Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I have been able to find less and less meat on sale at ALDI. Like all supermarkets, they mark down meat (and occasionally a few other things), that are close to their expiry dates.
However, unlike other grocers, ALDI's prices are lower to begin with - making markdowns a a much sought-after frugal find.
I thought ALDI must be doing a better job of timing the consumer market and sensing sales needs; I thought they were doing a better job of ordering and inventory control. Because I used to be able to find meat in the mornings for 2, 3, and 5 dollars off a pkg, if you were there when they open. But I haven't been able to find any lately. Maybe once or twice in the last year.
But I learned by accident, they have changed when they mark down their meat. They no longer do it before open, available when the doors open. Instead they do it 60 - 30 minutes before they close.
It was a good reminder of the baseline rule to "ask your grocer when they do their markdowns". ALDI decided to change things up a little, and it never crossed my mind to ask them when they do their markdowns, as I thought I already knew . . .
I'm not usually in ALDI right before they close. For one thing, the weekly special of fresh fruit and veggies are usually picked over and/or gone by then. But from now on I'll keep it in mind when I'm driving by anyway, that I should stop in and take a peek.
Also, good news: ALDI now carries organic grass fed ground beef.
Old good news: They also have organic baby kale, arugala, spring mix and spinach, in 5oz clamshells for a very good price. They occasionally have organic yogurt, also for very good prices.
Every ALDI is different, so your selection and availability of organics, and the time of day when markdowns occur, might be different at your ALDI store.
Right now they have conventional fresh blackberries and raspberries for $1.49 a carton (here at least, don't know about your part of the country.) Even less expensive than summer!!! However, these are from Mexico (not a positive, re, more toxins used on conventional produce in Mexico than is legal to do so in the US).
ALDI is opening more and more new stores. Find a store:
I've been able to find marked down meat 3 times recently in a short period of time, after learning they now do it before closing.
Monday, December 15, 2014
This year I decided to divide the month of December up into 10-day segments, and focus on different parts of the Christmas Story in each 10 days.
It's a personal tradition of mine, when I have an apt, to keep the tree up until the weekend following Epiphany, and to celebrate Epiphany separately after Christmas (Epiphany is on January 5th, and is the reason many orthodox Christians who live outside of the States, celebrate Christmas in January).
There is alot to cover in the Christmas Story; it's hard to fit a whole segment in, in just 10 days. But at the beginning of the month, I was not feeling Christmassy at all, so this is helping alot.
For the first ten days of Dec I concentrated on The Travelers (see previous blog). I tried to put myself in their shoes.
For the second ten days of Dec, I am now concentrating on Angels & Shepherds.
For the last ten days of Dec I am concentrating on Jesus' birth and different aspects of Christmas, such as "Kris Kringel" being another name for "Christ Child" - I think in Dutch if I remember correctly; I'll start looking up that stuff after the 20th.
And then in the New Year, Epiphany as usual.
For me, this is a new way of experiencing Christmas, kind of like a Christmas immersion. I am really enjoying it, and it really is helping me enjoy the Christmas season ("Christmastide" - I love that word!). I am keeping Christmas in my heart this year, INTENTIONALLY. Not letting Christmastide slip by and then wondering where it went. The division of the month into thirds, is a good guidance system to keep on track as well.
I'm also giving and serving but about 8 years ago I switched from "special Christmas giving" to year-round Christmas giving. So for me, it was an intentional decision to make giving and serving a year-round constant instead of focusing on that during Christmastide. However, everyone is at a different place in their life - I have nothing but good to say about people who do giving any time of the year, including Christmas!!!
More on Angels & Shepherds later.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
I have been concentrating on The Travelers for the first ten days of December.
I tried to put myself in their shoes.
At the time of the Christmas story, all of Israel was traveling, not just Mary & Joseph. Mass confusion on every road, every where. Talk about traffic congestion! Good luck finding lodging or food, at any stop, any time, any where.
But the traveling stories start even before that. Mary traveled to Elizabeth's house and back. An unwed, young, pregnant girl. And tongues, oh yes, they were a waggin'.
