lunadelcorvo: (Summer Violets)
My lily of the valley seem to have survived having been transplanted, and I even have a few little flowers under my window. Now if I can keep the utility workers with their ginormous feet from trampling them, I should have a lovely patch of them in a couple of years. I have planted new foxgloves and lavender, and I think I have saved the heirloom climbing rose in the back, while at the same time going Rambo on the weeds and generally out of control jungle that is my backyard (this is a years-long struggle, and recently took a 30 ft dumpster to clear the bulk of the crap that had taken over my yard. Long story.) So generally, I am very happy to have reclaimed the outside of my house!

In other news, I had a lovely Easter dinner with family (well, most of them anyway).

My cousin (well, technically my ex-husband's stepmother's brother's wife, so 'cousin' it is!), is awesome. We play D&D, go antiquing (and junk shopping) together, and fiddle with pens and crafts and who knows what all. She is also pretty much a full on lefty liberal, and I'd say about 99% heathen, too.

Well, she typically does the family Easter meal. These things can, as I am sure many of you know, be fraught with tension, but this was nice. Niblet (my son for new folks) and I went over, as did my ex, his dad (also my 'Dad,' and always will be), and his wife (also known as SMiLfH; step-mother-in-law-from-hell, because she totally is), and Dad's father. The last three are hopelessly religious (though I suspect Dad fakes it to avoid the wrath of SMiLfH). But my ex, my son, my cousin, and her husband are really not. SMiLfH and ex's grandfather are also super republican conservative types, and while Dad is as staunch a liberal as anyone, he keeps it rather mum for the same reasons as he pretends to rather more religious sentiment than I suspect he really feels.... All in all it is sometimes a bit of a tinderbox awaiting a match...

Nevertheless, there were no disagreements, no bickering, not even very much shade thrown. Signs of relief all round! And then my son and I stayed around to rant about Tantrump with my cousin. Good food, good folks, no conflict? As good an Easter as about the best a heathen like me can hope for!

So a happy walking dead/zombie Jesus/Easter to all of you, as well! ;)
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Father Christmas Polar Bear)
December 9th

Tell us your most treasured gift you have ever gotten or given.

I think I did that a couple posts up. Beyond that, I'm going to get all cornball here and say my son, my husband, my lovely home, and the pleasure of doing something I really love. Not really Christmas gifts per se, but the most treasured gifts I have ever gotten, for sure.

December 10th
Include in your post your wish list meme. While you're at it, take some time to go through your friend's list and see their lists. If there is something you can grant, do it. Even though it will be late the Christmas spirit will last a little longer for him/her.

OK, here is my "general audiences" Amazon Wishlist. (The others are mostly all long, exhaustive lists of things related to academic subjects, of compelling interest to no one but a crazed medievalist....) Don't feel obligated, either- having all you wonderful folks as my friends is also an amazing, all-year-round kind of gift!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Snowfall)
(Yes, this is a repost of last year's entry for this day. But I find it highly doubtful that this answer will ever change....)

This is easy. When I was seven, I think, my grandparents and my mom made me a castle. Not a silly little toy castle. This was the most amazing thing you could imagine, to say nothing of the astonished wonder of a child.

It stood four feet high, fashioned from a wooden bookshelf. Three floors, carpeted staircases, chandeliers, a garden, a balcony, stained glass windows, a tower. A ballroom with tiled floors and thrones for the kind and queen. The royal bedroom, in red and purple velvet and brocade. The princesses' room, green and gold and just a hint of pink. In the round, crenelated tower, a witch, a spinning wheel, and a little half-round bench hand-carved by my grandfather. There were two princes, two princesses, the king, queen, the king's brother. There was a witch, a giant, and a fairy. Each one had clothing made by hand. There was a horse and carriage and a garden with trees, a cobbled path and a fountain with water lilies. Every inch of the outside was lovingly carved into stones, even the fronts of the drawers that made up the bottom of the shelf.

When I came down Christmas morning, there it sat, nearly as tall as I was, gleaming, the lights shimmering from the golds and silvers, from the metallic brocades and the crystal chandeliers. When I went back to school in January, we were to write a story about our favorite present, and draw a picture. I got in trouble for making things up, and when the teacher called my mom to report me, my mom had to set her straight.

I have only two very poor photos of it, and, I am sorry to say, I no longer have it. When I had to move to California, I donated it to a children's museum. I came back a year later, and they had sold it. I have no idea where it is, or who now has this rare treasure crafted by the hands of my family. But there has never been a handmade gift like that one....
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas Cocoa)
I'm tempted to say Witch's Brew, gently warmed, and be done with it (Hey, it's late, and I've been grading for hours!). Instead, I will be even lazier, and recap my cocoa process (not exactly a recipe, but close enough; did I mention it's late?)

