Welcome 2012!

Well it feels like a long time ago I sat down to write to you all…Reality of time is odd! First, All the characters and I want to wish you a very happy healthy and great new year. Great, hmmm, an interesting word – in this case it can mean whatever you need/want/desire and or dream. For us at Botanical Beauties & Beasties, it means a continuation of growth, meeting even more new amazing folks, and sharing our world to a bigger group.

As this is New Year’s Day (observed as a work holiday for many) I was wondering about the History of New Years Day – here is what I found…

“The celebration of the new year is one of the oldest holidays. Many believe it was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago it marked the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox. The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. How did New Years Day move from the summer to the winter? A good question, especially since the spring is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. Today New years Day is January 1st.

The month of January was named for their god, Janus, who is pictured with two heads. One looks forward, the other back, symbolizing a break between the old and new.

“Janus is the Roman god known as the custodian of the universe. He is the god of beginnings and the guardian of gates and doors. He is lord over the first hour of every day, the first day of the month and January, the first month of the year. Two heads back to back represent Janus, each looking in opposite directions. His double-faced head appears on many Roman coins. Originally, one face was bearded and one was not, most likely representing the sun and the moon. In his right hand he holds a key. He was worshipped at the beginning of planting time, harvest, marriages, births and other important beginnings in a person’s life. 1) Janus the god of beginnings (and endings)  http://www.meridiangraphics.net/janus.htm  / http://www.rense.com/general92/janus.htm

The Greeks paraded a baby in a basket to represent the spirit of fertility. Christians adopted this symbol as the birth of the baby Jesus and continued what started as a pagan ritual. Today our New Year’s symbols are a newborn baby starting the next year and an old man winding up the last year.” –http://new-years-day.com/new-years-history.htm  /

“Early New Year’s Celebrations

…For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. In addition to the new year, Atiku celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat and served an important political purpose: It was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed.

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

January 1 Becomes New Year’s Day

The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox; according to tradition, it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. A later king, Numa Pompilius, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius. Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today. As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. to read the whole article… http://www.history.com/topics/new-years.

Our ancestors thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. It has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends.

New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. Some put coins in black-eyed peas and the person who gets the coin in their meal will be prosperous in the coming year.

So – here’s to circles, friends new and old, coins, black eyes peas, Janus- the Roman god of beginnings, and even Julius Caesar for making 2012 New Years in part what we know today as traditions and celebrations.

Books and their gilded covers. E-Pub or physical book?

Ron with Books
Which do you prefer? (ps you can see my winter reading list as well on the table top!)

In this gift giving season, we here at BBB3 think books are always a great gift idea….E-Pub is eco-friendly, but holding a book is still an experience we like.

“If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.”…

“When people do beautiful books, they’re noticed more,” said Robert S. Miller, the publisher of Workman Publishing. “It’s like sending a thank-you note written on nice paper when we’re in an era of e-mail correspondence.”…

“For publishers, the strategy has a clear payoff: to increase the value of print books and build a healthy, diverse marketplace that includes brick-and-mortar bookstores and is not dominated by Amazon and e-books.”…

To showcase books with special design elements, booksellers at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., created a display of lushly embroidered Penguin classics with a sign reading, “Give classical beauty this holiday season.”

read the New York Times article here...

What do you think?

Figgy Pudding: Two Ways – Old and New?

Wednesday Julia was holding the Figgy Pudding – so, as promised….
a Figgy Pudding sing a-long fa la la  (and recipes)

…Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer

We won’t go until we get some;We won’t go until we get some;
We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here…

Since Figgy Pudding is traditional an English sustenance… I went to the source, the BCC!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/figgypudding_90647

Figgy pudding
Ingredients

  • 175g/6oz dried figs
  • 100ml/3½fl oz brandy
  • 50g/2oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 175g/6oz breadcrumbs
  • 100g/3½oz shredded vegetarian suet
  • 225g/8oz chopped dates
  • 90g/3¼oz golden raisins
  • 1 orange, zest and juice only
  • 5cm/2in piece fresh root ginger, grated or juiced to retain only the juice
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • butter, for greasing
  • custard, to serve

