Tag Archives: holidays

Chef Joey – always in style! … Home for the Holidays … to make Gingerbread

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Text and photos by Chef Joey

Home for the Holidays – that seems to sum up what everyone wants, or thinks is the best, or so the song says.

But what exactly is “home”?

According to Webster’s Dictionary it is a “domicile” “House” “workplace” and even a “Habitat,” say where fish return home to spawn. Even they have a favorite spot!

Where ever it may be, home is a place of grounding, whether it be an apartment, a house, rented space or even a nursing home. One needs to have a place of one’s own. Nothing is more important than that, especially during the holidays.

This is one of those holidays that reaches into the depths of our memories, the Santa Claus watching us all year, the Elf on the Shelf scampering around to new hiding places. All this cerebral fun, combined with transferring the “Home” into an ornament filled room, awash with lights and color. And there has to be some heirloom decoration that comes out just for this time period.

Holiday trees are plentiful on many corners, having grown for the last 10 or so years to be cut, transported, marketed and sold for $15 to those who dare take the chance it will last the Holiday. Others prefer the safe “fake” tree …

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… that stands just as majestically as a real one, but does come back year to year and eventually becomes an heirloom itself. …

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On a brief note, because of space constraints, Europeans generally decorate a fir branch in their homes to celebrate the solstice, when fermented beverages from the summer were ready to consume and animals were slaughtered and stored for winter meals. Three tops were used to save the rest of the tree. Early decorations were edible items as well – dried apples, cookies etc.

My European grandmother would place a branch on the mantle in the dining room and decorate it with a few ribbons, and a candle ended up there. Simple and yet elegant.

The common thread for all these definitions is, of course food. Even the fishes have to eat! We, however, have cheese dips, even cheese Christmas trees! …

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… cookies …

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… cakes and favorite meals …

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Gift swapping, too. People in homes run by caretakers have the advantage of enjoying continual celebrations. Work places always have some kind of holiday party and private residences are always cozy. Christmas recipes tend to indulge more the sugary side. Confections seem to go very well with this holiday.

Cookies go back to the Middle Ages when spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg made their appearances. Cinnamon cakes, nutmeg beverages and various ginger cookies and cakes started appearing.

Ginger and Gingerbread Men and Gingerbread Houses

Surprisingly, most gingerbread items have changed very little since then, right down to the molasses that was cheaper than sugar. The birth of the “Gingerbread Man” was for Queen Elizabeth the 1st, who had the cookies made for her favorite advisors. Giving a cookie became the thing to do because in medieval times it was hard for working people to procure dried fruits and nuts, and when they did it was for an important event like Christmas. So the making of cakes and puddings would be the priority and hard to share. So using your butter and lard to make a batch of cookies or cakes was less expensive, therefore people would share a “cookie” or a cake with friends and neighbors during the holiday season.

Now we have gift cards.

One time I painstakingly made a Gingerbread House for the holidays, as my parents were coming to the states from France to visit me. They came into my house directly from the airport. I showed them my Gingerbread House, all proud – it was complete with frosted shingles and gumdrops!

My mom said, “Oh how pretty” and ripped a corner off the roof and ate it.

When I protested, she said, “It’s ginger bread – use cardboard if you don’t want people to eat it. You make cakes and cut them. What’s the difference?”

Good point. I got over it.

Germany had a lot to do with confections, but mainly breads. The French had cakes. This being New “England,” we have Christmas puddings and English-like holiday treats. Of course, immigration has brought holiday traditions for families to America, and no shocker, they all involve food!

Whatever your tradition, I hope you enjoy it in a happy, healthy way and celebrate with others if you can – it makes for a nice time. Our common thread? We are all still kids at heart!

Gingerbread

Here is a gingerbread recipe that is quick, easy and tasty. It takes less than one hour to make and can be served warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

2 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp nutmeg *you can use allspice

2 tsp for cinnamon cloves and nutmeg blend

½ cup melted butter

¾ cup molasses

¼ cup water

1 egg

1 cup whole milk or buttermilk for thicker bread

Heat oven to 350 – grease a 9 x 9 pan or cup cake liners (6).

