The Legend of the Christmas Candle

The Legend of the Christmas Candle

I used to make candles to give away as Christmas gifts.  My children have also made special candles with shells (that they collected on our trips to the east coast) right in the wax for gifts to friends and teachers.  So in the true spirit of the Christmas season, I’d like to share a story that I used to enclose with my candle gifts:

The Legend of the Christmas Candle

Many years ago, a cobbler and his wife lived in a cottage on the edge of a village in Austria.  They had few possessions but whatever they owned, they shared with others.  Symbolic of this generosity and love of mankind was the lighted candle they placed in the window of their cottage.  Over a period of years, war, famine, and destruction fell upon this little village – and yet, through it all, the cobbler and his wife suffered far less than the other villagers.  “Surely there is something special about them; they are always spared from our misfortunes”, said the villagers.  “Let us put a candle in our window and see if that is the mysterious charm”.

Now it happened that the first night that a candle was lighted in the window of every home was Christmas Eve, and before the first rays of the morning sun, a messenger rode into the village to bring the great news – peace had come!  That Christmas Day there was amazement and awe in the hearts of the humble villagers.  And, as they gave thanks for the blessing of peace, they said to one another “Let us always remember to light candles on Christmas Eve.”

And now, many years later, this beautiful custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas, has spread all over the world, sending forth of message of love, hope, and cheer.

———————

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2011 and SEASON’S GREETINGS TO EVERYONE!  Peace

 

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Christmas Baking

Let me tell you what I’ve been up to lately:   baking for Christmastime.  I love to bake many special treats to give as gifts or to munch on during the holiday season.  My son Darin conveniently came over for tea one afternoon this week just after I’d finished baking his favourite Christmas squares.  Hmmmm.   Of course, we had to “test drive” all the baking :  Hello Dollies, Chocolate Cocoanut Macaroons, Chocolate Chow Mein Clusters,  and Rice Krispie Squares!  I call them my “Christmas” baking as I only bake these desserts at Christmastime…..to keep them special.

All women, men, and children who bake must have a love for chemistry and physics as well.   For instance, take today’s Peanut Brittle I made:  the water, corn syrup, and sugar come to a boil (212F or 100C) very quickly, but it doesn’t stop there.  Slowly the temperature rises beyond the boiling point of water and when it reaches 300F (I always use a Candy Thermometer) it has reached the hard crack stage. Now it’s time to take it off the heat and add the butter, then salt and peanuts.  VERY quickly it needs to be spread onto a buttered cookie sheet as the chemical reactions continues to harden the candy.  By the time it’s cooled down, the peanut brittle tray can be smacked hard against the counter or floor to break up the candy into bite size pieces.  Here’s the recipe if your interested:

1+1/2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup water (I use boiling water to rinse out the corn syrup measuring cup)

Boil this to 300F -Hard crack.  Stir constantly sort of, for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from heat and very quickly add (have this ready):

2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1+1/2 cup salted Peanuts

MIX FAST then pour onto the buttered cookie sheet.

Other than people with peanut allergies,  who doesn’t like homemade Peanut Brittle!  I usually put it into a large mouth glass jar for gift giving.

This recipe and all the other Christmas treats I bake, are from  my ‘self published’ cookbook, Mom’s Recipes .  I compiled all my homemade recipes  for my children and combined them into a “cookbook” and gave a copy  to each one of them when they grew up and left home.  I’ve also given Mom’s Recipes  as a wedding gift and birthday gifts.

All that’s left to do is make the Cherry Cheesecake on Christmas Eve so it’s fresh and ready for dessert on Christmas Day when my children, children-in-law, and grandchildren arrive!

Homemade Peanut Brittle

I Love Wood Heat

My firewood

I love heating with wood.  Today it’s 10 degrees @ suppertime (no kidding, in the cold, “white” north!) and I just came inside with a box of wood for my cookstove for tomorrow….

I’ve been heating my home with wood for over 30 years now.  I guess these days you could say that I have a “hybrid” heating system:  I have my beloved Heartland “Sweetheart” cookstove in the diningroom/kitchen which Chris bought me in 1998  (after the ice storm to replace an older woodstove).  It’s the best wood stove I ever had:  it’s easy to light, add wood, can hold a burn all night long, and I’m never plagued with downdrafts.  And I cook and bake in it all winter long.   I just LOVE it!  It’s  like the stove our Grandparents had, but it’s only made today to meet all the new woodstove  specifications.  My second wood stove is a Pellet Stove which we installed downstairs in 2006 to replace a very small woodstove.  I have alot of mixed feelings about the pellet stove:  it’s very eco-friendly because it utilizes hardwood sawdust that would otherwise have gone to waste, energy efficient,  has low emissions,  BUT  it runs on electricity:  an auger motor and an exhaust fan, which invade my auditory space.  However it IS convenient – Melvin carries down the 40 lbs bags for me and can fire it up anytime by simply pressing the ON button.  The kids complain that it’s too noisy and not as warm as the old little woodstove……which is still in the garage, just in case.  Then there’s the original oil furnace that came with the house.  One time it took us 3 1/2 years to burn a tank of oil.  It IS helpful to keep the house from freezing if we are ever away or  I get deathly ill…. I would say we use it 10% of the time.   Outside we have two wood fire places:  the Chimnea up near the house and the bonfire pit down by the river.  We’ve had many a good time over the years around the bonfire:  neighbourhood parties, Kristi and Mike’s wedding, guitar playing and singing, fishing @ the fire, etc.

