Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Legend of La Befana

A Christmas tale from Italian Folklore retold by La

La Befana was an old woman who lived in a small village in Italy. She was known throughout the village for her wonderful baking and the cleanliness of her kitchen. She was often seen sweeping the area in front of her home. And many had heard her say that she was so busy baking and cleaning that she rarely had time to do anything else.

One winter day, while La Befana was sweeping in front of her home, three travelers stopped to ask her for a drink of water. They told La Befana that they were astrologers (they were often called the three wise men) who were following a star to the birth place of the Christ child. She kindly gave them water and then invited them to dinner.

After dinner the astrologers prepared to continue their journey and asked her if she would like to come with them to see the Christ child. La Befana shook her head saying that she could not possibly take the time needed for such a journey. She was secretly itching to get back to her cleaning and cooking. She stood at her door and watched them leave.

La Befana went back to her sweeping. But hours later she began to feel that she had made a mistake. Maybe she should have gone with the 3 astrologers to see the Christ child. La Befana decided to follow them.

She quickly grabbed a basket and filled it with baked goods of all kinds. She then put on her shawl and with her basket and broom hurried off into the night practically running to catch up with the wise men.

La Befana traveled through the night but never caught up with the wise men. It is said that she ran and ran until she and her broom were lifted up into the air!

Ever since that night, La Befana is believed to fly through the night or run over the roofs in Italy on Epiphany eve. She stops at the home of every child, leaving them treats in their stockings if they are good and a lump of coal if they are bad.

She hopes that one of the children she visits will be the christ child.

Copyright LLL, Storyteller/Storysinger
story and recipe originally posted at StorytellingCookingandKids.blogspot.com

The name Befana is said to be a mispronunciation of the Italian word epifania which stands for epiphany. La Befana still visits the children of Italy on the eve of January 6, Epiphany. She fills their stockings with candy or a lump of coal. It is also believed that she sweeps the floor before she leaves. Many households leave her a small glass of wine and a small plate of goodies.

Biscotti - twice-baked (biscottare means to bake twice) biscuits
Biscotti are a traditional italian sweet that La Befana might have baked.

The following is a very simple biscotti recipe that "cheats" just a little.

1 box dry cake mix (your choice of flavor)
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 stick melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla (or your preferred flavor)

¾ cup chopped nuts, dried fruit or chocolate pieces

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
Pour your cake mix and flour into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the eggs, butter and vanilla.
Mix on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in nuts or chocolate if desired.

This dough will be very stiff but will not stick to the bowl when properly mixed. The consistency will be like children’s play dough.

Divide dough into two halves.
Roll each half into a log, and place on a lined 11” x 15” x 1” baking pan.
Gently press the top of the cookie log into a rectangle, about 3 inches wide.
Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove cookie pan from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Do not turn the oven off.

Remove cookies from baking pan and cut into 1 inch piece logs.
You will be cutting this on the width.

Place cookies on their cut side on the lined baking pan.
Place pan back into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.
Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Biscotti are delicious dipped in hot chocolate or coffee.
Bon Appetit!!

Pssssssst!! Here are a few biscotti variations:

yellow cake mix - chopped red and green dried cherries - almond extract.

butter pecan cake mix - sliced pecans - maple extract.

golden cake mix - sliced dried apricots - toasted slivered almonds - almond extract.

vanilla cake mix - sliced dried cranberries - almond extract.

spice cake mix - walnuts - grated orange zest

spice cake mix - sliced crystalized ginger pieces.

chocolate cake mix - chocolate piece or chips, freeze first so they retain their shape during baking.

lemon cake mix - toasted slivered almonds.

german chocolate cake mix - chopped hazelnuts - semisweet chocolate - 1/2 Tsp. ground cinnamon.

devil's food cake mix - white chocolate chips - chopped dried sweetened cherries - almond extract.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There once lived a poor family without enough food to eat or enough wood for their fire. The mother decided to go into the forest to search for pine cones.
She was planning to use the pine cones to build a fire for her family, and she was also hoping she could sell some of them to get money to buy food.

After walking for hours, the mother finally reached the forest and started gathering pine cones into her basket.
Suddenly, she heard a voice say, "Why are you stealing my pine cones?"
With that, an elf appeared beside her.

She explained her sad story to the elf.
With a crooked smile, the elf said, "Go into the next forest. The pine cones there are much better."

Hesitantly, the mother set off to the next forest, which was even farther away. When she reached it, she was very tired. She leaned against a tree and sat her basket on the ground.

No sooner had she set down her basket, and dozens of pine cones started falling to the ground. Filled with renewed energy, she gathered all the pine cones into her basket and returned home.

Tired again, once she returned home, she set down the basket for a moment on her doorstep. When she looked down at the basket of pine cones, they had all turned to silver.

The family would never be poor again.

Because of this legend, many people believe that a silver pine cone is lucky. It is customary to keep one on your dresser or hearth to make sure good fortune comes your way.


Silver Pine Cones
you will need:
Silver paint or silver spray paint
Glitter (optional)

Use paint or spray paint to coat the pines cones with silver color.
You may then let them dry or while still wet sprinkle them with glitter.

That's it!
Use the pinecones as decoration around the house, or as a christmas tree decoration or give a silver pine cone and a copy of this legend as a gift.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


There are many ways to tell a story.
One of my favorite ways, okay I have lots of favorite ways, but my most favorite way is by singing.
And a good place to get a singable story, other than some of the kids songs, is to check out ballads.
There are many ballads that can be used for storytelling ( check out my blog on The Twa Sisters) or as the basis for your own cante fable.

