This past week we have been celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, patron of children, travelers, sailors, merchants, and the Byzantine Catholic Church. We put out our shoes the night before to find them filled with our usual simple treats of chocolate coins and our first candy canes and clementines of the season. Sometimes extra goodies are secretly tucked into shoes by Christkindls, and the little girls also found a new picture of the good saint to color. Mary Rose kindly shares her St. Nicholas Coloring Page here, with the Bishop pictured in traditional Byzantine style vestments: Download Saint Nicholas by MRK 2016-12-06 (c) ponderedinmyheart
We like a big pot of cocoa for feast day breakfasts, and it went very nicely with these Harvest Pumpkin Scones, studded with as much chrystallized ginger as you can bear to chop up (plus a little more) and the clementines. Janey was overjoyed to get some of these homemade dog biscuits for her treat. (They looked so good folks would be tempted to eat them on fast days if it weren't for the parsley.)
At teatime I read aloud Kersti and St. Nicholas by Hilda van Stockum, a new favorite tradition since we first got the book a few years ago. While the "new edition has been abridged and adapted by the author's family to make it more accessible to young readers of today," we naturally had to obtain a copy of the original hardcover picture book. Though there are indeed some things that would not pass muster by today's PC standards, it is delightful to read the text as it was written by the author. There are more pictures and verses, the ending is slightly different, and Kersti's doll goes by Fat Girlie (imagine!). Anna found a real Dutch doll in her shoe too.
We also made a boatload of these pierniczki, traditional Polish honey spice cakes, to bring and share at the church's festive brunch today in honor of St. Nicholas. We used theJanina's Piernik recipe found here -scroll down the page for the recipe along with a picture of the traditional icing pattern. Josiah made a wonderful St. Nicholas cookie cutter for me and it worked perfectly for the cookies. The kitchen smelled amazing last night as Lydia boiled the honey and spices together, and the resulting fragrant dough was lovely to work with. We used this recipe for the icing - my first time making royal icing! We just bought a carton of pasteurized egg whites for the recipe and it worked beautifully. The cookies turned out delicious and taste very similar to the decorated Hungarian Mézeskalács I remember so well from childhood.
O Saint Nicholas, bountiful Father and special Patron of our Byzantine Catholic Church. You are a shepherd and teacher to all who invoke your protection, and who, by devout prayer, call upon you for aid. Hasten and save the flock of Christ from ravenous wolves; and by your holy prayers protect all Christians and save them from worldly disturbances, earthquakes, attacks from abroad, from internal strife, from famine, flood, fire, sword, and sudden death. As you had mercy on those three men in prison and saved them from the king's wrath, now also have mercy on me who by word, deed, and thought have sunk into the darkness of sin. Save me from the just anger of God, and from eternal punishment. Through your intercession and aid as well as through his own mercy and grace, may Christ our God allow me to lead a tranquil and sinless life, and save me from standing at "his left," but deem me worthy to stand at "his right" with all the saints. Amen.
April 23rd is the feast of St. George the martyr, patron of England and of soldiers. In the Eastern rite Churches he is known by the illustrious title of the Holy Great Martyr George the Wonder-Worker and he is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. One famous legend regarding St. George refers to his slaying of a dragon, thus we commemorated his feast day with a dragon themed treat.
We gave our treat a Tolkien twist by making Mock Dragon's Tail Cake as described in Farmer Giles of Ham:
It was still the custom for Dragon's Tail to be served up at the King's Christmas Feast; and each year a knight was chosen for the duty of hunting. He was supposed to set out upon St. Nicholas' Day and come home with a dragon's tail not later than the eve of the feast. But for many years now the Royal Cook had made a marvellous confection, a Mock Dragon's Tail of cake and almond-paste, with cunning scales of hard icing-sugar. The chosen knight then carried this into the hall on Christmas Eve, while the fiddles played and the trumpets rang. The Mock Dragon's Tail was eaten after dinner on Christmas Day, and everybody said (to please the cook) that it tasted much better than Real Tail.
While Christmas Eve is too busy of a time for us to make Dragon's Tail, the feast of St. George seemed like a very good day. Eliza was quite excited as our chosen knight carried the Mock Tail into the hall, er kitchen, while a trumpet fanfare was indeed played.