In a huge mug (I like at least 16 oz!) put three teaspoons sugar (rough, heaping, hastily scooped out of the sugar bowl - let's not get meticulous here!), and a teaspoon cocoa powder (make it the good stuff - Ghirardelli, Godiva, Rapunzel, etc.). Add a teensy pinch of cinnamon, a teensier pinch of salt, and a tiny drible of milk - just enough to mix it up into a thick syrup. ONLY THEN do you add milk to top it up, stirring madly all the while. Pop in the nuker for two or three minutes (depending on your micro, and how hot you like it) and top according to your preference. My personal choice is marshmallows and a candy cane, but whipped cream works just as well. (So does a healthy splash of schnapps or other festive liqueur!)

Bon chance! Having just enjoyed a cuppa the very same (with the schnapps option), I'm off to beddies! Sweet dreams, visions of sugarplums and all that!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas Cocoa)
No, actually, it's going really well! In my classes, I turned in the 'Giant Research Prospectus from You-Know-Where (TM) and gave the accompanying presentation. Got my grades back, and perfect scores on both! Ah-boo-yah! Finished that class with 359 our of 395 possible points! I guess I can handle this COMM stuff after all! One more grade to get in my other class, but I have no real concerns there, either. Last class for that one meets at the professor's house, which should be very nice!

I am buried in papers to grade for my own classes though! Final total will be something like 40 8-10page research papers, and as many essay final exams. (Maybe I need to look into scantron exams after all.....) But I'll get through it, and overall, my classes are wrapping up really nicely! I've had a lot of students tell me they've enjoyed it, which is always a real bonus for an instructor!

Enough of that - off to grade, and then to turn in course proposals for Fall '13! Egad! Cheers!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Joy of the Season)
One rather unexpected benefit of teaching at a small, private, and—most pertinent to my point—Catholic university is that, unlike my large, public, state uni, they are free to put Christmas stuff absolutely everywhere! And I love it!

I'm really all for the whole separation of church and state, and I support 100% atheists and people of other faiths in their efforts to prevent Christian messages from being subsidized by government money, or presented with the weight of government behind them (After all, a manger on the court house lawn says nothing encouraging about justice for the non-Christian). I think "Happy Holidays" is a perfectly appropriate greeting, and I think the "War on Christmas" is hyperbolic, histrionic horse-$hit! However, I have always decorated with gusto for the holidays, and still do.

Though a child of wholly atheist parents, I grew up with the most Christmas-loving family you could ask for. Lights, tree, cookies and goodies; the works. I learned all the carols, secular and religious. Heck, my grandmother's two favorite carols were "O Holy Night" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and she was the most aggressively non-religious woman I've ever known. We even had the three wisemen on our credenza, and a manger scene (hand-painted by my mom and grandma [oh how I wish I had that now!]) under our tree. And I never thought anything of it; it was no different than pumpkins on halloween, or bunnies on Easter. In fact, I was actually floored when my husband said our neighbors would assume we're Christian because of the lights on the porch! It's not like I have a manger on my lawn (as we do three houses down) - it's just lights and candy canes!

So I find myself, atheist as I am, very happy to be surrounded by lights and trees and holiday frou-frou at my uni. I can count no less than five lit and decorated (indoor) trees I see on my daily rounds of teaching and attending classes.
Granted, I might not be so tickled by this had my small, private, Catholic university ever prevented me from teaching as I saw fit. But my first classes were on the history of Christianity, whereupon I more or less threw the church (specifically Catholic pre-reformation, and in general terms thereafter) under a large, ideological bus. And, characteristically of academia, I know several of the faculty, from adjuncts to higher ups, who are also atheists, and have never had any difficulty for it. So I have to give them large kudos for that. And I get the happy benefit - an open teaching environment, and shiny holiday lights!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Peace Angel)
(Behind again - I plead finals!)

Today's offering is another recipe. I'll post another cookie recipe once I get baking, but for now:

Saké Mushroom Veggie-Stuffing

This fantastic stuffing (or dressing, if you prefer) is simplicity itself, gets raves every year, and is actually healthy. low-fat and meat-free!

Croutons (1 large loaf of whole wheat bread, cubed, and dried; 40 mins in a very low oven does the trick; leave them in until you're ready for them. They must be totally dry!)
Medium bunch of celery
2 medium-largeish onions
Small container fresh mushrooms (I like portobellos, but buttons work fine, too)
1 cup veggie broth
1 cup sake (yes, Japanese rice wine - trust me on this!)
1/4 cup soy sauce
Seasonings as you like (I use marjoram, sage, garlic, pepper, and a teensy dash of rosemary)

Combine sake, broth and soy sauce, mix in seasonings.
Dice up the veggies (I use the celery all the way up to the leaves - the leaves add greens and a nice nutty zing) and soak in the broth mixture at least an hour (overnight is great if you can plan ahead)
Just before baking, mix the croutons into the mixture.

Bake covered 45-60 mins in a medium oven (300 or so) and enjoy!

(This goes great with a Qorn roast, baked with a similar mix of broth and sake, with big chunks of onion and carrot baked alongside. I also add a handful of juniper berries and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup to the roast. Yum!)

