27 December 2011

January Preview, December Cap

1        Circumcision and Name of Jesus
2        J.K. Wilhelm Loehe
6        Epiphany of Our Lord
8        Baptism of Our Lord
10      Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa
18      Confession of St. Peter
20      Sarah
24      St. Timothy
25      Conversion of St. Paul
26      St. Titus
27      John Chrysostom

(Commemorations are italicized.)

Merry Christmas!  And Happy St. Stephen's Day (26th), St. John's Day (27th), and Feast of the Holy Innocents (28th).

We have feasting every night this week.  Last night's 3rd annual St. Stephen's Day Carolfest was a success.  If you've never sung Good King Wenceslas responsively, do it!  Men sing the Wenceslas parts, women sing the page's parts, and everyone sings the narrative.  My favorite line: "When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even."

Tonight my husband's aunt is hosting a traditional standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding supper.  Wednesday night my sisters and their significant others are coming over for Game Night.  More food at our house Thursday night with out-of-town relatives.  Friday night another Game Night with other good folks.  Saturday night Italian take-out, vasilopita, and a Jim Brickman concert.

Sunday we thank God for the Name of Jesus, into which we were baptized, and at which every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

21 December 2011

St. Thomas (December 21)

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas was the one who responded, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To this Jesus answered: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:1-6

The Incredulity of St. Thomas  Carravaggio 1602

One reason I like the Church Year is because it keeps us from focusing exclusively on one event or doctrine.  In the middle of setting up nativity scenes and cutting out manger-cookies, hanging star and angel ornaments, here's a feast seemingly far from Christmas.  And yet, Christ was born of woman, under the Law, and Thomas (as witness above) stuck his finger inside that real Flesh.

Check out Pr. McCain's post for more Scripture on and history of St. Thomas.  

"Pie Day" in some parts of the world; prepare and freeze pies for Epiphany (I don't know if this is intented, but it's a nice tie to Thomas realizing and confessing who Christ is after he touched his side)

It is a Charity Day in England.  Prepare food for the poor (or donate to a local pantry).  Whereas on St. Nicholas Day we gave toys and childrens' clothes, today we'll collect food for the poor.

Coloring page.

Any ideas?  I find it interesting that searching for "St. Thomas traditions" shows how sectarian the Roman Catholic church is.  Almost always St. Thomas More or Becket show up.  I think I had to look 3 or 4 pages in to find a Catholic page honoring the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle.   Even Aquinas is pretty  much ignored.  Writing this blog has revealed who and what holy days are important to contemporary American RC piety.  

17 December 2011

O Antiphons

From Pr. Weedon's blog, last year:
The Great O Antiphons, used to frame the Magnificat in Vespers in the days before Christmas, begin [this] evening with O Wisdom.  The Treasury [of Daily Prayer] includes them in the daily propers section.  As each of these Old Testament names for God is prayed, and Christ is invoked to come to us, the clarity of whom the Blessed Mother bore is driven home in an unmistakable way, climaxing in the confession that He is Emmanuel, God with us.  The Latin titles read backwards announce:  ERO CRAS - I'll be [here] tomorrow, which is very fitting as the O Antiphons conclude upon December 23.
If you don't have the Treasury of Daily Prayer, you can find an explanation of each Antiphon here, along with appropriate Scripture and a meditation.  Sing the appropriate verse from LSB 357.  A sermon series based on the antiphons is at steadfastlutherans.org.

16 December 2011


Here are the cookies I'm making this year:

Γιαγιά Georgia's Koulouria

Great Grandma Quinn's Sour Cream Cookies
2 c. granulated sugar

1 c. butter, room temperature
3 eggs, well beaten
1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. flavoring extract of your choice
1 1/2 to 2 c. flour or sufficient to make a dough that can be rolled
Cream together sugar and butter. Mix eggs and beat well until light and fluffy. Stir baking soda into the sour cream and add this, along with the eggs, to the creamed butter mixture. Flavor to taste.
Roll out then and bake in a 350°F preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes or until done.

Buttery Spritz (my kids like the "cookie gun")
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. confectioner's sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
food coloring, optional
Cream cutter and sugar.  Beat in egg and extracts.  Combine flour and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.  Tint, if desired.  Using a cookie press, press two inches apart on greased sheet.  Top with sprinkles. Bake 375F 6-8 minutes (don't brown).

Shortbread Squares 
1 lb. butter
1 c. sifted confectioner's sugar
3 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
Cream butter and sugar.  Combine flour and cornstarch; gradually combine.  Press into a 15"x10"x1" ungreased pan.  Pierce with fork.  Bake at 325F 40-45 minutes.  Cut while warm.

Almond Butter Cutouts (all-time favorite.  If I only had time and means for one batch of Christmas cookies, I'd make these)
1 c. butter, soft
1 c. sugar
2 egg yolks
1 t. almond extract
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 c. ground almonds
Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg yolk and extract.  Combine flour, salt,and baking powder.  Gradually combine with creamy mixture.  Stir in ground almonds.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours.  Roll out 3/8".  Cut into shapes. Place on ungreased sheets and sprinkle if you desire. Bake 375F 10-13 minutes.

