On any given day you are most likely to find us communing with the gnomes and the fairies Under The Old Oak Tree

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our First Candlemas

Yesterday we celebrated our first Candlemas. One of the major ways we have chosen to bring Waldorf principals into our home is by celebrating some of the festivals. I love how they add to the gentle rhythm of the year. At this point the celebrations are as much for DH and I as they are for W. He's just over a year old, and while he seems to enjoy the celebrations, most of it doesn't really mean too much to him yet. This year was our first experience with Candlemas and it was truly lovely. I wrote previously about our preparations for Candlemas.

I think they served us well. Yesterday, W watched while I made butter in a jar with marbles. It was fun, but my jar was too small and I didn't have an empty larger one so everything was transferred to a larger plastic food storage container and it worked beautifully. Lesson learned...for a pint of cream use a quart size jar. Talking to Grammy today, I was also told that I should have rinsed my butter in water to keep it from going rancid. I need to do some more research on that and think about it for next year. For the small amount of butter we made (it just filled one of my small ramekins) I'm not going to worry about it going rancid though. This was the best tasting, sweetest, yummiest butter I can ever remember eating! W and I also both really enjoyed the buttermilk too! We ate a little bit of the butter on some homemade bread as a snack and saved the rest for dinner.

W and I also worked on getting the living room and dining room of our home clean during the day. This was sort of the ceremonial beginning to our spring cleaning but was really mostly just a surface straightening up. W of course proceeded to pull all of his toys back out after that, so things didn't seem to be straightened up for very long.

While W ate his lunch I planted the forget-me-not and alpine strawberry seeds for our little nature table pots. W watched while he ate and was very interested in the whole process. I'm really looking forward to involving him with the garden this year. He loves to be outside and he loves plants. We come from a long line of gardeners and it is something I look forward to sharing with him as well.

For our dinner, I had not ground any wheat earlier and wanted to make whole wheat pancakes, so I decided on these blender pancakes. They were pretty good with lots of texture to them. I mixed up a double batch, but because I have problems turning pancakes (one skill I have been trying to master my whole life with no success) DH agreed to do the actual cooking of the pancakes and "ground hog" sausage. I was also happy that there were several breakfasts worth of pancakes left over to go into our freezer.

We placed our birthday ring with all 9 candles on an elevated plate and placed our heart candle in the middle.

When they were all lit and the lights were turned off they gave a beautiful glow to the room and plenty of light to read by. DH commented that if we light candles like that every night, we could greatly reduce our use of electricity. I of course love this idea! W seemed to be enchanted by the candle light too, repeating "See! See!" over and over.

While we gobbled pancakes, I told DH about the special things W and I had already done to celebrate Candlemas and talked about the symbolism of the different things we had done. We also read some Candlemas verses and DH sang a rousing and theatrical version of this groundhog song to the delight of W and myself. I also read from Luke 2:22-40 which tells of Jesus being presented at the temple and encountering Simeon and Anna. After that I read this charming little story about the Snowdrop which I chose to use instead of the story about St. Bridget, which I'll save till W is older.

We ended our meal with a discussion about the upcoming season of Lent and I have decided to give up soda for Lent this year.

Later in the evening, while DH was doing the bedtime routine with W, I spent some time reading The Postage Stamp Garden Book: Grow Tons of Vegetables in Small Places and planning my early cold season garden. I only have about a 4'X4' space to work with beside our back steps so this book gives me wonderful ideas about what and how much to plant there and how to get the most out of my little plot. This spring I plan to plant sugar snap peas, carrots, radishes, beets, lettuce and onions in my little plot!

As Candlemas is also a time for renewed creativity, I finished off the evening working on a handwork project. I am currently knitting up bunches of little cotton squares to use as family cloth. I'm sure sewing up some flannel would be a quicker process for this, but, I'm just more likely to get around to knitting some squares up, so that's what I am doing for now to get the ball rolling.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Simple Pleasures In The Midst of All This Cold Weather

This morning over our breakfast, I was reflecting on some of the lovely simple pleasures we have enjoyed during this cold snowy weekend. We try to keep the temperature of our thermostat set somewhere in the mid to upper 60's. At night we also usually turn it down further before bed, since we use lots of blankets and the upstairs bedrooms tend to be warmer than the first floor. This, combined with windows that are not particularly energy efficient, means that, in this weather, it can be a bit chilly, especially in the morning. Still, it makes both economic and environmental sense.

We try to wear warm layers on these really cold days, and I will even consent to wearing slippers (I'm usually a barefoot kind of gal). I also look for things I can do in the kitchen to help to create a warmer home. I bake bread, I've re-seasoned our cast-iron, we've made homemade pizza. In cold weather, stews are also a favorite here, made in a Dutch oven, slow cooked in the oven over time. Since I was a little girl, my favorite breakfast on these cold types of mornings has been steaming hot rice pudding.

Rice Pudding
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (I usually cook this in the rice cooker the night before)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or other sweetener- I use 1/4 cup brown sugar and a heaping tablespoon of stevia)
  • 1/2-1 cup raisins
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place rice, milk, sweetener, raisins and cinnamon sticks in pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently till thickened. Stir in vanilla.

This can be served immediately as a hot porridge or serve chilled for dessert.

Another of my favorite simple warming pleasures on these cold days is to place a large pot of hot water and one or two cinnamon sticks on the stove to simmer throughout the day. The hot water steams releasing heat and moisture into the air along with the wonderful scent of the cinnamon. I also throughout the day will ladle some of this strong and fragrant hot tea into a mug as my drink of choice.


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