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Sunday, December 14, 2014

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas...

"What's your best Christmas memory?", a bloggy buddy asked. With 51 Christmases behind me, I  say the best Christmas I ever had so far, would be my first and only white Christmas experience in Lake Tahoe. My son said that sounded so racist! LOL, he didn't know what a white Christmas meant! :smack:

Somehow, Christmas doesn't really feel like Christmas minus the snow over here in the tropics.
If a genie were to grant me just one wish now, I would love to visit the Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Lapland. This has been on my bucket list for a very long time but with life getting in the way all the time, I am guessing this wish will remain unchecked on my list along with many other wishes.  File:icon sad.gif

Santa, if you're listening right now, I wish for a white Christmas just once more, please..... before I get too old and too broke to travel.

So, what's your best Christmas memory?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Gingerbread Man

'Tis the season of gingerbread! What smells more like Christmas than gingerbread men baking in the oven?
Run, run, fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!  

While I was baking these, Rodney asked, "Why is gingerbread called gingerbread  when it is not a bread at all?" Interesting question. And I have always wondered too, about the history behind the gingerbread man other than the fairy tales I grew up on.
On googling, I learned that originally “gingerbread” simply meant preserved ginger, the English word being related to the Old French gingebras – the last syllable of which became corrupted to become “bread”.
I had a Hungarian boss who used to give us gingerbread hearts every Christmas. In Hungary, traditional gingerbread hearts have been given as gifts for centuries. Did you know that the oldest gingerbread moulds found in Hungary were made more than two thousand years ago? That time, gingerbread cookies were made as gifts for the gods.
There are so many fascinating facts and stories surrounding the history and origin of gingerbread and below are just a few I've recently learnt.

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  1. The crusaders are believed to have brought gingerbread to Britain in the Middle Ages. The first English recorded recipe for gingerbread was produced in 1390. It involved soaking breadcrumbs in honey and ginger.
  2. The first gingerbread men are said to have been created for the amusement of Queen Elizabeth I. They were moulded into the image of her favourite suitors and courtiers, decorated with gold leaf then devoured at royal feasts.
  3. By the early 17th century gingerbread men were selling like hot cakes at fairs across England. By 1614 Ben Jonson's play St Bartholomew's Fair featured a gingerbread seller.
  4. Gingerbread men were, however, soon taken up by witches, who used them like voodoo dolls. They would bake effigies of their enemies and eat them.
  5. Fear that gingerbread men were agents of the occult spread to the continent and in 1607 the magistrates of Delft in the Netherlands made it illegal to either bake or eat the biscuits.
  6. In the North East of England it was traditional for maidens to eat what were known locally as gingerbread husbands on Hallowe'en, to ensure they would snare a real husband.
  7. In the 1990s, a US computer giant was forced to ban a poster of a gingerbread man popular with its female employees. The caption read: 'The ideal man. He's sweet, he's quiet - and if he talks back, you can bite his head off.'
source -  MailOnline

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Angel Vs Star

Growing up, we always had an angel as our christmas tree topper until it fell onto the floor and shattered. It was an old-fashioned blue porcelain angel that was handed down from my mom's aunt. I vaguely recall it looking somewhat like Pinocchio's Blue Fairy. Mom then replaced it with a tacky gold plastic star simply because it was easier to put up a star than an angel. Stars have somehow become our tradition. I've always thought an angel topper was more befitting as it symbolizes the true meaning of Christmas, a great reminder as to what Christmas is really about. In this respect the tree topper is more important than the gifts underneath.

Ever noticed that you can hardly see a tree with an angel atop these days? The star seems to have outshone the angel. Kinda sad really, to see the tradition of putting the Arch Angel Gabriel on top of the christmas tree dying out.

Interestingly, I've just learnt that the angel has been a topper for Christmas trees since the early 18th century, in Germany, when trees were first brought into the home and decorated. The star is a much more recent addition, not being used until in the early 19th century.
The Christmas tree didn’t reach Britain until later in the 19th century and both stars and angels were used. The fairy has only crept to the top of the tree in the last 30 years.

Some interesting facts to share

STAR VS ANGEL HISTORY

The angel symbolises the first ever Christmas- in particular Gabriel, the archangel of revelation, who informed Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ.

Also, an angel visited Joseph in a dream to tell him that he would serve as Jesus' father on Earth, and a number of angels appeared in the sky over Bethlehem to announce and celebrate Jesus' birth.

A tree was first decorated for Christmas in Latvia in 1510 which soon became a popular tradition.

Angels would be placed at the top of a Christmas tree to symbolise the significance of the angels who appeared high above Bethlehem to joyfully announce Jesus' birth on the first Christmas.

They are also used to scare away evil spirits from people's homes.

If not an angel, a star was used to represent the bright star that appeared in the sky to guide people to Jesus' birthplace.

Also, in King James's translation of the Bible it states: 'Lo, the star went before them, till it came and stood over where Baby Jesus was lying.'

Since then, stars have become somewhat a fashion statement to place at the top of a tree.

source - Mail Online

Angels We Have Heard On High..........
Speaking of angels, I made these

What kind of topper do you put on your Christmas tree? Angel, star or something else?

