Monthly Archives: December 2013

Yet farther on my road today.

My lights and bows are still up – and the tree.

The bright season of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord is only in its sixth day, but already we need to make room in our minds for thoughts of transition, closing out one calendar year and opening a new one.

Before I go there, I need to be done with all the Christmas cookies, at least on this blog. Last night we Glads were off to another party, and I took the tins out of the freezer again and loaded up a plate to take along, but that still didn’t use them all up.

I made ten different kinds of cookies this year, including five new ones. Next year I may share some of those recipes, but for now, on to other things!

Like reporting on last week’s doings: We had three different groupings of family celebrations in two different locations. Sunday before Christmas we went to church with Pippin and family; this is Ivy in the foyer. I took the photo from behind so I could show her pigtails.


And next to a lamp made of popsicle sticks, a bunch of uncles and nephews playing a game, something they always make time for when getting together after a few months.



One of the trees that had been cut on federal land in Trinity County had been decorated with antique spice tins. I thought you would like that.












Back at our place, Liam got a lesson in Christmas tree appreciation and gentleness. He was a good student.










I found this pretty piano ornament at Pottery Barn when they were having a special deal, and I gave one to each of several pretty pianists in the family.

Some of my own favorite presents were these books I’ll be reading in the new year, given by four different people who scanned my Amazon list and surprised me with titles I had wished for and forgotten. Kind people.

I feel the Old Year rushing away, and the New coming fast at me, never mind that I’m not “ready.” Sickness right before Christmas pushed some duties ahead to After Christmas, and what might have been a purely R&R&R (the last R for Rejoicing) Sixth Day of Christmas will be interrupted by the Computer Guy coming to help with our computer, a machine so rude as to take our attention off the holiness of the days we are in.

As I am in a liturgical church, the service yesterday gloriously confirmed the present-ness of the holy day that is so cosmologically momentous as to need at least twelve days to properly keep it. The carol-singing we did last night also kept me planted firmly in the Feast, so that for an hour or two I didn’t have to think about the onrushing year of 2014.

Some lines of poetry from Christina Rossetti helped me when I took a few minutes to think. The last lines were the most applicable to my heart’s comfortable place, reiterating what I come back to again and again, the knowledge that whatever comes, today or in the coming year God means it for our salvation.

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road to-day
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

The rest of this poem can be found here. Whether or not you are the type of person who needs a lot of down time to process the meaning of the days of Christmas and the New Year, I pray you will find help to progress on your road to heaven. May God strengthen us all!

The Huron Carol

My favorite “Poem A Day” blog that was written by Maria is not currently active, but its archives remain online, a treasure store of poetry and art. This Christmas post that I read in her collection is titled Jesus! Ahatonhia! It’s a heartwarming telling of the Christmas story.

In that entry Maria shared “The Huron Carol,” which was composed in 1643 by a Jesuit missionary who lived and worked with the Indians in what is now Ontario, Canada. He was French, and though he wrote the lyrics in the Huron language, he set them to a 16th-century French melody, “Une Jeunne Pucelle.”

You can listen to the song on YouTube; the version I put here has singing in French and English as well as what I take to be Huron. The story is about an angel who appeared in the Northern Lights to tell the Indians about the Christ Child. A series of three stamps commemorating the carol were issued in Canada in 1977.

My favorite stanza:

The earliest moon of winter is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
And chiefs from far before Him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt:
Jesus, your King, is born;
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria!

Amen! And Merry Christmas to you all!

A cookie might be a little seedy bun cake.

By the time I came into my husband’s family, Seedy Buns were only a memory in the minds of the older generations. My father-in-law said they were cookies featuring caraway seeds and a treat eaten at Christmas, but perhaps he got them mixed up with Seedy Biscuits? Because a bun is bread, we all know that, whereas a biscuit can be a cookie if it is in the British Isles. But what if you take a bun and sweeten and shorten it up? Might it be like a little cake?

I never thought of a cookie as being a little cake until I read The Little Book to my children very long ago. “A cookie is a little cake,” it says right there. I know that type of cookie, and I don’t really care for them. I like mine chewy or crispy, but not cake-y.

In my joyful Christmas cookie project, which is my art at this time of year, I had the idea to make a modern Seedy Bun that would hearken back to the ancestors who brought their Cornish traditions to California.

Once a cousin had taken a box of sugar cookie mix and thrown in a can of caraway seeds to create a simple reenactment, and I scoured the Internet to see what else might be out there as inspiration.



