The First of Advent

Don’t you think it’s absolutely amazing that the first Sunday of Advent was on the 1st December this year? Or is it just me who is an absolute fan of these kind of coincidences?

Also a coincidence, or just good timing from my part, that I was done with my next portion of handmade Christmas-decorations by yesterday:

Star Frames

These lovely crochet stars are the idea of Sandra from Little Golden Nook, which is a beautiful blog. I saw the stars on Pinterest, and followed Sandra’s lovely tutorial to make them. I picked a bag of curtain rings, some yarn of my choice, and some Christmas postcards, and the 10 starts were done surprisingly fast.

let's make frames

 

I really enjoyed making them. Here they are, bathing in sunshine 🙂

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Also, as you can all imagine, we have been very busy with advent preparations all weekend. Actually I have been planning it for quite a long, because the advent calender is something very important in our family. And getting 2 times 24 small, cheap, yet exciting and funny gifts for small kids is a challenge in itself… And then wrapping all of them… Even when I only had to wrap advent gifts for Cherry, I decided that the maximum amount of children in our household is going to be 2. Because there is noone on earth who can handle packing 72 (or more!) tiny little gifts every year, or is there? 🙂

For advent calender we decided to go with the tradition of my husband’s childhood. Every year his parents hung the gifts on a piece of string somewhere in the house, but without numbers on, and he and his sister got to choose one present every morning. And they loved it. So that’s how we do it too. No numbers, but random picking every morning. It has been two mornings so far, and my kids are in absolute trance 😀

Our Advent Calender

Sorry for the poor picture quality, I made the photo late in the evening on Saturday, when I was done with hanging the packages, and obviously there was no natural light at my disposal in our living room 🙂

We also got out our Christams boxes, placed a few elfes, Santas, candles here and there in the house, and made an advent wreath – well, it is just 4 candles in a box with some dried fruits and branches from our garden really, but it is nice.

nisse collage

 

So, we are ready for the Holiday Season. Is it too much to ask for a little bit of snow as well? 🙂

The season to be… crafty?

I would like to share some family joy with you all: On the 16th of November my beautiful sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby boy 🙂 We obviously all got very happy and excited, and book the ferry tickets for the next Saturday to visit them. The plan was to pick up my mother-in-law on the way there, and spend the day in Copenhagen.

Then, of course, Cherry got the flu 😦 First of all my heart was breaking for her, because I don’t remember her being so sick ever in her little life. My heart was breaking, because it also meant, that there is going to be no baby-visiting for Cherry, and no baby-visiting for her Mum either (that would be me). And I don’t know which one of us was more disappointed about that, the almost 5 years old, who was sooo looking forward to see her new little cousin, or me, who knows that every baby born to family members or friends might be the last chance for me to hold a newborn again in my arms (as we are NOT having more 🙂 ).

Anyway, my husband packed up Paddington last Saturday, picked up his Mum and they sailed over to Sjælland for the visit, while Cherry and I stayed at home.

At this point Cherry was feeling well enough to be bored out of her mind, locked up in the house, but still too sick and contagious to go among other people, so we had to find some activities we can do inside. And then it occured to me: But it is almost advent! So we were going to make some advent/Christmas decorations, hurray 🙂

One thing you have to know about Cherry, that she is obsessed with pearls. She has tons of beads and pearls that she prepares lovely necklaces of, many a day, then she picks her little scissors, cuts the wires, recycles the beads, and starts it all over again 🙂 She also has a huge box of Hama Beads, and sometimes she spends hours sitting on her little chairs, making lovely shapes and figures out of the Hama Beads, then brings them over to me, so I can iron them. So making decorations of Hama Beads was an obvious choice for us 🙂 Cherry made some circles, hearts and other full shapes, and I tried to create some snowflakes.

Hama Snowflakes

 

At the end we hung them up on some branches, collected from the garden, together with some old Christmas cards we had. I am also thinking about making some more, and including them in the postcards we are going to send out this year, as they are so tiny and light.

