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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 01/11/13

Friday, January 11, 2013

TOP 10 CHRISTMAS BOOKS!


   Nothing quite celebrates the feeling of the Holiday season like an engrossing and wonderful book. Many stories have been written about Christmas and Santa Claus, but very few of those take the theme and make it into something truly special and important. Here are ten of the finest examples. Be sure to post your favorites in the comments.




10. The Greatest Story Ever ToldFulton Oursler


G.S.E.T.




   In this highly regarded 1949 account about the life of Jesus, Oursler imbued the New Testament gospels with life, embellishing them with descriptive detail, dialog and personality. The compelling fictionalized narrative remains faithful to the scriptures throughout. The author captures the essence of the compassionate, yet forceful Son of God and his mission amidst the political, religious and social turmoil of the early first century. This program’s messages are timeless and ever relevant and will have wide appeal.




9. The Polar ExpressChris Van Allsburg


Polar+Express.Gif




   It tells the story of a young boy on Christmas Eve, patiently lying in bed. Suddenly, a magical train called the Polar Express pulls up in front of his house, and the boy is invited to journey to the North Pole. The train is filled with many other children, all dressed in their pajamas. As the train reaches the North Pole, the boy and the other children see thousands of elves gathered at the center of town to send Santa on his way. The boy is handpicked by Santa Claus to receive the first gift of Christmas. Realizing that he could choose anything in the world, the boy asks for one beautiful-sounding silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. The boy places the bell in the pocket of his robe and all the children watch as Santa takes off for his yearly delivery. Later, on the train, the boy discovers that the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. On Christmas morning, his sister finds a small present wrapped under the tree, behind all of the other gifts. The boy opens the box and discovers that it is the bell, delivered by Santa, who found it on the seat of his sleigh. When the boy rings the bell, both he and his sister marvel at the beautiful sound. His parents, however, are unable to hear the bell and remark that it must be broken. However, those who believe can hear it.




8. The Christmas TreeJudy Salamon


The+Christmas+Tree




   The chief gardener at Rockefeller Center dreads Christmas because one of his responsibilities is the selection of the center’s giant Christmas tree, which is not an easy job. Thus, he is thrilled one spring to have found the perfect tree so early, and foresees no problem in persuading the nuns who own the property on which the tree stands to let him have it. Then he meets Sister Anthony, who came to the convent as a young orphan and made a close friend of the Norway Spruce she calls “Tree.”




7. The Crippled LambMax Lucado


Crippled+Lamb





   Joshua the Lamb is crippled, so the other animals leave him behind in the stable. His tears of loneliness turn to joy, however, when he realizes that because of his difference, he gets to be right there when Jesus is born! From the classic art to the surprise ending, this tender story will help all children see that God has a very special plan for their lives.




6. The Christmas BoxRichard Paul Evans


Christmas+Box






   The story relates how a young couple, Richard (who narrates) and Keri, accept a position to care for a lonely widow, Mary Parkin, in her spacious Victorian mansion. As Christmas draws near, Mary becomes anxious about Richard’s obsession with success and his failure to make time for his family. She urges him to reconsider his priorities, but he is always too busy to heed her advice. It is only when Mary is on her deathbed, and her secret sorrow is revealed through the letter-laden Christmas box of the title, that Richard realizes what she has been trying to tell him. The message concerns love, of course, and the strings Evans pulls to vivify it should squeeze sobs from even the stoniest of hearts.


5. The Best Christmas Pageant EverBarbara Robinson


Best+Pageant

   

Year after year a small town puts on their re-telling of the Christmas Story from the Bible, and year after year it’s always the same. Alice Wendleken is always Mary while Elmer Hopkins, son of the minister, is always Joseph. But this year that changes. After the usual director, Ms. Helen Armstrong, breaks her leg, housewife Grace Bradley steps up to direct. This is bad news for her children, Beth and Charlie, who are always in the pageant, but never want to be, as well as her husband Bob, who puts his best effort into staying home for the pageant. But things get even worse. The Herdmans (Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Ollie, Claude and Gladys), who are deemed the worst kids in the world, find out about the pageant after Charlie tells Leroy that it doesn’t matter if he steals his lunch because he can get refreshments at Sunday School. The Herdmans show up and get all the leading roles because no one wants to be anywhere near them. During the weeks leading up to the show all of the rehearsals are a disaster. And just as it looks like the pageant would be terrible as well, the Herdmans seem to pull their act together to turn it into the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.




