Herbal Household Remedies: Home

Home is where the heart is.

Among all the news about Covid 19 and the recent developments in Italy, the tidbit that struck me the most was that having to stay home purportedly took the joy right out of life for many Italians.

It makes me wonder.  How common is it that people do not actually like to be home?  Do people not like their families, significant others or pets, for that matter, well enough to actually spend time with them?  What’s wrong with staying home that it would deprive people of what makes life worth living?

I guess the thrust of my health-considerations for today is clear by now:  How healthy can it be to call a place ‘home’ that you don’t actually like to be at?  Where do people prefer to spend their time that being home is experienced as such a burden?

Here is something to consider:  Many people even of our grandparent’s generation still spent most of their life living in the same area, and most of their days in or around the house or homestead.  In fact, for by far the larger chunk of human history, spending time with your family or clan was the normal, traditional way of life.  Neither extensive circles of friends, nor many hours spent shopping or being entertained otherwise, nor extensive travel were part of people’s lives, surely not on a regular basis.  Consequently, people were a lot less concerned about other people’s business and a lot more concerned with their own, and put a good bit of effort into making their living place a home indeed.

Every crisis is also an opportunity.  Maybe we can use this pandemic to reconsider our lifestyles and turn our houses into homes again, places where we love to spend time rather than places that we flee.  It’s the way our ancestors lived.

Home is where the heart is.  If you do not have a home, where, pray tell, is your heart?

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Happy puppy

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Old Customs

“What’s wrong with the old customs?”

The first of Sam and Rosie’s children was born on the 25th of March, a date that Sam noted.
‘Well, Mr. Frodo,’ he said.  ‘I’m in a bit of a fix.  Rose and me had settled to call him Frodo, with your leave; but its’ not HIM, it’s HER.  Though as pretty a maidchild as anyone could hope for, taking after Rose more than me, luckily.  So we don’t know what to do.’
‘Well, Sam,’ said Frodo, ‘what’s wrong with the old customs?  Choose a flower name like Rose.  Half the maidchildren in the Shire are called by such names, and what could be better?’
‘I suppose you’re right, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam.  ‘I’ve heard some beautiful names on my travels, but I suppose they’re a bit too grand for daily wear and tear, as you might say.  The Gaffer, he says: “Make it short, and then you won’t have to cut it short before you can use it.”  But if it’s to be a flower name, then I don’t trouble about the length: it must be a beautiful flower, because, you see, I think she is very beautiful, and is going to be beautifuller still.’
Frodo thought for a moment.  ‘Well, Sam, what about ELANOR, the sun-star, you remember the little golden flower in the grass of Lothlórien?’
‘You’re right again, Mr. Frodo!’ said Sam delighted.  ‘That’s what I wanted.’

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings

What indeed?

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Gingerbread Village

Knusper, knusper, knaeuschen, wer knuspert an meinem Haeuschen?

It’s not to late to make a gingerbread house for Christmas!  This year, we made a village of little houses rather than one larger house.  It was fun to make!  Here’s what you need:

Gingerbread Village

Ingredients

  • 1 box of Graham crackers
  • 1 bag of powdered sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • small candy of you choice, such as ernies or skittles, sourpatch kids, mini candy canes, chocolate-covered pretzels, candied fruit slices, candy corn, mini marshmallows, reeses pieces, chocolate rocks and the like
  • some coconut flakes

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Directions

  • Cover a board, piece of plywood or spare baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Mix lemon juice and powdered sugar into a thick paste that serves as edible glue.
  • Break graham crackers in half.  From three halves, make a triangular hut with one half as the bottom, gluing the gable together and the roof onto the bottom graham cracker.
  • When you have made all the houses you want, arrange them on the board like you wish and decorate them and the space between them with your candy.  The thicker the glue, the less things will slide.
  • When you have decorated to your heart’s content, drizzle more runny glue over the houses for icicles (good to use up leftover lemon juice) or sprinkle with coconut flakes or powdered sugar for a snowy effect.

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Traditionally, gingerbread houses (or Knusperhaeuschen, as the Germans call them) belong under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.  It’s not a bad idea to cover it when it is not used as decoration or being raided to keep it from getting overly dusty before it is all eaten.

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Make sure to polish it off during the 12 days of Christmas!

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Dresdner Stollen

I have never visited Dresden in the far east of Germany, but sure enjoy this traditional seasonal food.

Now here’s a kind of sweet Christmas bread we always had during Advent when I was a child, though bought rather than self-baked.  Last year we got this recipe from a friend and gave it a try.  Turned out very tasty, although technically, we did not make “Dresdner Stollen”: By law of the EU, only Stollen made in Dresden and according to set standards can be sold as “Dresdner Stollen”.  Well, we rather ate than sold ours, and thus avoided the legal hassle.  😉  Oh, incidentally, no marzipan in this one, just almonds.

Stollen has a long shelf life if you can keep it away from hungry people.

Dresdner Stollen

Ingredients (for 2 Stollen)

  • 2 1/2 cups raisins
  • 4 Tbl rum (I use port wine or orange juice)
  • 8 cups flour
  • 2 packages dry yeast (or 2 cubes of fresh yeast, if available)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or mace
  • 1 lb unsalted butter, soft or melted
  • 1 to 2 cups warm milk (depending on the kind of flour you are using)
  • 1.5 oz almonds, chopped
  • 4 oz candied lemon peel, finely chopped
  • 4 oz candied orange peel, finely chopped
  • unsalted butter for coating
  • confectioners sugar for dusting

Directions

  • Soak the raisins in the rum (or port wine) over night.  You can use orange juice instead, if you wish to avoid the alcohol.
  • Combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, zest and nutmeg.  Add melted (but not too hot) butter, then enough warm milk to make a smooth yeast dough.  If butter or milk are too hot, they will kill the yeast.
  • Incorporate almonds and candied peel.  Finally knead in raisins.  Let rise for 1 hour.
  • When the dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Punch down and knead the dough once more, then divide into two pieces and shape two Stollen loaves.
  • Bake for about 1 hour on a baking sheet.
  • Take out of the oven, brush generously with butter and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Store tightly wrapped so it doesn’t dry out.  Tastes great with butter, or dipped in coffee or cocoa, or just as it is.