Hamas and Cards

Later, while she was resting on the sofa, watching some cartoons, I cuddled up next her warm, little body, and crocheted some cute little starts of different sizes. I found this lovely tutorial (on Pinterest, where else) :).

Crochet Starts

Twinkle-twinkle 🙂

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Cookies in Boxes, last volume for this year :)

Due to circumstances I had no power over (like my own bowel movements for a short period of time…), I did not manage to make as many cookies as I wanted to. Well, no problem because the missing ones can be still made next year 🙂 But we did manage to make a portion of each Danish delicacies that are sooooo connected with Christmas.

The first one is called Pebbernødder, meaning “peppernuts”, and has absolutely nothing to do with either pepper or nuts, its just a nice, spicy ginger bread style cookie, which has a shape of a nut. The other one is not really a cookie, rather layered marzipan, but nonetheless very yummy.

Pebbernødder:

pebbernoedder

These cookies simply cannot be left out for a real Danish Christmas. If you don’t bake them, you buy them in big bags, and munch them during the wonderful month of December. My husband insisted on that we should make them ourselves this year, because it is so fun to bake with kids (and it is!). So I called my mother-in-law, and asked for her recipe. When it comes Danish recipes, she is the first one I turn to, not a cooking book 🙂 Later she sent me this recipe:

  • 1 kg flour
  • 400 g margarine
  • 500 g sugar
  • 2 sp light syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dl milk
  • 3 tsp hartshorn salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • bit of ground lemon peel

pb dough

I only used half amount of everything, and still got plenty of cookies in the end. You just mix everything together, then roll thin cylinders out of the dough, and cut small pieces of it. Perfect job for little girls with at least 4-5 beaded necklaces on 🙂

pb cutting

Lay them on a baking tray covered with baking paper, and bake them on 200 Celsius for about 20-25 mts, until they get nice and brown.

pb done

Once they are done, it is very important to perform a quality check on the cookies! Little boys are very suitable to do so 🙂

 

Marzipan Slices:

marzipan slices

Or, my little brother’s favourite treats 🙂 You can also buy them in any shop around Christmas, in many different qualities. But it is much more fun (and sometimes even more expensive…) to make your own ones 🙂

You will need some raw marzipan, some nougat bar, and food colouring of your choice.

pure marzipan

I went with green and red marzipan, and of course the raw colour and nougat as well 🙂 Now all we have to do, is to make thin slices of everything, then layer them nicely. I found cheese cutter to work best for slicing nougat, and a very sharp knife, to slice the cold (out of the fridge) marzipan.

layered marcipan

Once I layered them, I decided to put them back into the fridge again, before cutting them up, because it is much more easier to work with cold marzipan.

In the meantime, I made some figures out of the left-over marzipan: An elegant, pink, plumpy, Icelandic type of pony for my daughter (yes, it is a pony, stop laughing!), and a cool sport car for my car-maniac son. If you, at this point, would like to form comments like “Geez, I understand why she is not a professional marzipan figure manufacturer”, then I have to tell you, that luckily my kids are very sophisticated, and recognize art at once when they see it, and knew instantly what the two figures were 🙂 However, Paddington refused to eat or even touch his marzipan car…

marzipan figures

Anyway, look at these divine marzipan slices…

divine slices

This year I decided to make small packages of Christmas goodies for family members as a gift, so I made a few scone shaped paper bags, and packed them with pebbernødder and the marzipan slices. I hope they will be received with joy 🙂

wrapping the goodies

 

 

Cookies in Boxes Vol.2 – Linzer

Oh, the Linzer…

Linzer

Anyone, who has ever heard about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is not gonna be surprised by the fact that Austria and Hungary share a lot of traditions and recipes. Especially when it comes to cakes, cookies, tortes, and all the heavenly results of the development of confectionery. One of these shared heavenly gems is the Linzer torte. It is very popular as a cake, but also as cookies, made according to the same recipe, and they cannot be absent from the Christmas dessert table. It is almost obvious that I also had to make them this year to fill up at least one of my empty cookie boxes…

I guess every family has their own recipe for it. So do we 🙂 This recipe is old, very old, and my Mum always makes it for Christmas, following the sharp, decent handwriting of her grandmother. I copied this recipe to my own cookbook, and brought it to Denmark.

