s a little joke I found (whether true or not…who knows; cute though!)

Lars Larson, was on his deathbed in an upstairs bedroom. His doctor had said Lars would last for only a matter of hours. Lars woke from a deep sleep and sniffed. His wife must have just returned from the bakery, and the aroma of freshly baked kringles bought a spark to Lars. He whispered, "If I could just have a taste of kringle before I die, it would make my dying sweeter."

He mustered every ounce of strength and got out of bed. Slowly he made his way downstairs and into the kitchen. there he spied two kringles on the counter. Just as he was reaching out to take a piece, his wife swatted his hand away. "Stop that," she said. "We're saving these for the funeral."

Have you eaten kringles? Are you tempted to make one?



























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