Monthly Archives: December 2013

The last in the series (4) — Christmas…

…food traditions! I learnt during my research that Poland and Greece have rich Christmas culinary traditions! Let’s explore them…

imagesSAKXIC0JPOLAND

Jak będzie Wigilia, tak będzie caly rok.
— “As is wigilia, so is the entire year,” a Polish proverb

I found the Polish Christmas celebrations more focused on tradition than just the food, and these traditions do make for very interesting reading. In trying to keep my posts relatively short, I’ll once again post a link for greater detail of the celebration and the foods eaten. There is a huge assortment of desserts, one of them is Makowiec, a poppy seed cake, pictured here!

For days in advance, Poles prepare the traditional foods and everyone anxiously awaits the moment when the first star, known as Gwiazdka, appears in the eastern sky, and then the feast begins. The Christmas Dinner is known as Wigilia (pronounced VEE-GEEL-YAH), meaning ‘Vigil’, and is meatless. Under the tablecloth is spread a thin layer of hay in memory of the Godchild, Jesus, in the manger. They first break the traditional wafer, Oplatek, and people exchange good wishes for health, wealth and happiness in the New Year. The wafer is known as the ‘bread of love’ and is often sent to absent members of the family. The link posted here will give more information on the entire celebration: http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/christmaseve/a/Polishxmas.htm

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GREECE

Traditionally, Easter is more important than Christmas in Greece. The nation’s three most important holidays are Easter, Christmas and the Assumption. Christmas tends to be a private, family holiday. People eat a meal of roast turkey stuffed with chestnuts, pine seeds, meat and raisins. In some area the meat may be a roasted piglet,  accompanied by baked potatoes, salads and soups. Lamb too is popular. A variety of desserts are made, some amongst them ‘kourabiedes’, pictured here! Once again, here’s a link to more on the Greek celebration of Christmas: http://greekfood.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/tp/christmas_traditions.htm

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While it’s been fun for me to research all these food traditions, I regret I can’t keep writing only about the traditional Christmas foods and this is the last in the series. However, I found fascinating, and delicious sounding dishes from many other cultures notably Romania, and several countries in Central and South America.

Merry Christmas, everyone!…and by the way, in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries people traditionally said, and many still do say, Happy Christmas! I said it all my life while living in India, until I came to North America, and now find it sounds weird :)! The American ‘Merry Christmas’ is becoming more popular everywhere now!

 

More traditional Christmas foods (3)…

…this time from Italy and Germany!

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The Christmas Eve dinner is known in Italy as the Feast of Seven Fishes, and the tradition of serving fish on Christmas Eve is very popular in Southern Italy. The Italians have three special meals during Christmas, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Santo Stefano’s Lunch on Dec. 26. The main meal is usually eaten on Christmas Day and features roasted meat, antipasti, pasta and sparkling wine.

And the array of desserts is pretty mind-boggling. There’s Panettone, Pandoro (pictured here — also spelled Pan d’Oro or Golden Bread), Struffoli, Pizelle, Bucellato, Tortelli, all different kinds of cakes and breads. While researching the Italian Christmas Table I found this awesome link I have posted here. It will give you a fantastic description of how an affluent Christmas celebration in Italy may be like. Do take a look :)! http://www.delallo.com/articles/feasts-natale-traditional-italian-christmas

imagesSWS6EWLCGERMANY

Christmas in Germany is celebrated for two days, December 25th and 26th. While families often gather on Christmas Eve, the meal is usually something simple and varies greatly from household to household.

In some regions the meal may start with Maultaschensuppe, an aromatic dumpling soup and specialty of Swabia in southern Germany. This is followed by a platter of bratwurst, knackwurst, bauernwurst (all sausage varieties). Then the main meal of a roasted goose or carp (turkey is gaining popularity), accompanied by potatoes, sauerkraut, apples, and onions. All is topped off with a mug of hot mulled wine and German butter cookies. One tradition that has survived the decline of Christmas celebration in Germany is the baking of platzchen (Advent biscuits).

The highlight is the Christstollen (pictured above), a type of fruitcake made with dried candied fruit and nuts, dusted with powdered sugar.

 

Traditional Christmas foods (2) :)

In continuing with the series, here’s Part 2 of traditional Christmas foods — this time from Spain and Portugal!