Oh I know all the facts…..BTUs, seasoned hardwood, chimney fires…..but the real fact is I LOVE wood heat – that warm radiant heat which finds it’s way through the house and gives it and US a big warm hug.  I love chopping firewood too.  My firewood guy doesn’t cut it into cookstove size “sticks” for me; no sir-ee, no woosy size pieces of firewood for this gal – I want to chop my wood into the size pieces that I need for the coming day.  My woodshed can hold 10 cords with room to split and is thankfully attached to the back of our attached garage.  I have 5 axes plus a maul which surprisingly has become my favourite tool…

My firewood comes from down the road – I have a great firewood guy who delivers seasoned hardwood for me in the spring when I want it (I like to let it “cook” in the sun all summer long before we move it into the woodshed).  My pellets come from a hardwood floor manufacturer about 50 or so miles away.  My bonfire wood comes from our own property usually.  I guess you could say I’m on a 100 mile Wood Heat “diet”….  did I mention I LOVE heating with wood?

Woodshed

O Christmas Tree

Yesterday we went out and got our Christmas tree.   It’s always a planned event involving as many of the family as possible.  This year Nellie, Melvin & Kelsey, Kristi & Mike and their 3 foster children, Darin & Amanda and Kalia and Livi, and Me were all searching for our own Perfect Christmas Tree.   The day was perfect:  temperature around -1 C with a bit of a wind chill making it feel abit colder, and the most beautiful blue skies with the occasional timely dusting of snowflakes.

I like to cut our own Christmas Tree, as I mentioned already in my previous blog “Christmas of Years Past”.  The tree always stays fresher longer when it’s cut the same day as it comes into the house.  And I feel that I have to do my part to support the local Christmas tree farmers whose livelihood is depending on us doing business with them.  It’s kinda like “the 100 mile Christmas Tree diet” you could say.  And you can’t beat the price of $25.00!

I’m glad to report that nobody got “lost” this year in the forest.  We all stayed within eyesight of each other and I even wore my bright pink “anyone can find me in a crowd” hat, just in case.  Amazingly, it took less than an hour for each one of us to decide which tree was the perfect Christmas tree for each of our homes!  ALL the kids had a chance to either use the saw to cut the tree or drag the tree back to the cars – what teamwork!!

The only casualty was my car’s muffler: it broke off in the field and we had to throw it into the back of the car!  It was a very noisy ride home!

We all went back to Darin and Amanda’s for hot chocolate and supper of delicious homemade pizza and chicken wings.

It was dark by the time we arrived back home, but by the time I let the dog out and took the tree off the car’s roof, Melvin and Nellie had already re-arranged the livingroom furniture to accomodate the tree.  Melvin got the tree into the house singlehandedly (boy, is he getting strong!), into the tree stand, and up in the corner in 5 minutes flat!  We wired it to a hook in the ceiling to ensure our new little kitten doesn’t knock it over somehow.  I love how the pine scent drifts through the house competing with the hint of wood smoke smell.

SO now, today, we are putting the LED lights AND the few bubble lights I have left, on and all the decorations we’ve accumulated over the past years, like the little bird nest one of the kids found, the mini grapevine wreathes Darin made me about 25 years ago, my 2 Perce Rock decorations, homemade picture decorations of the children, the knitted decorations Gramma Mellway made for us, Young Marty’s paper Star Wars ship he made with “The Forse is Forever” written on it, Nana Lil’s painstakingly homemade popsicle stick mini sleighs for EACH one of us,  brass engraved (thanks again Debbie) ornaments for ALL my kids, spouses, and grandchildren, and now 8 year old Kalia’s crocheted bell!  All to the traditional songs of Christmas music ……played on Satellite radio. lol

Nellie Cutting the Christmas Tree

DIY Granny

Today I was busy with another “Project” around the house- Melvin was complaining that his room was really cold (and he’s usually a ‘furnace’) so I knew I couldn’t put off exploring insulating any longer:

Most people would just “call” someone, explain the problem, and get it fixed. But I’ve always been kind of a “Do-It-Yourselfer”……..just because I’m a Gramma, THAT shouldn’t stop me, right? SO…..I started carefully taking down his suspended ceiling tiles (made from those paper-like 12″x12″s) that were stapled to the homemade wood braces, along the exterior wall where I figured the cold was somehow seeping in. Luckily I had already moved everything on the floor away from my work area…..what a mess! I even had to chop out some drywall that was extended up above the ceiling and then cut out some 1″ white beaded styrofoam that the drywall was glued to…..just to get to the header where the foundation meets the wood structure of the house. Whew! I could DEFINITELY feel a cold draft as I was working away, so I knew I was on the right track. I filled the cavity with pieces of Roxul insulation along the south wall without slashing myself with the exacto knife.