Then when Joseph didn't leave her, they had to travel together to 50+ miles South to register and be taxed; oh what a pain on top of everything they'd already been through in their engagement. No choice. Nazareth to Bethlehem . . . On a donkey . . . Full term . . . To pay the IRS (Caesar). And we think we have problems . . .
Then on top of that, the Wisemen had been traveling for a very long time . . . while Mary & Joseph were traveling so were the Wisemen . . . what a grand cast of characters and diverse ethnicities, nationalities, and cultural groups this story contains. Scholars differ in their opinions, but some say the Three Kings traveled as long as 1 - 2 years before they got to Bethlehem . . . months at least . . .
Everyone was traveling, traveling, traveling in all different directions at the same time.
Then it still wasn't over for Mary & Joseph, they had to flee into Egypt, yep still traveling, while the Wisemen departed a different way to avoid Herod, yep still traveling . . .
Traveling . . . traveling . . . traveling. Not home. Road weary. Travel sore. Strangers in a strange land. Vulnerable. On the road.
Here are some maps of possible routes Mary & Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem:
Much less is known about the Wisemen's possible travel routes, without a defined starting point like Nazareth (somewhere in Persia, it's believed, for the Wisemen - such as present-day Iran), and without knowing which specific signs in the heavens they were following throughout the trip. When you're following stars, it's probably not the quickest, shortest travel route.
But most likely they were in a large group for self-defense as they were very wealthy and bearing gifts; scholars believe 50 to 300 camels in the Wisemen's caravan, plus defensive warriors, animals, servants, livestock and everything a caravan needs to camp with and survive on the road for an extended journey; lots and lots of baggage. Significantly more than the iconic 3 men with 3 camels.
We also don't know how many kings there were in the group; we know there were at least two, because they are referred to in the plural. And because they brought three gifts, many assume three kings. But it could have been two kings bearing three gifts. And whether it was two kings or twenty kings, we don't know.
One thing we know for sure: It was not a short journey, and not a quick one. They were traveling, traveling, traveling . . . part of the grand stage of this grand story.
Enjoy the Journey.
Saturday, December 06, 2014
Go and be blessed.
Friday, December 05, 2014
Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire Sing 'Silent Night'
Four minutes and twenty seconds.
THE STORY OF SILENT NIGHT
Created for the guitar, the carol was first sung in St. Nicholas Church at midnight mass, with choir backup.
The phrase repeats itself over and over again in his mind:
Silent night, holy night,
Stille nacht, heilige nacht.
Father Joseph Mohr, Parish Priest
It's the first line from a poem this young Austrian priest had written two years before. Now he can't get the phrase out of his mind. "Silent night, holy night."
Tonight is Christmas Eve and St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, north of Salzburg, will be chock-full of people. Father Joseph Mohr has a homily in mind, a message for his flock on this sacred night, but he needs a carol, something special to cap off the service.
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright...
The words won't go away. "I need a tune!" he says out loud, shaking his head. "I wonder if Franz can help me. I hope it's not too late." Franz Gruber is the schoolteacher in the nearby village of Arnsdorf — a gifted musician, organist at the Arnsdorf church, and occasional substitute organist at St. Nicholas. "Franz will help me!" he says to himself. "He can't resist a musical challenge."
Franz Gruber, Schoolteacher and Organist
Quickly now he slings on his heavy coat, dons a fur cap and gloves, and ventures into the brisk December morning. The snow is crunchy underfoot as he makes his way across the churchyard towards Arnsdorf, just a 20 minute walk. "Silent night, holy night ... silent night, holy night." The rhythm of the words echoes with each step.
Elizabeth opens the door at his knock. "Father Mohr, how nice of you to stop by. Franz will be glad to see you." She takes his coat and ushers him in. Franz is picking something out on his guitar.
"Franz, remember that poem I told you about: 'Silent Night'?" says Mohr. "I know it's too late to ask, but could you help put a tune to it? I want to sing it tonight for Christmas Eve."