My Greatgranny is very special to me. I was named after her (she hated her given name all her life – until I was born and given the same name), and we were lucky enough to spend the first two years of my life together, in the same home. When my Mum went to university, she left home and moved in with my Greatgranny. It was not easy to get your own flat at the time my parents were young, so when my Mum and Dad got married, they simply lived together with Greatgranny and looked after each other. Unfortunately I don’t remember much of the time spent together with Greatgranny. But I have heard the stories all my life, and she must have been a great person! She lives through us, and her legendary cooking and baking.

That’s us, about 30 years ago 🙂

greatgranny

 

And this is her recipe for Linzer:

  • 600 g flour
  • 300 g margarine
  • 150 g icing sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of baking soda
  • grated peel of half a lemon
  • 3 egg yolks
  • milk
  • jam of your choice

Making linzer dough is not rocket science, really 🙂 You just put all the ingredients (except the jam) in a bowl, and work them together thoroughly. You only need to add a little bit of milk, so you get a light dough. It really depends on the quality of the flour you use, but it is really only a little bit of milk. Less than a dl, I would say…

Because we are only 2 adults and 2 children, I only used 400 grams of flour and equivalent ingredients, but I heard that Greatgranny used to bake linzer of 1,2 kgs of flour for the whole family…

linzer dough

 

Once the dough is done, roll it out very thin with a rolling pin, and cut different shapes out of it. Perfect task for small baby hands 🙂 Since later we are going to fill the cookies up with jam, it is important that you cut the same amount of full and holey shapes that will go together.

shapes

 

Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius, and bake the cookies for no longer than 10-12 minutes! They don’t need to get brown and too crispy, you want them nice and soft.

Once they are done and cold, take the jam of your choice (we traditionally use apricot jam, but any other will do as well), and whip it until it gets hard.

Now you can fill your cookies: Put a spoonful of jam on the middle of the full cookies, then gently put a holey cookie on the top.

baking and filling

 

You can sprinkle them with some icing sugar, so they don’t just taste, but also look yummie 🙂

yummie linzers

 

That’s it. Wasn’t too difficult, was it? Enjoy!

 

Cookies in Boxes Vol.1 – Honey Kisses

Hi, I’m Poppy, and I’m a box-alcoholic… I collect all kinds of boxes, I just cannot resist them, and after I have brought them home I try to justify their existence by putting random things in them, making them somewhat useful. It usually results in none of us finding anything. As my husband once said, after looking for his phone charger in vain: “You and your boxes…”

But there are a few boxes that everyone knows for sure what they hide. The lovely tin boxes, sitting on the top of the kitchen cupboard, waiting for me to make some cookies and fill them up. Even my 21 months old Paddington knows without doubt, and from time to time you find him standing in the kitchen, pointing up to the boxes, repeating one word of his (so far) not too wide repertoire  “mere, mere, mere!” (more, more, more!)

Well, Christmas is coming, and it is time to fill up my lonely, empty cookie boxes again. One by one 🙂

boxes and cookies

We have a lot of different kinds of cookies on plan, since I long for the tastes of my childhood, the Hungarian Christmas cookies, and my husband longs for the tastes of his childhood, the Danish ones:) The kids luckily don’t have any preferences yet, they simply want to eat, preferably all the time, if possible. Any kind of cookie is welcome in their little, round bellies.

