St. Nicholas was born in the 4th Century in Lycia, Asia Minor to very wealthy parents. Even as a child he was very religious. He was very young when he became a priest and he went on to become a bishop. Sadly, his parents died shortly after he was ordained. He inherited a great fortune, and he shared it generously with people in need. His giving was from the heart - he was not interested in credit or compensation. He often gave unanimously. He was dedicated to common people and emperors alike.
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, laborers, merchants, pawn brokers, and particularly sailors and those who work near water.
There are many stories describing his generosity. A nobleman who had lost his fortune was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters so planned to sell them into slavery. St. Nicholas galloped by their castle in the dark of night and threw a bag of gold in the window. He did this three nights in a row, providing each daughter with a dowry. Eventually, it was discovered that he had been the generous benefactor. His fame as a gift giver spread through out many lands and he has been credited with the concepts of Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
The three bags of gold represent the three golden balls found on the signage outside pawn broker's shops.
In another more gruesome story, he saved three babies, often pictured beside him. During a famine, an inn keeper had no meat to feed his customers so he cut up three children and tossed them into a brine filled pickling tub. Thankfully, St. Nicholas walked in just in time to bless the boys and bring them back to life!
During that same famine, he convinced sailors on a ship filled with grain to unload some of their cargo to feed those who were starving. They were initially reluctant since the grain had been weighed and they wanted to deliver the entire shipment. He assured them that the cargo would weigh exactly the same amount when it was delivered. It did.
As you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, give a gift from the heart. It doesn't need to be expensive. It could be a kind word, a quote that would make someone feel valued, a thank you. Or is could be a poem, or a recipe! Here's my gift to you!
Golden Bishop's Tea
4 cups black or green tea
4 cups apricot nectar
Serve hot with a honey if desired and a sprig of rosemary
and a sprinkling of nutmeg
Optional: 1 Tablespoon apricot brandy per cup
Golden Apricots, Tansy and Wheat
As you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, think gold! Decorate with golden wheat and tansy! Serve apricot or orange nut bread with Golden Bishop's Tea. Create your own golden delights!
How’s it going?
You’ve made your broom from the best possible broom making herbs, you have rubbed your handle with a non-poisonous levitation herb . . . but it you’re like many of us, staying seated upright can be a challenge! I’ll never forget my first attempt! I was twirling around in the sky like an autumn leaf in a windstorm. Fortunately, a more experienced rider shared a secret.
You thought it was just for pesto, right?
Drinking 1/2 cup of basil juice before taking off on your broomstick will keep you safely seated in an upright position. I’ve been told chewing celery seeds help too! Have fun!
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lavender blossoms
I cup (two sticks) butter at room temperature
2 cups almond flour
1 cup flour
Combine the sugar and fresh lavender blossoms using a food processor.
Add the butter and combine. Next add the flours.
Mix until thoroughly combined.
The batter will be soft.
Chill for 30 minutes.
Flour both sides of the dough and place between two long sheets of waxed paper.
Using a rolling pin, roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Work quickly. The dough will get soft again as you work with it.
Cut cookies with a floured cookie cutter.
Remove all the excess dough and return to the 'fridge. This will make it easier to move your shaped cookies.
Gently lift cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment paper.
Chill the cookies on the baking sheets for 30 minutes
Set oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Once the oven is preheated, bake for about 30 minutes. Begin checking at 20 minutes and don't let the edges of the cookies brown.
Cool on a wire rack placed.
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tablespoon water.
Mix thoroughly with a fork. Add a little more water if needed.
Keeping the cookies on the wire rack, move them over the sink if your rack fits, or place waxed paper under neath for easy clean up. This can get messy!
Use a spoon to lightly glaze the cookies. Top with lavender blossoms. Let the glaze set up and serve.
My last harvest of lavender and almond lavender cookies to celebrate the summer solstice.
This post is from January 2021. I’m reposting and hoping to find someone who can provide directions to the Losh Run Box Huckleberry. I’ve visited the Hoverter & Sholl BoxHuckleberry but have never found the Losh Run. Please send me a message if you know how to find it. Thank you!
The Hoverter & Sholl Box Huckleberry
Can you name a plant that covers 8 acres of land, is 1300 years old,
will protect you and bring you luck as you enter the new year?
