Archive for December 2013

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream…   2 comments



Nothing I can think to write

Again, I’ve drawn a blank it seems

So I’ll just wish you all Good Night

And hope you all have pleasant dreams






Posted December 28, 2013 by PapaBear in Humor, Personal, Poetry, Uncategorized

New Year Customs and Traditions – other lands   7 comments


Centuries ago it was customary to begin the New Year  with a spotlessly clean house. As a result houses were thoroughly cleaned as it  signified a fresh start to the New Year.

Another tradition involved banging on doors and  walls of the house with Christmas bread to chase the bad luck out of the house  and invite the good spirits in.

On New Year’s night, families would remember those  who has passed away that year before by setting a place for them at the dinner  table and leaving the door unlatched.


La Festa di San Silvestro is celebrated December 31 on New Year’s Eve. As with most Italian festivals, food plays a major role. Families and friends get together for a huge feast. The star of the dinner is lentils, symbolizing money and good fortune for the coming year. Traditionally, the dinner in many parts of Italy also includes a cotechino, a large spiced sausage, or a zampone, stuffed pig’s trotter. The pork symbolizes the richness of life in the coming year.

The New Year is also celebrated with spumante or prosecco, Italian sparkling wine. New Years parties, whether public or private, will often last until sunrise in order to watch the first sunrise of the newborn year.

An old custom that is still followed in some places, especially in the south, is throwing your old things out the window to symbolize your readiness to accept the New Year. So, keep an eye out for falling objects if you’re walking around near midnight!

Oh, one more thing, don’t forget to wear your red underwear to ring in the new year! They say it’ll bring you luck in the coming year.


In Germany people would drop molten lead into cold water and try to tell the future from the shape it made. A heart or ring shape meant a wedding, a ship a journey, and a pig plenty of food in the year ahead.

People also would leave a bit of every food eaten on New Year’s Eve on their plate until after Midnight as a way of ensuring a well-stocked larder.


Le Jour de l’An.   In France, New Year’s Eve (31 December) is called la Saint-Sylvestre* and is usually celebrated with a feast, called le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre. The feast tends to include special items like champagne and foie gras, and the accompanying party can range from an intimate dinner with friends to une soirée dansante (ball).

Interestingly, kissing under the mistletoe is a New Year’s custom in France, rather than a Christmas custom as in other countries. Note that the kissing may be on the lips or on the cheek, depending on the relationship between the two people.

There is a special tradition in Viella, a village in the Hautes-Pyrénées region close to the Spanish border. A church service is held late in the evening on New Year’s Eve. Afterwards, people walk to the vineyards in a torchlight procession. The grape harvest begins at midnight. A strong, sweet wine is made from the grapes that have matured naturally on the vines. Bottles of this wine are specially marked to show that the grapes were harvested on January 1.

Great Britain

British New Year’s Tradition: The First Footing
This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, and suggests that the first person over the threshold on New Year’s Day will bring good luck to the home. The ‘first footer’ has to go through a particular sequence to make this actually happen; they have to enter through the front door, leave behind a fresh loaf of bread on the table, pour a glass of whiskey or wine for the head of the household, and they’re only allowed to say ‘Happy New Year’ to anyone they meet. After that, they must leave through the back door, peacefully and without any further interaction.  According to British folklore, any blondes or red-head guests duringNew Year celebrations generally bring bad luck; as a result, they are never chosen to do the First Footing.

The Hogmanay Celebration
This is an annual Scottish tradition, and involves a lot of drinking and toasting. Many Scots who are celebrating the New Year in England bring along this festive event so that everyone can sing the ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at midnight and greet the New Year together—kilts are optional , but highly recommended.


Like all other places in the world, New Year is widely celebrated in Spain with great zeal and enthusiasm. It is celebrated there as “Nochevieja” whose literal meaning is “old night” and lots of Spanish traditions are associated with it.

There is a very interesting tradition followed among the Spanish during the New Year-eating 12 grapes. These grapes are eaten at every stroke of the clock as it strikes 12 on the New Year eve.   Each grape is meant for each of the 12 months and traditionally it is believed that eating grapes at the beginning of the year brings good luck and prosperity for all 12 months. It was first started by the King of Spain and is still widely followed among the conservative Spanish families.