The girls made two classic cake rolls using jelly-roll pans, then filled each of them with a cylinder of homemade almond paste (for the bone), adding a bit of cherry preserve (for the blood). They put the two together, trimming the end to shape it like Tail. They made delicious, buttery homemade fondant to form the 'hard icing-sugar scales', tinting it with just a bit of raspberry juice, which gave it a delicate touch of raspberry flavor as well.
We didn't say it just to please the cook - we really did think it tasted much better than Real Tail.
O God, who dost gladden us by the merits and intercession of blessed George, Thy Martyr, mercifully grant that we, who ask for Thy blessing through him, may obtain them by the gift of Thy grace. - Collect, Commemoration of St. George
Catching up here with photos from our Easter weekend - The Easter Bunny showed up on cue on Holy Saturday! We spotted this critter across the yard stationed right under one of my bush cherries, charmingly sitting up on its hind legs to break off the flowered branches to munch. It was so cute we didn't chase it away, and besides, eating the bush seemed better than eating all of my tulips like the rabbits usually do.
We always spend Holy Saturday doing our baking together and preparing our various traditional Easter treats with which to break the fast.
We've been making these candy nests for years - they mostly seem like a good excuse to eat Cadbury mini eggs. ;-)
Eliza just had to get up and dance when she heard her brother practicing the organ. It's his tradition to play the exuberant, triumphant Widor Toccata for his postlude after the Easter Vigil - nothing says Easter's almost here in our house like hearing the Widor on Holy Saturday afternoon.
Lydia made the kifli (Hungarian filled cookies) at one end of the counter while I made the kalacs (our Hungarian Easter bread), nut and poppy rolls at the other.
Like mother, like daughter we were with our dueling rolling pins at both ends of the island,
while Mary Rose and Anna were the chocolate egg team. We've been making these for years, in lieu of buying Easter candy (recipes here). Coconut, peanut butter, and maple pecan.
While we ladies toil away in the kitchen Jonathan just gets to wander around looking handsome, practicing the organ and chant.
Filled cookies, rugalug, and sugar cookies awaiting their fancy frosting.
And then finally our kitchen work is done and the real excitement begins as we prepare for the Easter Vigil. We shed our dark colors and put on our Easter finery, and we know that the church will do the same.
The Eater Vigil begins with the Easter fire outside the church,
then the light of the risen Christ is carried in and spread throughout to all. As the missal explains, The Solemn Easter Vigil service is intended to show liturgically how life and grace flow to us from the death of our Lord. It is the beginning of the most beautiful liturgy and the most joyful day of the whole year.
Of course we return in the morning for Easter Sunday Mass as well. The altar is beautifully decorated with flowers and the scent of incense, beeswax and lilies combine to enhance our joy even more.
This year the children's chorus sang for the first time at Mass on Easter morning as well. My three choristers were excited and happy to be assisting at Mass in this way on such a joyful day!
When we get home after the Vigil in the wee hours of the morning we break the fast with our first tastes of our Easter treats, and Eliza delights in removing all the purple coverings from our statues throughout our house.
After Easter Sunday Mass and our traditional photo shoot on the couch we headed outside for a little Easter parade. Despite the chilly weather, our joy could not be contained and we strolled through the neighborhood with musical accompaniment. The little ones fairly danced along, skipping and prancing to the music.
We may have started yet another new tradition. :-)
I love what Divine Intimacy says about the unique all-consuming, overarching, rock-solid joy that is Easter:
"This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice therein." This is the most excellent day, the happiest day in the whole year, because it is the day when "Christ, our Pasch, has been sacrificed." Christmas, too, is a joyous feast, but whereas Christmas vibrates with a characteristic note of sweetness, the Paschal solemnity resounds with an unmistakable note of triumph; it is joy for the triumph of Christ, for His victory. ~
In this world there are many ephemeral joys, based on fragile, insecure foundations; but the Paschal joy is solidly grounded on the knowledge that we are in the truth, the truth which Christ brought to the world and which He confirmed by His Resurrection. The Resurrection tells us that our faith is not in vain, that our hope is not founded on a dead man, but on a living one, the Living One par excellence, whose life is so strong that it vivifies, in time as in eternity, all those who believe in Him.
