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Christmas 2009


A Picture from Edna

Christmas is Christians’ flawed attempt to honor the birthday of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He deserves better, but the harder we try to honor Him, the more we seem to diminish the celebration. I am certain that Jesus understands us better than we understand ourselves.

The image, Creche at Washington Cathedral, was originally uploaded by Edna Barney. It is posted here from Barneykin’s flickr account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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Today, January 5th is the Eve of the Epiphany. A Picture from Edna

For our ancestors, who celebrated “Old Christmas,” the night preceding January 6th is the Eve of Epiphany. It was on this night, over 2000 years ago, that the Magi came to Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.

Today, the Day of Epiphany is still known as “Old Christmas,” which was the day that Christmas was celebrated before the calendar changed in the 18th century. One of the old beliefs concerning the Day of Epiphany was that a person should never lend anything to anybody on Old Christmas Day, because the lender would never get it back again. Also, the Eve of Epiphany is the night when the Holy Spirit manifests Itself upon the earth in many subtle ways. Upon that night, no matter how hard the ground was frozen, elder bushes would sprout from the ground. Even more mysterious is our ancestors’ belief that at midnight on Old Christmas Eve, if they crept silently into a barn or field, they could hear the cattle and sheep praying. At the exact stroke of midnight on Old Christmas Eve, animals would start moo-ing and baa-ing and bellowing as though they were crying, in remembrance of their own ancestors who had been present in the stable at Bethlehem to witness the birth of the Christ Child and His revelation to the Magi.

A wonderful book that I am reading about celebrating Christmas in England of long ago is “Old Christmas” by Washington Irving.

The image, The Epiphany, was originally uploaded by barneykin. It is posted here from Barneykin’s flickr account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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A Picture from Edna

My Christmas Gifts For You

I made this Christmas card using Picnik. My 2008 Christmas Card, was originally uploaded by barneykin. It is posted here from Barneykin’s FLICKR account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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On my 66th celebration of Christmas I am reminded of the storybook I owned so long ago on the shore of Maryland in the early 1940s. The memories came flooding back when I received one of those Internet emails that makes the rounds during these days of mass email messages.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

As a little girl  I loved reading the poem and following the illustrations about the outcast red-nosed reindeer. However, that was all I knew about the book. I did not know that the story was written by a 34-year-old employee of the Montgomery Ward’s department store, Robert L. May, and published by Ward’s store in 1939, for distribution as a promotional gift. 

That had to have been how the book came to be in my possession, as every Christmastime, my parents motored the fifteen or so miles to Baltimore to do holiday shopping at “Monkey Wards” while  my brother and I excitedly told Santa Claus our Christmas wish list. By 1946, Montgomery Ward’s had given away more than six million of the storybooks, one of which most certainly had been a Christmas gift to me from the Monkey Ward’s Santa.

In the old book , except for his shiny nose, Rudolph was just an ordinary reindeer somewhere with his parents in an ordinary reindeer village. Rudolph was taunted and laughed at by the other reindeer youngsters for his luminous snout.  Santa discovered the young reindeer’s glowing nose quite by accident one foggy Christmas eve, when he saw light coming from Rudolph’s bedroom whilst delivering presents to Rudolph’s reindeer family.  Worried about the thickening fog and reduced visibility for his air-born sleigh, Santa requested Rudolph to lead his legendary team of reindeer. By the end of the journey Santa proclaimed Rudolph with his shiny nose to be the hero of that Christmas Eve night: “By YOU last night’s journey was actually bossed.  Without you, I’m certain we’d all have been lost!

The image, Rudolph Reindeer, was originally uploaded by barneykin. It is posted here from Barneykin’s flickr account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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This year while touring the Mount Vernon plantation during the holiday month of December, I spotted something I had never seen before. It was ceremoniously displayed upon the grand dining room table of the Washingtons. To me it looked like a porcupine all covered with snow. Although it was most certainly something edible, I had no idea what. It had a tiny rodent-like face, nose and ears, behind which were blazing white long and slender sticks of something inserted all around its oval body. Later I was told that those long sticks were slivers of almonds, however I have never seen any almonds that long.