Gruber's face lights up. A challenge. A song. He takes the lyrics from the priest and begins to say them over and over, looking for a cadence. Then he hums a line and scratches it down.
Mohr soon tires of the process and begins to play with the children. But within an hour or so, Gruber seems to have a melody and is working out the chords on his guitar. "Father, how does this sound?" he calls and begins to sing the words:
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm all is bright...
He stops to make a correction in the manuscript, and then continues:
...'Round yon virgin, Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Father Mohr is ecstatic. On the second verse Gruber's deep voice is joined by Mohr's rich tenor. Elizabeth, baby on her hip, who has been humming along, now joins them on the last verse. The song fills their home with its gentle words and memorable melody.
New Year's Eve at St. Nicholas Church, Oberndorf, 1818
That night, December 24, 1818, the song fills St. Nicholas Church at Midnight Mass. Mohr sings tenor, Gruber bass, and the church choir joins the refrain of each verse, while Mohr accompanies on the guitar. By the time the last notes die away, the worshipers are a-buzz with joy and wonder at the song. On Christmas Day, the song is being hummed and sung in dozens of homes around Oberndorf. "Silent night, holy night."
And in Oberndorf, they would sing their beloved carol again and again each Christmas. The song might have stayed right there had it not been for an organ builder named Karl Mauracher, who came to repair the pipe organ at Arnsdorf in 1819 and made several trips to Oberndorf over the next few years, finally building a new organ for St. Nicholas in 1825.
The Song Finds Its Way to Emperors and Kings — and to America
Whether Mauracher found the music and lyrics on the organ or they were given to him by Gruber, we don't know. But he carried the song to the Ziller Valley east of Innsbruk, where he shared it with two local families of travelling folk singers, the Rainers and the Strassers, who began to sing it as part of their regular repertoire. The following Christmas of 1819, the Rainer Family Singers sang "Stille Nacht" in the village church of Fügen (Zillertal).
Three years later they sang it for royalty. Emperor Francis I of Austria and his ally Czar Alexander I of Russia were staying in the nearby castle of Count Dönhoff (now Bubenberg Castle). The Rainer Family performed the carol and were invited to Russia for a series of concerts.
In 1834 the Strasser Family Singers sang "Silent Night" for King Frederick William IV of Prussia. He was so taken with what the Strassers called their "Song of Heaven," that he commanded it to be sung by his cathedral choir every Christmas Eve. It spread through Europe and in 1839 the Raniers brought the song to America as the "Tyrolean Folk Song." Since then it has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects.
Various English translations blossomed, but the definitive English version of the song was penned by Rev. John Freeman Young and first published in The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (1863).
Why Is "Silent Night" So Popular?
Why has "Silent Night" become our most beloved carol? Is it the words — tender, intimate, gentle? Or the tune — so peaceful, so memorable, so easy to play or pick out with one hand on the piano?
It is not a joyous, fast-paced carol like Handel's "Joy to the World." Nor theologically-rich like Charles Wesley's "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." Nor does it have a complex tune like "Angels We Have Heard on High."
Rather, "Silent Night" is quiet and reflective, calling us to meditate on the scene. It is the ambience conveyed by both the gentle words and melody that create from this carol an oasis of peace.
"All is calm, all is bright."
It calls us to dwell on the Madonna and Child —
"'Round yon Virgin, mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace."
You feel as the "shepherds quake at the sight." You can imagine as "heavenly hosts sing Alleluia." And you begin to sing "Alleluia to the King" right along with them.
Rays of backlit brilliance highlight many a religious painting, but here the picture of light is painted in words:
"Glories stream from heaven afar...."
"Son of God, love's pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face...."
Just Who is in this manger? What is the significance of this birth? What is Christmas about — really? Perhaps most of all, "Silent Night" is beloved because it reminds us in its simple, but exceedingly clear way, the truth behind it all — the truth that changes everything:
"Christ, the Savior is born!"
Sing it again this Christmas and let its gentle peace wash over you and its bold assertion renew your soul.
"Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!
"Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!"
Lore, Legends, and Myths About Silent Night, and how the lyrics and melody changed:
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