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the butter and molasses to a bowl and sift in the dry ingredients (everything up to the butter from the top).

Stir, adding water.

Mix the egg and milk together, add to your batter, mix well and pour into the pan or tins.

Bake 30 minutes or so for cake and 15 to 18 minutes for cupcakes.

Test with a toothpick for doneness.

Remove from the oven – let stand – turn the cake out on a cooking rack, cut into pieces and serve!

Enjoy!

Such cute holiday decor at Unique Finds!

I visited Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage gift shop, 1329 Main St., today. They had such adorable holiday stuff on display. All for a fa la la la la!

They’re open 7 days a week!

’til 7 p.m.

BEST PRICES IN TOWN!

pics: R.T.

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Cece!!! What are you doing here??!

Unique finds at Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage gift shop! …

… located at 1329 Main St., Worcester … (Webster Square area – at the corner of Main and Henshaw streets)

OPEN TODAY – MONDAY! – and TUESDAY! …

and every day until 7 p.m.

Shop here early for your holiday finds! – pics:R.T.

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Rosalie, last week …Unique Finds also sells tee shirts, jackets, coats and boots …(not this tee, though)

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Be there! …Cece…Joey, always in style!

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Too too!

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Cece food dish and toy on Rose…

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Cece on Rose…

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Mommy, you’re the bees knees!
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Chef Joey will be doing up Thanksgiving!

Thanksgivings past by Chef Joey:

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For your holiday meal try switching out animal products for these heart-healthy, yummy alternatives! – R.T.

Vegan-Cooking-Tips

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Happy Easter! … and then some!

Lilac donning her Easter bonnet!:

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Not-so-Happy District 4:

Charlton Street:
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Lower Endicott Street:

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Ward Street heading into the Canal District:

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This Earth Day these filth hot spots will be cleaned up by the best of the best. The next day they’ll be clogged with garbage. A chronic problem!

City Leaders may want to institute FREE GARBAGE PICK UP IN SOME OF OUR INNER-CITY ‘HOODS. The illegal dumping will never go away …

Some questions:

Is it financial hardship that keeps folks from plunking down 10 bucks for city trash bags?

Or: Is it a symptom of something deeper, a kind of depression/malaise that stops our folks from keeping their environs clean?

We can debate the causes all year long. Meanwhile, my neighborhood grows dirtier and dirtier.

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So wonderful when our readers show us the love:

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Like William here! To hear the enthusiasm in his voice a week ago as he picked up the latest issue of ICT! To be bombarded with his compliments! To experience his intelligence and thoughtfulness! Our readers make it all STILL GREAT. After almost 15 years!

THANK YOU!!

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My friend works in a flower shop. She “sent” me these beauties a few days ago for Easter!:

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Love the soft peach roses, gal pal!

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And love the hundreds of vintage toy trucks and cars – some of them actually antiques dating back to the 1920s – for sale at Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage gift store at 1329 Main St., Worcester. These guys really take you back! Who can remember the Texaco jingle?

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Lilac, my tenacious hunter, caught a rabbit (or squirrel?) a week ago:

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A brutal, but quick, ending for the little guy. You can’t break your dog of his/her high prey drive. … Lilac slept like a babe that night, true to her soul:

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Easter sans Lucinda? Never in a million Easters! Reposting one of my favorite Lu songs!

HAPPY, HAPPY EASTER!

– pics+text by Rosalie Tirella

A bit of work in the a.m./early afternoon …

… then it’s time to get ready for a Christmas Eve gathering! … 20 friends, folks I’ve known for years … a holiday buffet – a spread sprinkled with Italian goodies! … shiny Christmas tree ornaments … passionate political pontificating!!!! (GO, HILLARY!!) … presents (the least important part these days!) … music … silly jokes, smiles and hugs … old people, young people, babies with their skin that always smells so NEW …

Have yourself a wonderful Christmas Eve day!
-R.T.