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here but I love the idea because it seems only right that we set aside a day for giving thanks, sharing with those in need, and getting together with loved ones and...hey... the food is a bonus! I think the concept should be exported to other countries as well. I am not big on Black Friday though.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone! May this year's be your best ever!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reindeer or Moose?


I say these are moose, Josh says they are reindeer. But then again, they could be elks or caribou . Frankly, I can't tell the difference. You don't find these creatures on our side of the pond.
However, we do have the mouse deer. Ever seen or heard of one?
image credit - Wikipaedia
Mousedeer, also known as Chevrotain.

Ah, but the mouse deer is not a deer! Neither is it a rodent. It is of the Tragulidae family. An animal about the size of a cat, the mouse deer lives in the jungles of Africa, Asia, and many Pacific islands. It has the legs and the tail of a deer, and the face and the body of a mouse.
The mouse deer (kancil in Malay) is the protagonist of many popular Malay fables that  have been told and retold as folklore for generations in Malaysia. A wee yet cunning figure, Sang Kancil uses its intelligence to outwit other bigger and more powerful creatures than itself.

If you have young kids and want them to learn about children's folktales of Southeast Asia, here are a few Sang Kancil stories to share - THE ADVENTURES OF MOUSE DEER

Monday, November 10, 2014

Santa Bears

With Christmas just round the corner, I'm elbow-deep in icing! Armed with my new found icing 'skills', I just can't wait to surprise my relatives and friends with this year's handmade Christmas cookies instead of those store-bought ones I have been giving year after year.
Santa Bears
Ha! Save for a couple of neighbours, a cousin and Josh's classmates who have been guinea pigs for my cookie experiments, no one knows about my cookie obsession and I can't wait to surprise them!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

School Break

Tomorrow is the last day of school for the year 2014 as Malaysian schools are out for our final term break. Dang!  This means I will have a hard time doing my cookie thing as I won't get to have the house to myself for the first half of the day. And for 2 whole months!  Shudder!

Cookies for Rodney's classmates. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014

I know it's another couple of days to Halloween but I just can't wait to show these off!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Deepavali 2014

Around this time every year, you will see colorful *kolams such as this adorning the entrances to Hindu homes and shopping malls in Malaysia. That is because Hindus all over the world will be celebrating Deepavali also known as the Festival Of Lights tomorrow.

* During Deepavali, the entrances to Hindu homes are decorated with fresh mango leaves and kolams (Indian floor art). It is believed that the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, will only enter a home that is adorned with a kolam.
The kolam or floor-painting uses colored rice grains or powdered rice to prevent evil entering the homes. It is believed to bring prosperity and harmony.

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Diyas (oil lamps) are lit in Hindu homes on Deepavali morning. By lighting the oil lamps, the Hindus are thanking the gods for the happiness, knowledge, peace and wealth that they have received.

Diya and elephant cookies for my Hindu buddies

Happy Diwali to all my Hindu bloggy buddies!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Of Friendly Ghosts, Spirits and Deities

While making these cookies, I recalled  a strange story my college roomie shared with me. The boy in the story was her neighbour.
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When Yusof was little, his parents thought he had an imaginary friend he was constantly interacting with. The conversations and pretend games were so real, it was hard to believe that the friend was imaginary. Yusof described his friend as a boy with an elephant face. At first, his parents thought he just had a healthy, active imagination but grew concerned when they noticed the imaginary conversations and games took place only in a particular room in the house. It was an unfurnished and unoccupied room and they had just recently moved into the rented house.  When Yusof began to spend an abnormal amount of time in the room, his parents began to wonder if the 'friend' was more than just a figment of his burgeoning imagination. They decided to consult a bomoh (a Malay shaman) who, in a trance, revealed that the half-boy half-elephant friend was actually Lord Ganesh, the Hindu elephant deity. And the room that was the playground for Yusof and his invisible playmate was used by the previous occupants as their puja room. A puja room or a prayer room is an intrinsic part of every Hindu household. A visit to their landlord who previously resided in the house confirmed this. An idol of Lord Ganesh used to occupy the exact spot in that room where Yusof loved to play! The landlord brought a Hindu priest to the house and several rituals were performed which included mantras and offerings of  laddus (sweets), incense sticks and a garland of scented flowers. From that day forward, Yusof never saw his elephant buddy again! Uncanny but true!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Josh's Graduation

It seems like only yesterday when my son Josh graduated from Kindergarten.

I can hardly believe it has been eleven years since. Today, he graduates from High School
I am excited for him yet terrified of what the future will be like next.
As he stood there looking all smart and grown up, I went all emotional and it finally hit me that with school over, the safety fence will no longer be there and this young man will be stepping out into unfamiliar territory. This is certainly a pivotal time in our lives.
 I just couldn't hold back the tears that were streaming down my face. Today marks yet another milestone in his life. I guess there will be many more important milestones we see in the future and then, in a flash, they recede into the rear view mirror. How I wish life came with a pause button.
 
I made these cookies for his class's graduation party.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October is National Cookie Month

Did you know that October is National Cookie Month in the US? I don't really know the significance of this but to me, it means lots of excuses to bake cookies and sharing them with friends and family!

For starters, I made these gothic hearts. I thought they look kinda Halloweeny.

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