Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Spoons...

In Welsh tradition, a man who is courting a young woman would carve a love spoon for his intended.   Intricate symbolic details such as keys (to the heart), wheels (to work hard for his love), and beads (for the number of desired children), would be carefully carved with the intention of presenting to the one being courted.

On St. Dwynwen's Day, Welsh love spoons are one 
of the most traditional and romantic gifts that can be given.

Who is Saint Dwynwen, anyway?

She is the patron saint of lovers...
She was the daughter of Brchan Brycheinog, chieftain of Powys, 
who lived in the fifth century.

The beautiful Dwynwen fell in love, 
but rejected her love for him as her father did not approve.

There are many variations of her legend.  

Dwynwen prayed that she would have no memory of her true love, 
and in doing so, 
an angel provided her with a potion, 
which she gives to her true love and turns him to ice.  
After seeing what happens to him, 
she prays for his release, 
and that all lovers be watched over, and that she never fall in love again.  

She banishes herself to an island off the west coast of Anglesey forever after.
It is well accepted that should one gaze upon the sacred fish within the magical waters 
of the well located on the grounds of Eglwys Santes Dwynwen, 
lovers' destinies will be foretold.

   St. Dwynwen's Day is celebrated on January 25th.

File:Ruins of Saint Dwynwen's Church - - 858103.jpg
The fair and beautiful Dwynwen found herself cursed, and local people today believe the island to be inhabited by ancient spirits.  Many legends have come from Wales, 
as have many of our own families that left Wales to come to the new world.  
In honor of my ancestors, my Valentine's Day gift this year is a love spoon.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens...

February 7, 1812 - June 9, 1870

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, 
and a touch that never hurts.”
Charles Dickens is indeed Charles Dickens' 200th birthday

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, 
I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, 
I have devoted myself to completely; 
that in great aims and in small, 
I have always been thoroughly in earnest.” 
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

On June 8th 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke at his home, in the midst of his work on Edwin Drood, and passed away the following day at 58 years old. 
He wished to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner", instead, he was laid to rest in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. 

Dickens's last words, as reported in his obituary were alleged to have been:
Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled
all the rules of art.

Dickens requested that no memorial be erected to honor him.  
The only life-size bronze statue of Dickens is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was never completed...

Dickens passed prior to finishing the mystery novel, and left no clues regarding how it may play out in the end.  There are many writers who have attempted their own version of the conclusion to the story. 

 I have two novels written by modern authors with regard to the very subject of Drood...

The first of these works of fiction would be 
Drood, by Dan Simmons.  
On the inside jacket, there are some brief references to the 
mystery behind this last work of Dickens...

"...Drood.  Based on actual biographical events, Drood explores the still unresolved mysteries of one of our greatest writer's dark final days in a profoundly original tale..."

The other of these novels that pay tribute to the last work of Dickens would be... 
The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl.  

Taken from the book's own synopsis, The Last Dickens "...reopens one of literary history's greatest mysteries. The Last Dickens is a tale filled with the dazzling twists and turns, the unerring period details, and the meticulous research that thrilled readers of the bestsellers The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow." 

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” 
 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens' tomb marker can be found in the Poets' Corner
 at Westminster Abbey.  Each year on the anniversary of his birth, 
a wreath is laid on his grave.

Prince Charles at Dickens celebration
The Prince of Wales today commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Victorian writer, Charles Dickens.
In London, to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens on February 7th, there was the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Dickens' grave, which is located in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.  Prince Charles himself presented this wreath upon the grave, which has been there since 1870.

An interesting take on the gathering today would have been the fact that many of the attendees were descendants of Dickens, with over 200 family members present.  The Victorian novelist has left quite a legacy, and there was quite the impressive list of representatives from all walks of creative media.

There were readings by the g.g.grandson of Charles Dickens, Mark Dickens, as well as by Ralph Fiennes, who portrays Magwitch from Great Expectations in an upcoming film. 

From the Dean of Westminster... "Dickens' humanity and compassion made an extraordinary impact on Victorian England through his writings, which remain immensely popular. This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day."
Gillian Anderson, who portrays Miss Havisham in the new film adaptation of Great Expectations, paid tribute to Dickens as well today.  

Here is a wonderful preview of her portrayal...

“I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I love her none the less because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection.”
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

~ Happy Birthday from us all, Mr. Dickens...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mardi Gras!

It's carnival season!

Mardi Gras is a wonderful way for a gathering of friends to celebrate!
I haven't been to New Orleans for quite some time, but I do enjoy holding my own personal Mardi Gras at home... this is really a great excuse to invite some cherished friends over for sharing of food, drink, & merriment. The welcoming of guests with decorative masks and colorful costumes adds to the excitement!  I like to always have some great New Orleans music playing in the background, and have included a great little sample that you may play as you peruse the recipe.  The magic of 'The Big Easy' awaits...

Olive oil
2 red or white onions, chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
chopped celery
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped with seeds
3 tablespoon Creole Seasoning (or more)
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
5 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound andouille sausage cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
32 oz chicken stock
28 oz can plum tomatoes, diced, with liquid
3 cups long-grain rice
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. 

Add two chopped red onions, four chopped green onions, one chopped bell pepper, four finely chopped garlic cloves, two bay leaves, one finely chopped jalapeño, one tbspn. (or more) Creole Seasoning, one-half tspn. cayenne pepper and one-half tspn. fresh chopped oregano. 

Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. 

Mix in two tbspns. tomato paste. Add broth.  Add sausage, ham, tomatoes and rice. Bring mixture to simmer.  Feel free to add shrimp if desired.

Cover and cook until rice is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. 

Garnish with remaining green onion and serve.

  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

The long, gray moss that softly swings
   In solemn grandeur from the trees,
   Like mournful funeral draperies,--
A brown-winged bird that never sings.

A shallow, stagnant, inland sea,
   Where rank swamp grasses wave, and where
   A deadliness lurks in the air,--
A sere leaf falling silently.

The death-like calm on every hand,
   That one might deem it sin to break,
   So pure, so perfect,--these things make
The mournful beauty of this land.

~ Albert Bigelow Paine

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