Befana from Goddess to Santa Claus

Kathy Kenzora of Karma is a great local entrepreneur and now a friend.  Opening in 2011, Karma is small independent Furniture and House Decor Consignment Shop in the Village of Clarkson, Mississauga.  You can imagine all the interesting items that pass through shops like this and it’s such a pleasure for me to tease out the story of as many items as I can.

Last week in a box of porcelain ornaments from “Around the World”, I spotted this.  As you know my education is in Anthropology and I own a web based business called FeeFiFoFun Costume Concierge.  Halloween is a Cultural tradition that fascinates me and I wondered immediately how a witch on a broom stick ends up as a Christmas ornament.

BefanaOrnament

I found the tale of Befana of Italy, an old woman wearing black, riding a broomstick with a sack over her shoulder.  She’s covered in soot because it’s said she enters people’s houses through the chimney.  Well she looks like freaky morph of a Halloween witch and a Christmas Santa Claus, but that’s too simple.

Like many legends, Befana’s origins have become foggy over the centuries changing to meet the needs of the current society.  Reports of Befana can be found in the Pagan Roman Strina to Eve of the birth of Christ, but currently Italian children can put their socks out to be filled with candies by her for Epiphany on January 5th.

Source: veniceredhouse.com

Source: veniceredhouse.com

Italy even has the Befana Regatta where adults dress and compete in a boating contest, but Italian kids have got it best  because they get goodies from both Father Christmas and Befana!

For more detail on this interesting character, here is a good link.

Kid’s Crafts – The Christmas Elf

If only to hide the evidence, I’m always looking for something to with the many, many corks left over from my favourite vice of wine tasting.  Here an easy Cultural tradition to do with kids.  They will look adorable on the Christmas table or hung on the Christmas tree.  Don’t forget to put the year and the child’s name on the bottom!

Ho Ho Ho

Ho Ho Ho

Tomte, Nisse or Tomtenisse [Sweden], Nisse [Norway and Denmark] and Tonttu [Finland] is generally considered the Swedish and Norwegian version of Santa Claus. He’s about three feet tall with a red cap and like the of Brownies of Irish lore, is a mischievous domestic sprite that can be extremely helpful or, if you don’t leave him butter or other treats, can be very naughty. So if your cow’s milk is soured or you can’t find your best woolen socks, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

You and your children may have seen the new animated mini series, Over the Garden Wall, whose character Wirt look suspiciously like our sprite sans beard.  Thanks to Sam for introducing me to this charming series which I am going to share this Christmas with my granddaughter, especially the song Potatoes and Molasses.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

What you need:

Scissors

Glue

Corks

Red Felt

Cotton Balls

Sharpie

Bells [Michaels Arts & Crafts, PartyCity and Dollarama in the Wedding Section]

How – To:

Cut 3″ X 3″ squares of Red Felt.

Run a line of glue in a reverse L.

Starting on the Left Roll a the Small part of the Cork to the Right till the Seam meets.

Join the Seam and Press till Dry.

Draw in the Eyes with the Sharpie.

Add Glue to the space beneath the Eyes and Pull off Enough Cotton to make the Beard. Press on.

Clip a tiny Triangle for the Nose and Glue on.

Crimp the top of the Felt Hat and Tie on the Bells.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

Making Great Stock

I had occasion, having prepared for and undergone an endoscopy last week, to thaw and drink some homemade chicken stock.  I was so grateful that I had taken the time to make it because the ingredients were full of ingredients that are healthy and yummy.  The jury may be out on whether chicken soup actually has healing properties, but I think most people will attest that hot chicken soup is good for the soul.

Soups always start out with a solid foundation of stock and here is my simple recipe for chicken stock.  Don’t toss that carcass, even the store bought hot chickens have some upcycle value.  Take off all the fat and skin and cover it with water in a roaster.  Add bay leaves, chopped celery and carrots and black peppercorns.  Skim the scum in the first couple of minutes for clear stock.  Continue to simmer until the fluid volume is one-half to one-third.  Cool, strain and freeze.

Colorectal, Stomach and Esophageal cancer runs in our family.  Screening is the best way to stop colorectal cancer in its tracks.  According to Cancer Care Ontario, If it is caught in its earliest stages there is a 90% chance that you can be cured of this cancer.  Early detection also avoids more invasive forms of surgery, like the removal of portions of the colon.

Sources: Cancer Care Ontario & Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, Quality-Based Procedures:  Clinical Handbook for GI Endoscopy, March 13, 2013 [Updated September 2013]

Chicken Soup Really Is Good for a Cold, By Melissa Schorr, http://www.abcnews.com, Read: November 30, 2014

Criollo and Scotch – The Jem

I don’t like fizzy drinks or anything too sweet, but give me a quality spirit or a lovely glass of wine and I’m a happy girl.  I’d been hooked on Red Velvet from Cupcake Winery and for the holiday season they offered a sample bottle of Criollo Liqueur with purchase.  There’s nothing more fun that experimenting with food and drink recipes which I’ll offer up until I run out of ideas.