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SPAIN

In Spanish, Christmas Eve is called “La Noche Buena,” literally translated as “The Good Night.” In Spain it is celebrated with a large family feast, which is eaten late in the evening, before or after the Midnight Mass, and can last hours. Some parties may be so food focused they eat through the Mass :)! A typical Spanish Christmas menu for Christmas Eve dinner consists of several courses starting with soup, some simple tapas or appetizers, first course of lobsters and other seafood, main course of roasted lamb or pig, many salad courses in between, ending with a dessert of a variety of cookies (pictured here is a dessert table), nougat, marzipan, crumble cakes and coffee or after-dinner drinks. Are you breathless? I am too :)! In Spain Christmas Eve is a time for celebrating in neighborhood bars and cafes, and around the table with family and friends. Gifts are not exchanged until Epiphany, on January 6, which is another religious holiday.

Out of all the menus and Christmas celebration styles I’ve checked out so far, the Spanish celebration is hands down the winner — a true celebration of life! 🙂 To understand why I say that, click on this link for the whole menu and the drinks that go with it! I’m already telling myself: “How about spending the next Christmas in Spain?” http://spanishfood.about.com/od/holidaysfeasts/a/menunavidad.htm

images7ADQ7RJZPORTUGAL

The traditional Christmas Dinner in Portugal is eaten after people come home from midnight mass which in Portuguese is, ‘Missa do Galo” (Roosters Mass). It needs to include boiled Baccala’ (salt Cod), potatoes, cabbage, Arroz Doce (rice pudding), Rabanadas (French toast), Filhoses (fried deserts), and Broas Del Mel (honey cakes). To top off this Christmas meal is the Bolo Rei or King’s Cake, a fruit cake laced with crystallized fruits and pine nuts (pictured here is a traditional Portuguese dessert table). A classic King’s Cake is oval-shaped. Hidden inside this cake is a small present and a raw dried broad bean. Whoever gets the bean is the one to make or buy the Bolo Rei the next year. The prize in the Bolo Rei is usually a coin or a toy ring. The King’s Cake is traditionally eaten in other cultures on Epiphany, January 6.

Christmas Day is spent visiting family and friends. The traditional meal that day consists of roast chicken, or lamb — turkey is now becoming popular — and is eaten around lunchtime.

The Portuguese seems more immersed in cultural traditions on and around Christmas than other countries. I’m posting a link here for you all to check out for yourselves how busy they are on this day :)! http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/portugal.shtml

 

Traditional Christmas foods (1) — yum :)

I’m someone who loves old traditions, and am a bit sorry each time one or another disappears because of our fast-paced lives. In India, my country of origin, Christmas is celebrated according to British traditions and that’s all I saw and knew while I lived there. Researching traditions in other countries, I found this wonderful website ivillage.com and will share some of the menus here from ‘home’ countries that most North Americans emigrated from.

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ENGLAND

The Christmas meal in England is usually served in the early afternoon on Christmas Day, a modern tradition that allows for the meal to be finished by the airing of the Queen’s Christmas speech at 3 p.m. The traditional roast goose has recently given way in many households to roast turkey (and sometimes roast beef), but many of the accompanying side dishes have stood the test of time. Bread sauce, which as its name suggests, is a basic cream sauce thickened with old bread, is a near-universal favorite. Yorkshire pudding and chipolatas (sausages wrapped in bacon) are often favored, and for dessert, ‘pudding’ is the name of the game. The traditional Christmas pudding (pictured here) is made with dried fruit and nuts, steamed and then aged, often for weeks, to enhance the flavor. It is almost black in color and is flambéed with brandy before serving.

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FRANCE

Traditionally served after midnight mass, the French Christmas meal is known as Le Reveillon. Though it varies from region to region, it’s almost always served with champagne. Foie gras (goose or duck liver) is a common appetizer, as are oysters, smoked salmon and (in Brittany) buckwheat crepes. The main course often features roasted goose stuffed with chestnuts, although turkey is gaining popularity, and other roasted meats like beef and lamb are not uncommon. The traditional dessert (pictured here) of La Reveillon is a buche de noel (yule log), a rolled sponge cake filled with flavored buttercream and decorated to look like a fallen log, finished with powdered sugar (for snow) and meringue mushrooms.

What kind of a meal are YOU planning for Christmas? 🙂

 

Lavender – the mother of all essential oils

images171Z00S1LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL (produced from Lavandula Augustifolia) is the most versatile of all, and is rightly called the ‘mother of essential oils’!

Therapeutic-grade Lavender oil is highly regarded for all skin issues. In addition to that, its fragrance is calming, and emotionally balancing. However, all the benefits are only possible from high-grade, cold distilled essential oils with no chemicals used in their production. I get mine from Young Living Essential Oils*, a Utah-based company, renowned for oils so pure that they can be ingested. For this post I have compiled a list of 15 uses of the Lavender Essential Oil that make it a ‘must have’ oil in a home.

