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Need an excuse to get together? This weekend is it!

snack buffet Happy Gourmand

I know, you can all hardly wait, as it has finally arrived and soon we will be able to celebrate with the usual food and drink that accompanies the whole event…

Great ideas from the folks at http://www.parentpalace.com – check them out!

Did you think I was speaking of the Superbowl? I suppose that could be a reasonable assumption, but I was actually thinking of that other big event this weekend – Groundhog Day. It really is a big thing in those locales where there is a resident rodent to “prognosticate” on the status of the coming spring. In a country where weather is a large part of our daily water-cooler talk and even our identity, it is surprising that we do not make more of this effort to encourage spring along! After all, for those of us who have not already escaped to some warmer clime to fend off the aches in our bones from the biting cold, this is one bright spot. February has no other holiday in it, for goodness sake!

Okay, so maybe I am taking those beer ads too seriously (you know, the ones that say we have two seasons – July and winter?!) But in the doldrums of the month that is the shortest but often seems the longest, I for one think any excuse for a celebration is a reasonable one. I plan to watch the Superbowl, and I plan to celebrate Groundhog Day too. Valentines’ Day is good for a bit of warmth if you can beat the commercial superficiality out of it, and if I can find some folks who want to come over for a Mardi Gras Party, then before I know it spring will be here (whether the little rodent sees his shadow or not!)

 groundhog day Happy Gourmand

I went to visit the website for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, where the whole week’s events are posted by the hour, from the pancake breakfast to the Punxy Phil Anything Goes Chili and Wings Cook Off (I kid you not, these are real events. I guess you need sustenance in between visiting the weather centre exhibits and the weddings at Phil’s chapel, not to mention the Prognosticators’ Ball and the midnight showing of the Bill Murray movie.) I found this news most encouraging, and so I say why argue? If you haven’t been celebrating this special holiday, you are 121 years behind good old Phil in Pennsylvania, and centuries behind Christian tradition that recognized Candlemas as a time to begin events of the coming year (all the candles were blessed at this time).Candlemas tradition Happy Gourmand

Whether you prefer a serious celebration of the coming year, or a recognition of the fact that we are halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, or even just that a relatively well-fed rodent bothered to poke his head up and tip his hat in our direction… well, any of those events on February 2 is a good way to start a new month and to continue enjoying this life. Perhaps to keep it exciting, I will plan the menu once I see the forecast – stew if winter is staying, and seafood if spring is coming. Either way, with some good friends in attendance, it will be a wonderful celebration, I am sure. Cheers to you!

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Making the most of your New Year’s luck

Did you know there are a plethora of traditions surrounding the idea of maximizing one’s good fortune for the coming year? For those of you looking for last-minute boosts, or anyone starting the New Year and checking up, here are some tips for you (of course I make no guarantees, but it couldn’t hurt, right?)

  • I live in wine country, so this tradition from Spain sounds like a good place to start – consume one grape at each strike of the midnight clock(Spanish grape growers started this tradition to rid themselves of a glut of fruit in the last century, and it stuck). This is a lo-cal tradition, at least 🙂 They say to take heed at the taste of  each grape, as it signifies the tone of each month.
  • Moms will love this one – the more leafy greens you eat at New Year’s, the more likely you are to have lots of money in the coming year (the green colour symbolizing money, of course). This also applies to legumes (peas, beans) – they swell when cooked, signifying a growing fortune.
  • Did you know we don’t just eat ham at New Year’s to give the turkeys a rest? Pigs signify prosperity in many cultures, due to their habits of rooting forward on steady legs, and also due to their rich fat content. By the way, if ham is not your thing, any pork dish will do. Even pigs made of marzipan are considered lucky in Austria!
  • Fish has been a popular “feasting food” since the Middle Ages (before refrigeration), as it could be easily preserved and cooked later. Baccala, or bacalao (dried salt cod) is popular in Italy and Spain from Christmas through New Year.
  • Cakes of various kinds are popular in most cultures (surprised?) Often a token was hidden in the cake and the person receiving it would be the lucky one in the group. (See my recipe for “Twelfth Night Torte”, a French tradition for Epiphany)
  • if you don’t want to eat too much but want to participate, how about passing along the food? A Scottish tradition for Hogmanay is to be a “first-footer” – the first person through the door of a friend’s house in the New Year, bearing gifts. You are to bring coal – to warm their house – or salt – to flavour their food – or sweets – to enrich their lives.

For those of you who want to hedge your bets, here are the things to AVOID for New Years’…

  • lobster – it crawls backwards, thus signifying a lack of progress in the New Year
  • chickens – they scratch backwards, and so could cause regret or focus on the past
  • birds of flight – they could signify your luck flying away (was this why we chose the turkey as a popular holiday bird??)

And, for those wanting to start the year on the right foot, not over-indulging, take heart! You can tell your dining companions you are leaving food on the plate to symbolize food in the pantry all year (and perhaps a healthier waistline, too).

Whatever you eat at New Years’, however you ring in 2012, may you be with loved ones with a smile on your face.

Cheers!

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like…

Dare I say it? The lights are going up everywhere, and the displays in stores have now totally taken over. You could only excuse yourself for not knowing Christmas is coming if you have all electronic devices off and you haven’t left your house. At our place, even inside you can tell – it SMELLS like Christmas. By this point I have definitely joined in on the spirit of things. Who wants to miss out on the biggest festivities of the year?

I do like Christmas. And I won’t apologize for calling it that and not saying “Happy Holidays”. I fully respect those who celebrate Hannukah, Kwaanza, Eid al Fitr and all the other festive holidays that exist. I would expect they might offer their greeting to me. Since I enjoy Christmas, I wish them well on behalf of that holiday and I hope in the spirit of all of those named days we can all share a bit of communal good tidings and love. I think one of the reasons that children should lead the way in celebrating Christmas is that they want primarily to enjoy it and share, and that is the essence of the giving season in all cultures.

Rabbit Hollow smells like Christmas as soon as December looms on the calendar, as we host a block party every year with numerous desserts for our friends and neighbours. (Some would call it bribery – I say whatever works; we all enjoy the company and the goodies!) We like to share the stories of the year, and a bit of good cheer. We also take the time to donate to the Food Bank as well, for those who are less fortunate. Having something on the table to share is at the heart of the holiday season.

There are many ways you can help in the community to share with others who have less, and this time of year does seem to remind us that giving is at least as good a feeling as receiving. I thought, in the spirit of the season, that I would offer a few ideas for you in the Kelowna area as you make your plans and do your shopping.

West Kelowna Community Food Bank – drop offs can be made at the old video store in the mall next to Save-On Foods. (community drives exist through local businesses as well)

Kelowna Community Food Bank – drop offs can be made at numerous locations and there are numerous community events – check out their website here for details

Salvation Army – watch for the kettle ringers in the area; their programs offer food and many other kinds of assistance to those who need it; see website for details

Kelowna Gospel Mission – they accept donations at their location in downtown Kelowna and online – click here for more details

If you can afford to give, then it will certainly be appreciated. But remember, even a kind thought will help us make the world a better place. Merry Christmas!

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