Preparation method

  1. Place the figs into a bowl and pour over the brandy. Leave to soak overnight, then drain (reserving the brandy) and roughly chop the figs.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, nutmeg, breadcrumbs, suet, dates and raisins.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the reserved brandy, orange zest and juice, ginger juice and eggs until well combined.
  4. Add the brandy mixture into the flour mixture and mix well to combine, until smooth and free of lumps. Stir in the figs, then spoon the mixture into a 1 litre/2 pint pudding dish and cover with buttered greaseproof paper followed by cloth or kitchen foil. Secure well with kitchen string.
  5. Steam in a large pan of water for four hours, topping up the water as necessary throughout, or until the pudding is cooked through and springy to the touch.
  6. Unwrap the pudding basin and serve the pudding in slices with custard.
Figgy Pudding #2__________________________________________________

The above seems a bit time consuming – so here is the faster easier, less demanding of you, Figgy Pudding (a simplified version) -It is from the December 2004 issue of Good Housekeeping, and author Laura Kalpakian. Read more: Figgy Pudding Recipe – Laura Kalpakian What Is Figgy Pudding – Good Housekeeping

One package of dried figs (10 to 12 ounces). Put them in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover, at least 2 cups. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Let sit until soft (a few hours).

Once soft, remove figs from the water and place in a bowl. Save the water, which will already be fragrant, and add a cup of sugar (optional). Bring to a boil and let reduce slightly. Remove from heat. Add a bit, perhaps 1 tablespoon, maybe more, of orange-flower water. Cool.

Chop up your figs. Chop them fine, but do not pulverize. Do this by hand.
Using a boxed cake mix for carrot cake, follow the directions, but instead of the water they request, use the fragrant sugary water from the figs. (Save the remainder of this water.) Then add oil and eggs as recommended on the carrot cake mix. Add some cinnamon (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a lot of fresh-grated nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon). Mix in a food processor. At the end, toss in the fig pieces and beat in a bit. Turn into a bowl and add a bunch of sliced almonds (about 1/2 cup) and some raisins (about 1/3 cup) that have been softened in brandy if you like. Add the grated peel of one orange and a big dollop (1 tablespoon) of marmalade.

Line a big metal bowl (about 4 quarts) with foil. Use enough foil that you will have a big collar around the top of the bowl. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Pour your cake batter into the foil-lined bowl. Set into preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes, then bring the collar gently over top of cake. Continue for another hour and half. Use a skewer to test (it will come out clean when pudding is done). It will take a while because it is dense.
Remove from oven and cool overnight.  Uncover and overturn onto a big serving platter. Carefully remove foil. The cake will be a mound, its size depending on the depth of your bowl.

To serve, take the reserved fig-and-sugar syrup and add to this maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup of brandy or rum. Heat. You can, if you wish, ignite as you would for plum pudding, but it tastes just fine with the sauce poured over it just before serving. Use whipped cream or crème fraîche with each serving. (If your cake is less than perfect to the eye, you can instead quickly frost the cold cake with whipped cream, covering any imperfections, and serve the warm sauce on the side.)

Read more: Figgy Pudding Recipe – Laura Kalpakian What Is Figgy Pudding – Good Housekeeping

Julia figgy pudding

Holiday sing along..

What we expect, and at this point even want…
“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! ”
…but it’s not-it was a record-breaking 67˚ in Boston on Tuesday, can you say ODD? Do you think cyclical weird? Climate issues? Hard not to.

~ regardless ~

Julia is getting ready, baking and cooking up a storm. (pun intended – ha ha, fa la)
She has her magic elf boots and Xmas cactus cap on, there’s nothing she can’t do now!
Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or whatever your winter celebration may be, they are all right in front of us now. One more day and it is December. That too is amazing.

Julia in a Holiday mode
Julia in Holiday mode… magic hat and boots, she’s ready to go!

That’s Figgie pudding she is holding… more about that on Fun Food Friday!