1. Rubbing Lavender oil on the soles of feet may result in a calming effect and smoothening some on your pillow can lead to a good night’s sleep.

2. Putting a drop of Lavender on a bee sting or an insect bite may soothe the itching, stinging, and the discomfort.

3. Putting 2-3 drops of Lavender oil may soothe a burn, and prevent blisters from forming.

4. Dropping the oil on a cut may soothe it, preventing infection, inflammation and the forming of a scar. Using on a skin rash may provide relief.

5. To alleviate the symptoms of motion sickness, place a drop of Lavender oil on the tongue, in and around the navel, and rub some behind the ears.

6. Rubbing the oil on dry, chapped hands, on dry sunburned lips and on cold sores will bring relief and will heal them fast.

untitled7. To reduce and minimize scar tissue from forming, massage the area with Lavender oil.

8. Rubbing a drop of Lavender oil between your palms and inhaling deeply may help in alleviating the discomfort of allergy reactions from air borne pollen and/or dust.

9. Rubbing several drops into the scalp may help with flaking.

10. Placing a few drops on a cotton ball and placing in your linen closet will pleasantly scent the linen and may help repel moths and insects.

11. A few drops on a wet wash cloth, thrown into the dryer will deodorize your laundry.

12. Diffusing Lavender oil in your home will support the immune system and the body’s natural defences against allergens. 

13. Spritzing several drops of Lavender oil mixed with distilled water on a sunburn may calm it down.

14. Apply a couple of drops to the armpits as a deodrant.

15. Having a bottle on you at all times ensures that you never have to suffer the discomfort of finding yourself in malodorous environments.

In such situations, I just open my bottle and inhale deeply. Doing this also provides relief to the lungs when noxious substances such as second hand smoke have been inhaled!

*I must reiterate that if desired results are expected, it is essential that the oils are of a high quality. Very few companies in the world can match the purity of Young Living Essential Oils. To learn more, and to educate yourself, you may click on this link https://www.youngliving.org/kikibakshi

 

Life got you down?

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”* 🙂 … and that’s all it takes to succeed in anything!!

It helps to always split every problem in the four areas that govern our life:

  • the physical
  • the mental
  • the emotional
  • the spiritual

Be sure to take care of each of these areas separately — get whatever help you can and don’t give up! If someone doesn’t know where to get help from, do remember there’s a huge variety of self-help books available in libraries and bookstores. Get hold of some to get started with. In then meantime look for a good coach or guide who can help you!

*This means: “When a situation gets difficult, strong people work harder to meet the challenge.” The origin of the phrase has been attributed to Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), father of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and sometimes to Norwegian-born American football player and coach Knute Rockne (1888–1931)

 

Wine snob no more…

2013-12-12 15_28_45There was a time I used to think that since there’s so much to know and learn about wine, I might as well stick with French wines only and not waste my time and money on any other kind. French wines were supposed to be the best, right? So, why bother with what else was out there! For years I was faithful to this idea till I took a series of wine appreciation courses. I still remember the introductory course I went for. It consisted of a series of five mini-courses on the Old World (from Europe) and the New World (from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and United States) wines. I was pretty astonished at the quality out there, and there was no looking back for me. Gone was my stuffy attitude and as I moved past ‘drinking only French’, I started looking for the good value table wines.

2013-12-12 15_29_49One such that I found is the Portuguese Dão Meia Encosta. Here’s a close up of the label of the wine I had yesterday, so you can see and appreciate the Portuguese accents on the words :)! Dão is a Portuguese wine region situated in the Região Demarcada do Dão in the Dão-Lafões sub region of the Centro, Portugal. It is one of the oldest established wine regions in Portugal.Wine prices in Quebec tend to be much higher than in the other Canadian provinces, in the U.S. and Europe. Despite that, at CA$11.50 this is wonderful spicy wine to drink with meals. It is ruby red, and on the nose are hints of cherries, mint, cinnamon, and pepper. It has enough tannins to beautifully round it off.