When I asked the docent what was that creature, she responded “haven’t you ever seen a Hedgehog Cake?” No, I’ve never seen one nor ever even heard of one. I am very accustomed to seeing Martha Washington’s great cake on that table. That is her recipe that begins with “take 40 eggs … and 4 pounds of butter.”

As photography of the dining room was not permitted, I have only my “vanishing memories” to remind me of what I saw that day. Therefore, I tried to find a picture of Mrs. Washington’s Hedgehog Cake on the Internet. I could not find one recipe nor one picture of her most interesting cake. What I did discover though, is that I am the only person in the whole wide world who is not familiar with the supposedly wonderful concoction known as a Hedgehog Cake. At Flickr I found enough pictures to made a “Slide Show of Hedgehog Cakes.”

Knowing that the Mount Vernon staff is consciencious to being historically accurate, such as no Christmas trees in General Washington’s home at Christmas, I tried researching Hedgehog Cakes to discover why an 18th century Virginia family would have such a cake. We have never had such little creatures scurrying about our hedges and pathways; hedgehogs are unknown in all of the United States, as far as I know. 

I discovered that English cookbook authoress Hannah Glasse had a recipe for Hedgehog Cake by about 1747. It may have been an ancestor somehow to the late 18th century’s popular British dessert of Tipsy Cake, a sponge cake soaked with some sweet liquor and decorated with cream. Well, I remember from my Virginia cookbooks that there was something here named “Tipsy Squire,” that was like a British Trifle.

Then I discovered this bit of history, “That Charming Confusion: Trifle” written by Helen Stringer, which seems to explain it all:

The trifle continued to develop through the 18th century, and was soon joined with a selection of related dishes, Tipsy Cake and Tipsy Hedgehog among others. What these had in common with trifle was that they were all made with dried cake, rather than fresh (a detail too often forgotten these days). In the case of Tipsy Cake, a hollow was made in the center of the cake and filled with alcohol, which would soak into the cake. The cake was then surrounded with crème anglaise or syllabub and slivers of almonds were stuck all over it. Tipsy Hedgehog was a natural progression from this. The cake was roughly shaped to look hedgehog-like, and was soaked in sherry. The crème anglaise/syllabub surround was accented by a spot of jam (this is what the hedgehog is eating) and the cake itself festooned with almonds.

The Slide Show of my Mount Vernon Adventure

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A Picture from Edna

How to Goofyfy a Grandchild in One Easy Step: Go to http://www.picnik.com . Yes, it’s that easy. It’s a Picnik, with a “k.”

After making my “Merry Christmas Card” at Flickr, I did some further investigation and discovered that one can utilize the Picnik application entirely free at their own web site: http://www.picnik.com/. There is no need to go through Flickr. Flickr is just making it easy to do it with photographs that are already uploaded there. Actually this Picnik thing will get photos from other photo storage sites and also from your own computer.  

Someone at Flickr inquired after viewing my Christmas photos if I am ready for Christmas. Of course I’m not ready! I am enjoying the “readiness” of others. Such as today, instead of readying my own home for Christmas, I am headed to Mount Vernon, even though the weather today seems to be sleeting. I am curious to see how the Mount Vernon ladies have decorated my cousin George’s house for the holiday. I am only going because my friend Martha is doing the driving. 🙂

The image, What’s Up Kara?, was originally uploaded by barneykin. It is posted here from Barneykin’s flickr account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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A Picture from Edna

I created this card with Flickr’s new “Edit Photo” feature. It is great and I am a living testament to it being “Granny-proof.” I have not been using the Flickr site for a long time, as I have been uploading my photographs to Picasa Web Albums. I just returned at Thanksgiving time, and today there was this wonderful new announcement of on-line photo editing from Flickr. It is something I have been wanting to try, as I have Adobe Photoshop Elements on my old laptop and it is so slow and cumbersome to use, I get frustrated. I tried this and it really works. I love it.

