Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wishing You the Luck of the Irish ...

I have always had a fondness toward history, especially history associated with my ancesterial roots. The maternal side of my family is of German ancestory and the paternal side of my family is of Irish ancestory. As a matter of fact, my paternal Great Grandfather was one of nearly one million Irish who immigrated to America during the late 19th century to escape Ireland's Great Potato Fammin.

Today, I'd like to share a little bit of St. Patrick Day history with all of you. Please note: the following information was copied from
Oh yeah, by the way, did you know that the color traditionally assiciated with St. Patrick's Day was blue, not green?

Who Was St. Patrick?

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

Taken Prisoner By Irish RaidersIt is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)

Guided By VisionsAfter more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice-which he believed to be God's-spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.
To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation-an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission-to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)

Bonfires and CrossesFamiliar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. (Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick's life became exaggerated over the centuries-spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.
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St. Patrick's Day Symbols and Traditions:

St. Patrick's Day is a holiday known for parades, shamrocks and all things Irish. From leprechauns to the color green, find out how symbols we now associate with St. Patrick's Day came to be, and learn about a few that are purely American invention.

The ShamrockThe shamrock, which was also called the "seamroy" by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.

Irish MusicMusic is often associated with St. Patrick's Day—and Irish culture in general. From ancient days of the Celts, music has always been an important part of Irish life. The Celts had an oral culture, where religion, legend and history were passed from one generation to the next by way of stories and songs. After being conquered by the English, and forbidden to speak their own language, the Irish, like other oppressed peoples, turned to music to help them remember important events and hold on to their heritage and history. As it often stirred emotion and helped to galvanize people, music was outlawed by the English. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth I even decreed that all artists and pipers were to be arrested and hanged on the spot.
Today, traditional Irish bands like The Chieftains, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem are gaining worldwide popularity. Their music is produced with instruments that have been used for centuries, including the fiddle, the uilleann pipes (a sort of elaborate bagpipe), the tin whistle (a sort of flute that is actually made of nickel-silver, brass or aluminum) and the bodhran (an ancient type of framedrum that was traditionally used in warfare rather than music).

The SnakeIt has long been recounted that, during his mission in Ireland, St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop (which is now called Croagh Patrick), and with only a wooden staff by his side, banished all the snakes from Ireland.
In fact, the island nation was never home to any snakes. The "banishing of the snakes" was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity. Within 200 years of Patrick's arrival, Ireland was completely Christianized.

Corned BeefEach year, thousands of Irish Americans gather with their loved ones on St. Patrick's Day to share a "traditional" meal of corned beef and cabbage.
Though cabbage has long been an Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick's Day at the turn of the century.
Irish immigrants living on New York City's Lower East Side substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money. They learned about the cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.

The LeprechaunThe original Irish name for these figures of folklore is "lobaircin," meaning "small-bodied fellow."
Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a Catholic holy day. In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O'Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick's Day and Ireland in general.
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Other St. Patrick Day Facts:

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The First St. Patrick's Day ParadeThe first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.
Over the next 35 years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called "Irish Aid" societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums.
In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world 's oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants.
Each year, nearly three million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah also celebrate the day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants.

No Irish Need ApplyUp until the mid-19th century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation. Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When Irish Americans in the country's cities took to the streets on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.
However, the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting block, known as the "green machine," became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.

Wearing Green Around the WorldToday, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore and Russia.
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions and fireworks shows.

The Chicago River on St. Patrick's DayChicago is famous for a somewhat peculiar annual event: dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river—enough to keep it green for a week!
Today, in order to minimize environmental damage, only 40 pounds of dye are used, making the river green for only several hours. Although Chicago historians claim their city's idea for a river of green was original, some Savannah natives believe the idea originated in their town. They point out that, in 1961, Savannah mayor Tom Woolley had plans for a green river. Due to rough waters on March 17, the experiment failed, and Savannah never attempted to dye its river again.
Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

Easy Corned Beef & Cabbage Recipe

This afternoon the littles and I will enjoy a traditional Irish American meal of Corned Beef and Cabbage. I am using Taste of Home's Slow Cooker Corned Beef Supper recipe.

1 onion, sliced
4 carrots, chunked
4 small potatoes, chunked
1 small corned beef brisket w/ spice packet
1/3 c. unsweetened apple juice
2 whole cloves
1 tbls. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
1/2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 small head cabbage, wedged

Place onion in slow cooker. Top with carrots, potatoes and brisket. Combine the apple juice, cloves, brown sugar, orange peel, mustard and spice packet; pour over brisket. Cover and cook on high 3 1/2 - 4 hours.
Add cabbage wedges; cover and cook 20-30 minutes longer or until meat and vegetabes are tender. Strain and discard cloves; serve pan juices with corned beef and vegetables.
3-4 servings / Recipe doubles well

Monday, March 7, 2011

Home Tour

You know, I got to thinking the other day (yes, I know, that is sometimes dangerous, but I did it anyway) that it's been over a year since we finished our remodeling. I had promised to post photos of the completed work, but forgot to do it (imagine that).

So, if you'll grab a cup of coffee, hot tea or cocoa, I'll happily give you a quick tour.

Front of house and yard last spring before the foilage filled in.
Our cozy living room. I've since hung a nice A.T.Cox print over the sofa.

The dining room. This is also where our home schooling takes place.

My kitchen where I've prepared thousands of meals.
(tour is continued in next post - Blogger doesn't let me post more than 5 photos per post)

Home Tour, Continued

Main Bathroom
OG's Room

Boy's Room

Master Bedroom

Master Bath
Well, there you have it ... a tour of our little home. I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into our lives.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Frugal Feasting Friday

Sorry, I don't have a photo for this segment of "Frugal Feasting Friday". However, I do want to share my very frugal and incredibly fast Bratts-N-Kraut recipe with you. You'll have this meal on the table within 20-25 minutes. I always serve bratts-n-kraut with potato hash.

Bratts -N- Kraut
(3 servings)
2 Bratwurst Sausages
1 14oz. can sauerkraut, drained & rinsed well (note: the more you rinse it the less sour it will be)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. butter

In medium skillet, over medium heat melt butter. Add sliced onion and bratts. Cover skillet and "steam", turning bratts and stirring onions occasionally until bratts are cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Slice bratts into 1" pieces. Add sauerkraut, sugar, and pepper mix well. Continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered, until sauerkraut is heated through.

Potato Hash
(3 servings)
3 potatoes, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 tbsp. oil or bacon grease
salt & pepper to taste

Heat bacon grease in skillet (I prefer cast iron for this dish). Add potatoes, onions and carrots. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to weep (edges begin to sweat and turn translucent). Cover to trap steam. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until potatoes are tender. Season with salt & pepper.

Cost Breakdown:
Bratts - 1.40
Sauerkraut - 1.09
Onion - 0.37
Potatoes - 0.39
Carrot - .0.14

TOTAL: $3.39 That's only $1.13 per person.