I need a cooking icon!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Rudolph)
Wow - I have quite a few.

A Christmas StoryI love this movie, still. It reminds me of the Milwaukee Christmases of my childhood; there's a smidge of my grandfather in the Old Man, to be sure! The last few years we've gotten to see this on stage, which was wonderful, but alas, this year was the last year.

A Christmas Carol Again, I love to see this on stage when we can, but for the telly, Patrick Stewart's version is by far my favorite - brilliant!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, et. al. All of the wonderful Rankin bass holiday specials are just so much a part of Christmas from when I was little - Jack Frost, Kris Kringle, the Heat Miser, and of course, Rudolph, Cornelius, Hermey, Clarice and the rest....

While You Were Sleeping I'm only rarely a sucker for the rom/com, but I love Sandra Bullock, and this one is a holiday staple. (I like Serendipity, too, but not as much!)

The Nightmare Before Christmas I can never decide if this is a Halloween movie, or a Christmas one. Either way, I love it.

Honorable Mentions: Edward Scissorhands, The Snowman, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, The Original Grinch, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooged.
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas Cocoa)
I'm going to be writing cards this week, so if you want a card, please comment here or message me with your address. If you've moved this year, please make sure I have your current address!

Thanks!

Whee!!!! - I love December!!!!!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Father Christmas Polar Bear)
Dec 1st: Recipe: Old-World Cranberry Sauce

1 Bag fresh organic cranberries (washed)
1/4 cup sugar (turbinado works best!)
1 Tbls fresh-grated orange zest
2 Tbls (abut 1/2 an 'airline' sized bottle' of berry liqueur (Chambord works wonderfully!)
Small pinch cinnamon

Toss the berries in a pot, add cold water to cover. Add all the rest and let is simmer until the berries begin to pop. Stir often, gently 'mushing' some of the berries (leave some whole!) Once its the right consistency, say 1/3 of the berries still whole, pour into a pretty bowl and chill for 2-3 hours. (This also makes the house smell heavenly!)

Dec 2nd: Favorite Holiday Craft

Truthfully, I don't have "a" favorite holiday craft. I do all sorts of things, and what crafty things I do tends to depend on what I need, or the spirit of the moment. I will relink to the info for my Christmas gift boxes (HERE). Otherwise, it really depends. If I have time to do any holiday crafty things this year, I promise to post how-tos, but it won't be until the last of my grading is done!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Snowfall)
Yes, I missed the last few days of my Advent Calendar. Part of that was due to actual, real-life stuff - baking cookies, wrapping presents, cleaning the house for company, all that wonderful holiday stuff I really love.

This year, I made a really fantastic fruitcake, inspired by the one made by my hubby's great-grandmother. I have always loved her fruitcake, but the last couple years, due to declining health, she hasn't been making them (she's 103, so it's quite understandable!). She gave her recipe to my husband, who stuck it in a book for safekeeping and (you know where this is going, right?) So, I've been fiddling with recipes trying to find one that will yields a result as good as hers. I'll admit, I'm not *quite* there yet, but I think, with a few adjustments, this recipe will do it.

Christmas Day we had the family in for brunch at the house, for the second year running, and it was an unqualified success! We had eggs, potatoes with red pepper & onion, veggie breakfast sausage and bacon, fresh orange juice, biscuits, eggnog, coffee, and of course, fruitcake.

After brunch came the gift frenzy! My son was quite buried! I think he must have gotten at least 20 packages! Hubby cleaned up in the clothes department (about all one can buy for him) though I also got him a portable hard drive, a blank up-cycled journal of Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, and a rollerball pen that fills from an ink bottle, like a fountain pen without the nib fussiness. (I've been trying to give him a pen he will actually use for years now, this was my last ditch effort! We'll see if it takes!)

I scored some good hits with the in-laws, I think. Of course the real prize for them was the MacBook hubby got for Dad! I just hope he uses it!

Yesterday evening we all snuggled up to watch A Christmas Carol (the Patrick Stewart version) and enjoy a quiet evening. Today it's been dishes and clean up, with a few errands, but overall blissfully little to do!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Peace Angel)
(So I'm behind on a daily meme? In other news, night dark, and water wet.)

Day 19: A favorite Holiday memory. I don't know if I could pick out one single memory. The holidays were (and are!) such a magical time for me, so my memories all blur into a colorful sparkling collage. There are fragments, of course, like the time I wanted to practice wrapping gifts, and wrapped every empty box I could find, using up every scrap of wrapping paper in the house. I had such fun! My folks were less than amused by having to dash out at the last minute to buy more paper, and I became the family gift-wrapper thereafter (though I'm not entirely certain it was meant as an honor!) Or the year my grandfather gave my grandmother an entire set of cookware, and made her hunt all over the house for each individually wrapped piece! She was so mad, but she was laughing the whole time, too. I suppose any of the memories where my family is there, laughing, being silly, and enjoying the fun and magic of the holiday is a favorite memory.