Joy to us all!

By Edith Morgan

In the midst of the mad race to the end of 2015, I want to take a few minutes to wish everyone  a  joyous holiday season: it seems that from Halloween on, it is a mad rush to get to the end of the year. We barely get the spooks and goblins and  costumes put away for another year, when already Thanksgiving is upon us and then there is no real let-up until we sink exhausted into winter in January.
 
Thanksgiving is followed by the eight days of Hanukah, then Christmas, and then the New Year, with “First Night,“ and then the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year, and the Cambodian New Year in April. And somewhere in between Christmas and the New Year, Kwanzaa takes its seven (I think) days. And it is hard to remember what year each group is celebrating – the Jewish year is 5776, the Chinese around  4712, the Cambodian year is 2559. I have not yet researched the numbers for the Hindu, Moslem, or other years yet. 

Also, different groups celebrate according to a different calendar – some follow the lunar calendar, while others have their holidays determined by historical or other criteria while most Christians follow the calendar mostly in use in America and Europe … the Eastern Orthodox Churches have their Christmas about two weeks after December 24th.
 
But whenever the celebration is, we all seem to have some sort of celebration and end-of-year festival, and we have some time for getting together with family and friends.

It is a time when we exchange greetings and notes with people whom we may only remember at this time, but whom we may have known for years. In this very mobile society, and in this very large country, so many of us are so far apart. And travel is expensive and time-consuming, so we traverse the miles using media. Of course, since the advent of Facebook and cell phones, and Skype, we are able to communicate almost daily (sometimes several times a day, for kids), so it is almost like being there.
 
For me, real, face-to-face interaction is still the best. The phone and computer rely so heavily on words, that we miss all the subtle messages that emanate from a living person in our presence. And sometimes I fear we are losing the ability  to “read” the signals coming from others – that takes years of practice to achieve!
 
So, for this holiday season, let’s spend more, real time really together – talking, listening, exchanging ideas and stories instead of spending ourselves into debt buying a lot of things we do not really need. This might be a good time to get to know our neighbors better – maybe carry a dish of cookies or home-made fudge to them, and personally wish them a great new year. 
 
And of course this is the time to reflect on the past year, and to resolve to do some things better – to learn something new, to make new friends, and to come closer to being the person we should be.

Joy and, above all, PEACE to all this holiday season!

Cool toys at UNIQUE FINDS ANTIQUE AND VINTAGE gift shop …

… located at 1329 Main St., Worcester.

OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK

Until 7 p.m.

UNIQUE toys for kids of all ages at UNIQUE FINDS ANTIQUE AND VINTAGE GIFT STORE!!!

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Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree: Pine or Plastic?

By Derek Lirange, Worcester Tree Initiative

Do you feel that chill in the air? Tis the season to deck the halls, listen to holly jolly jingles, and sip cocoa. Ask 10 people what their favorite holiday of the year is and most of them will tell you it’s Christmas! Even though we stress out at malls trying to find the perfect gifts, completely derail our dietary goals, and have to adjust to the cooling temperatures there’s still something magical about this time of year that can’t be overwhelmed.

One of the favorite traditions this time of year is decorating a Christmas tree. It’s a tradition that has a long history with its roots in pagan tradition rather than Christian. Evergreens are a mark of life in a landscape of leafless trees and many religions would celebrate that life by bringing evergreen branches and trees into their homes. According to The History Channel’s History of Christmas Trees the practice became popularized for Christians when Queen Victoria of England encouraged her husband, a German who had been raised decorating a tree each winter with his family, to bring the tradition to into their home. The masses caught on and the rest is history!

