Halsway Carol


Gingerbread Cookies


I decided to make gingerbread from scratch about five years back. I came across this recipe and started a double batch before realizing that I had no electric mixer, stand or handheld. I persisted, despite the fact that it was physically difficult, and came up with a cookie that I’ve loved ever since.

For substitutions, I didn’t have lemons on hand, so just juiced the mandarins I was using for zest. I also don’t bother with the frosting recipe, just juicing mandarins again and mixing the juice with sugar. (This is a great way to use up sour mandarins, if you’re so unlucky as to get some.)

Drum Ornament


Just about every tutorial I’ve seen for making drum ornaments either starts with “paint a cardboard box” (because apparently every person has access to small drum-shaped cardboard boxes) or it otherwise looks nothing like the ornament pictured above, one my friend Kate made for one year’s Christmas gift. So I’ll attempt to reproduce the method without the actual tutorial.

The first part is the center. It’s made by cutting a section of cardboard roll—either from a roll of toilet paper, or from a roll of paper towels. The actual length is determined by whether you want a tall drum or a short one. Then you cut a rectangle of red felt to roll around it. The easiest method is to mark a point on your roll and to roll it over the felt to find the length. Once you have a correctly-sized rectangle, cut as many of them as you need. Glue it to the outside of the cardboard roll.

For the ends, cut a circle larger than the diameter of the roll. Glue them on. Use a strong thread or very thin cord to stitch from end to end, as shown above with the yellow thread. For the decoration, cut tiny holly leaves to glue on and use small red beads for the berries. The drumsticks are the ends of cotton swabs.

Then all you need to do is to add a cord to hang it with and you have a lovely little drum ornament.

Who is St. Nicholas?

St. Nicholas of Myra was a 4th-century bishop in what is present-day Turkey. His most famous story is that of hearing three daughters lamenting their unmarried state, as they were too poor to have dowries. (Variants include their speaking of the need to sell themselves into slavery or prostitution in order to survive.) The bishop snuck into their house that night and left coins for dowries in their stockings, hung to dry beside the fire.

Probably the second-most famous story is of him slapping or punching a heretic at the Council of Nicea (which determined which texts were to be included in the canon o the Bible, among other things.) Despite the fact that he is the patron saint for dozens, if not hundreds of categories of people (including brides, prostitutes, children, slaves, pirates, and barrel makers), he does not appear to be the patron saint of pugilists, which is a shame.

In Eastern Europe (and some other European countries), his feast day of December 6th is celebrated by children putting out shoes the night before, sometimes with hay for his donkey. My family always received a small toy or other item, some candy, and some gingerbread. For some reason, my kids seem to receive books. Can’t imagine why. 😉