Day 20: Hanukkah wishes I don't celebrate Hanukkah, and I know only one person who does. She was a teacher of mine, intelligent, funny, a bit odd, but a really good person. So in her name, and her honor, I wish one and all the light and joy of Hanukkah.

Day 21: Yule and Solstice Greetings I suppose I celebrate Yule as much as I do Christmas. The heart of the holiday, no matter the myth, is the notion of finding light in the heart of the longest nights. And really, isn't that a deeply inherent human desire, to find hope and renewal in the midst of the darkness?
lunadelcorvo: (Candleflame)
I debated about this for quite a while. On the one hand, I didn't want to be too dreadfully serious; this is a holiday blog meme, after all. On the other, I wanted to post something meaningful. So I contemplated giving you a snippet of something like Santa Mouse, or Catmas Carols, or even Santa Lives: Five Conclusive Arguments for the Existence of Santa Claus (which is really quite hilarious if you are interested in the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, on which it is oh-so-irreverently based). However, I decided that I wanted to actually be meaningful, particularly given the political climate these days, and the issues faced by so many around the world at present. I therefore give you:

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas
Charles Dickens, 1843
Stave Three; The Second of the Spirits
They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve.

Now, there's a lesson that doesn't require a 'Christian Christmas,' nor indeed any other kind, nor indeed any special day at all....
lunadelcorvo: (Candleflame)
Wow. I cannot believe it is only 10 days til Christmas, halfway through December, and the end of the year! WTF happened to 2011!?

My classes are all wrapped up for another semester, grades turned in, and all that's left is to archive all my files for next semester. This semester was a learning experience, that's for sure! One class was great, really top-shelf students. Attentive, responsive, engaged, thoughtful. The other one...was not. I just didn't know what to do with that class - I changed tactics, I swapped out turned in essays for in-class work, I gave loads of extra opportunities to earn extra credit... Nothing could get them motivated. Horse, water, only so much you can do, I suppose... I am so glad I had the other class to prove that it wasn't just me! I suspect when my evaluations come back, it will show that they thought little more of me than I did of their participation. (Another reason to be glad for the other to balance it all out!) True, I did have a couple success stories; there are a couple Bs in that group that are more rewarding to me as a teacher than the As in my other class. This spring it's back to just one, so here's hoping it's a good one! It will be my third time teaching the same course, so perhaps that will help.

Otherwise, things are good. I miss my mom so terribly much during this season. I'm so deeply connected to my family via tradition, especially holiday tradition, that almost every holiday thing I do is a stinging reminder that I'm the last one left. But oddly, it hasn't been as hard as I expected it to be. Now I admit, maybe I have an explosion of 'losing my mom' baggage lurking under the surface, but so far, it's been what seems to me a healthy mix of tears and happy memories. (Then again, I always tear up around the holidays! So, I'm a sentimental sot, what of it?)

Maybe it's because it doesn't seem like it's been just a year. OK, I know I just said the year just vanished, but at the same time, everything is so different now. Last year at the holidays I was writing madly to get my thesis done, fighting the powers that be, and writing a final on Italian Art! Now I'm grading papers. It seems like two different lifetimes, almost.

But all in all, things are good. I'm getting ready to begin the holiday baking frenzy, the tree is trimmed, the gifts are wrapped, the house is (well about one third) clean. Niblet has today and tomorrow of school, and then it's full into break. Things are....good. I am, only a little surprisingly, good.
lunadelcorvo: (Yule Moonhart)
One of my very favorite things at the holidays is reading Dylan Thomas' Child's Christmas in Wales. My mom adored it, and had a small, battered copy of it, little larger than a greeting card, that she cherished. It got lost to the ravages of time, but soon thereafter I made a copy of my own, and in fact, sent it around to friends. (I'm thinking of doing another run of it, if you'd like one, let me know). Anyway, this recitation has taken its place right up next to the Night Before Christmas as a mainstay. The language takes a little getting used to, but it's a really lovely and very evocative little narrative.

The absolute BEST way to enjoy it is to find a recording of it read by Thomas himself. NPR offers it here, and it can be downloaded from Amazon or the iTunes Store for a dollar or two. Meanwhile, I post it here (cut for space) in its entirety. Enjoy!
A Child's Christmas in Wales
One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.the tale continues here: )
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Snowfall)
This year I have two (well, three, but let's keep it simple! Besides the third one I didn't make, and I like to squee about stuff I make.)

