Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Christmas

CHRISTMAS Day was full of surprises! At the end of our beds, stockings were bulging with goodies. In the living room, Baby Jesus had arrived in the manger and all the people and animals of the nativity gathered around to greet him. The snacks left out for Father Christmas and his reindeer were gone. Under the tree lay many gifts of love. We welcomed two unexpected friends to our Christmas table. Then, as the afternoon light started to dwindle, snow began to fall! This was a historic occasion - the first snow on Christmas Day in Georgia since 1882 - and had to be celebrated. While some members of our party kept the coals aglow at home, the rest gathered up coats and hats and headed out to catch snowflakes on their tongues.

By evening the snow had settled in dry areas, and was still there on Boxing Day. Not quite enough for real snow play, it still made for a beautiful landscape and a teeny tiny snowman.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tree Decorations

OUR Christmas tree is child-friendly this year. Gone are the glass baubles; special and breakable ornaments carefully packed away from curious fingers and wagging tails. Instead we have had fun making glittery pinecones, painting walnut shells gold, tying cinnamon sticks with sparkly ribbon and folding tiny paper stars.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Birds, Birds, Everywhere

WE have gradually developed a full buffet for birds in our back garden with a tray feeder, two upright feeders, a suet feeder, several pinecone feeders and a special sock feeder of thistle seed for finches. And they come! So far, we've seen:
  • Northern Cardinals (tray feeder)
  • White-Breasted Nuthatches (most frequent visitors to the pinecone feeder, also suet feeder)
  • Pine Warbler (pinecone feeder - infrequent)
  • Red-Breasted Woodpecker (upright feeder)
  • House Finch (upright feeder)
  • Downy Woodpecker (suet feeder)
  • Mourning Doves (ground, tray feeder and they even try to balance on the suet feeder - very funny)
  • Chickadees (upright feeder - infrequent)
  • Carolina Wren (ground underneath)
  • Dark-Eyed Junco (ground underneath)
  • Song Sparrow (ground underneath)
  • Blue Jays (ground underneath)
  • Eastern Towhee (ground)
  • Eastern Bluebird (suet and upright feeders)

We also see on the lawn and flower beds American Robins, Thrashers, and now and again great flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds and Starlings. We like to sit at the back door and just watch. Sometimes we try to draw them...mostly we just watch.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let The Baking Begin!

IN honour of Saint Nicholas, the beginning of December saw us making lebkuchen, German spice biscuits. Foregoing the traditional shape of a man with a staff, we opted instead for easier but just-as-tasty shapes, using Christmas cookie cutters. By the end of the day, wonderful aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the house and the children raced to eat their dinner so they could eat some of their creations for dessert. (The biscuits didn't stay around long enough to be iced... picture credit goes to who must use the same set of cookie cutters :-)

The next project for our Christmas bakery was mince pies. Finally using a real mince pie tray courtesy of my mum, instead of the deep muffin trays, the pies turned out better than years past. I've had a bit of trouble explaining exactly what mincemeat is - first that it contains no meat, but that it does contain suet. Try portraying suet as a delicious ingredient when most people in your country know it only as bird food. Mincemeat actually is, of course, dried fruits mixed with spices and sometimes alcohol. Mince pies are a traditional pastry found everywhere in England at Christmas time - you could even call it a national obsession. See if you don't believe me.