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A wreath for the door



Almost every Christian household hangs an advent/Christmas wreath on their door during the yuletide. In New Orleans, Halloween wreaths festoon the properties. Having spent half my life in New England, I am accustomed to seeing wreaths on the front door during every season. There is a huge craft market online with wreaths made of all sorts of objects.

Wreath crowns have been in existence since the Golden Days of Greece, signifying status, achievements, rank or occupation. These wreaths were worn on the head, and are still used today in ceremonial situations.

Just when wreaths went from the head to the door is unknown. In the 16th century, Protestants had an advent wreath set on a table, with red and white candles to be lit each night. It is believed that wreaths that were no longer worn or used on a table were hung up in the home as a decoration/souvenir.

Wreaths celebrating mid-winter are usually made from evergreens and symbolize strength, since evergreens last through the harsh winters. The circular shape of the wreath can represent God, with no beginning and no end, or Christian immortality, or simply the cycle of seasons.

The name wreath is derived from a middle English word, wrethe, meaning a twisted band or ring of leaves or flowers in a garland. Holly berries were often added because of their supposed magical powers; they are a shiny berry that keeps its red color and bright green leaves throughout the winter, complementing the hardiness of the evergreens. Red also can symbolize the blood of Jesus, shed during his crucifixion.

In the early days in Europe, people would put wreaths on their doors to identify their home, much as house numbers are used today. Each wreath would be made of specific flowers usually grown by the home owner.



Spring was celebrated with spring flowers, maypoles, and May wreaths. Dried fruit or flowers were originally placed in a wreath to symbolize the promise of spring. By the Renaissance period in England, wreaths became symbols of political and religious alliances. Following the overthrow of Charles I of England, wreaths symbolized Royalist sympathies. Protestant reformers such as the Puritans saw wreaths and holidays such as May Day, as being pagan, corrupting Christian morality.



Plants traditionally used to make Midsummer wreaths and garlands include white lilies, green birch, fennel, St. John’s Wort, wormwood, vervain and flax. The flowers used in making the Midsummer wreath had to be picked early in the morning before the dew had dried; the belief was that once the dew dried, the magical properties of the plants also evaporated. Midsummer celebrations are still observed in Germany and Scandinavia, with wreaths, similar to England.


The creation of harvest wreaths in Europe can be traced back to ancient times associated with animistic beliefs.



In Ancient Greece, the harvest wreath was made of wheat or other harvested plants, woven together with red and white wool thread. The festivals devoted to Dionysus, the Oschophoria and Anthesteria, included a ritual procession called the eiresîonê. Young boys sang as they led a procession carrying a harvest wreath to Pyanopsia and Thargelia. The laurel or olive wreath would be hung at the door, and then offerings were made to Helios and the Hours. It was hoped that this ritual would bring protection against crop failure and plagues. In Poland, the harvest wreath (wieniec) is a symbol of the Harvest Festival, Dozynki. Wreaths are made of different shapes and sizes, using harvested grain plants, fruit and nuts. The wreath is then brought to a church for a blessing by a priest. A girl or young woman would then lead a procession to the home, where the family had a celebration and feast. Ukraine, Hungary, and other Eastern Europe cultures also have similar rituals that began as part of pre-Christian culture.



Today, many decorative pieces can be used to spruce up any wreath. Seashells, ornaments, pinecones, decorative balls, ribbons, feathers, lights, coral, candles, colored eggs and berries can enhance a wreath for year round display. Some people keep a basic wreath, changing its decorations as seasons and holidays change. Whenever you hang your wreath and wherever you choose to hang it, know that there is a deep history behind this circle of life.



Wedding shower gifts for the kitchen

Traditional Style Kitchen with Doors to PatioA couple starting out in life can go broke picking up all the little things that don’t come across as ‘spectacular’ gifts.

For a wedding shower, most people check the registries for gifts the bride-to-be has selected in china, crystal and silver. These gifts are usually more appropriate for wedding gifts, unless the bride happened to mention some more ordinary items, such as bath towel sets of a particular color. Registry items tend to be expensive, which is why they are registered – so that the couple can collect various gifts to complete a set.

A shower, on the other hand, is usually intended to shower the bride-to-be with all those types of items she wouldn’t normally purchase or request herself, such as lingerie and special serving pieces. This is the perfect opportunity to supply the kitchen with items that can add up to a tidy sum,

Start with a kitchen-tall (eight gallon) waste can with a quick-release cover. This can have a pedal, swinging top, or flip top. Remember that odors attract pets and the hands are usually full of garbage. Find a style that suits the bride’s taste – very modern , traditional, or natural fibers (wicker, wood). You can wrap this or just provide a big bow.

Fill the waste can with all kinds of relevant items that one may or may not think to purchase in preparation for the communal home. Again, consider the bride and groom’s planned décor and needs. Wrap each item separately before placing it in the waste can.

If the couple will both be working, consider a tea or coffee-for-two brewer, preferably one with a clock-timer so that the couple can wake up to the fresh scent. Think of any time-saving gadgets. For instance, whether processed or pre-prepared, dinners will probably be microwaved during the week, so consider microwave tools such as grilling plates (metal wrapped in porcelain), covers for different sized dishes, microwave-safe dishes, and sturdy mugs.