A fascinating collection of recipes from newspapers dating 1891 to 1981 gave a hint as to the possibilities, and included two poems mentioning a grandma or an aunt making caraway cookies. Here’s one of the recipes that even claims to make a crisp cookie:

It was published in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1919, and I think is interesting for its use of the word “butterine,” which I’d never seen before.

Early American cooks also used seeds liberally in their cookies, often coriander or caraway, and I liked the looks of a glazed cookie based on one from the first American cookbook published in 1796.

Cooks are like folk-singers, changing and adapting their material freely, and it’s not as though I am looking for The Original Seedy Bun recipe to cook myself, but it would be nice to know what those cookies were like, that my husband’s grandma made.

In the meantime I decided to try this recipe for lemony cookies, calling for ground caraway seeds which I didn’t have. I tried grinding some in the blender, but they only burned from the heat, so I used whole seeds.

Some of the baked cookies were a little skimpy on seeds, like the one I picture below. I’ll have to see how everyone receives them before I decide whether to make these the same way another time. If I make a different Seedy Bun, I might bake these again as well, without the caraway, because I agree with their creator about their appealing “depth and intensity” from the lemon juice and zest.

After my Seedy Lemon Biscuits were put away in the freezer, I heard from an older grandchild of my husband’s grandmother who, I was so happy to hear, had made a collection of Grandma’s recipes, and the first cookie in the collection was indeed called Seedy Buns.

Grandma’s Recipes


Seedie Buns – 5 doz. These are similar to sugar cookies.

Sift and set aside: 3 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/4 tsp t salt

Cream in bowl: 1 1/4 C butter

Beat in until fluffy: 1 1/4 C sugar

Add: 3 eggs one at a time, beat well after each.

Blend in: 1 t grated orange peel, 1 t vanilla, 2 T caraway seeds

Chill several hours.

To form cookies take about 1 T dough and roll into ball.

Place on lightly greased baking sheet

Flatten to 1/4″ with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 min., or until lightly browned.

If any of my readers have favorite seedy cookie recipes, I’d love to hear about them. It’s not too early to start brainstorming for next year!

There He is!

Until I read the article below, I didn’t know that anyone considered the Bethlehem star to be something other than a “dead astronomical body.” I copied here a rich kind of Advent food, from our recent church bulletin, a meditation on light and stars.

One of the pictures I found was of a “variable star,” which I had also not heard of before. That name got me thinking about how constant our Light of the World is by contrast, and never waning.

Though the stars we see in our skies are only dead shadows of the living realities, they too have their glory, which is only faintly conveyed by these pictures, though they do decorate this post nicely. We often hear that God is the True Light; this is not theoretical or a mere intellectual fact. Fr. Artemy exhorts us to know a taste of that Reality even in this life, in prayer:

The closer we come to the end of the [Nativity] fast, the brighter the wondrous Bethlehem star is enkindled above our heads, proclaiming to the Magi the time of the Infant’s birth, and the place where He lay…The rays of this rational star (according to the holy fathers, this star was actually an angelic power, and not a dead astronomical body) illumine with their incorruptible, unfading light the twilight in the Cave — the rib cage encasing each of our hearts…

The rays of this star bring the soul, which has but scarcely touched it, to inexplicable trembling and joy, the likes of which we shall not find here on this sinful world with its sensuous, quickly passing pleasures, disappearing like smoke.

I am…the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16), testifies the Lord. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give…the morning star. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelations 2:26, 28-29). 

Ye do well, repeats the Apostle Peter, that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19). The morning star is hidden prayer of the heart! It is made not with lips or fingers, but with the mind and heart; it turns all of man’s existence to the Lord, and places the disciple before the most radiant face of his Teacher…

Illumined by the unwaning light of the Nativity star, let us pass…under the canopy of the very cave in Bethlehem…There He is, the Angel of Great Counsel, the King of the world, the Father of the age to come, as the “Old Testament Evangelist,” the Holy Prophet Isaiah, exclaimed in prophetic, sober inebriation. There He is, the Yearning of the nations, the Expectation of all peoples, the Great Light that has come into the world to enlighten those sitting in darkness! Already celebrating the Forefeast of the Nativity night that is bright as day, let us sing…with the whole Church, “Christ is born, give ye glory…Christ is on earth, let us be exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the earth…” [Nativity hymn].

–Father Artemy Vladimirov

variable star