I decided to start the line by making one of the Hungarian cookies (I make them, I get to choose the order – aka: my kitchen my rules, hehe 🙂 ). I was browsing the Internet the other day, and stumbled upon a lovely recipe of a kind of gingerbread, called Honey Kisses in Hungarian (or, if you prefer, Mézespuszedli). It’s something I always loved very much, and because of the spices used for making it, it is very christmassy. Usually, for Christmas, I always bake according to old, family recipes, but my handwritten cookbook, that I once copied from the one my Mum owns (containing recipes from her Mum and Grandma as well) unfortunately doesn’t include a recipe for the honey kisses. So I decided to give a go to the recipe I had found. It is of a Hungarian gastro-blogger, TücsökBogár. And here it goes:

Honey Kisses:

Dough:

  • 330 g flour
  • 50 g brown sugar
  • 120 g honey (I prefer a liquid kind of honey for this recipe)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp veg. oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp gingerbread spice mix (If you, like me, cannot find the spice mix, you can substitute it with 1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp ground cardamom, and 1 tsp ground cloves)
  • a pinch of salt

Icing:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 175 g icing sugar

First you take the brown sugar, the eggs (both whites and yolks), the honey, the water, the oil and the salt, and whip them very good. Then you add the mix of the flour, the baking soda and the spices to it, and work the whole thing together thoroughly. You get a soft dough. Now you put it in the fridge, for min. 1 hour. (My dough was chilling in the fridge for more than 2 hours, because it was such a beautiful sunshine, that we had to go for a walk with my husband and the dog).

preparing honey kisses

Preheat the oven to 175 Celsius. Take the dough, and form little, walnut sized balls of it (it is easy, if you water your hands regularly, so the dough is not gonna stick on your fingers), and put them on a baking tray covered with baking sheet.  Leave some space between the balls, as they are going to rise while baking. Once you formed the balls, take a tablespoon, water it, and gently press the top of  the balls with it. Now bake them for 10-12 minutes.

baking honey kisses

Once the kisses are done, prepare the icing. Put the egg whites and the icing sugar in a bowl, and whip them very good, above steam (a pot of boiling water). Wait until the cookies get cold, then fold them into the icing. You can also choose to fold them in melted chocolate instead, and probably you want to hide a little bit of prune jam inside of the kisses as well… possibilities are countless 🙂

icing honey kisses

Let them dry… If you can… This recipe gives you about 40 honey kisses, we only had about half of them left, by the time they got dry. I heard that they should last and stay nice and soft quite long in a box, but we will never experience it, the kisses are all gone by now… 🙂

Enjoy 🙂

Honey Kisses

The most wonderful month of the year

December, that is. When all the magic is created in anticipation of the peek of the year, Christmas, that leads to boredom, emptiness and apathy in the months of January and February…

But lets not run ahead. December is here and we rejoice 🙂

The weather, here in Denmark, decided to make this December even more magical, and the snow arrived precisely on the 1st of the month. Also, the Christmas celebration has officially started all over the country last Friday, when Santa visited all the towns, and lit the holiday lights on the walking streets and on the huge Christmas trees towns have erected. He must have been very busy last Friday 😉 He arrived to Hammel, to “our big city” of few thousands people, only a few kilometers away from our tiny village, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, in total darkness, and in a fire engine. He was raised high up, so everyone could see him, then turned on the lights of the 15-meters-high Christmas tree. After that a little procession started on the walking street, following a band, dressed up as elves (nisse in Danish), playing Christmas songs. My kids were flabbergasted by the events 🙂

jul i hammel

Naturally we also made our little preparations for advent. Saturday evening we all sat around our kitchen table full of all the supplies we could possibly need:

raw materials

With the help (or in spite of the help 🙂 ) of a 3 and a half-year old, and a 20-month-old, we created our advent wreath, some other christmasy decorations…

advent plates

and some wreaths to hang on the front door and on the staircase:

wreaths

And don’t forget the scented candles and Christmas lights, to complete the atmosphere.