The first one is currently serving as my front door wreath. It has been my main 'over the mantle' wreath, but it was getting a tad shabby, and I have a wreath I was given for the mantle, so I, a dutiful daughter-in-law, hung it there. (*eyeroll*) Anyway, I am very fond of this wreath, and I think I will tear it down and replace some of the worn elements, but essentially keep it the same for next year.
Front Door Wreath

The second is a wreath I originally made for the door of my mom's apartment at the retirement home. Its ribbon has started to come loose, as you can see, but I love it, and I haven't the heart to scrap it for obvious reasons. It may get a tear-down and re-assemble next year, though.
Candy-Cane inspired wreath (originally made for my mom)

I did make both of them but I'm not sure I could give you much of a how-to, but here's some basics I've learned in making oodles of wreaths.
  • Really, it's mostly just gathering a big bunch of things that go well together (keeping it varied, but consistent) and then distributing them around the wreath.
  • I find that having the same number of every item makes it look too 'stiff,' so if you have three things that are your main items, try three of one, four of another, and three, five, or even two of the third item. Then fill it in with smaller 'texture' stuff.
  • Use the wires that came with your florals, or add wire as you need to. If you are building from a basic pine wreath, each little branch of that is wired, too, so they can help 'hold on' to things.
  • Finally, wind a ribbon through it, and attach a bow with lots of big, frothy, curly tails. (Make your bow separately and wire it in - don't try to tie the ribbon you wound through - that way lies madness!)
  • I tend to use wired ribbon, because it's easy to re-shape if after it has spent 11 months in a box.
  • The bow can be top or bottom, but I never put the bow in the center - this too looks to stiff. An off center bow (or other accent) looks more... artless, I guess.
There you have it. Far from a 'how-to,' but if you want to make up a wreath, this ought to get you started. Cheers!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas Cocoa)
This one is easy! I have a few, but I'll stick to just a couple.

One: Bubble lights!
Two: Nutcrackers!
These two get combined as I put the entire collection of Nutcrackers on the fireplace mantle, and intersperse a pine garland with the bubble lights!
Mantle with our Nutcrackers and Bubble lights

Three: The antique ornaments I mentioned before. You can see a few of them here:
Closeup of some of my ornaments<
(Roughly half of these are antiques, with a quarter added when I was a kid, and the rest reproductions I have added over the years.) I am not showing you a snap from this year, as we decided to do a smaller tree on a table on account of the still adolescent (and therefore nuttier than normal) kitty. So only a handful of my ornaments even came out of their boxes this year. :( Nevertheless, here is the tree, if you're wildly curious:
Small (and hopefully cat-safe) tree, 2011
Even here, you can see quite a few of the antiques, and Santa Mouse nestled in the branches!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Rudolph)
I have not seen many other memes this year, except for this one, so I went looking for a holiday quiz. I found this one: Christmas Quiz: Novice Level

I took the novice, and even that had a couple I didn't know! They also have two harder levels! Maybe save those for a holiday party, where you can 'crowd-source' the answers! Anyway, here's my results:

Thanks for completing our Novice Christmas Quiz! You have now tried all 10 questions, correctly answering 9 of them.

Just in case you want to look back at any of them, here are links to all the questions in the quiz:


Rankings for this quiz

  • Non-Reindeer: 4 or fewer questions correct
  • Ordinary Reindeer: 5 to 6 questions correct
  • Flying Reindeer: 7 to 8 questions correct
  • Rudolph: 9 or more questions correct

Your score of 9 right out of 10 questions is higher than 92.0% of previous users, tied with 5.6%, and lower than 2.5%. Your personal Novice Christmas Quiz ranking is:

Rudolph

The chart below is compiled from the results of past users who have completed this quiz.

A chart showing the percentage of users of the Novice Christmas Quiz at each available score

lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Peace Angel)
(yes, I am running a day behind)

I have wish lists, on Amazon and whatnot, but eh... I don't even tend to shove those in front of my husband, so why should I force them at you? I don't expect anyone here to get me anything - really, having you all here in my little virtual (and not so virtual) world is a gift I'm very grateful for every day. If you really want to do something, make me an icon, write me a letter, share a story. Or, head over to my virtual tree (HERE) and leave a prezzie there - because it really is the thought that counts. Peace, all!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Father Christmas Polar Bear)
Wow, after the one on the seventh, I'm not sure I could come up with another one! So many of the things I treasure most, ironically, are things that either belonged to my family, or were given in far humbler circumstances. That's not to say that I haven't been given a lifetime of amazing and wonderful gifts for Christmas, I have. And of course, so many of them were handmade - one never thinks of it, but the things that are unique really are the treasures.

So naturally, my mind goes back to being a kid, and thinking of all the gifts I got as a child: a handmade leopard-print fur bathrobe that I wore 'til all the fur came off and it was up above my knees, the Orca (killer whale) plush that my mom made after her own pattern, because I wanted one desperately and they didn't make them back then (Oh, how I loved Orky!).

Then, on a slightly different note, was they year my not-yet husband gave me box after box of the most dreadful clothes! Truly trashy, pink-n-sparkles stuff; it was awful! I tried so hard to be...politic, all the while thinking he'd lost his mind! And he let me suffer through every damn box, trying to find something nice to say with each one. Then he finally cracked, and told me that he wanted me to be able to go shopping for myself since he wasn't sure what I'd like. So, he bought all this stuff, so I could return it and have myself a shopping spree. He figured that was more fun that just giving me a gift card - for him at least! I'm not sure I recall a single thing I bought, but I still crack up when I think of that rascal sitting there watching me squirm!

