st. brigid’s day

st. brigid’s day

Faoi bhrat bhríde sinn
(we are under the cloak of Brigid)

Saint Brigid’s Day takes place each year on February 1st. St. Brigid was born in Ireland about 450 A.D. She and her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom Brigid maintained a close friendship. In her adult life she started many convents and became the first Abbess of Ireland. She also founded a school of art at which many famous illuminated manuscripts were created, including the Book of Kildare. Many miracles are attributed to St. Brigid.

For our celebration we made St. Brigid’s Sweet Bannock (see recipe below), and we also made some St. Brigid’s Crosses out of pipe cleaners. This is such an easy craft—even a three year old can do it! I used this tutorial. We also read a lovely book called Brigid’s Cloak , written by Bryce Milligan with watercolor pictures by Helen Cann. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Brigid’s overwhelming generosity toward those in need, and the origins of her miraculous cloak. The bannock took virtually no time to prepare, and the crosses were a nice afternoon craft for the kids. Feasts and festivals don’t have to involve an overwhelming amount of work—little celebrations can be just as meaningful as big ones.

st. brigid 1
st. brigid 2
st. brigid collage
st. brigid 3

St. Brigid’s Sweet Bannock, adapted from a recipe by Tressabelle

Ingredients:
½ cup salted butter (1 stick)
¼ cup honey
2 cups white or wheat flour (I used whole wheat which made a very dense bannock)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup rolled oats
¼ – ½ cup buttermilk (you can make this using regular milk with a bit of vinegar)

*to make vegan: use vegan butter in place of dairy butter; use agave nectar or maple syrup in place of honey; and use any type of non-dairy milk mixed with about a tablespoon of lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar in place of buttermilk (add juice or vinegar first, and then fill to the desired measuring line).

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and honey together. Mix the dry ingredients together and stir into the butter-honey mixture. Add buttermilk until a dough forms (I need a little over ¼ cup). Roll into a ball and flatten onto a greased cookie sheet. Cut a cross into the top with a knife. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

For more ideas and inspiration for celebrating St. Brigid’s Day, visit my Pinterest board!

Follow around the year’s board Feasts & Festivals // Candlemas & St. Brigid’s Day on Pinterest.

christmas

christmas

Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it;
that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate.

-– G.K. Chesterton, from The New Jerusalem, Ch. 5

our christmas 47

And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that
He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains
and oceans — and all that lives and move upon them.
He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit
and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–
and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.

— Sigrid Undset

christmas collage

When I was a little girl, Christmas was always one of my favorite times of the year. I absolutely loved the Nativity story — hearing it, performing it, or reading about it in my little picture book called Christmas Is… by Nancy McConnell (I still have this book and read it to my children on Christmas Eve). There was something so compelling about baby Jesus — this tiny, helpless little creature that would grow up to save the world — and Mary seemed so warm and loving, the perfect mother. As an adult I went through a period where I really struggled with my faith, and even went so far as to declare myself an unbeliever. It was a time of bitter heartache, but perhaps it was necessary in order for me to grow as a person of faith. In any case, the thing I missed most above all else was my relationship to the Nativity story. Just the thought of it would bring me to tears! Christmas will always involve presents, and that’s not an entirely bad thing, but the Nativity will always be at the heart of the day for me.

activity :: a peg doll nativity

This year I wanted my children to have a nativity that was artistic and beautiful, but also durable enough to be touched and played with. I looked around online and found many lovely nativity sets, but they were all upwards of $200-$300! Around the same time I started experimenting with making peg dolls for our nature table. I thought to myself, wouldn’t these peg dolls make an interesting nativity? One thing I don’t have is tons of cash, but I do have some free time (occasionally) and I love to make things, so I gave it a shot. I didn’t use any patterns; I just created their faces and clothes as I worked on each one. I’m so happy with the finished product, and I hope my children enjoy looking at it and playing with it for years to come. [Just a note: I did not make the wooden animals; the peg doll bodies came from ArtDexi.]