Recommended food pairings are grilled meats, chicken, fish, medium cheeses and I would add grilled vegetables to the range. On your next visit to the liquor store, remember to bring home a bottle. When you’re having one of the above mentioned dishes, cool the bottle to 12 – 16 degrees, decant for about 20 – 30 minutes and you’re all set to enjoy a very lovely wine. Saude!*

*Saude, pronounced ‘sah-oo jee’ is ‘Cheers’ in Portuguese 🙂

 

‘Tis the season to be grateful :)

2013-11-19 00_34_48-1My theme song is ‘Have a heart that’s grateful’ :)! I talk about gratitude all the time. There was a time I used to buy these red glass hearts in bulk and give them to everyone I knew asking them to carry them on their person all the time, and when they remembered or noticed the hearts, to stop and be grateful for something in their lives, ideally from that very day. Then, the store I used to buy them at stopped ordering them and I had to stop gifting them. But recently, while puttering around in a craft store I found these satiny red hearts…bigger than the glass ones but flatter, and therefore easier to carry and tuck away.

2013-11-19 00_37_20I also bought little organza gift bags to put them in. I’m ready to start giving out ‘Gratitude Hearts’ again! 🙂

Any chance I get, I tell people around me to do the following:

Before going to bed, write down in a notebook, five things you can be grateful for, that happened that very day—things that brought you a feeling of joy, happiness, even relief…or any other positive emotion that lifted you up in any way at all. Call this notebook your ‘Gratitude Journal’. If you wish to write more than five items then go ahead, but the first five must be from this same day. After all, knowing we have reasons to be grateful, creates a feeling of well-being, and gives our hearts a joyous lift.

2013-11-19 00_47_17How this expressing of gratitude works is that it immediately brings us a feeling of relief, relaxes us at a deep level and changes our brain-chemistry by helping release endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones , which when present in the body act as natural painkillers and provide a sense of comfort, wellness and happiness. This breaks the cycle of depression, and feeling low or run down. Continuing with writing in your ‘Gratitude Journal’ will slowly, but completely, alter how you feel each and every day and happiness will become a habit.

And this is where the fun begins: This sense of well-being will attract more of the same to you, because as we know, like attracts like! WE are the magnets that attracts the good or the bad into our lives. You will see that instead of attracting negative circumstances and events in your life, you will gradually begin to attract those that are a reflection of your relaxed and happy inner state. This may begin with baby-steps, so don’t lose faith! Just keep counting your blessings — there are always blessings to count :)!

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This post is a repeat from November 19, but I think everyone will agree, an excellent and timely repeat 🙂

 

Northern Lights

Northern Lights is a more common name for Aurora Borealis (Polar Aurorae) in the Northern Hemisphere. Aurora means sunrise, and is the name of the Roman goddess of dawn. It is a natural light display in the sky, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms.

untitledThe aurora borealis most often occurs near the equinoxes, which are around March 20, and September 22. In Canada the Aurora Borealis are most commonly seen through March and April, and then in September and October. In checking information online, I found that crisp, crystal clear nights are the best time to see the lights when they’re most clearly visible. Green is the commonest color, followed by pink, and blue is the rarest.

images0E60442BI have this great romantic notion in my head, of going off on an ‘Aurora chase’ with a camera in hand, after I retire :)! Lucky already to be living in Canada, it would be interesting to visit the Northern communities here, around Yellowknife and Kuujjuaq. The idea of traveling to remote settlements in any of the Norwegian counties, and Scandinavian countries sounds particularly appealing. It’s all right there, at the very top on the Bucket List 😉

images5I0SFP0DTravelers’ tales say that the aurora can generate noise such as claps, crackles, and static sounds, usually faint and brief. I have read many first hand accounts of people who’ve witnessed the lights and they’ve reported hearing sounds too.

The southern counterpart, of the Northern Lights is the Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights. Their features are almost identical to the Aurora Borealis and they change simultaneously with changes in the northern auroral zone. They’re visible from high southern latitudes in the Antartica, South America, New Zealand and Australia!

 

What hugs do for us :)

Family therapist Virginia Satir has said, ” We need four hugs a day for survival; eight
hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve a day for growth.”
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Since the reader’s of this blog have already
finished growing physically, we may aim
for either the four or the eight :)!” If that feels
excessive to you, check out what experts have
found…
Hugs instantly boost our oxytocin levels which
heal the blues. Hugs also balance the nervous
system; increase blood circulation; relax the
muscles; increase serotonin levels in the brain which lead to feelings of exhilaration
and happiness.
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But what to do, if modern life and culture and
our circumstances impose a solitary existence
on us? Well, the block is in the mind, really — it is
absolutely possible to find and create situations
where hugs can be found.
If nothing else works just cross your arms and
hug yourself, telling yourself how special and
loving you are :)!
Go on, look for a few hugs, and allow yourself to feel the difference between
the before and the after after! 🙂
P.S. Can anyone tell me what I’m doing wrong to have the formatting so badly off 🙁 —
thanks!