4. One Wintry NightRuth Bell Graham


One+Wintry




   In a complex, lengthy picture book for older readers, an injured mountain boy, caught in a snowstorm at Christmastime, is taken in by a woman who lives in a log home the boy’s grandfather helped build years before. After the snowbound pair become acquainted and the grandfather is notified of the boy’s whereabouts, the woman launches into a telling of the Christmas story–beginning with the Creation and ending with the Resurrection. The setup seems awkward, but once the main story gets under way, things become more believable. Watson’s artwork is unusually arresting, offering plenty of visual subtext to support the ambitious undertaking, which is actually a condensed retelling of the entire Bible. The double-spread Nativity scene truly commands attention, particularly the striking face of the young girl Anna, who has come to see the Christ child.




3. Twas The Night Before ChristmasClement Moore


Nightbefore




   The poem, ‘A Visit From St. Nickolas’ (also known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’, and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ (from its first line), first published in 1823, is largely responsible for the contemporary American conception of Santa Claus, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and first-ever printing of the names of his reindeer, and his delivery of toys to children.




2. How The Grinch Stole ChristmasDr. Seuss


Grinch




   The Grinch, whose heart is two sizes too small, hates Who-ville’s holiday celebrations, and plans to steal all the presents to prevent Christmas from coming. To his amazement, Christmas comes anyway, and the Grinch discovers the true meaning of the holiday.




1. A Christmas CarolCharles Dickens


Christmas+Carol




    A Christmas Carol is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of one evening. Mr Scrooge is a financier/money-changer, who has devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth. He holds anything other than money in contempt, including friendship, love and the Christmas season. In keeping with the musical analogy of the title, A Christmas Carol, Dickens divides his literary work into five “staves” instead of chapters. This is a little joke Dickens has carried out throughout the story, it adds humour to the story and links in, because a stave is something you will find in a piece of music, and a “carol” is a type of music/song.

PLUM PUDDING, A TRADITIONAL ENGLISH DESSERT FOR THE HOLIDAYS!








    Plum pudding or Christmas pudding, as it is more popularly known, has its origins in England. It is often served about Christmas time, or usually around Advent time. It has been a family tradition in many homes to have a "stir up Sunday", when each child is allowed to stir the pudding and make a wish.


What is Plum Pudding?

    It's almost black color comes from the heavy dried fruits that are used to make it. Traditionally, plum puddings are boiled or steamed using a pudding cloth and would sometimes have charms mixed inside them.  The charms may either be a silver coin, a silver thimble, anchor or ring which all stand for good things in life such as good luck, wealth, a happy marriage and a safe trip.
    A plum pudding does not really have plums in it, but it is full of dried fruits and nuts,mixed with beef suet and citrus fruit juices or alcohol such as beer, rum or brandy. It is often dried out before it is served, as the longer it is allowed to dry, the stronger the flavor becomes. When it is ready to be served, it is steamed and some more alcohol or juice is spread on it to bring out a strong aroma. it may be served with a sprig of holly on top, some custard or cream, and is often decorated with caster sugar on top that somewhat resembles snow flakes.
    Historically speaking, plum puddings probably originated in England during the Victorian period, around 1420. It was first prepared and served not as a dessert, but as a way to preserve meats and make them last all throughout periods when meats are not readily available. The various dried fruits were used as preservatives. During the reign of Elizabeth I, prunes were used and the name "plum pudding" evolved.
    It was only during the mid 1800's that the dish became more popular as a food often served during the Christmas season. These days, ready made puddings are available in stores, specialty shops and supermarkets. Although home made plum puddings are still preferred as perfect gifts for relatives and friends during the Christmas season, ready made cooked puddings are just as good, without going through many hours of preparation.






PLUM PUDDING RECIPE



Total Time:
4 hr 30 min
Prep
30 min
Cook
4 hr 0 min

Yield:
approximately 10 to 12 serving
Level:
Easy


Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 cup chopped suet
  • 1 cup prune pulp
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup uncooked chopped prunes
  • 1/4 cup candied lemon peel, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Hard Sauce, recipe follows



Directions

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Mix together the rest of the ingredients, except the egg whites, adding just the yolks. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Grease a pudding mold dredged with sugar and pour in batter. Cover the mold with its lid or cover tightly with foil. Steam for 3 to 4 hours, depending on the size of your mold. Serve hot with hard sauce. If you are not serving the pudding immediately, store in the refrigerator soaking in 1 ounce of brandy. Add 1 ounce each week.
Serve with warmed Hard Sauce.


Hard sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream the butter in an electric mixer until pale in color. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the flavorings and mix in then adjust, to taste.


Ingredients

  • cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 cup chopped suet
  • 1 cup prune pulp
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup uncooked chopped prunes
  • 1/4 cup candied lemon peel, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Hard Sauce, recipe follows




Directions

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Mix together the rest of the ingredients, except the egg whites, adding just the yolks. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Grease a pudding mold dredged with sugar and pour in batter. Cover the mold with its lid or cover tightly with foil. Steam for 3 to 4 hours, depending on the size of your mold. Serve hot with hard sauce. If you are not serving the pudding immediately, store in the refrigerator soaking in 1 ounce of brandy. Add 1 ounce each week.
Serve with warmed Hard Sauce.