My quest to find an herb worthy of being featured as the first in a series for 2021 unfolded magically! My daughter Mycenea self quarantined for 14 days, as did I, so we could be together for Christmas. We spent a lot of time outdoors, and one of our favorite jaunts was to visit the Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry in Perry County, Pennsylvania.
The box huckleberry is a member of the acidic soil loving Ericaceae family, which include azaleas, rhododendron, trailing arbutus, cranberries and blueberries, among others. Unlike the giant Sequoias and the Bristlecone pines, also known for their their age, the box huckleberry is only about a half a foot tall. It covers the forest floor and can easily be overlooked.
The box huckleberry and blueberry are often confused, but there are differences. The blueberry grows in clusters, and the box huckleberry, as well as the huckleberry, has more singular berries, with occasional small clusters. Though the skin of all of the berries are blue, the blueberry is white or light green inside, and the huckleberry and box huckleberries have a deep red violet or purple inner flesh with a tendency to stain.
There are several folk names for the Huckleberries, including Blaeberry, Whortleberry, Bilberry and Hurtleberry. Bilberry is a folk name for the Blueberry. It gets confusing. Fortunately, scientists use Latin names to provide clarity. We are referring to the box huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycera) in this case.
There were two box huckleberry plants in the area we visited. One, at Losh Run, is thought to be over 13,000 years old! Bristlecone pines, at 5,000 years old, were considered to be the oldest living organisms on earth, yet the box huckleberry is significantly older. The age is determined by the rate of growth, approximately 6 inches a year, and was calculated by the size of the plants.
The Losh Run Box Huckleberry, which at one time covered an area of about 100 acres, nearly 10 times larger than the Hoveter Sholl, was damaged by a forest fire in 1963, then partially destroyed during the 1970s due to road construction of U.S. 22/322. The remainder is in an area difficult to access.
The younger plant is estimated to be 1,200 to 1,300 years old, and fortunately has been in a protected area as a National Natural Landmark since 1929. The 8 plus acre box huckleberry, named because its leaves resemble boxwood, is situated within a 10 acres area in Tuscarora State Forest with a quarter mile path around the plant. Twenty-seven stations along the loop give an educational overview.
The Hoveter Sholl plant was discovered in 1845 by Spencer Fullerton Baird, a professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle. He was a naturalist and later became the first curator of the Smithsonian Institution, advancing to become the second Secretary of the institution.
The box huckleberries were almost forgotten until 1948 when Dr. Fredrick Coville, a graduate of Cornell University working for the Department of Agriculture, determined the plants, one covering over 8 acres, and the other nearly 100 acres, were each individual massive plants! The relict species, miraculously surviving the ice age, is considered self-sterile, and reproduces through a system of root stalks.
This remarkable plant has not always been well revered. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is probably the most well know of the huckleberries, and in an interview in an interview in 1895, Twain said he used the name to indicate Finn was a boy “of lower distraction” than Mark Twain.
A more positive huckleberry reference was featured in the song Moon River in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It is beautifully explained by Jessica Dang, Single Girl Dinner. “For years I had no idea what it meant: "My huckleberry friend." It hung in my mind. I searched Paul Varjak's relationship with Holly Golightly for the answer. Theirs was a mutual adoration laced with innocent flirtation; there was a certain playfulness that freed them from being neither friends nor lovers."
On New Year’s Eve, the residents of New Bloomfield, PA traditionally assemble to pay homage to their oldest resident. They lower a huge huckleberry from the courthouse clock tower at midnight to pay tribute to this humble herb. This year’s pandemic will prevent the assemblage, but they will hopefully meet on New Year’s Eve next year to honor this enormous, ancient plant.
As you enter 2021, I wish you the blessings of huckleberry! May you gather magic and find luck and protection in “berried treasures”, I’m hoping there will be unexpected blessings and virtues all around you. And may each of you find a ‘Huckleberry friend”!
“Everyone should have a huckleberry friend at one point or another.
It is an experience that showers your life with magic for as long as it lasts,
whether it be for a couple of weeks or a couple of years.”
~ Jessica Dang, Single Girl Dinner, #SingleGirlDinner
The legend states, "those who kiss under the mistletoe
Welcome!! I’m Mikell (pronounced Michael). If you love spicing up your life with herbs, recipes, decorating and crafts, symbolism and rituals like I do, I hope you’ll sign up for my newsletter and free Enhancing Your Life with Herbs e-book!
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!