 

Herbal Household Remedies: Feast and Fast

Feasts can only be significant if not every meal is a banquet.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  There is so much to be thankful for!  Enjoy your feast, enjoy your family time, enjoy the festiveness and all that happens in your family traditionally on this day.

It is good to celebrate the feasts in our lives, the special, significant meals that we share with those we love.  Thanksgiving is one of them, and so is Christmas dinner.  In between the two, there lies Advent, a time to prepare for Christmas.  Today, I would like to encourage you to follow an old tradition and fast during Advent in some way.

Feasts can only be significant if not every meal is a banquet.  Feasting as well as fasting are part and parcel of many (all?) religious traditions, and it should come as no surprise that it is good for us to not always eat as much as we can hold, and to not always abstain from most things.  It is also good to break routine every once in a while and prove to ourselves that we CAN do without coffee for four weeks, or without tea, or without chocolate, or without dessert, or without meat, or without fast food.

Simplify your dietary habits so that feasts like today stand out as significant.  Alternate feast and fast.  Enjoy the times of plenty, and the times of restraint.  It will strengthen your mind as well as your body.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Traditional Christmas Pudding

It’s still time to make a Christmas pudding, folks!

Four weeks a good Christmas pudding is supposed to rest before it is served on Christmas Day, and while our traditional day for preparing the pudding – the Sunday after Thanksgiving, that is – is a bit late this year, you can still do it this week!  It takes a bit of time, but is well worth it.   Here is our recipe – modified from someone else’s in years of practice.  Have fun!

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Traditional Christmas Pudding

**  Needs to sit in a cool and dry place for four weeks at least, so prepare it on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but start latest on the evening of 25th of November by marinating the dried fruits over night.  On the next day, the pudding needs to steam for 7 (seven) hours, so make sure you can stay home for it. **

Ingredients

  • 1 lb raisins (can be a mix of raisins, currants and golden raisins)
  • 1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 an orange, grated zest and juice
  • 1/2 lemon, grated zest and juice
  • 4 Tbsp port wine
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp apple pie spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup lard, shredded
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/8 cup chopped almonds
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Directions

The night before you plan to steam the pudding, mix raisins, apple, zest and juice of lemon and orange and the port well in a large bowl.  Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and let sit to marinate over night.

The next day, lightly butter a 2 1/2 pint (1.4 liter) pudding basin (with or without lid).  Then add the remaining ingredients in the order given above into the fruit mixture and stir well.  I usually work the lard in with my hands.  The complete mixture should have a fairly soft consistency.

When all ingredients are mixed, gather the family around the table for the Christmas pudding tradition of taking turns in stirring, making a wish and adding a few coins.  Use silver coins, please.

Spoon the mixture in the prepared pudding basin, pressing down lightly with the back of the spoon.  Cover with a double layer of wax paper, then put on the lid, or add a layer of aluminum foil and tie it securely with a string.

Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 7 (seven) hours.  Pay attention that the saucepan does not fall dry.  The pudding should be a deep brown color when cooked.  It is not a light cake, but a dark, sticky, dense sponge.

Remove the pudding from the steamer, cool completely (over night).  Remove the paper, cover with fresh paper and put the lid (or aluminum foil plus string) back on.  Store in a cool and dry place for at least 4 full weeks (28 days), until Christmas Day.

***

On Christmas Day, reheat the pudding by steaming it for another hour.  Serve with copious amounts of vanilla sauce.  Leftovers (if any!) can be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and heated through in a hot oven.

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QUOTE: Robert Graves

C.S. Lewis agrees.

C.S. Lewis agrees.

The modern licence claimed by novelists and short-story writers to use their imaginations as freely as they please prevents students of mythology from realizing that in North-Western Europe, where the post-Classical Greek novel was not in circulation, story-tellers did not invent their plots and characters but continually retold the same traditional tales, extemporizing only when their memory was at fault. Unless religious or social change forced a modification of the plot or a modernization of incident, the audience expected to hear the tales told in the accustomed way. Almost all were explanations of ritual or religious theory, overlaid with history: a body of instruction corresponding with the Hebrew Scriptures and having many elements in common with them.

~Robert Graves, “The White Goddess”

Classical Sunday: Celtic Harp

Escape civilization for an hour.

Maybe not technically classical, but surely enjoyable harp music with lots of familiar melodies.  Escape civilization for an hour…

Painting: “The Madness Tristan” by Edward Burne-Jones

Celtic Harp – Traditional Melodies

01 – Scarborough Fair
02 – Greensleeves
03 – The Lamb´s Fold
04 – The Willow Tree
05 – Mary Young and Fair
06 – All Through the Night
07 – Drink to me Only With Thin Eyes
08 – The Rising of the Lark
09 – My Love is like a Red Red Rose
10 – The Queen´s Marsh
11 – Flowers of The Forest
12 – The Foggy Dew
13 – Gather Ye Rose Buds
14 – Harp of Gold
15 – Cornish Dance
16 – Teh Silkie
17 – The Last Rose of Summer
18 – The Minstrel Boy
19 – The Harp the Once Through Tara´s Hall
20 – Carolan´s Nightcap – Ode to Whiskey
21 – Leuan´s, The Blind Harpist´s Delight
22 – Scottish Love Song
23 – Eris Kay Love Lilt

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