So I guess, when it comes to favorite gifts, it really IS the thought, and the love, that counts!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Noel Angel)
Wow. The whole crazy, mish-mash holiday is a big ball of tradition and remembrance for me, so this might be tough to put in a list. But here are three of the nearest and dearest:

1. First, there is Santa Mouse. Inspired by my childhood love of the Santa Mouse books, my mom made a tiny little mouse (an erstwhile cat toy, I think) with a Santa hat to sit in the tree. Every year, Santa Mouse would bring one or two teeny gifts, which would appear in the tree beside him on Christmas morning. We have continued that tradition with my son, and a couple years back, I decided it was time for the original to enter retirement, and I made a new Santa Mouse (the one pictured at the above link). Every year, sure enough, a couple teeny presents appear in the branches of the tree next to him.

2. Cookies! Loads and loads of cookies: shortbread, sables, krinkles, bourbon balls, gingerbread - you name it! My son is my very able baker's apprentice, and we have a blast baking our little holiday hearts out.

3. Ornaments. Now, that may not *seem* like a tradition, but for me, it really is. My collection of ornaments, largely German blown-glass, includes ornaments from every generation of my family going back onto the late 1800s, with a very small few actually brought over from Germany by one Eleanora Augusta Alriche when she emmigrated. Each generation had added to the collection over the years. Sadly, a few years before I was born, a basement flood claimed a bit over half of the oldest ones, but I have almost all of those that survived. There is a mix of Victorian, deco, and a healthy dose of 50s and 60s 'Shiny Brite' kitsch. There are many I remember from my own childhood, and I can tell you not only which ones were my favorites but those of my grandmother, grandfather, even my great-aunts. So every time I trim the tree, it's a tribute to 6 generations of holidays.

There are many, many more; it really it the case that the whole holiday is wrapped in tradition (and isn't that how it should be?). We read A Child's Christmas in wales every year, and I take my son the the Nutcracker. We always made sure Santa answered his letters, relating tales of the happy chaos at the North Pole, much inspired by Tolkein's Father Christmas Letters, now becoming a tradition itself. And of course, music. I love almost all the older Christmas carols. Silent Night in German brings me to tears every time! I try to get my son to learn the words to some of the old carols, especially the German ones, and he tries, sort of. (Worst setback in this regard ever was a friend giving me 'Catmas Carols:' he knows the words to 'Collar Bells' better than 'Jingle Bells!') And of course, the food! Peppermint, cocoa, stollen (pronounced "shtullen," not 'stolen') and great-great-grandmother's fruitcake, eggnog, ribbon candy... well, I'd better save a few things for later posts; I have 14 days to go!
lunadelcorvo: (Ferocious rabbit)
This is easy. When I was seven, I think, my grandparents and my mom made me a castle. Not a silly little toy castle. This was the most amazing thing you could imagine, to say nothing of the astonished wonder of a child.

It stood four feet high, fashioned from a wooden bookshelf. Three floors, carpeted staircases, chandeliers, a garden, a balcony, stained glass windows, a tower. A ballroom with tiled floors and thrones for the kind and queen. The royal bedroom, in red and purple velvet and brocade. The princesses' room, green and gold and just a hint of pink. In the round, crenelated tower, a witch, a spinning wheel, and a little half-round bench hand carved by my grandfather. There were two princes, two princesses, the king, queen, the king's brother. There was a witch, a giant, and a fairy. Each one had clothing made by hand. There was a horse and carriage and a garden with trees, a cobbled path and a fountain with water lilies. Every inch of the outside was lovingly carved into stones, even the fronts of the drawers that made up the bottom of the shelf.

When I came down Christmas morning, there it sat, nearly as tall as I was, gleaming, the lights shimmering from the golds and silvers, from the metallic brocades and the crystal chandeliers. When I went back to school in january, we were to write a story about our favorite present, and draw a picture. I got in trouble for making things up, and when the teacher called my mom to report me, my mom had to set her straight.

I have only two very poor photos of it, and, I am sorry to say, I no longer have it. When I had to move to California, I donated it to a children's museum. I came back a year later, and they had sold it. I have no idea where it is, or who now has this rare treasure crafted by the hands of my family. But there has never been a handmade gift like that one....
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas Cocoa)
Today's post, a festive holiday drink. I adore mulled wine (this one is delicious warmed up), and eggnog (sorry, I buy the premade stuff!), as well as eggnog lattés, but my favorite holiday drink is hot cocoa. I've seen some pretty sexy cocoa recipes so far this year (Nutella cocoa? *swoon*) but here's my own mix:

In a nice big mug (12oz at least) mix 3tsp sugar, 1 tsp cocoa (make it good stuff, like Ghirardelli, Godiva, or Rapunzel), a teensy sprinkle of sea salt (like 5 or 6 grains), a pinch of cinnamon, and a dash of allspice. Swirl it up so it's all mixed, then add one tablespoon milk. Mix it into a syrup consistency, then add milk to the top (leaving room for marshmallows, of course!) Heat as hot as you like it, top with marshmallows, and stick in a candy-cane. Toss on a light dusting of cocoa powder, sprinkles, or drizzle of chocolate. All you need now is a fireplace and it's Christmas in a cup! Enjoy!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Noel Angel)
Well, I do a lot of 'crafty' things all year 'round, and December is no exception. I make my own wreaths, my son and I make snowflakes, paper chain garlands, and of course cookies galore! When he was little, and prone to grab anything shiny, we made dozens of salt dough ornaments for the lower half of the tree. (These may find a new lease on life what with an adolescent kitty in the house!) I even once typeset my own copy of A Child's Christmas in Wales which I sent out to friends and family. (Photos of some of these are below).

But my best-ever holiday craft was the German Christmas Boxes I made.
Xmas Boxes, printed, assembled and embellished with glitter Xmas Boxes
These are some of the Victorian Christmas Box ornaments I've made in past years.
.
I still use them, and I've sent or given many of them as gifts, too. So here's how to make them:

Start with a pattern (you can find one below).

You can trace this directly on to colored cardboard (foil or colored gift boxes from department stores are great for this, just flatten them out and voila!), you can use poster-board and paint, draw, or decorate them yourself, or you can do what I did and take the pattern into Photoshop and decorate it there, and print it in color on cardstock. If you want to use these for gift containers, you can put a tag on it when it's done, or leave a space for a name in the art on the cover. There's a preview of one of the designs I used below as well.

Cut out the solid lines, and score the dotted ones. To cut, I recommend using an X-acto and a metal ruler. To score, use the ruler and something dull, like the rounded tip of a butter-knife, a pointed nail file, out-of-ink ballpoint, etc. Anything to make a firm 'dent' in the cardboard along your fold line without actually cutting through it. Don't forget to punch holes in either side for the string.

If you want to do more decorating after it's cut out, like adding glitter-glue accents and such, do it while the box is flat. Once it's all dry, fold along your scorelines, and glue the tabs. You can use a teeny binder clip to hold the top corner, but you may just have to hang on to the pointy end for a few minutes until the glue sets a bit. Add a metallic cord or narrow ribbon, fill with treats or a small gift, and hang it on the tree!
Xmas Box Pattern One of the Xmas box designs I made
Xmas Box Pattern One of the Xmas box designs I made

More crafty bits from holidays past and present:
A stocking I made for the Niblet Another stocking,  this one for the Hubby
A stocking I made for the Niblet Another stocking, this one for the Hubby
Salt Dough Ornaments Mantle in the Livingroom
Salt Dough Ornaments (I'm very lucky to have my grandmother's a huge collection of vintage cookie cutters, which really helps with making these!) Mantle in the old house's livingroom, with wreath & snowflakes I made.
And of course, Sante Mouse!
Enjoy, and happy holiday crafting!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Making Cookies!)
I'm posting this from Dreamwidth, because LJ is AWOL - again. Grrr. I can't check, but I'm pretty sure that today's entry was another recipe, so here goes:

Kentucky Bourbon Balls (indispensable on Christmas and at Derby Time!)

Ingredients:
1 cup fine chocolate wafer crumbs (Chocolate teddy grahams or other chocolate cookie work well, too. Just don't use one with additional sugar on it, as it throws off the balance of sugar to liquid.)
1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional, or replace with chocolate mini-chips)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup (I prefer to use agave nectar, or even good quality maple syrup)

Also: confectioners' sugar or cocoa for coating

Preparation:
Thoroughly combine the crumbs, chopped pecans/chips, sugar, and the cocoa. Stir bourbon and corn syrup into the dry mixture; blend well (get in there with your hands if you need to; it's a thick dough!). Cover and chill for a few hours. Sift about 1/2 to 1 cup of confectioners' sugar on a cookie sheet. Shape small bits of the dough into balls and roll them in the confectioners'. Store in refrigerator in tightly covered containers. Make these a few days in advance for best flavor, and roll in confectioners' sugar again before serving, if desired. These can also be frozen for longer storage.
Makes about 3 dozen bourbon balls.
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Rudolph)
Today's post is my favorite holiday movies. So here goes:

1. A Christmas Carol (the one with Patrick Stewart, of course)
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer I still adore all the old Rankin Bass animated Christmas specials (The second Rudolph one, Jack Frost, Kris Kringle), but Rudolph is still my favorite.
3. A Christmas Story O.K., I know it's all trendy, but it is a lot of fun. It reminds me of Christmases when I was a kid in Milwaukee. And there's a wonderful local stage production that's become a tradition along with the Nutcracker.
4. While You Were Sleeping Only sort of a holiday movie, but I've always loved it. So, yes, I'm a romantic sot, so sue me! LOL

There are some others that I like, but those are the only ones I can think of that have become traditions. (Of course the second I post this and walk away, I'll think of others, I'm sure!)
lunadelcorvo: (Writing Desk)
I know I posted this before, but it was (I admit) ludicrously early, so I'm tossing it out here again. If you want a holiday card, comment here (screened) and I'll add you to the list. Also, if you have moved, please let me know - I know I have some old addresses!