Mix your favourite Scotch with Criollo Chocolate Salted Carmel Liqueur – served neat, the way I prefer it, or on the rocks. Since this liqueur is very sweet, you don’t need a lot.  It’s a great option when when you don’t want dessert ~and~ an after dinner drink.

We called our grandmother, Nanny, but I often referred to her as the Dragon Lady.  She always wore a dress, her hair in a French chignon and her signature red varnish on her long nails.  Born in 1900, Nanny was stylish, relaxed, fun, intelligent and the first female entrepreneur in our family.  She apparently loved Dixieland Jazz and Lethbridge beer, but the only time I saw her drinking was on special occasions and holidays and it was always Scotch.  I offer up in her honour, The Jem shown in a vintage, passed down to my Mother and passed down to me and only used for Scotch.

Criollo:Scotch

If you are looking for the perfect glass to give with a bottles of Criollo and Scotch, I loVe these classic 13 oz barware glasses made in Italy by Luigi Bormioli

How to Fall in Love with Morocco from your Couch

Bliss Bracelets

Bliss Bracelets

It would give me no greater pleasure than to visit Morocco.  The light of North Africa, the colours of spice, the intersections of costume and traditions of Berber, Jewish and Muslim communities.  I don’t have immediate plans to go, but I have found a way to enjoy a bit of Morocco [and Peru] from Canada and that is through Jessica Torres of Welland, Ontario.

Like me Jessica fell in love with One Earth and decided to become a sales consultant with them.  One Earth products meet my own criteria for company ethics and fair trade, sustainable income for locals, emphasis on local and hand made products, and well, the products are seriously cool.

From Jessica, I’ve already bought the small tea pot and a hand-tooled leather bag pack made in Morocco, but I’ve got my eye on the Lala Satchel Purse for me and the Peruvian Bliss stacking bracelets which would make exquisite stocking stuffers for my sisters and nieces.

Lala Satchel

Lala Satchel

If you are an Anthropologie junkie like me, you are going to loVe Jessica Torres and One Earth.  Shopping local in an entire new way.

Jessica lives in Welland, Ontario and her Twitter handle is @one1earthbyjess

Falling

Do remember Thomas Magill? He was that young man in 2010 who jumped from a New York building and landed not on the pavement, but in the backseat of a Dodge Charger parked below.   He survived, but since that day there has been nothing in the news about his apparent suicide attempt or his recovery.

The question that my husband posed was, on the way down did he change his mind?

SuperheroesI’ve been thinking. Having survived, did he continue feeling bad or did he find God? Perhaps it one of those Hollywood moments like in Sliding Doors where the film lingers on the face of the characters as they smile a small smile and ponder whether it was fate or coincidence.

….but what about choice?  Not a superhero’s choice to save the physical body, but what if, when we are falling in life, to have that clarity to understand what is really important to us.  In that moment.

Magill didn’t intend to survive and had no clue he would survive, but in that moment falling, did he have any control over the outcome in his mind and find meaning?

I’m saying this because my family has crappy DNA. I’m holding my breath as I prepare to undergo a upper and lower scopy to scan for the nasties that took my father at 60 and my sister at 46.  I’m not worried about the procedure [which has its own risks], but I am thinking about the outcome and choices.

I feel like I am falling.

When Does Christmas begin for You?

Growing up in Calgary we must have had our tree up at least two weeks before Christmas.  Actually I don’t remember the timing.  It never seemed to be an issue.

Grammie Elf

Grammie Elf

The important parts were walking a family member’s Priddis ranch property to find the perfect tree.  Placing aluminum, not plastic, icicles along the branches an agonizing one strand at a time.  Wearing brand new Nanny pjammies and opening stockings in bed with my three sisters around 4:00 a.m. each Christmas morning.  Dinner with our extended family which included shredded carrots in orange jello and the mashed turnip that everyone put on their plate, but few ate.  Wondering if I would ever be big enough to sit at the adults table and not understanding that I would then be expected to wash the dishes instead of watching the Wonderful World of Disney on the floor at Grampa’s feet.

I don’t know when starting Christmas too early became a problem.  I know my husband refuses to get the tree or put up lights until days before the Eve, while I sneakily decorate the house in stages as soon as it gets really chilly.  I do, however, loathe businesses who are built around seasons.  It just puts too much pressure on everyone.

Some of my costume products are in demand before Halloween as companies and communities prepare for November events like the Santa Parade and staff parties, but this is their choice and I am responding to it.   I wish more business owners would fight the urge to unnaturally force this already stressful time of year onto themselves, staff and consumers.  Do you agree and …