Greensleeves has a long history, beginning with its first mention in 1580 as a "new northern dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves."
The song was mentioned twice in Act Two, Scene One of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The tune for Greensleeves is used for the Christmas song "What Child is This?". (The lyrics for "What Child is This?" were written around 1865 by Englishman William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). It is unknown who merged Dix's lyrics with the "Greensleeves" tune.)

A reading of the lyrics [of Greensleeves] shows that it is not a sweet, innocuous love song, but a plea from a 16th century gentleman to his bored mistress. There are countless versions of the lyrics, including fourteen Cavalier songs and John Gay wrote lyrics to the tune for The Beggar's Opera. The verses to Greensleeves seem endless.

I suppose I should mention that it is commonly believed that Greensleeves was composed by King Henry VIII of England (1491-1547) for his lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn. Anne, the youngest daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, rejected Henry's attempts to seduce her. This rejection is supposedly referred to in the song. Is this story true??? Who knows? But it is a great story.
I can definitely see someone (moi?) telling the story of Henry and Anne while inserting verses of Greensleeves in appropriate places.

(You can find the music for Greensleeves at 8notes.com or at Guitar Chords Magic )

I have included 2 vid versions of Greensleeves (why? because I am a youtubeaholic).
The first is very traditional. The second, located at the bottom of this post is a very modern jazzy, bluesy version.
I have also written out two different lyrics. The first is obviously very old.
The second is more like what you would sing today.

(to cut off blog music go to the bottom of the blog)
The King Singers singing Greensleeves acapella.

A new Courtly Sonet, of the Lady Green
sleeues. To the new tune of Greensleeues.

Greensleeues was all my ioy,
Greensleeues was my delight:
Greensleeues was my hart of gold,
And who but Ladie Greensleeues.

Alas my loue, ye do me wrong,
to cast me off discurteously:
And I haue loued you so long
Delighting in your companie.
Greensleeues was all my ioy,
Greensleeues was my delight:
Greensleeues was my heart of gold,
And who but Ladie Greensleeues.

I haue been readie at your hand,
to grant what euer you would craue.
I haue both waged life and land,
your loue and good will for to haue.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

I bought three kerchers to thy head,
that were wrought fine and gallantly:
I kept thee both boord and bed,
Which cost my purse wel fauouredly,
Greensleeues was all my ioie, &c.

I bought thee peticotes of the best,
the cloth so fine as might be:
I gaue thee iewels for thy chest,
and all this cost I spent on thee.
Greensleeues was all my ioie, &c.

Thy smock of silk, both faire and white,
with gold embrodered gorgeously:
Thy peticote of Sendall right:
and thus I bought thee gladly.
Greensleeues was all my ioie, &c.

Thy girdle of gold so red,
with pearles bedecked sumptuously:
The like no other lasses had,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me,
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

Thy purse and eke thy gay guilt kniues,
thy pincase gallant to the eie:
No better wore the Burgesse wiues,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

Thy crimson stockings all of silk,
with golde all wrought aboue the knee,
Thy pumps as white as was the milk,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

Thy gown was of the grossie green,
thy sleeues of Satten hanging by:
Which made thee be our haruest Queen,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

Thy garters fringed with the golde,
And siluer aglets hanging by,
Which made thee blithe for to beholde,
And yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

My gayest gelding I thee gaue,
To ride where euer liked thee,
No Ladie euer was so braue,
And yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

My men were clothed all in green,
And they did euer wait on thee:
Al this was gallant to be seen,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

They set thee vp, they took thee downe,
they serued thee with humilitie,
Thy foote might not once touch the ground,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

For euerie morning when thou rose,
I sent thee dainties orderly:
To cheare thy stomack from all woes,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

Thou couldst desire no earthly thing.
But stil thou hadst it readily:
Thy musicke still to play and sing,
And yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

And who did pay for all this geare,
that thou didst spend when pleased thee?
Euen I that am reiected here,
and thou disdainst to loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

Wel, I wil pray to God on hie,
that thou my constancie maist see:
And that yet once before I die,
thou wilt vouchsafe to loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.

Greensleeues now farewel adue,
God I pray to prosper thee:
For I am stil thy louer true,
come once againe and loue me.
Greensleeues was all my ioy, &c.
Greensleeves: a more modern version

Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously.
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your company.

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my lady greensleeves.

Your vows you've broken, like my heart,
Oh, why did you so enrapture me?
Now I remain in a world apart
But my heart remains in captivity.


I have been ready at your hand,
To grant whatever you would crave,
I have both wagered life and land,
Your love and good-will for to have.


If you intend thus to disdain,
It does the more enrapture me,
And even so, I still remain
A lover in captivity.


My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen,
And yet thou wouldst not love me.


Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
but still thou hadst it readily.
Thy music still to play and sing;
And yet thou wouldst not love me.


Well, I will pray to God on high,
that thou my constancy mayst see,
And that yet once before I die,
Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me.


Ah, Greensleeves, now farewell, adieu,
To God I pray to prosper thee,
For I am still thy lover true,
Come once again and love me.


A very jazzy, bluesy version of Greensleeves by Vanessa Carlton

Net Sources:
Music Garden
Greensleeves the Ballad
A Brief History of Love Songs
Mudcat Cafe
Minstrels Greensleeves
The Tudors
The Comtemlator's Short History of Broadside Ballads
THe Music of the 16th Century Broadside Ballad

My blog on The Twa Sisters