Thursday, November 29, 2018

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas - Review

The fascinating stories and origins behind Christmas traditions such as the colors of red and green, the Christmas tree, caroling, nativity scenes, the Yule log, gift-giving, stockings, advent wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.
The cheer of a crackling hearth fire. Colorful cards from friends and loved ones. An evergreen tree festooned with ornaments. The golden traditions of Christmas—gifts, wreaths, stockings, carols, mistletoe, and more—infuse our celebration of the season with meaning and glowing memories. And, in ways you may not realize, they point us to the birth of Christ. Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas reveals the people, places, and events that shaped the best-loved customs of this merriest of holidays. Here are spiritual insights, true-life tales, and captivating legends to intrigue you and your family and bring new luster and depth to your celebration of Jesus’ birth. 
The traditions of Christmas lend beauty, awe, and hope to the holiday, causing people all over the world to anticipate it with joy. The stories in this book will warm your heart as you rediscover the true and eternal significance of Christmas.
Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas
By Ace Collins

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas is an engaging look at the most beloved traditions of Christmas. I love history, and what could be more interesting that learning the stories behind our Christmas traditions?

I was very pleased with how Mr. Collins would share the legends and folklore behind each tradition, and then bring it forward into the traditions we recognize today. He is quick to point out that these legends are just that, a legend and not a known fact. In some cases he shared more than one folklore, as each country would have varying legends behind the same tradition.

One fact that I did not know and found to be surprising was that in England and America Christmas was not a time for families and holy reflection until the mid-1800's. While other European countries, such as Germany, celebrated Christmas as a time for families, England and America celebrated quite differently!

A few of my favorite chapters were:

Christmas Cards: The story of a busy English Knight who sent out an artistic Christmas card rather than the usual Christmas letter. His first Christmas cards snowballed into a beloved tradition.

Christmas Seals: This story of generosity and love that began in Denmark, but eventually spread to the US was truly inspirational. I was touched how one man's heart of compassion impacted so many suffering with tuberculosis.

Decorations and Ornaments: I loved learning the stories behind how ornaments were originally made and used. It was interesting to read of the progression from simple handmade ornaments to blown glass ornaments and eventually factory made ornaments. It was also surprising to see how world events played a part in the changes of how ornaments were made.

Lights: I had often heard the story of Martin Luther adding candles to his Christmas tree, but I was equally enthralled by the history of electric  Christmas lights! Edward Johnson, an employee of Thomas Edison, made quite an impression on New York City when he displayed his Christmas tree, decked out in electric lights, for all to see in the front window of his home.

Poinsettias: Poinsettias had an unusual and at times a rather unpleasant history in Mexico for many years. It wasn't until the 1800's that poinsettias were introduced to America. A Mr. Poinsett brought back seeds from the flowers after a political trip to Mexico. The circumstances surrounding his trip and return, as well as Mr. Poinsett's personality were amusing to read about.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: At a time when Catholicism was banned in England the Catholic church wrote this beloved Christmas carol. Each day represents a Biblical principle, for example the Trinity, the fruits of the Spirit, the ten commandments, etc.

There are a total of twenty-six chapter in Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, so there is much to learn and enjoy in this little volume! Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas is hardcover and would make a lovely gift.

My only caveat would be the authors subtle chiding of Christians who do not celebrate the tradition of Santa Claus with his apparent enthusiasm. I was intrigued to read about the real life Saint Nicholas and King Wenceslas. I think their good deeds are worth remembering, however I personally just don't believe they are still alive and traveling the globe once yearly. : )

With all that said I would definitely recommend this book, and it is one that I am sure we will enjoy for many years to come.

*I received a complimentary copy of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas from Book Look Blogger in exchange for my honest review*

Friday, November 16, 2018

Snow and Home

This morning we awoke to over a foot of snow. Generally we do not have this much snow in November, so it was a bit of a surprise!

With the shorter days and longer nights it helps to keep busy with fun projects. I thought I would share a couple of my recent projects today.
Over the past couple of years I have read several articles about the many health benefits of bone broth. Making bone broth has been on my "to do" list for just as long. Last month I felt like I was coming down with a cold, but after drinking hot bone broth throughout the day all symptoms subsided. At that point I decided I needed to learn how to make bone broth and stock up for the winter ahead!

Making bone broth in a crock pot is very simple. I took the carcass of a chicken that I had roasted for dinner the night before, and placed that in my crock pot with some celery, garlic and onion. I covered the carcass and vegetables with water, then add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. I cooked my broth on low for 24 hours. From what I have read you may cook the broth anywhere from 12-36 hours. I really enjoyed this article about making homemade bone broth.
Last month I made my first successful batch of soap! I was thrilled. I first attempted to make soap about eight years ago. Unfortunately each time I tried to make a batch of soap something would go wrong. Each batch was a failure for a different reason, so I would overcome one problem only to create a new problem. In great frustration I gave up. About two years ago while going through some totes in the attic we came across my tote of soap making equipment and supplies. Adam was intrigued and expressed an interest in making some soap. I explained my past experiences, and then told him he could use my supplies at his own risk! : ) He did, and much to my surprise he made a beautiful batch of lavender soap! After that Adam made several batches of lovely soap.