Decorating trees remains a favorite tradition but now we have the choice, do you buy a real tree each year? Or should you invest in a plastic tree, which are becoming increasingly realistic looking, even up close? The issue can be polarizing with people taking strong stances for both sides. Those for real trees argue that there’s nothing that can replace the look and smell of the real deal, and there’s a certain sentimentality to going out and picking the perfect tree. Proponents of fake trees like the ease of setting the tree up, the fact that they don’t have to water the tree, or vacuum up needles, or find a way to dispose of the tree at the end of the season. Additionally, some might argue that cutting trees down is bad for the environment! We’re talking about millions of trees a year that get cut down.

As tree people you might thing that we here are Worcester Tree Initiative are proponents of fake trees however the issue isn’t so clear as it may seem. Consider that Christmas tree farms are a business, for every tree they cut down they have to plant another tree in order to have more to sell in the years to come. Furthermore, plastic trees do eventually need to be replaced, meaning more plastic in landfills that won’t degrade for thousands of years, and I personally take issue with that. Natural Christmas trees biodegrade. In Worcester they become part of the municipal compost which is free to Worcester residents and available at the yard waste facility on Millbury Street.

Personally, I like real trees, I grew up picking out a real tree with my family and I’d like to continue the tradition with a wife and kids of my own some day. But, admittedly, there are a lot of good reasons to go with a plastic tree. Whichever you choose I hope you love your tree and that it brings you joy each time you look at it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Worcester Tree Initiative!

Holiday thanks by Edith Morgan … and more …

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Two cuties at last year’s Friendly House Christmas party. This year WORCESTER’S FRIENDLY HOUSE NEEDS VOLUNTEERS AND TOYS FOR THEIR KIDS CHRISTMAS PARTY on Sunday, December 20! Starting at 2 p.m. They’re located at 36 Wall St. Please donate new, unwrapped gifts for 10-12 year old kids; please volunteer on party day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – shifts available!

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TODAY!

Come to the 28th Annual Kelley Square Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony!

TODAY! Friday, December 11

5:30 pm

At the Kelley Square Gulf Station on the corner of Madison and Harding streets!

Free refreshments!

Caroling!

Horse wagon rides!

Pictures with Santa Claus!

Be merry! Be there!

THANK YOU, LORRAINE LAURIE, FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN – EVERY YEAR!

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Holiday Thanks

By Edith Morgan

“Tis the season! We go breathlessly through these days, and many of us scarcely have the time to stop and think about the past year, and its gifts to us.

So, just maybe, this year, how about taking time out from feasts, ball games and marathon shopping trips, and giving a little thought to our blessings?

Most of us have so much that we take for granted: family, friends, a roof over our heads (“be it ever so humble, there is no place like home”), regular meals, warm clothing for the oncoming winter, and above all, the freedom to speak up, move about freely, make all sorts of choices that are not available in many places throughout our world. We have innumerable opportunities to learn, in our schools, our libraries, and from each other.
 
As we get older, and understand more about what enriches our lives, the things we give thanks for change. Reading the essays by grade school children, we gather that they are appreciative about those things with which they have experience: their families, their teachers, their pets, etc. As they get older, and their worlds expand, children begin to understand the intricate support networks that support their existence. And finally, as they go out in the world, they learn to appreciate the great web of interdependence available to them.
 
Here, we often take the blessings of liberty for granted. We forget how hard was the fight that ensured we could exercise them – and how piecemeal the achievement: our original founders recognized only white, male, property owners as having all the rights of citizenship. It took much longer to enfranchise former slaves, minorities, and lastly, women. So, let us give a shout of thanks for all the brave souls who fought tirelessly to take their rightful place at the holiday table.
 
On a personal note: I have been very fortunate in so many aspects of my life: being saved from the Nazi horror, coming to America at the last minute (we got here just 3 months before Pearl Harbor), parents who were there for me, and the opportunity to have a career doing what I loved: Teaching. I have good health, a lovely old home, and a husband who loves me. My best friends have been that for over 40 years, and I can pursue many goals.

The best way I know to show gratitude this holiday season is to “give back” – give  help in many ways, to as many as I can!

Happy holidays!