O God, who, on this day, through Thine only-begotten Son, hast conquered death, and thrown open to us the gate of everlasting life, give effect by Thine aid to our desires, which Thou dost anticipate and inspire. Through the same Christ our Lord. - Collect, Easter Sunday
Thrown open the gate of everlasting life! To us! Alleluia!
A most blessed, Happy Easter to all of you from all of us!
Today is Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Laetare, the first word of the Introit, means Rejoice, offering us a respite in the midst of our Lenten penances. We take a break from the penitential purple and use rose vestments at Holy Mass, the organ is played, and we rejoice thinking ahead to the glory of Easter that is to come. A little fortification before the final weeks of Lent, so to speak.
For our treat today the girls decided to make a Simnel Cake. Not being British, I admit we had never heard of this cake before Mary Rose read of it in her Vintage Cakes cookbook by Jane Brocket (a fabulous collection of cake recipes, by the way). Apparently it is an old tradition to make this cake on Laetare Sunday, whereas nowadays folks are more likely to partake of it for Easter. The cake is a sort of fruitcake, baked with a layer of marzipan in the center and later topped off with more marzipan. It is decorated with eleven marzipan balls to symbolize the apostles, minus the betrayer. You pop the completed cake under the broiler for a minute or two to gently brown the marzipan.
Mary Rose took quite a bit of liberty with the recipe in the book: she skipped the candied peel and cherries although they were hardly missed with all of the raisins, golden raisins, dried currants, and fresh citrus peels she did include. We didn't actually plan too much ahead for this cake which only added to the fun (the girls even had to go borrowing eggs from the neighbors, ahem). Lydia made the fresh marzipan using this recipe, or perhaps we should call it rustic marzipan as the only almonds we had in the house were not blanched, thus the brownish color. It still tasted fantastic, especially with the lovely touch of rose water. She made one and a half recipes of the marzipan, and used it all up in the cake. Lacking the called for apricot jam, we stuck the balls on with raspberry.
The cake turned out delicious - moist and rich with spicy fruit, sweet but not overly so. A tasty, flavorful sweetness - just the thing to brighten up the day in the middle of Lent.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Isaiah 66:10,11, Psalm 121:1 Introit, Fourth Sunday in Lent
Cathedra Petri (St. Peter's Chair) in the Vatican, Photo by Dnalor-01 from Wikimedia Commons, used under license CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Tomorrow, February 22nd, is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter: we celebrate the primacy of St. Peter as the first Pope. The feast is of even greater significance to us personally as our church is an apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, rendering it one of our patronal feasts.
We like to celebrate the day with a special treat, namely this Lemon Cheese Braid, as it features the papal colors of yellow and white.
We use this recipe from King Arthur, and it has become one of Lydia's specialties. As written, one recipe makes two large braids, but she makes a recipe and a half so that there are some smaller braids to share as well. She follows the recipe, noting that sour cream can be used if you don't have any yogurt on hand. One eight once package of cream cheese makes a nice generous amount of cheese filling for one recipe. Lydia uses Ina Garten's lemon curd recipe found here.This recipe makes a lot of lemon curd, plenty for the breads with a lot leftover. This is not a problem, as we don't think it's possible to ever have too much lemon curd. ;-) We plan to save the extra and make Lemon Curd Thumb Prints next Sunday (just use the curd instead of jam).
Enjoy a blessed feast day tomorrow!
O God, who by delivering to Thy blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, didst confer upon him the pontifical power of binding and of loosing, grant that, by the help of his intercession, we may be freed from the bonds of sin. -Collect, Feast of St. Peter's Chair
As per tradition, Lydia has once again illustrated a new calendar for Lent. The Sacrificial Lamb is a lovely addition this year and the border of thorns is quite fine.
Young ones like to color a space a day to keep track of our progress through Lent. We use purple for most days, and the matching liturgical color for feast days, Palm Sunday etc. Colored pencils work nicely for coloring the pictures. The calendar serves as an encouraging visual for young and old as we journey through the season.
Remember, O Christian soul, that thou hast this day, and every day of thy life: God to glorify - Jesus to imitate - The Angels and Saints to invoke - A soul to save - A body to mortify - Sins to expiate - Virtues to acquire - Hell to avoid - Heaven to gain - Eternity to prepare for - Time to profit by - Neighbors to edify - The world to despise - Devils to combat - Passions to subdue - Death perhaps to suffer - Judgment to undergo.
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