Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Entire Room Devoted to Valentines!

A lot of people complain about the commercial and corporate interests of Valentine's Day. Others promote Single Awareness Day or SAD. Not me.

I adore Valentine's Day, mostly because of all of the pinks and reds and hearts. Granted, I do have a husband who buys me things, so I can't lie - that is definitely appealing. But it is not why I love the day. I truly do love it like I said, for the colors and hearts.

So much, in fact, I dedicated a room to it. There is a little room between the master bedroom and the master bath that accesses our closets. It has a little built in vanity, and I realized I spend more time in there than my husband does. He gets in his closet or walks through to get to the bathroom. Since I had an abundance of heart themed treasures, I had an idea.

And my Valentine room was born.

It started with a collection of heart candy boxes.

And continued from there. I picked out a shade of pink that I liked; not too pink but not too pale. I stripped off the wallpaper that had been there since we moved in and repaired the walls before priming. Two coats later and I was in love!

I couldn't wait to start hanging up all the heart themed shelves!

I took some shelves that had been intended for over the commode but never worked well, had my dad cut it in half and attach them side by side and painted it a dark rose color.

I bought some pink and rose colored stones to trim it with, but haven't gotten to that point yet. I can finally display my sweet cherub boxes again!

My collection of heart baskets were all spray painted either pale or darker pink and hung over the doorways.

The little vanity is back in action and distinctly girlified!

I found a home for the adorable hat box I bought.

And most importantly, my collection of Valentine themed stuffed animals have a place to reside.

I even have a heart trash can!

Did I mention the trash can liners are rose scented?

I can't walk into or through the room without grinning. I bought rose candles to scent the room. I'm planning small heart cross stitched pieces for the picture frames that I don't fill with pictures of family.

I haven't painted the trim yet. I want to find a pearly sparkly color, and haven't had much chance to look yet.

Now to find something to do with these heart ornaments!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras!

Party time! Today is Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras is French for *fat Tuesday*.  It is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a 40 period of fasting and penance known as Lent. Because practitioners were expected to give up animal products are a part of their fasting, all of those foods were to be consumed or thrown out by midnight. One common way to use up everything was in large feasts, especially the making of pancakes.

Another term for today is Shrove Tuesday, from the word shrive, which means confess. This is explained by a sentence in the Anglo-Saxon "Ecclesiastical Institutes" translated from Theodulphus by Abbot Aelfric (q.v.) about A.D. 1000: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then my hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]". I suspect the celebrations leading up to Ash Wednesday may have created much to confess! ;)

It is known as Fasching in Bavaria and Austria, Fosnat in Franconia, Fasnet in Swabia, Fastnacht in Mainz and its environs, and Karneval in Cologne and the Rhineland. The beginning of the pre-Lenten season generally is considered to be Epiphany (January 6), but in Cologne, where the festivities are the most elaborate, the official beginning is marked on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. Merrymaking may get underway on the Thursday before Lent, but the truly rambunctious revelry associated with Fasching usually reaches its high point during the three days preceding Ash Wednesday, culminating on Shrove Tuesday. The names of these final days also vary regionally. (Encyclopedia Britannica) Historically, during Fasching the lower classes were allowed to wear costumes and masks and to mimic aristocracy and heads of church and state without fear of retribution for mockery. Take a look at any modern Mardi Gras celebration, and you will see plenty of costumes and masks!

From Epiphany (Den trí králu) until Ash Wednesday (Popelecní streda), the people in the Czech Republic celebrate a season of merrymaking and masquerading called masopust. Literally, the word masopust means "good-bye to meat".

This carnival atmosphere is what is known as a valve custom. With the enforcement of restrictions upon eating, drinking and sexuality, "valve customs" developed, occasions "to live it up," to satisfy cravings and thus restore a psychological balance in individuals and populations. Some scholars explain Carnival traditions as remnants of pre-Christian, Teutonic or Celtic rites. Indeed many features can be traced to end-of-the-year festivals which were celebrated during the winter solstice as the birthday of the sun god, honored not only by the Germanic peoples, but also by Egyptians, Syrians, Greek and Romans under differing names. Many customs made their way from the Renaissance and Baroque courts into cities and towns and from there into villages. Other customs evolved in the more recent past.

You can celebrate today easily enough by making, of course, Mardi Gras colored pancakes or waffles. You can find out how to do that here. Other ideas might include:

Have a party! Break out the colorful masks or make your own.

The idea is to feast until you feel like bursting, so pull out all the stops and make everyone's favorite dishes, invite guests to bring a potluck dish, order several pizzas.

Decorate in greens and purples and golds. Mardi Gras beads can be purchased at party shops, so stock up. One thing I saw in New Orleans that I loved was all the beads in the trees!

This is a dress up event, the crazier the better! Take plenty of pictures!

Have fun, but stay safe, and don't post any pictures of the festivities that include people without their permission. You want your guests to feel safe to be a little crazy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

St. Agatha

St. Agatha's feast day is February 5, commemorating the day she died, as is the case with all saint's feast days. Agatha died ca. 251 during the Christian persecutions under Decius. She was known to have been a very pretty girl from a wealthy family, who had the misfortune to catch the eye of Quintian, the Governor of Sicily. Agatha refused Quintian's affections, having taken a Christian vow of purity and devotion to Christ. Quintian had Agatha first sent to a brother, then later imprisoned and brutally tortured and her breasts were severed. Quintian's tortures continued and she finally died unshaken in her dedication to Christ.

Devotion to her spread beyond Sicily and she is honored for her courage in suffering and her devotion and commitment to Christ. St. Agatha is the patron saint of Sicily, nurses, bakers, miners, jewelers, Alpine guides, and those suffering from breast cancer. She is also the protector against earthquakes, volcanoes, fires and thunderstorms.

The devotion to her is greatest in the village of Catania, in Sicily. Starting on the 2nd of February and ending on the 5th, the Saint Agatha festival is celebrated by the entire village.

Feasts for Saint Agatha Day include the blessing of the bread. This tradition may have originated due to misconceptions that renditions of St. Agatha with her breasts on a platter were mistaken for her presenting a platter of bread.

Another tradition is the making of Minni di Virgini, a cake shaped like breasts. The cake is made with sponge cake, ricotta cheese, chocolate and candied fruit. A red candied cherry completes the cake.

Ways you can celebrate or honor St. Agatha today might include making your own version of Minni di Virgini, or perhaps shaping bread to resemble a breast.

Make a donation to breast cancer research. One way we did last year was to donate a car to a breast cancer research organization. We chose them because the bulk of their money goes to research and not administration. Look around and see if there is anything like that where you live.

Agatha is the patron saint of nurses and bakers, so bake something special and take it to your favorite nurse or nurses as a way to say thank you.

If you haven't done a breast exam lately, make sure to do one today. If you need to schedule a mammogram, do so. If you know someone who has or has had breast cancer, take them out for lunch or supper and show them you care about their struggle. If they are currently being treated, ask what you can do for them. Cancer is an ugly beast, and sufferers deal with it each in their own way. You won't know how you can help unless you ask.

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