The Book of Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 1-20 (KJV)

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

st. nicholas day

st. nicholas day

The Feast of St. Nicholas, or St. Nicholas Day as it is commonly called, takes place each year on December 6th. In the United States we don’t really celebrate St. Nicholas Day, but in some European countries it is just as big a deal as Christmas is here. St. Nicholas was a Bishop in Lycia (modern-day Turkey) during the 4th Century A.D. One legend regarding his works and character is as follows: St. Nicholas heard that children in a neighboring village were impoverished and starving because of a famine. So, he instructed his own servants to harvest everything on his estate and they all traveled to the village and distributed the food to the starving children. No matter how much he gave away, there always seemed to be more in his sack. There are other versions of this story, but the common theme is that they all involve miraculous quantities of food provided by St. Nicholas. Because he was willing to give it away, God helped him to provide it. The St. Nicholas Center has an enormous amount of information about St. Nicholas’s life, his works, and ways that his feast day can be celebrated — it is worth a visit. You might be surprised by how much our modern-day Christmas resembles this ancient feast day! And, beyond the fun, St. Nicholas is a wonderful model for how to be a good human being; the embodiment of love, kindness, and generosity.

st nicholas day 1

For our little celebration at home we had each of the kids fill a bag for each other and hang it on the doorknob to be opened in the morning. Europeans typically use shoes but I made bags because they are cleaner, and can be reused year after year. In this year’s bag each of my children received candycanes, a chocolate orange, two gold dollar coins, a St. Nicholas peg doll, and a book. We also read The Baker’s Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale , written by Aaron Shepherd with pictures by Wendy Edelson. This beautifully illustrated children’s book tells the story of a baker, Van Amsterdam, who always gives his customers exactly what they pay for; no more, no less. That is, until he receives a special visitor who teaches him that sometimes by giving more, we get more in return. This afternoon we’ll be baking and decorating Speculatius, or German spice cookies, for ourselves and for others. You can find the recipe below. Happy St. Nicholas Day!

st nicholas day 2
st nicholas day 3
st nicholas day 4

Speculatius (German Spice Cookies), from St. Nicholas Center

Mix in order:

1 cup shortening
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs whole (or 3 tbsp egg replacer mixed with half cup water)
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cloves

Turn out onto a floured board. Knead in about one cup additional flour or as much as you need until dough is no longer sticky and is easy to handle.

Put into a plastic bag and refrigerate until chilled and stiff. Then you are ready to roll out and cut the cookies. Cut off a manageable piece and keep the rest cool until you are ready for more.

For many little cut-out shapes, roll out the dough thinly. Thin cookies are tastiest.

For the larger, decorated St. Nicholas cookies, roll the dough to about ¼ inch thickness. Cut out cookie around paper pattern. Place on greased baking sheet.Then get inspired. Use scrappy bits of dough to decorate your Nicholas. For a beard press a little dough through a sieve or a garlic press. Use little balls of dough for eyes or buttons.

Bake at 350º F. until golden-brown. These keep forever in tins in the freezer or for two–three weeks on the shelf.

For more ideas and inspiration for celebrating St. Nicholas Day, visit my Pinterest board!

Follow around the year’s board Feasts & Festivals // St. Nicholas Day on Pinterest.

martinmas

martinmas

martinmas 2

“The nights will be long, dark, and cold.
Jack Frost will freeze the ground.
How shall I find the light
With so much darkness all around?”

Said Father Sun, “I’ll give you from my
Last autumn rays, a spark,
If you will make a little house
To hold it in the dark.”

from “George’s Lantern” by Anonymous

Martinmas, or the Feast of St. Martin of Tours takes place each year on November 11th. The story of St. Martin (b. 316 A.D.) begins with his decision as a young man to become a Catechumen (a convert to Christianity who has not yet been baptized), against the wishes of his parents. Although conscripted into the Roman army, he found his duties as a soldier to be at odds with his new Christian faith. After a series of trials and tribulations (including being jailed for refusing to fight) he was baptized and embraced monastic life; he was made Bishop of Tours in 371 A.D. He is, however, most famous for an event which occurred during his time as a Roman soldier. Legend tells us that upon entering the gates of Amiens, France on a cold, snowy evening Martin happened upon a beggar clothed in nothing but rags. Without a second thought, Martin took his sword and cut his red military cloak in half and gave part of it to the beggar. That night Martin dreamt that he saw Christ wrapped in the piece of cloak, which solidified his faith and was perhaps the catalyst for the rest of his life’s work. You can read more about St. Martin in the November 2015 issue of the around the year newsletter.

For special days such as this I always like to spend a little time creating festive decorations, like the glittery stars on our branch mobile, and also I like to venture into the woods to find some natural elements to decorate the table. In the evening we eat a delicious feast in honor of St. Martin (recipes below) and read The Star Child, written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm & illustrated by Bernadette Watts (purchased here). This beautiful picture book tells the story of a little orphan girl who gives away everything she has, even the clothing on her back, and is handsomely rewarded with star money falling from heaven — a perfect complement to the legend of St. Martin. In much of Europe the Feast of St. Martin is celebrated with a lantern walk in the evening, and so we do the same. We make beautiful lanterns with glass jars and tissue paper, and process with them around our neighborhood. There is something so wonderful about watching the light reach out into the darkness; to know that each of us carry a “light” just like this inside of us and that we can use it as a force for good in the world, as St. Martin did so long ago.