Witnessing Adam's success finally inspired me to give soap making a second try, and I am so glad I did! Adam guided me through how he made soap, and explained how I might have gone wrong in the past. Since then I have made three batches of soap: rose geranium/patchouli, bergamot/Earl Grey and lavender goat's milk (my favorite!). The soap to the left is the bergamot/Earl Grey, the black specks are pieces of Earl Grey tea, it smells so lovely! This is the recipe I used.
When the weather began to grow cooler this fall I began searching for a fall jacket to purchase for Jemimah. Much to my surprise it was difficult to find a simple, cozy jacket. All of the girls' jackets I found were too lightweight or a color I didn't care for. I considered sewing a jacket, but our nearest JoAnn's Fabric store is a bit of a drive and she needed a jacket sooner than later. 

The first cool autumn day that we went shopping I was considering where I might purchase material to sew a jacket, or a jacket, and decided to visit a Mennonite general store not far from where we live. I spotted this simple gray jacket, only to discover that it was a boys' jacket. All of the girls' jackets were very lightweight.
The price was right, and it was very warm. So I decided I could over look the fact that it was a boys' jacket. Jemimah on the other hand could not overlook the fact that it was a boys' jacket and refused to wear it. 

My mom then had the brilliant idea of adding floral ribbon, and I decided to add a little embroidery too. Jemimah now loves her jacket! It was such a quick and easy was to transform a simple "boys'" jacket into a darling little girls' jacket. It ended up costing less too, less even then sewing a jacket myself. It is so neat to see how the Lord provides!
Earlier this month I finally got around to making apple sauce. We had purchased a bushel of apples, and with so many apple on hand we have enjoyed eating a variety of apple dishes. I believe the unanimous favorite has been apple crisp. It is a snap to prepare, but absolutely delicious served warm from the oven with a glass of milk or cup of tea.

Apple Crisp
5 cups apples, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Spread apples in 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl, and rub in the butter with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Spread evenly over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is browned. Serve with heavy cream.

I hope you are all enjoying the slower days of autumn. What projects are keeping you busy on these snowy days?

"The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad." Psalm 126:3

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Patchwork Quilt

Last month I completed a pinwheel patchwork quilt that I have been working on for a very long time. I actually began work on this quilt prior to marrying Adam. I planned to make a twin quilt for my bed back home using scrap fabric from my many sewing projects. After becoming engaged I had the ambitious idea of sewing a queen sized quilt. I continued to add blocks to my collection, but never quite enough to complete the quilt.
Unfortunately the pinwheel blocks sat in my work basket untouched for a few years until recently.

 My sister found two vintage wooden twin beds along side the road one day. She refurbished one for her little one and gave me the other. It was then that I knew that my patchwork blocks had finally found their destiny! : ) I had enough blocks to sew a twin sized quilt.
This has been a special project for me. Many of the fabric used are now over 15 years old, while some are more recent. The blue and pink square above was sewn from fabric left over from two dresses I sewed for myself. The pink on white calico was a dress I sewed when I was 17. I wore it often to when we began our sewing business and sold at a local Farmers' market. The blue was left from a dress I sewed when engaged to Adam. I wore the dress while on our honeymoon.
The pretty pink rose fabric in the block above was leftover from my sisters' bridesmaid dresses.
Instead of purchasing extra wide backing fabric I decided to piece together some fabric I had on hand. I found it a little difficult to "sandwich" all three layers together. I ended up watching a video that explained how, that definitely helped! But still it was a little tricky since I didn't have a lot of space to spread out.
 I also found a neat video that explained how to attach binding. If I hadn't been in such a hurry I would have liked to have hand stitched the binding, but decided to machine stitch in order to save time. Jemimah was quite impressed with the quilting pins I purchased. She expressed her disappointment that the pins were not a permanent part of the quilt. : )
Instead of quilting my quilt, I used embroidery thread ties. I spent one weekend working away at stitching in approximately 200 ties! It was fun, and possibly my favorite step in creating this quilt.

This project has certainly been a learning experience! It is far from perfect, but with each mistake I have learned how I will do things differently next time.
 Winston also approves of the new bed and quilt. Whenever he comes into the house, and then disappears, we know that he has gone to Jemimah's room!

Adam is now hoping that I will sew a quilt for our bed. I hope to at some point. I definitely have enough scarp fabric to do so! He is always hinting that my scrap fabric collection is getting a little out of hand. I guess I have my work cut out for me... well not quite.