Thanks!

(and if you want my addy as well, just let me know in your comment, and I'll send you a PM!)
lunadelcorvo: (Default)
(re-poted from my journal a few years back. And yes, I suppose this counts for my Advent Calendar Meme!)

I have addressed this topic on some level nearly every December since I've had this journal, albeit sometimes only obliquely. It's seemed to come up more this time around, so I thought I'd share my own idea of why I, a confirmed (some would go so far as to say 'militant,' though I like to think I am a bit more graceful about it than that, but I could be wrong...) non-theist, simply adore Christmas, and how and why it's a meaningful holiday to me.

For me, it's about celebrating family and friends, not so that we don't have to the rest of the year, but to remind us that we should the rest of the year, because we all get busy, and we all forget. It's about giving with a touch of merry mischief, for the same reasons. It's about light and color and beauty and music and joy, and the fire that glows in the heart of winter. It's as much Solstice as Christmas, but more than either. With that in mind, here's my list of "How-to" for a merry and bright non-theist, non commercial holiday.

  • Make cookies. Lots of cookies! Give people cookies or other treats you make instead of purchased presents (set aside extras for Santa).

  • Tell stories, sing songs and recreate traditions from when you were a kid. What was your favorite Christmas show? Book?

  • Start your own family traditions. We have Santa Mouse who always puts a tiny present in the branches of the Christmas tree. And we have our little pickle ornament, and whoever can find it on the tree first (the person who trimmed the tree can't play!) gets a treat. (We let the niblet win)

  • Take at least one walk on a dark, winter night. If your climate allows, I strongly recommend a cold, clear one, where the stars and the ice and the snow all sparkle with the same wintery fire. The silence of a cold winter night is so beautifully profound.

  • Get plain red stockings, and some glue, glitter, bits n' bobs, and decorate your own stocking. Do this with friends or family!

  • Help your kids/nieces/nephews/cousins/neighbor's kids gather up their old toys and take them to a mission or shelter. Let them feel the joy of making the holiday happier for a child less fortunate. Kids CAN understand this, and they will feel really good about it. My son was the one to remind *me* it was getting to be time to donate toys this year.

  • Learn some carols in another language.

  • Ask the older members of your family or community to tell you how they celebrated Christmas when they were young. You will hear some wonderful tales, maybe pick up a new holiday tradition with which you can remember that person every year, and learn some things about your own or your community's history, too.

  • Go caroling. Better yet, go caroling in an old folks home or children's ward of a hospital.

  • Make your own ornaments from paper or clay. Make colored paper chain garlands and put them everywhere.

  • Make hot cocoa from scratch, and put peppermint sticks in it and drink it sitting on the floor around the tree with only the tree lights on. (This is a really good 'ritual' to get the kids chilled out for bed on Xmas eve.)

  • If your kids or kids you know write to Santa, make sure he writes back. We always make up a long letter, full of funny stories about what's going on at the North Pole, i.e. how "one of the reindeer got tangled up in the lights, and the elves got into the eggnog, or all the letters on the blocks for the little kids got mixed up, and it was quite a mess, but we've got it all straightened out now." (If you've never read Tolkein's Father Christmas Letters, do. It's pure delight!)

  • Gather around, and read A Christmas Carol aloud with family or friends, or A Child's Christmas in Wales

Whatever you do this time of year, I encourage you to make it personal. The celebration of light in the longest night is by no means limited to Christian or even western tradition. So enjoy!
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Making Cookies!)
For the First, I share a recipe: Orange Sables. These have been hailed by many as the queen of Christmas Cookies, and they are always the first to vanish. I've taken to making a triple batch in recent years.
Orange Sables )
lunadelcorvo: (Xmas-Rudolph)
Well, OK, I"m jumping the season a bit, I'll admit. But I have over half my Christmas shopping done (w00t!) and now I'm thinking cards.....

So, yes, this is the holiday card post. I am SO looking forward to the holidays without finals*, theses, papers*, and degrees hanging over my head! So, cards for everyone!!!!

Comment here with current address info to be on the mailing list for a holiday card. (Screened, natch,')

Also, if you want my addy for a card, let me know in your comment, and I will MSG you with said info!

(*Well, MY finals and papers anyway... I will still have some of these to grade, but that's a whole different thing!)

Miscellanea

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Things I need to remember:
• Asking for help is not, as it turns out, fatal.
• Laughing is easier than pulling your hair out, and doesn't have the unfortunate side effect of making you look like a plague victim.
• Even the biggest tasks can be defeated if taken a bit at a time.
• I can write a paper the night before it's due, but the results are not all they could be.
• Be thorough, but focused.
• Trust yourself.
• Honesty, always.

Historians are the Cassandras of the Humanities

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