martinmas collage 1
martinmas collage 2
martinmas 3
martinmas collage 3
martinmas 4
martinmas collage 5
martinmas 5
martinmas collage 1
martinmas 7
martinmas 11
martinmas 12
martinmas 11

The Menu

Martinmas, like many feast days, usually involves a lot of meat—traditionally roasted goose or sausages. I’m a vegetarian, so I created my own menu based on some of the traditions associated with Martinmas, especially in Europe. We have wine because St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of vintners. I adapted a recipe for Sausages & Apples using my favorite brand of vegetarian sausages, and threw in a side of roasted carrots and parsnips because they’re quintessential late autumn vegetables. Wine poached pears are a phenomenally delicious nod to medieval cookery, and surprisingly easy to prepare. And, of course, a Martinmas meal would not be complete without Vanilla Horseshoe Cookies, which are traditionally made for St. Martin’s beautiful white horse—they’re quite tasty for humans, too!


Sausages with Apples & Onions

adapted from Food&Wine

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 (8-ounce) box of MorningStar Farms® Veggie Sausage Links
1/4 c water
1/4 c apple cider
2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp marjoram
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until slightly softened. Add garlic and marjoram and sauté for an additional 30 seconds.
2. Add sausages, water and cider to skillet. Cook until water is mostly evaporated.
3. Add apples, cover, and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.


Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
1 lb carrots, cut into thick strips (about 2″ long)
1 lb parsnips, peeled, cut into thick strips (about 2″ long)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large baking pan, toss carrots, parsnips, oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly throughout pan.
3. Roast vegetables until tender, stirring occasionally, for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Serve immediately.


Red Wine Poached Pears

adapted from The Spruce

Ingredients:
2 large pears, peeled, halved, and cored
1 1/2 c red wine
3/4 c sugar
2 Tbsp apple cider
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. Combine wine, sugar, apple cider, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large skillet, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Add pears, flat side down, and simmer for about 10 minutes; flip pears over and simmer an additional 10 minutes.
3. Remove pears to cool a bit. Continue simmering wine sauce until it has reduced by about half (a spoon dragged through the sauce should leave a trail).
4. Remove sauce from heat and pour over pears. Serve warm, but not hot.


Vanilla Horseshoe Cookies

adapted from Catholic Culture

Ingredients:
1 c salted butter, softened
1/2 c confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 c rolled oats, uncooked

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream butter. Add sugar gradually while continuing to cream; beat until fluffy.
3. Stir in vanilla, flour, and salt. Add rolled oats and blend by hand, kneading the oats into the dough while still in the bowl.
4. Take a bit of dough, roll into a short “snake” shape, and then bend into a horseshoe on the cookie sheet. Repeat until cookie sheet is filled. These cookies don’t rise much, so they can be placed pretty close together. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove carefully from cookie sheet, as cookies are very rich and break easily—place on rack, and enjoy at room temperature.

For more ideas and inspiration for celebrating Martinmas, visit my Pinterest board!

Follow around the year’s board Feasts & Festivals // Martinmas on Pinterest.

michaelmas

michaelmas

Friend butterfly, friend butterfly, go fetch them one and all!
I’m waiting here to welcome every guest;
And tell them it is Michaelmas, and soon the leaves will fall,
But I think Autumn sunshine is the best!

— Cicely Mary Barker

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not…
— Revelation 12:7-8

wild aster collage

Michaelmas, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, takes place each year on September 29th. Its close proximity to the equinox makes it an ideal time to celebrate the change of the seasons, and to prepare for the waning of daylight that happens as we turn away from the sun (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere). A celebration for the Archangel Michael, who symbolizes light and protection against evil, helps to prepare one to face not only the physical darkness of the fall and winter months, but also the metaphoric darkness that we face both in the world and in ourselves. With a young child involved it seemed best to keep the mood cheerful and light, and to keep the focus on the preparation of food and assembling of supplies. Zane and I spent our day gathering wild asters and getting ready to prepare our Michaelmas feast (see recipes below).

michaelmas 1
michaelmas 2
michaelmas 3
michaelmas 4
michaelmas 5
michaelmas 6
michaelmas 7
michaelmas 8
michaelmas 9

Traditionally a goose is eaten on Michaelmas, but I’m a vegetarian so I chose a slightly different menu and took a picture of some geese instead 🙂

Carrot Bisque from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:
3 lbs. carrots, peeled and diced into small pieces (1/2″ or less)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil of some sort
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
3 cups vegetable broth, of vegetable bouillon cube in 3 cups water
1 can coconut milk (13 oz)
1 tbsp maple syrup

Directions:
Cook carrots and onions in the oil, covered, until mostly softened. Add the spices and garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add coconut milk and bring to a low boil. Next, you will puree the soup. She says do 1/2, I do the whole thing and I do it with an immersion blender. You can do whatever you like. Add the maple syrup.


