Choosing a Word for 2024

Anne here, with the final post in our Christmastide series of short posts. As from next week, we’ll be back to our normal posting schedule. I hope you’ve all had a peaceful and happy festive season.The photo on the right is of dawn on a beach on the east coast of Australia.It was taken by my friend Fiona McArthur, and I’m hoping we can all celebrate the dawn of the new year.

For many people a new year is a time for making resolutions — you know the kind of thing: doing more exercise, losing weight, giving up certain bad habits, taking up new virtuous ones. I don’t do that any more. I tried it when I was younger and I felt I was always setting myself up for failure. These days I do something slightly different — I choose a word.

I learned this from a writers’ group I’m a member of, and these days it’s spread to other friends as well. We choose one word, not a “thou shalt or thou shalt not” kind of word, but a word to inspire us, motivate us, maybe to make us smile, and to have as a kind of talisman for the year ahead.  We wenches blogged about it in 2022.

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A Christmas Diorama

Anne here, continuing our daily Christmastide posts for the 12 days of Christmas. When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do in the lead up to Christmas was to make a diorama of the nativity scene in a shoebox. I made it all from scratch. A diorama is just a scene, and there are all kinds — military ones, dolls house ones, there’s no limit. But today I’m talking about a Christmas diorama.

First I’d paint the shoebox and thatch it with glued-on grass. And scatter more dried grass on the floor, for hay. The manger was usually the tray part of a matchbox, also lined with dried grass. And a star, stuck on a piece of wire hovered above my stable.

The people were the most fun. I used the old-fashioned clothes pegs as a body, and pipe cleaners for arms. And I’d clothe them in scraps of fabric; Mary in blue, Joseph in brown and the kings in whatever fancy fabric I could get hold of. My godmother, who always spent Christmas and Easter with us, was clever with all kinds of craft and could always be relied on for snippets of glittery braid and things like that.

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Twelfth Night!

by Mary Jo

This is the last of the Word Wench Christmastide posts, which celebrate the time between Christmas and Epiphany, so I decided to research the holiday a bit Depositphotos_60077799_XLmore.  It might be celebrated on either January 5th or January 6th, depending on whether Christmas Day is counted as the first day, or Boxing Day, the 26th, is the first. 

In some parts of the world it's called the Feast of the Three Kings because the holiday celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings or Three Wise Men as they followed the star to Bethlehem to celebrate the arrival of 'the newborn king.' 

Even as a kid, I wondered about the logistics of this.  They couldn't have been very far away if they reached their goal in twelve days, and how accurate would a star be for guidance?  The traditional pictures usually show the star hovering over the stable like an LED lit drone.  Really?


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By Mary Jo

For today's Christmastide post, we'll discuss turducken .Yankee that I am, I had never heard of this dish until I moved to Maryland, which is south of the Mason Dixon line, though barely.  I vaguely thought it was an old traditional dish from Maryland's Eastern Shore and was popular around the holidays.  It consists of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck stuffed into a mostly deboned turkey. (Wings and legs kept their bones for aesthetic reasons, I presume.) There is also bread or sausage dressing. In other words, it's one heck of a lot of very solid poultry! Turducken photo by Christopher 'Pacula'Corkum

I've never had turducken, but when a nice boutique-ish grocery store near me advertised it for the holidays, I figure what the heck, give it a try.  It was priced by the pound, so I ordered online thinking I was ordering one pound. When I got to the store to collect my goodies, I found that the online store interpreted that as one whole turducken, and here was this huuuuuge chuck of bird.  Urk! The butcher kindly cut it in half for me and it now resides in my freezer waiting for a day when I have the nerve to roast it. 

Naturally I had to research this dish, as one does <G>, and informs me that the modern version is attributed to chefs in Louisiana in the mid 20th century, so Southern but not a very old tradition.

However, stuffing one animal inside of another is a very old cooking technique which goes back to the Middle Ages and even Roman times, and is called engastration. A turducken qualifies as a "three bird roast," and the British version is a Gooducken, with a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a goose, since goose is a popular holiday dish in Britain. 

But there are all kinds of variations using any birds and stuffings you wish. This from Wikipedia: 

 In his 1807 Almanach des Gourmands, gastronomist Grimod de La Reynière presents his rôti sans pareil ("roast without equal")—a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler—although he states that, since similar roasts were produced by ancient Romans, the rôti sans pareil was not entirely novel. The final bird is very small but large enough to just hold an olive; it also suggests that, unlike modern multi-bird roasts, there was no stuffing or other packing Chicken and rooster  wikipedia
placed in between the birds.

The mere contemplation of this makes me consider turning vegetarian, but as history it's very interesting, and sounds very medieval! 

Have you ever had turducken, gooducken, or one of their many cousins?  If so, tell me what you think!  Because one day soon I intend to confront the half-turducken in my freezer, and I want to know what to expect!

Mary Jo

The Cats’ Christmas

Spook SnoozingChristmastide:

The Cats' Christmas

by Mary Jo

This is second in the Word Wenches' annual tradition of short posts for Christmastide, Reggie Intriguedthe days between Christmas and Twelfth Night on January 6th. 

I don't usually get presents for my cats since they're royally pampered every day. But this year I decided to get a tall, very stable scratching post.  I opened it up, attached the base, and rubbed catnip into the sisal. 

And furry fun was had!  Spook, the solemn white and gray part Siamese cat who has never shown the least inclination to play, had fun with it, delighting in the catnip and snoozing happily on the base.

Reggie was intrigued and scent-marked the sisal.

But Princess Flufferbella stretchingFlufferbella had the clearest understanding of what the post was for as she stretched and scratched. 

Here's hoping they continue to enjoy their new scratching post, and spare my furniture. <G>

Mary Jo, wishing you all a happy holiday season and a bright New Year!