The Feast of Saint Nicholas is the beginning of our Christmas. December 6, 2007 is also the beginning of my commonweeder blog which I celebrate with great pleasure. Every year on this date I have thought about the many wonderful gardeners and others who have shared their skills and talents with me. I have learned and laughed and given thanks for my good fortune. This year as I celebrate my 80th birthday all these happy days of the past shine brightly and I thank all those who have made it so.
This afternoon we got our ornaments out of the attic. There are so many memories attached to these ornaments. I have used the wooden star for 50 years at the top of my tree. Over the years I have collected many little birds, some made of wood, and some more feathered, but all treasured. The ornament of hens, The rooster crows but the hen delivers, was given to me by Bob Keir, who was my boss for a number of years at Greenfield Community College.The little felt children were handmade one year when the children were young. My mother gave me Heart-in-Hand which is a symbol of Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers. The phrase “Put your hands to work and your hearts to God” is a good thought to carry all year.
I have other boxes of lights and shiny balls, of garlands and other simpler ornaments that remind me of the blessings of each year. In 1989 my husband left for a year in Beijing, China. I left my job at GCC and Henry took a sabbatical that would bring him back to UMass when we returned.
We arrived in Beijing in the middle of the night, met by my soon-to-be co-workers. They took us to The Friendship Hotel where we would spend the next 12 months. When we got to the hotel we could hear strange chanting. My new boss explained that it was the students chanting in Tianenmen Square, the beginning of the Tianenmen Massacre that changed the atmosphere of our year.
We learned many things about China, the government, and its history. I liked to hear the old stories of gods and magical characters. Monkey King is a mischievous hero, getting into as much trouble as doing good. He can jump into the clouds and he has a magic wand. The book of his adventures, Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classics, and describes Monkey King accompanying the Monk on his white horse, Sandy who was also there to protect the Monk and Pigsy. We met another American family with a six year old who had memorized great sections of the story – in a child’s version. Very exciting.
Of course, since this is the Feast of Saint Nicholas I always bake cookies in honor of the treats that Saint Nicholas leaves in the shoes of good little children.
This year it is not easy to arrange this. The pandemic keeps all of us in our own houses, celebrating as best we can Zoom-ing, and bringing cookies to neighbors – who have to wait to eat them until they are are not touched my Covid-19. Below is my recipe for a holiday treat.
Double Ginger Shortbread
2 c flour
1 t ground ginger
¼ t salt
½ lb butter
2/3 c confectionary sugar
½ c crystallized ginger, cut into little pieces
*Cream butter and sugar
*Add flour mixed with ginger and salt
*Add minced ginger
*Make 2 balls of dough and chill 1 hour
*Roll our dough to ½ inch and cut with cookie cutter
*Put on ungreased sheet (I use Silpat)
*Bake about12-15 minutes in 350 degree oven
*Let cool til firm and enjoy. You can store for two weeks.
The most recent treat is a large jar of brandied fruits, raisins, currants, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots, zest of orange peel, then orange flesh and juice, lemon juice and one cup of brandy. The jar must be turned a couple of times a day.This will be ready to use with other pastries in another week.
So on this Feast of Saint Nicholas and my 13th Blogoversary I wish you all well, and happy holidays and good health.