Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Did you know....?

This holiday derives from the Old English custom of giving Christmas "boxes" to tradesmen, postmen, and servants. The original boxes were usually made of earthenware and contained money, which could be retrieved only by breaking the boxes open. These days, a gift of money is usually contained in a greeting card and given before the holiday. Where celebrated (Great Britain, Canada, and Australia), Boxing Day is welcomed as a quiet day of recuperation from the season's hectic festivities. It is also the biggest day of the year for soccer playoffs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Honor of the Winter Sostice

Dimmest and brightest month am I;
My short days end, my lengthening days begin;
What matters more or less Sun in the sky,
When all is Sun within?

–C. G. Rossetti (183094)

The solstice arrives today at 6:38 PM. Oh hurray for the shortest day and onwards to more sunlight each and every day thereafter!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Solstice

The Woods and Snow

It's been snowing every day here for a week. Yesterday I had the chance to go for a walk in the woods. It was really quiet in there with the light and fluffy snow falling. It was also very beautiful. It reminded me of this old poem I remembered reading as a school girl. I knew it was probably a Robert Frost poem... and so I went to search for it via the google. Here it is;

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost – 1923

And isn't that a mention of the winter equinox in this poem?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tree Magic - The Annual Cycle

I saw this and loved it for loads of reasons. It's touchingly beautiful. A Christmas gift to you.

Winter Solistice Information

The December solstice will occur at 23:38 (or 11.38pm) Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on December 21, 2010. It is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences. Its date varies from December 20 to December 23 depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar.

The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Those living or travelling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.

On the contrary, for an observer in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight for those living north of the Tropic of Cancer. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.

Me, I can't hardly wait for the solstice. Why? Because we will have finally passed the shortest day and each following day brings more daylight. Which matters a lot when you live where I do!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Yule Log

The burning Yule log is symbolic of the light that will return after the dark days of early winter and gives us an excuse to gather with family and friends before a roaring fire.

The tradition is an old one, going back to the Druid custom of choosing a large log from an apple or oak tree, lighting it afire, and praying that it would burn forever.

In England, the log was selected months before Christmas day. Because it was believed that all who brought it in from the woods would be protected against harm for the ensuing year, everyone lent a hand, making the event itself a festive time.


Firewood Tips

• One large log lasts two to three times longer than the same volume of smaller logs.
• To avoid insect pests, never store firewood on the ground touching your house.
• Burn only seasoned wood (seasoned logs seem light in weight and have dark ends with cracks).
• Wood-burning stoves are three times more efficient than standard fireplaces.
• For the prettiest flames, burn birch or maple.
• Ash makes great firewood. According to an old saying, “Ash new or ash old is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.”
• Add a handful of pine or hemlock needles, rosemary sprigs, or sage branches to your next fire to add natural incense to the room.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Boo Hoo

Did anyone get to experience the Geminid showers? If so, would you share your experience in the comments portion of the blog. I would so like to know others got a chance to see the showers.

Since it's been cold here (-12 C with wind chill down around -22), I dressed up warm and stepped out into a world of white. Yup, you got that right. White.... snow that is. Both nights I went out with a thought to view showers they were obscured in the white stuff. Last night I could barely see my hand in front of my face with all the snow coming down.

I am sad to report I got bupkus here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Geminids are coming

In the same vein as yesterday's post I bring you the info on the Geminid showers...

The Geminid meteors should perform well after nightfall on Monday, December 13. They will continue into the next night, December 14 th. Hopefully, the full moon's (Dec. 21st) light won't interfer too much with the viewing of this spectacular show.

No other meteor shower boasts more meteors than the Geminids—with 75 per hour in a dark sky. Plus, viewing is all night (whereas most meteor showers are predawn)!i

  • Where to look? The "point of origin" is where the flight course starts from. This is a good place to start. The bright and fast Geminids will appear to come from the northeast out of the Geminid twins.
  • You don't need any special equipment! To enjoy, just find a dark place free from man-made lights, spread a blanket (if you live up north where I live, bring extra blankets and a thermos of hot chocolate) on the ground, and look up in the dark night sky!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

I just wanted to get everyone ready for the next upcoming nighttime show. And, since it's Christmas and everyone is busy at this time of year..... I thought I should forewarn you so you can make the time to see the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse.

An exceptional total eclipse of the Moon is visible throughout North America very early on the 21st ET (and begins on the 20th PT). The partial eclipse begins at 1:32 A.M., with totality starting at 2:40 A.M. Winter arrives the same day, with the solstice at 6:38 P.M. If you live in the Northeast, drag out a lawn chair and a couple of blankets. Don't forget the hot chocolate!

The total eclipse of the Moon in the early hours of December 21 will occur on a celestial canvas of superb beauty. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon. In this alignment, the shadow of the Earth falls upon the Moon, dimming the Moon and giving it unusual coloring, ranging from muted gray to coppery orange.

While every eclipse is special, this one is attended by many stars and constellations that are beautiful in their own right. The prominent constellations of Orion (The Hunter), Gemini (The Twins), Auriga (The Charioteer), and Taurus (The Bull) frame the Moon on eclipse night.

Sky Map for December 21, 210: Click to Expand (74.34 KB PDF)

No fewer than six stars of First Magnitude or brighter lie in the region around the Moon; they are labeled on the map. Lunar eclipses are slow motion events, lasting several hours. Your best viewing strategy will be to check the Moon every 20-30 minutes, starting at about 2:00 a.m.

Happy viewing and as the late Jack Horkheimer used to say as he closed his show Star Gazer.... Keep looking up!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost, 1916

Do they still teach or, even read poetry in schools?

Friday, December 3, 2010


Now majestic December bends,
In flakes, o’er hills and dales descend;
With icicles his head is bound,
The tempest breaks—winds bellow round.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac (1795)

Did You Know?

Many countries in Europe celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, on the eve of December 6. After dinner, families hunt for their presents, following clues in funny, anonymous poems. They also eat candies and cookies, especially spicy crispy ginger-cookie figures formed in a traditional wooden mold.

St. Nicholas is credited with saving three sisters from lives of ill repute by throwing bags of gold into their house (some say down the chimney, others say through the window) to provide for their dowries. In many places children still hang their stockings by the chimney or place their shoes by the window for St. Nicholas to fill them with presents and sweets on the eve of his feast day. He is considered the patron saint of children.

Little old me...

My photo
An american yankee up past the 49th parellel.


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