Molasses Crinkles
3/4 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses
2 1/4 c. flour
2 t. soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cloves
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
Blend shortening and sugar, then add molasses.  Mix dry ingredients and combine.  Chill.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Roll dough into balls. Dip the tops in sugar. Place 3" on greased sheet. Sprinkle with water and bake 10-12 minutes.

German Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. whipping cream
1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. salt
2/3 c. quick-cooking rolled oats
Melt butter.  Ad sugar and cream.  Stir until boiling.  Remove and stir in flour, cloves, ginger, salt and oats.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a butter, floured sheet 4 portions each sheet.  350F 3-4 minutes

Dark Chocolate Brownies
1/2 c. butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
11/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
Stir butter and chocolate over heat until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and walnuts.  Spread into buttered and floured 8" square pan.  350F 25-30 minutes.  Top with chocolate glaze:  1/3 c. whipping cream, 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips heated until smooth and melted. Add 1 t. vanilla.  Cool slightly and spread over warm brownies.

I am trying to track down the recipes for cookies sold at a nearby Italian deli.  They are really expensive (about $5 for 7 little cookies), but soooooooo good.  I think one may be Ricciarelli, and another has a strong anise flavor.  Any Italians out there who want to spread the love?

We also might make chocolate chip cookies, but everyone has their favorite recipe already. What is your favorite or unusual Christmas cookie recipe?  How about homemade fudge or candy?

I should invest in butter (did you here about the shortage in Norway?!)

12 December 2011

St. Lucia (December 13)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

Feast of Santa Lucia. Carl Larsson 1908

One of the victims of the great persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian, Lucia met her death at Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the year A.D. 304, because of her Christian faith. Known for her charity, “Santa Lucia” (as she is called in Italy) gave away her dowry and remained a virgin until her execution by the sword. The name Lucia means “light,” and, because of that, festivals of light commemorating her became popular throughout Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. There her feast day corresponds with the time of year when there is the least amount of daylight. In artistic expression she is often portrayed in a white baptismal gown, wearing a wreath of candles on her head.
The most famous tradition of St. Lucia's Day is to have the oldest daughter wear a white robe with a red sash (representing the blood that spilled from the martyred Lucia), and a wreath with candles.  She rises early, when it's still dark, and prepares a breakfast of lussekotter and coffee and then wakes and serves her whole family, announcing the soon arrival of the Light of the World, the Christ-child.  Like St. Lucia, our faithful pastors "bear witness about the light," wake dead-asleep sinners, and nourish them with the Bread of Life.  For,
anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.  (Eph 5:14)


  • Lots and lots of activities here, including coloring pages, songs, and crafts. 
  • CSPP has a good lussekotter (saffron bread) recipe.  I tried it last year and it's delicious!  Fortunately, when my elder two dumped 2 quarts (and probably $100) of spices and herbs into one big bowl one morning last month, they forgot the saffron. 
  • Here's how to make wheat ornaments, a traditional Swedish craft.  
  • Paper dolls.
  • Grow wheat to sprouts by Christmas.  Here are instructions from Penitents.org:
"The tradition of planting wheat on Saint Lucy's Day (December 13) comes from Hungary, Croatia, and other European nations. Plant wheat grains in a round dish or plate of soil, then water the seeds. Place the container in a warm spot. If the planting medium is kept moist (not sopping wet), the seeds will germinate and the shoots will be several inches high by Christmas. Then the new green shoots, reminding us of the new life born in Bethlehem, may be tied with a ribbon, if desired, and a candle may be placed near them as a symbol of the Light of Christ.
lace the plate of sprouted wheat near the Nativity 
set where it will remind all that Christ, the Bread of Life, was born in Bethlehem, whose name means "House of Bread." The wheat recalls the Eucharist which is made from wheat. It also brings to mind Christ's parables about wheat:
[John 12:24; Mark 4:1-20; Matthew 13: 4-23; Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:33; Mark 4:26-29; Mark 2:23-28]

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  

09 December 2011

Homemade Christmas gifts

Each year I make something to deliver to neighbors on Christmas Day and give to friends at church on Christmas Eve.  I also like to have some gifts ready on the shelf to take to Christmas open houses, dinner at friends' homes, or Christmas parties.  For the last two years, it's been homemade apple butter I made in October, with a homemade bead ornament  attached with a ribbon.  This year we will do jar gifts, but I haven't decided which recipe.  Here are some homemade gift ideas:

Prayer photo book:  This is something I have been meaning to do since my firstborn was in utero, and I think I'll actually do it this year.  The first few pages are prayers your family prays each morning or evening (a page for each prayer, and printed large and clearly, so reading children can read the prayers).  So our family will have p1.Ten Commandments  p2. Apostle's Creed p.3 Lord's Prayer p.4 Evening Prayer.  You can decorate with magazine cutouts or print out appropriate art.  Each page after those pages will be for a particular family, starting with our own, and moving outward to the grandparents, aunts and uncles with their significant others and cousins.  Then special neighbors, church families, our pastor's family, our kids' godparents (and our own godchildren and their families). Each page will just be a picture of the family we are praying for, or a particular prayer (our family often prays "for all the pregnant mommies and their babies"). Obviously the list could go on and on, and it can be adapted to suit your needs!  A great gift for a sibling expecting their first child!