I have not yet tried to actually do photo editing as I was so excited to be able to create a frame and write text on the photograph, something that cannot be done with Picasa2, my usual photo editing software.  I suspect that the photo editing may be as good as Picasa2’s. I will try it the next time I have photos uploaded.

When you look at your photographs now at Flickr, you will see above them a new button on the right hand side that reads “Edit Photo.” The application or software that they are using is Picnik. Yes, it’s that easy – it’s a “picnik.” Kudos to Flickr!

The image, Merry Christmas Card, was originally uploaded by barneykin. It is posted here from Barneykin’s flickr account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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What a transformed world we now inhabit. The Christmas baking days are upon us and there is no longer need for lugging out the old cookbooks and searching through them. Nor is it necessary to thumb through those dog-eared 3×5 cards nor snippets of paper. Good old Mrs. Claus has published all the cookie recipes known to the Christmas world and they are availble “free” with just a click or two.

 “All The Cookie Recipes in the Known World”

Of course, if there REALLY were a “Mrs. Claus”, she would send some of these already prepared cookies along with Mr. Claus when he makes his rounds on Christmas Eve. But she doesn’t. I suppose she saves them for her Santa to keep him in the shape that he’s in. Therefore, we must get baking. However, by using these Internet recipes, we will miss finding those special handwritten treasures all tucked away, such as I did this year: “Cousin Vi’s Fudge Recipe.”

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A Picture from Edna

Cousin Violet’s Fudge Recipe

Long ago, before collecting recipes from the Internet became de rigueur, we homemakers often traded handwritten recipes. My cousin made the most delicious fudge and I was intrigued and asked for the recipe. I had stopped making fudge because I could only manage success about once in five tries. My usual result was a soupy concoction that could only be eaten with a spoon. Cousin Vi’s recipe changed all of that. It is simple – no boiling, and I make it in the microwave oven, which we didn’t have in those long ago days of yore.

Cousin Vi is now 78 years old and her handwriting is still as beautiful. That is because she has the genes of an artist coursing through her veins, as her father was my Uncle Ben, of whom I have written much. I made the fudge seen above, molding it into large cookie cutters of Christmas shapes. I used Google’s free Picasa2 software to made the collage of photographs.

The Recipe As Written by Violet –

INGREDIENTS:

  • 18 ounces semisweet baking chocolate (such as 3 bags of chocolate chips)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (I toast them in the oven first.)

PREPARATION:
In a heavy saucepan over low heat melt the chips into the milk, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat. Add the vanilla, salt and nuts, and stir until smooth. Spread evenly into a waxed paper lined 8 or 9 inch pan. Chill for 2 hours, or until firm. Turn fudge onto a cutting surface, peel away the waxed paper and cut into even squares. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

*MICROWAVE METHOD: Heat chips and milk on high for 3 minutes, depending on the wattage of your oven. Stir until smooth, then follow the traditional recipe.

The image, My Christmas Fudge, was originally uploaded by barneykin. It is posted here from Barneykin’s flickr account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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A Picture from Edna

I purchased the basic gingerbread house as a kit at a local bakery recommended by my next door neighbor, Kathleen. The only thing – it didn’t come with a picture of the finished product. So I sent Grandpa back to the bakery with my camera in tow and he took three photographs of the display house. Wouldn’t you know, when I showed the photographs to my daughter-in-law she said, “oh we would rather use our own creativity.” And so they did. Everyone had a great time putting it together and when finished they all proclaimed it to be the best gingerbread house they had ever seen.

It was supposed to have two large candy canes decorating the front entrance, however, one got eaten by my grandson during the construction phase of the house. He declared that he prefered it as it is now, with the lone candy cane representing a flag pole.

Here is the procedure to create a gingerbread house from scratch, without a kit, for the adventureous: “How to Make a Gingerbread House.” If anyone would like to see pictures of more beautiful houses, or is seeking inspiration for creating one, here is a slide show from Flickr of more than 300 creations: Gingerbread Houses .

The image, The Gingerbread House, was originally uploaded by barneykin. It is posted here from Barneykin’s flickr account.

Visit Neddy’s Archives for more of Edna’s writings.

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