If the bride and/or groom is planning to get into gourmet cooking, they would appreciate a garlic press, crepe pan, whisk set (at least three sizes), a zester, a grater, a flour sifter, an apple corer/parer, cake and pie servers, a good paring knife collection, which should include a fruit knife, tomato knife and sharp parer, a good set of preparation knives, including bread knife, meat cleaver and vegetable chopping knife, a small double boiler for melting chocolate and butter, and a large sieve. You can add an egg slicer and a flour blender.kitchen-3

Even if the bride will be able to stay at home or is more interested in traditional cooking, there are many small items which can add up if one has to get them after the expensive wedding. There should be a good hand can opener; even if the bride receives an electric one, they often fail and usually at a time when one cannot go running out to the store. Short and long handled spatulas are a must. Large cooking utensils are also a must; these can be wood, plastic, metal or Teflon, depending on the cook’s preferences and décor (these are usually kept in some sort of open container, which you can also supply); large utensils could be solid and slotted spoons, a large fork, a sharpening rod and rubber spatulas. If you can find out the cook’s color scheme for the kitchen, coordinate these utensils with that. Of course, add pepper and salt mills, loaded, and large enough for cooking.

Now to the nitty gritty – scrubber sponges in the right color, pot holders and dish towels which reflect the décor and colors, a pump of hand cream, dishwashing and dishwasher soap, a small set of food saver containers, a jar opener, a well-stocked spice rack and a paper towel holder (both of course in the right décor.) A can of abrasive powder (such as Comet) and a box of scouring pads (such as SOS) will start the kitchen off.

You might find that filling the waste can is becoming very expensive – which, of course, is the whole idea – so consider more than one person joining in on this gift.

There are many items which are too large for the waste can; these can also make excellent kitchen gifts. These include a bread box, a company-sized coffee/tea maker, a toaster oven (especially valuable to a new household with only two members), a toaster, a canister set, a mixing bowl set, a cutting board set, and of course small appliances like a blender, mixer and food processor.

Contemporary Kitchen with Stools at CounterWhile the bride is choosing china and silver, there are less expensive everyday needs, such as a flatware set for four or eight, and dish sets which are usually boxed in sets for four. This allows the couple to enjoy morning cereal and lunch without breaking out the china. If they have a service for eight and a dishwasher, they will not need to wash dishes more than twice a week, which of course saves on utility bills.

You can expand or shrink this list of ideas according to your budget and still come out a winner, even if the bride-to-be has already starting keeping a house.


throwing a 1930s party

Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

The decade of the 1930s is unique and often overlooked, coming between the raucous Roaring Twenties and the severe decade of the 1940s. The stock market crash of 1929 set the tone, with the Great Depression hovering over the entire world, holding on until the onset of World War II. Nonetheless, lessons learned from World War I caused a surge of technological research , while every other area sought to tone down the twenties.
So how would you set up a party to reflect this period in our history? Well, food can be pretty open, since the wealthy still traveled and reveled. Every item should be served is a florid way – no crackers and cheese, but rather petit fours. Chocolate chip cookies made their debut in this decade as well. Make ration cards for your guests – they would get a specific number of them as they come in the door, and these cards would be redeemed for drinks – this can also help you control the drinking so that everyone could go home safely. Or give each person one ration card and have the bartender punch it with each drink. Chip ice off an ice block kept in a cooler which is covered with wood to simulate an ice box.
This was the time when color film was introduced; you could have a tape of the Wizard of Oz playing in one room. In another, if you can find them, you could have tapes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats playing. The host could dress up like FDR, with glasses, a cigar and even a wicker wheelchair.
The thirties were a wonderful time for music, with the introduction of Swing. Play swing and jazz music in the background. The LP (long-playing vinyl record) was introduced in this decade, so if you can find a record player, go for it.
Décor can either be severe, reflecting the effects of the Depression, or rather posh as experienced by those who survived the Crash – think Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie. Until the advent of the income tax, every household had servants, so see if you can con young people into donning maids’ outfits and courtsying. And you should have a responsible adult playing butler/bartender. Art Deco was the rage, so If you can, leave out any geometric furniture or decorating accessories you can. If you are not familiar with Art Deco, the Chrysler building is a famous example. Also think back on Myrna Loy movies, with the draping and arches everywhere. Items which had started to become part of the American household include telephones (the tall thin type), electric lights (but no neon) and the great large radio.
You will of course ask your guests to dress the part. For women, this means bias-cut dresses with handkerchief hems, preferably in chiffons or other flowing material, exposing only the lower half of the shin. There were no uplift bras in those days, but slips were de rigeur, and shoes were often t-straps, with heels no higher than two inches. Hats were a necessity, and many of the right style are available these days of the Princess Kate fascination. Hair was not bobbed, as from the twenties, but short hair was simple and smooth. Long hair should be in buns, with distinct parts on the side. Formal wear is very flowing and floor length. Gloves are a must, elbow-length for formal wear and wrist-length for day wear. Men can consider striped jackets and boater hats, as seen on a barbershop quartet. Ties were more often bowties; long ties were wide and had garish geometrical prints. No t-shirts or polo shirts – only suits or sport jackets. Fedoras were very popular — every man wore a hat outside, and they can certainly be allowed in the party. Formal wear was also bow ties, but cummerbunds instead of vests. The bowler was popular, both for day and formal wear, replacing the top hat. Laurel and Hardy wore bowlers. Men should consider adding a small mustache, as with Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind”.

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