DIY has it’s perks….I know exactly how it’s done (for good or bad), I can take my time, and it fits in my budget. DIY also has it’s disadvantages, I guess: like the mouse poo that falls out of the ceiling into my hair when I took the ceiling tiles down; climbing up and down a ladder with my arthritic knee; not able to fully extend my arm due to my shoulder injury; lacking the full strength to pull out staples and nails….I could go on and on. Oh yes, I know what you’re thinking – Dar would say ” why didn’t you just ask me….” -and I appreciate ALL the things he does for me already . Melvin too, but it’s just easier to do it in the daytime when I’ve got enough energy! Well I’m almost done -I finally found the staple gun out in the mudroom (to put the ceiling tiles back up) but still can’t find the staples, so I guess I’ll have to pick some up next time I’m in town @ Canadian Tire. I’m sure Melvin won’t mind looking at a construction site as he falls blissfully to sleep……

Now I wonder if his west wall header is insulated…………

P.S. I want to apologize to all my children who occupied that room and were too cold. Better late than never.

Melvin "helping" Daddy 1996

Christmas of Years Past

While getting ready for the Christmas season, I just can’t help but reminisce about all those Christmas’ past:

The first thing I like to do in early December is set up my Christmas Village (now known as the Winter Village as it stays up till March) that Taylor got me one year about 16 years ago.  I still have the same mirror a.k.a. skating pond and have added several “figures” over the years like my favourites:  the Woman hanging the wash on the line with real mini cloth sheets….and the men chopping wood (I made a woodpile from my apple tree branches, glued together )…..and my bonfire made from stones from the driveway glued with crepe paper flames…

I think about my gifting that actually begins long before the Christmas “shopping frenzy” -I’m not a big fan of shopping malls and stores at the best of times.  My kids have commented over the years that I can come up with the best gifts not found in any mall worldwide -like the photo album I compiled for Kristi with every picture I had of her……

I think about the kids when they were little wee ones and how excited they got about the Christmas tree and even the boxes the gifts came in -I think one of Marty’s favourite presents was a huge box we scored from BiWay and turned into a fort by cutting out windows and doors……

I think about cutting the Christmas tree.  I especially like a fresh cut tree, but I’ve found that many of the Christmas tree farms have gone all “cityfied” with sleigh rides, bonfires, and even gift shops!!  But a few years ago, we discovered a REAL Christmas tree farm that sells…..cut your own Christmas trees!!   And it feels like you are really out in the back forty cutting your tree……well I think Darin actually was last year, but that’s another story.

I think about all the Christmas movies we’ve collected over the years like Chip and Dale; Hughie, Louie, Dewie, and Uncle Donald Duck; Mickey Christmas Carol; A Mom for Christmas; The Grinch, of course (baby grinch -Livi’s name for the original Dr. Suess’ AND the hilarious Jim Carey grinch); Garfield; etc. and my favourite of all time, The Muppet Family Christmas.  We start watching them at the beginning of December since it takes all month to get through them all.  It warms my heart to see my grandchildren watching and loving them now too.

I think about the baking:  Chocolate Cocoanut Macaroons (Amanda’s favourite), Hello Dollies, Peanut Brittle, Nanaimo Bars,  Rice Krispie Squares, Chocolate Chow Mein Clusters, and of course the Cherry Cheesecake.

I think about how I LOVE the family getting together on Christmas Day.  I truly miss my children who live far away and don’t make it back for Christmas, but you are still here….in spirit and the echoes of all those Christmas’ past that live in the walls of this house.

My World

Hello everyone….

For awhile I’ve been thinking about sharing my happenings in a blog…..so here it is!  I’m sure I’ll learn as I go along….

Please “subscribe” or do whatever so you can follow along and keep up to the happenings here.

So today’s blog is……

it’s presently raining and 8 degrees….and it’s December!  We are supposed to get some snow starting tonight.  I’ve got a fire in the cookstove since it’s damp without it.  Melvin’s gone go school and Nellie’s with Kristi….the cat and dog are sleeping, as usual.  I’ve been working on Christmas…..my village is set up but the cat loves sleeping on it so all the figures look like Stormtroopers went through…..lol

I’m going to make this post short just in case I goof up lol.  Please keep up …..and have a great day!

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