So came the morning of the first Sunday of the Advent. My husband went out to shovel some snow, while I was making our usual Sunday-morning treat, heart shaped waffles, this time with a dash of cinnamon in the dough.

advent morning

This Sunday was not only special because of the advent, it was also special, because we went out to chop our Christmas tree! Yes, that is the Danish country-side way 🙂 Growing up in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, for me picking up the Christmas tree actually meant picking it up with my parents at the market place, trying to pick the most symmetric one (or the least crocked one) from the selection. For my husband, who grew up on a farm, in the middle of a forest, picking up the Christmas tree meant that my father-in-law took him and his sister by the hand, walked into their forest, chose a pine tree, chopped it, and dragged it home. I think we can all feel the difference in the degree of romance and magic of these two kind of traditions 🙂 We would like to give our kids the most magic possible this time of the year, so, just like last year, we decided to chop our own tree. Obviously, since we don’t own a forest, we cannot just walk in one of them and chop someone else’s tree. But luckily there are many pine tree plantations around, where you can just walk in, they provide you with a saw, show you which trees you can choose from, you pick your own, chop it, pay for it (some ridiculously cheap price) and leave.

So we found one of these plantations nearby, and drove in. The owner was not at home when we arrived, but there was a note on the door, and we followed its instructions, grabbed the saw, walked up to the plantation, found the area where you can pick your own tree, and walked around for long minutes in the freezing cold, because Cherry was not very satisfied with the trees. She kept saying that we need to find a girl tree to chop, we cannot choose a boy tree… Anyway, we managed to convince her that we have just found a looot of girl trees, aren’t they beautiful (and they were, haven’t seen so many beautiful, dense, symmetric trees in my life), then we picked one we thought we can fit in the car and our living room, then my husband chopped it and dragged it back to the car. We measured the tree ourselves, left the appropriate amount of money in the postbox, and proudly drove home with our prey 🙂

chopping the tree

There are a lot of differences between the Danish and Hungarian Christmas traditions. I might write about them later, but one of them is the time of setting up and decorating the Christmas trees. In Hungary we leave it to the very last moment, it is usually decorated on the 24th, some families, like mine, do it together for the fun, in other families the parents decorate it secretly, while the kids are asleep, saying that the tree itself is a magical gift.

In Denmark Christmas trees are usually set up somewhat earlier. And since we are not going to spend Christmas itself in our own home, we are going to visit both grandparents, we decided to put it up on the first Sunday of the Advent, so we can enjoy the sight of it long enough.

So we rearranged the furniture a little bit in our sitting room, put the tree in the corner, I brought out the decorations, and we all took part in the process. For me a real Christmas tree is  completely eclectic, it doesn’t follow any trends or colour schemes, my ideal Christmas tree has all kinds of colours and all kinds of textures on it. You can find crystal or golden designer pieces on it (usually hanging somewhere near to the top, far away from the reach of curious dog noses and sticky baby fingers), but also creasy, messy paper  decorations, made by our children. And everything in between 🙂 My husband’s ideal Christmas tree is just like the one Mickey Mouse has in a Disney movie 🙂 So we have about the same concept of it, luckily 🙂 And the kids are just amazed by it, no matter what 🙂 They were also a big help in decorating. Cherry mainly concentrated on the horse shaped decorations, and she made sure they all hang close to each other, since they are close family. Originally she wanted to hang them all on the very same branch, but the poor branch started to fold downwards, and I managed to persuade her to distribute the horses on different branches. However, two of them had to stay together, because they were mum and baby, apparently… 🙂 Paddington instantly found all the car and train shaped decorations, and was happy for the rest of the day, pushing them around the couch, the carpet, and the tree, enthusiastically wrumm-wrumming, while doing so.

decorating

So, here it is, our corner before and after the tree:

corner before and after

The tree is standing and is beautiful, we showed it off to all the grandparents (thanks to Skype), and our biggest challenge is to prevent the kids from hurting it or hurting themselves with it. Also, the first dog vs. tree meeting was very exciting too… let me just say this: No-one under the height of 1 meter is allowed to be in the same room as the tree, without adult supervision 🙂

There is nothing left for this post than to welcome you all to our advent, and wish you a very nice, stress-free preparation  for Christmas! ‘Cause remember: it is all about coziness now!

welcome to our advent