Candlemas

Candlemas falls in that cluster of holidays at the beginning of February, considered archaic by some but delightful by others. The most famous one of these in the US is, of course, Groundhog Day, when we look to cute, chubby, prophetic rodents to find out how much longer our winter will last. Groundhog Day originates from a similar German holiday, when badgers were consulted about this issue. When German immigrants came to the United States, badgers were scarce, but the native groundhog, it was discovered, was equally capable. This tradition coincided with  the British holiday of Candlemas, which also had weather prognostication associated with it. An old rhyme reads:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Candlemas comines elements of the Roman and Celtic festivals of Lupercalia and Imbolc, which celebrate the winter’s turn toward spring and the coming fertility of the earth, with the Christian festivals of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin. There are elements of purification involved in all of these festivals, which is symbolized by fire, be it in the form of bonfires, torches, or, of course, candles.

I love traditional old celebrations like Candlemas, and I see no reason not to celebrate them! Just because you don’t have an elaborate gathering planned with a long guest list and a carefully constructed menu doesn’t mean it’s not worth making your own party, even if you are all by yourself, or just have a couple of other people present.

The obvious necessity for Candlemas is candles. I think you should always have some candles around, because they make any occasion more festive. You can always keep them in a drawer when you’re not using them if you want to keep them out of the way. Antique stores are a great place to find candleholders. You can usually find some nice, inexpensive options in brass, silver, or silver plate. If you’re into collecting you can learn how to tell silver from silver plate or about different styles and design periods, or if you’re approaching it more casually, just pick some that you find beautiful. I like getting pairs for balance, but if you find single candlesticks that you love, don’t worry about it; you can always group them in clusters instead. Think about getting varying heights to add some depth to the arrangement. They don’t have to match!

I didn’t stress myself out over the food, either. I cooked some pre-made spinach and ricotta ravioli from Earth Fare and heated up some tomato sauce (you can make your own and store it in jars in the refrigerator, or buy it) and poured over it, then topped it with a little freshly grated parmesan. It was delicious, and took very little effort!

There you have it: an instant celebration, that involved little more than cooking some pasta and pulling some candles out of the drawer. Even with the minimal effort, I think the effect was marvelous. This serves as a reminder to me, and hopefully to you as well, that we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of life’s little pleasures just because we don’t have time to make them into something grand.

Happy Candlemas, and may the coming spring bring many wonderful things your way!

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Snow Days

Over the past week some much-publicized snow storms have blown across the country, bringing thick blankets of fluffy white snow to cover the land. Here, we were at the outskirts of the storms coming across Kentucky and Tennessee, so we missed the majority of the snow, but still got enough to leave us snowed in for a couple of days.

Walter, of course, loved having everyone shut up in the house with him for much of the week. He thrives on companionship and, given the choice, would require it at all times, with the possible exception of during his late morning-noontime nap. He was perfectly content to just look out the window; the couple of times he was given the opportunity to get out in the snow, he was actually afraid of it, and turned tail and ran back inside as soon as he got the chance.

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There was certainly plenty to see outside, though. The snow and cold brought out all manner of wildlife. The bird feeders are always popular, but during the snow they were absolutely covered. Though they are less immediately recognizable in their winter plumage, the goldfinches were out in full force. I don’t think I have ever seen so many in any one place at one time. That’s right: all of those round beige splotches in the tree will soon be gloriously dressed in bright yellow.

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Even though it isn’t much snow volume wise, it was enough to make roads icy and close schools. I almost slid down twice in one trip walking the dogs, and Florence actually did slip and fall on her walk. Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot to do besides stay inside. We’ve perfected the art of relaxing; it’s going to be a shock when the world starts going again.

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Getting Ready For Spring

It may still be winter, and it is definitely still cold, but there are a few signs of life starting to emerge from the recently frosty ground.

Crocus are one of the first flowers to appear at the end of winter. Here is a bright yellow one, defying the dead brown around it.

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The hyacinths are just starting to sprout out. Before too long, these will show delightfully fragrant deep blue blooms.

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Tulips are starting to show up, too. There are lots of bulbs down there, so hopefully there will be a good spring show.

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Buttercups are always early risers. They are quite cold-hardy, so even if there is more cold weather to come, they should be fine.

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While I can’t deny that a large part of the carpet of leaves covering these flower beds is from my own idleness, it’s not an entirely bad thing. This winter was so cold that it easily could have killed some of the plants back. Fortunately, these hydrangeas were protected somewhat by the leaves covering them. We’ll see if they bloom this year; a really cold winter can wreck their blossoms for a season, even if the plant isn’t killed.

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Here is an experiment: there are tulips planted underneath the pansies in this pot. You can see them peeking out. Hopefully, there will be bright tulips above the pansies soon!

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I  hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the first bits of spring venturing out of the ground. It’s nice to think about the season changing after our unusually cold winter! I’ll be looking forward to showing more plant life when it is really spring!

 

Snow Day

When you get snow predictions in Tennessee, it’s usually best to take them with a grain of salt. Typically, we get a tiny dusting, with a big snow every few years, like the foot we got a couple of years ago. This is what our snows tend to look like. This is what our snow looked like at about noon yesterday.

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Though most of what I saw was just falling and immediately melting, it was sticking in a few places.

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I thought that was all of the snow I was going to see, but I was wrong. It kept on snowing, and later that afternoon, this is what it looked like:

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Big flakes came down for most of the day. If it had been colder before then, we might have had a foot again! As it was, we got a good show, but it didn’t stay around long. This morning, it was already melting away. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted!

A Visit from Jack Frost

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The weather has been quite the roller coaster ride recently, with temperatures falling down into the teens one day and soaring up to nearly sixty the next. The other morning, I saw this frosty artwork on a car. The patterns that mother nature (or in this case, Jack Frost) produces can be truly stunning.

Tennessee Snow

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Tennessee Snow

This is the view that I woke up to this morning. There is your typical Middle Tennessee snow, folks.

It melted pretty quickly, then snowed all day without sticking. It finally started to stick again this evening.

I have no idea if it is still snowing; I guess we will see what the view looks like in the morning!

Bovine Babies

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One of the best things about living in the county is having cows and cute little calves around all the time! Since we have youngish calves in the winter, they get extraordinarily fuzzy. It normally doesn’t get very cold here, so I can enjoy seeing their thick winter coats without any feelings of guilt.

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Because they have pretty regular exposure to humans, our cattle aren’t very skittish at all. The fact that these pictures were taken without the benefit of a zoom lens of any quality is evidence of this. I pretty much just had to stick the camera in the calves’ faces. The bad part of this is that they see absolutely no reason not to lean over the fence to take a nibble off of any plants within reach in the yard. It is a small price to pay for all of the amusement I get from them, though.

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