Framed prayer or Bible verse (add art if you're artsy):  For a baptism gift, I print out Luther's Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer (from the Small Catechism) in a color matching the new baby's nursery, draw vines and flowers around the prayer (haven't made for a baby boy yet), and mat and frame.  I plan on hand-printing Psalm 128 for our dining room.  (Side note: you could find out the sermon text for an engaged couple's wedding, then print or write it out, and decorate with your own art, pressed flowers, etc.)

Handprint apron:  Each year the children 2 and older get to make Christmas cookies with Yiayia and Oma (our kids think "Grandma" is the plural form).  Last year I bought plain aprons at a craft store and had the cookie-making kids print their hands on them with fabric paint. I printed their names beneath their respective prints.  Next year, child #3 will add his hand when he joins the cookie posse.

Postcards:  Buy blank postcards from the post office and have your kids decorate or draw on the blank side. Tie a few together with a ribbon and give as gifts.  Or you could use them to write thank you notes after Christmas.

Jar Gifts
Cookie mix
Herbed Rice
Pancake mix
Bath salts
Vanilla Extract

Orange candles
Q-tip snowflakes
Dime Store games
Great blog  http://www.notmartha.org/tomake/

Other ideas I really liked, but more elaborate:
Play Table 

This is awesome (from a comment on getrichslowly.com):
"We are now writing a chapter of our family history each year. We’ll pick a topic, and each family member will write about it. One person plays “editor,” collecting the stories, and presents them all together for Christmas. We’ve written about our favorite Christmas (seven differing perspectives on the same year), the house we grew up in, and this year we’re writing about how we met our spouse. Last year, my Mom sent out her first draft of her entire life history."

Whew!  So what are your favorite homemade gifts, given or received?

08 December 2011

Ambrose of Milan (December 7)

Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you. For I cannot seek you unless you first teach me, nor find you unless you first reveal yourself to me. 

Ambrose is often depicted baptizing.  What a wonderful picture of a bishop, especially one who was called before he was baptized!  Here is a nice gallery of other Ambrose portraits and icons.

St. Ambrose Day is overshadowed by remembrances of St. Nicholas and  the attack on Pearl Harbor, but we managed to color this page and sing Savior of the Nations, Come (LSB 332), written by Ambrose.

Here is a sweet essay on Ambrose and Justification.

Finally, Bach's version of "Savior of the Nations, Come."

06 December 2011

St. Nicholas (December 6)

The Feast of St. Nicholas c.1663 Steen, Jan.

All things St. Nick at The St. Nicholas Center.  Everything you ever need to make December 6 all about the good bishop of Myra! Recipes, games, ethnic traditions, coloring pages, etc.  I wish every feast, commemoration, and season had a one-stop-shop like St. Nicholas! (I suppose then I wouldn't have this blog...)

Last night the kids put their shoes outside their door and we filled them with almonds and "money candy."  Today we are going to make Speculatius (image) Cookies and Pfeffernuesse (peppernuts).  We will use this template for the Speculatius.  The kids will drink hot chocolate and the mister and I will enjoy Bisschopswijn with cookies tonight around the Advent wreath.  Only on St. Nicholas and St. Lucia/Lucy Days do we break our Advent sugar and treat fast. (And do we ever break it...)

One tradition has the man of the house dressing up as St. Nicholas, then helping the children to examine their consciences (I imagine we get the modern "naughty and nice" lists from this tradition).  This would be a good way to tie St. Nicholas's Day with the rest of Advent, the season of Preparation.  "St. Nicholas" could guide the children through the Small Catechism questions on Confession and Absolution or through the Ten Commandments and Penitential Psalms.

In honor of St. Nicholas's charity, each year we choose toys or clothes to give to a local mission.  This year I decided each giver will give as many as he is years old.

Send me your favorite Christmas recipes, and I'll include them this week in one of two posts: Christmas Cookies and Homemade Christmas Treats to Gift.  Tell me why you and your family like the recipes!

St. Andrew (November 30)

I just finished this post today, but I thought I'd put it up instead of waiting until next year.  How did you celebrate St. Andrew's Day? 
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him.    Matthew 4:18-20

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. Hefirst found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus.                      John 1:40-42 
The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew, James Tissot c.1889

St. Andrew, A fragment of a Florentine fresco, 14th c.

San Andres. Jose de Ribera. 1616

Crocifissione di S. Andrea. Carlo Dolci.  1646.

Hymn:  LSB 586  (Check out The Hymn of the Day on lcms.org), and of course LSB 517.5

Extra-biblical history from Catholic Encyclopedia:

01 December 2011

Ember Days and fasting

Ever pregnant and/or nursing, I don't do a whole lot of fasting in this season of my life.  However, I don't want my children to grow up thinking fasting with prayer is strange--something either the Roman Catholics or Pentecostals do.  Moms (or dads), what are your experiences with and philosophies about giving your children a healthy view of fasting?

This question hit me as we approach Ember Days and because of a close relative's misplaced IHOP "piety."