A very funny yet significant customs prevails among the Spanish during New Year- wearing red colored innerwear. Red for them is a symbol of good luck and prosperity; hence they put it to embrace both. But one cannot purchase it for himself or herself, the red innerwear must be gifted by someone else. Isn’t that interesting? Indeed- it is.
Traditionally many Spanish inhabitants eat chocolates or biscuits at the early Morning of the New Year day just to signify they had a wonderful celebration last night.


С Новым Годом, дорогие читатели!

New Year is the main holiday of the year in Russia– the most welcome and the most beautiful one, rich in history, fascinating traditions and amusing customs.  On New Year’s Eve in Russia, people eat and drink through the night, taking breaks from the festivities to stroll outside in the snow and visit neighbors.  In the morning, children wake up to find presents under the tree, delivered by a bearded guy in a red suit. That guy is not Santa but Ded Moroz, or Father Frost. He is aided not by elves, but by his granddaughter, Snegourochka.

There are many popular Russian New Year traditions and among them the most famous custom is associated with the New Year tree. This tree is called ‘Novogodnaya Yolka’ which is decorated like Christmas tree. The tree is adorned with different sweets and is topped with bright star. From December onwards the homes are decorated with fir trees. These are kept till January 14th.

Among all the other customs one of the very famous beliefs is Russian make wish on the New Year Eve. The Russians feel if, any wish is made on this eve it would be surely fulfilled. For this people wait for the clock to struck 12. They write their desires on paper and burn it on candle. Then this ash is mixed in glass of champagne and consumed by them. This is associated with famous wish making Russian New Year traditions.


These are but a few New Year customs and traditions from other lands.  Just thought I’d share these with you.


And now…, in the words of Tiny Tim…,

“God bless us all”


Posted December 27, 2013 by PapaBear in Experiences, History, Personal, Prose

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2014…..   6 comments

As we open the Book of Years to 2014.., to a new page.., to a new chapter…




May all of your roads be downhill

May your blessings be as many as the stars in the heavens

May you always have enough

May your heart always be too full of love for troubles to enter

May your soul be too full of peace to harbor bitterness or hate

…And may the sun always shine on your dreams.


These are my wishes for you for this New Year…, and forever, my friends

May they all come true. 


Peace and Love


Posted December 27, 2013 by PapaBear in Experiences, History, Personal, Poetry

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Happy Holidays to All   3 comments


 Blue Merry Christmas Tree

May the blessings of Christmas be with all of you this holiday

season and throughout the rest of your lives.  My wishes for

each of you are for peace in your soul…, and love in your heart.

Merry Christmas !





Posted December 24, 2013 by PapaBear in Uncategorized

Christmas Angel   9 comments



Across a meadow filled with snow

I watch her dancing to and fro

Whirling through the frosty air

Catching snowflakes in her hair

Humming softly all the while

She honors me with a secret smile

And as quickly as she came, is gone

In the breath of a sweet Christmas song

My Christmas Angel.





Posted December 22, 2013 by PapaBear in Experiences, Personal, Poetry

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Nite All !   1 comment



Time to put out the light

And go to bed

Pull up the covers

And rest my weary head !







Posted December 16, 2013 by PapaBear in Humor, Personal, Poetry

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Christmas Dinner   4 comments

Not your traditional holiday dishes, but here are a few ideas for something a little different on your Christmas table….




This sweet-tart conserve is a luscious accompaniment to ice cream. It also adds a fruity dimension when stirred into champagne.  This is not intended for consumption by anyone who can’t spell Rumtopf properly (or small children) !



12 oz. pitted sour cherries
12 oz. peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced tart apples, such as Fuji, Gala, or Granny Smith
6 oz. blackberries
6 oz. fresh red currants
2 cups sugar
2 cups brandy, plus more
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Pumpkin seed oil (optional)  and mint sprigs, to garnish


1. Place cherries, apples, blackberries, currants, sugar and brandy in a sterilized 2-qt. glass jar and shake to combine; seal jar with a lid. Let sit at room temperature until fruit is soft and the liquid around fruit is stained red, at least 48 hours. Refrigerate for up to a month.