Saint Michael’s Bannock, adapted from several recipes
(this is not a traditional bannock, but more of a very hearty tea bread)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 & 1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white raisins
1 1/2 cup buttermilk*
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg

*Buttermilk can be made using any milk of your choice (dairy or non-dairy) and a tablespoon of lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar per cup of buttermilk required. Add the juice or vinegar first, and then fill to the desired measuring line.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375º F. In a large bowl, sift both flours together. Add salt, baking powder and soda to sifted flours. Add the spices and stir until mixed. Add oats, sugar, and raisins to flour mixture. Slowly add the buttermilk and mix by hand until thoroughly combined. Pour into a greased bread pan and bake for 35-45 minutes.


Mixed Berry Crisp, adapted from a recipe by Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:
4 cups frozen mixed berries (including blackberries, which are a traditional Michaelmas food)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter or margarine, softened, cut into pieces
3/4 cup rolled oats

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 375°F. Grease a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish with butter or margarine, or spray with vegetable cooking spray. Spread the berries evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the lemon juice. In a bowl, using a pastry blender or fork, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, butter and rolled oats until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over the berries. Bake until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Serve hot or warm, with ice cream or whipped cream!

For more ideas and inspiration for celebrating Michaelmas, visit my Pinterest board!

Follow around the year’s board Feasts & Festivals // Michaelmas on Pinterest.

Copyright © 2015 Kelli Ann Wilson & aroundtheyear.org. No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials; backlinks allowed. Questions? Email kelli@aroundtheyear.org.

feeding wild birds

feeding wild birds

I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.
–Psalm 50:11

One of the most satisfying projects that I engaged in this past winter was feeding the wild birds that live in or near my yard. It was fairly easy and inexpensive, and really only required a little bit of diligence on my part to keep the feeding areas free of snow, and make sure the feeders were re-stocked when the seeds were running low.

feedthebirdscollage

Images copyright (from left): Ilse Schmid; Jenny Nystrom; Rie Cranmer; Gerda Muller; Eloise Wilkin.

Beyond the obvious pleasure of bird-watching, there are many good reasons for feeding wild birds, especially in winter. The Humane Society of the United States states: “Bird feeding is most helpful at times of when birds need the most energy, such as during temperature extremes, migration, and in late winter or early spring, when natural seed sources are depleted.” I don’t know about you, but in the deep, dark days of winter I always wonder how those little creatures stay alive, especially here in New England where temperatures can get very, very cold. The answer involves a variety of factors: birds have a higher metabolism than humans, and thus their bodies run at a higher temperature; many species grow special feathers that act as a sort of down blanket in the winter, holding heat close to their bodies; they fluff, tuck, and sun themselves, but they also spend a lot of time shivering. This last bit is one of the reasons why feeding birds is so important — if they don’t have enough food, they won’t have enough energy to do the things they need to do to keep themselves warm.

Brave little fighters, go on with your battle–
Here is a friend who will welcome you all!
Fly to my window–I’ll feed every comer–
Hail to the comrades that constancy show
Loving and loyal, in winter and summer–
With us, alike, in the heat and the snow!

-– From “Winter Birds” by Andrew Downing

There are lots of possibilities to explore in regards to feeding wild birds, but what we chose to do this year was hang two very simple wooden birdfeeders (I used this pattern), one in the front of the house, one in the back, as well as to shovel out a circular area in the backyard in which to scatter seeds, and the occasional peanut. Blue jays love peanuts. Of course, we had plenty of squirrels come along with the birds, but I really don’t mind. I know they need to eat, too. Because we hung our feeders right alongside the windows of our house, we were able to spend many happy hours watching the birds eat; we had a wonderful time trying to identify all of the different species. Having different types of feeding locations helped us to attract a wide variety, from mourning doves (who feed on the ground) to finches, nuthatches, and titmice (who like to eat from feeders). Next year I would love to add a bird table for the species that want to be somewhere in between.

    Good for Birds to Eat:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Thistle Seed
  • Millet
  • Fruit
  • Seed Mixes formulated for Wild Birds
  • Roasted Peanuts
    Not Good for Birds to Eat:

  • Raw Peanuts: they inhibit protein absorption in birds and small mammals
  • “People Food”: items like bread and table scraps provide almost no nutritional value to birds, and moldy bread can make birds sick.

Here are some pictures I took of our feathered (and furry) friends this winter.