Hard sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream the butter in an electric mixer until pale in color. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the flavorings and mix in then adjust, to taste.

HOGMANAY IN SCOTLAND!!





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The Origins of Hogmanay 
A guid New Year to ane an` a` and mony may ye see!
   While New Year's Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event - and have their own name for it, Hogmanay.
   There are many theories about the derivation of the word "Hogmanay". The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was "Hoggo-nott" while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) "hoog min dag" means "great love day". Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French. "Homme est nĂ©" or "Man is born" while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was "aguillaneuf" while in Normandy presents given at that time were "hoguignetes". Take your pick!
   In Scotland a similar practice to that in Normandy was recorded, rather disapprovingly, by the Church.
"It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane."
Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693.



Torchlight Procession


Hogmanay Traditional Celebrations 
    Historians believe that we inherited the celebration from the Vikings who, coming from even further north than ourselves, paid even more attention to the passing of the shortest day. In Shetland, where the Viking influence was strongest, New Year is called Yules, from the Scandinavian word.    It may not be widely known but Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. The reason for this has its roots in the Protestant Reformation when the Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast and therefore had to be banned. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when  family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called hogmanay.
   There are traditions before midnight such as cleaning the house on 31st December (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common). There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight.




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   Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns' "For Auld Lang Syne". Burns claimed it was based on an earlier fragment and certainly the tune was in print over 80 years before he published his version in 1788.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."


   An integral part of the Hogmanay partying, which continues very much today, is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality and of course a kiss to wish everyone a Guid New Year. The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.
   "First footing" (that is, the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is still common in Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be male, dark (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky. These days, however, whisky and perhaps shortbread are the only items still prevalent (and available).
   "Handselling" was the custom of gift giving on the first Monday of the New Year but this has died out.



Torchlight Procession


Torch of The Bonfire Ceremonies
   The magical Firework display and torchlight procession in Edinburgh - and throughout many cities in Scotland - is reminiscent of the ancient custom at Scottish Hogmanay pagan parties hundreds of years ago.
   The traditional New Year ceremony of yesteryear would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village being hit by sticks. The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires, rolling blazing tar barrels down the hill and tossing torches. Animal hide was also wrapped around sticks and ignited which produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective to ward off evil spirits. The smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.
   Some of these customs do continue, especially in the small, older communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where tradition, along with language and dialect are kept alive and well. On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, the young boys form themselves into opposing bands, the leader of each wears a sheep skin, while a member carries a sack. The bands move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme. On being invited inside, the leader walks clockwise around the fire, while everyone hits the skin with sticks. The boys would be given some bannocks - fruit buns - for their sack before moving on to the next house.




Image Detail





   One of the most spectacular Fire ceremonies takes place in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen on the North East coast. Giant fireballs, weighing up to 20 pounds are lit and swung around on five feet long metal poles, requiring 60 men to carry them as they march up and down the High Street. The origin of the pre-Christian custom is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice of late December with the fireballs signifying the power of the sun, to purify the world by consuming evil spirits.
   And it is worth remembering that January 2nd is a holiday in Scotland as well as the first day of the year - to give us all time to recover from a week of merry-making and celebration, all part of Scotland's fascinating cultural legacy of ancient customs and traditions surrounding the pagan festival of Hogmanay.

HOW TO MAKE A TEXTURED ROLLER!


How to: Make a texture roller 


This project is instant gratification. Something that is not that common in the world of clay. With this texture roller, you can use it as soon as the hot glue has cooling, which is very fast. It’s a great project to do in a class, or on your own so you have a custom tool that no one else has.
Supplies:
  • a roller of some sort (cut up pieces of PVC, empty rolls of tape, couplings for PVC, plastic rolling pins from the dollar store or craft store).
  • a sharpie.
  • a hot glue gun. They only cost a couple of bucks.
  • extra hot glue sticks.
Draw your pattern onto the rolling pin. It’s easier to work out the pattern before with a Sharpie than it is later with the hot glue. Think about some sort of connected pattern, they tend to have the best results. And don’t go overboard with the lines, you’ll regret it later. And remember that the hot glue line aren’t going to be perfect, so just go with the imperfection.
While you’re drawing, plug in your hot glue gun. Make sure that you do it on a surface that you can toss when done, like newspaper or cardboard. When you’re done drawing on your design, start gluing. Be a bit heavy handed with the glue. If the lines are too thin, they won’t show up on the clay as well.
After the glue seems cool, start rolling away… The first attempt might stick a bit, but after there is some dusty clay on the roller, it won’t really stick.
If you’re not a hand builder, a nice use for one of these textured slabs is in the bottom of a thrown and altered casserole.