2. To serve, ladle a spoonful of fruit into a serving dish, and top with a scoop of ice cream; drizzle with oil, garnish with mint and serve immediately.  (oil is optional).




Pommes Duchesse (French Piped Potatoes)

These elegant potatoes,  are brushed with an egg wash before baking for color and crunch.


2½ lb. russet potatoes (about 4)

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

2 egg yolks, plus 1 egg mixed with 1 tsp. heavy cream, lightly beaten

⅛ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Heat oven to 400°. Using a fork, prick potatoes all over; place on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, 1½ hours; let cool, then peel and pass through a food mill or ricer.

2. Mix potatoes, butter, yolks, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a bowl; transfer to a piping bag fitted with a ¾” star tip. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and working in a tight circular motion, pipe twelve 2½” cones about 2″ high. Brush with egg mixture; bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes.




Rösti (Swiss Hash Browns)

Rösti: good potatoes coarsely grated, pressed, and fried. In the dish’s native Switzerland, recipes include bacon, rosemary, caraway seeds, eggs, pasta, cheese (variations)


2¼ lb. russet potatoes (about 3 large)
2 tbsp. lard or unsalted butter
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain potatoes, and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Peel potatoes, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Grate potatoes using the large holes on a cheese grater; set aside.
2. Heat lard and oil in an 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When lard has melted, add potatoes, sprinkle with salt, and mix well, coating potatoes with fat. Using a metal spatula, gently press potatoes, molding them to fit the skillet. Cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
3. Cover skillet with a large inverted plate, invert the rösti over onto plate, then slide it back into the skillet, cooked side up; cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, sprinkle with salt, and cut into wedges to serve.




Irish Soda Bread

Ireland is famous for delicious soda bread made with simple ingredients. It gets its name from the bicarbonate of soda or baking soda used as the leavening agent.


• 5 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting kneading surface)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 4 oz butter (1 stick)
• 3 tablespoons white sugar
• 1 cup raisins (or substitute other dried fruits)
• 1 egg
• 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
• 1/2 cup plain yogurt

(I also add walnuts as an optional addition).


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
2. Using a pastry cutter or clean fingers rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse meal.
3. Add the sugar and raisins and stir to distribute throughout the flour mixture.
4. Stir the beaten egg, yogurt and buttermilk together in another bowl or pitcher.
5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the liquid ingredients. Mix together with a wooden spoon to form a dough.
6. Using your hand, lightly dusted with flour, gently knead the dough into a ball.
7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead gently into a round form about 9 inches in diameter. Do not over knead. This creates a tough bread.
8. Transfer to a lightly greased 9 inch baking pan. Score the top of the loaf with a cross shape to create four distinct quarters or farls.
9. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more. The loaf is baked when the bottom sounds hollow when tapped or an inserted knife comes out clean.
10. If the bread starts to brown too much early in the cooking process, cover it with a tent of aluminium foil.
11. Remove the bread from the oven and the baking pan. Wrap the bread in a clean dish towel and allow to cool on a wire rack.
12. Serve hot sliced bread with butter.

Love this hot out of the oven with plenty of butter on it.  Yum !




Maiale in Agrodolce  (Sweet and Sour Glazed Pork Chops)

Honey and balsamic vinegar are the sweet and sour agents in this recipe.  These grilled pork chops pair well with stewed sweet peppers



4 10-oz. bone-in pork chops, frenched 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar 2 tbsp. honey 4 tbsp. unsalted butter 1 sprig fresh rosemary, torn into 1″ pieces


1. Put pork chops on a plate; drizzle with oil; season generously with salt and pepper; let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. (Can be done in a broiler oven).  Combine vinegar and honey in a 1-qt. saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to ¼ cup. Stir in butter and rosemary and set aside.
3. Put pork chops on grill and cook, occasionally turning and basting with balsamic mixture, until browned and cooked through, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

These are delicious !




Posted December 16, 2013 by PapaBear in Uncategorized