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A Vintage View of Homekeeping

The lesser known (but equally talented) Kringle – Gretel December 23, 2008

Filed under: Crafting,Holidays — LotusMama @ 12:46 pm
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There are many wonderful tales of warmth and family at this time of year, stories that drive the chill from our hearts and make us glad to have our loved ones close by. This is not one of those stories. This is the story of Gretel Kringle, amateur yodeling champ (about to turn professional) and younger sister to a Goody Two Shoes brother (her term, not mineĀ  – actually, in German it is Schuhe der guten Sachen zwei) named Kris.

Gretel and her brother have been estranged for many years. He lives far away from her, certainly outside of her cell plan, so visiting or even calling each other is infrequent. Gretel doesn’t really mind; she’s been working hard with her therapist to find the joy within herself; only those who lack self-esteem need greeting cards with their image, songs shouting their praises and mountains of cookies from kids to feel good about themselves. (Though she is secretly glad at how fat her brother has become from all the carbs.)

Gretel is currently perfecting her yodeling and learning to play the glockenspiel. She works in a small music shop in Berlin, except for the month long break she takes in DecemberĀ  (she likes to avoid the seasonal music). The Kringle family reunion is set for 2009 in Bermuda, but Gretel hasn’t rsvp’d yet – she is still deciding if she wants to make the trip (though seeing her brother in his board shorts might be amusing, she really can’t stand her sister-in-law).

Though sibling rivalry hampers her normally jolly disposition, Gretel would like to wish you all a very enjoyable late December and early January. She hopes that you all receive the presents that you wish for and that you should feel free to leave an extra cookie or two out for her brother.

Gretel’s story brought to you today by an increasingly cabin-feverish Kimberly Ann. For those wishing to make a Gretel of their own, check out Alicia Paulson’s book “Stitched in Time”.

 

Here comes Sinterklaas, Here comes Sinterklaas, right down Sinterklaas lane…

Filed under: Global Homemaking,Holidays,Uncategorized — LotusMama @ 12:48 am
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For those who have visited Disneyland, I bet your visit wasn’t complete without a ride through “It’s a Small World”, huh? Maybe because the line at the Matterhorn was too long or because it was ten degrees cooler in there, but most folks take at least one ride in the little boats that glide passed the children of the world singing “…it’s a world of laughter, a world of tears…”

Well, consider this your virtual ride but without the big ticket fees or long lines. Here’s a few fun Christmas facts from around the world (found at this thorough site).

In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas makes an appearance on December 5th, sailing from Spain and leaving gifts and treats in children’s shoes (after removing the hay and sugar that they leave for his horses). In Portugal, it is Pai Natal who brings the presents and fills the shoes left by the fireplace by the hopeful kids.

In Wales, singing songs from house to house is called “eisteddfodde”. The carolers travel around at dawn on Christmas morning, waking people with their music and joining families in their homes for refreshments. Making taffy and eating a Christmas goose dinner are also part of the Welsh traditions.

Ethiopian Christmas is celebrated on January 7th and children usually receive small gifts, such as clothing. In Brazil, fresh flowers and fireworks are among the decorations and the celebrating goes on until January 6th, which is Three Kings Day. In Greece, be on the look out for mischievous goblins that appear on earth during the twelve days of Christmas.

So whether you say Gledileg Jol, Meri Kirihimete, Sawadee Pee Mai or Tchestita Koleda*, you better watch out because You Know Who is coming to town.

(Merry Christmas in Icelanding, Maori, Thai, and Bulgarian)

 

Eggnog – not just for getting drunk anymore December 9, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cooking,Holidays — LotusMama @ 4:40 pm
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Have you tried eggnog? Of course you have. Everyone has, right? What about real, bonafide, full of liquor eggnog? It is potent stuff. I assume all the liquor is there to kill any germs from the raw eggs but still, a little dab will do ya. Personally, I’m more of a virgin eggnog drinker myself, though a tiny dash of rum is a nice addition. The grocery store variety is ok with me – no worries about uncooked eggs there – even if it does have a zillion calories per glass. It’s still such a holiday drink that I can’t help buying at least one quart.

Which, unless you drink it all, leaves part of quart hanging out in your fridge after New Years. So what to do with the stuff? I wondered that myself and here are some interesting alternatives to guzzling down the nog:

How about an eggnog cupcake with bourbon caramel cream cheese frosting? Or perhaps a stack of eggnog pancakes on Christmas morning or New Year’s Day?

Had enough sweets? Ok, what about chicken with eggnog cream sauce or eggnog sweet potato gratin (same link). Perhaps a slice of eggnog bread would be good with the chicken.

But, in the end, if you just want to just drink your nog, and you are feeling extra friendly toward those kind folks at the liquor store, here’s Martha Stewart’s very own recipe. (Be sure to read the disclaimer at the top of the recipe; it does call for raw eggs.) You’ll need plenty of bourbon, rum and cognac on hand.

Cheers, everybody!

 

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies December 2, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Holidays — LotusMama @ 4:34 pm
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I personally have never had a sugar plum. I’m guessing they are dried plums dipped in sugar, but really I have no idea. I do like the sugar plum fairy, as in the ballet, The Nutcracker, but I don’t know how similar the SPF is to the food.

Yesterday, I had a chance to see pint sized plums in action at my nephew’s ballet class. He and the rest of the dancers (all girls) were rehearsing for their Winter performance. I should mention that they are three years old. Imagine an unruly line of tots in tutus and one strong boy in black tights and you can imagine how wonderfully fun it was. There was plenty of squirming and sillies while they tried to move into second position. Their upcoming recital is to the song What a Wonderful World (Louie Armstrong version) and it was absolutely precious to see them flapping their butterfly arms while they shouted out the words. They might not have been dancing to Tchaikovsky, but they were sweet nonetheless.

So these little dancers got me thinking about sugar plums. What are these elusive treats that inspired the ballet dance? I did a little recipe searching and wow, there are clearly no firm guidelines for what gets labeled a “sugar plum”. I found pieces of candy mixed with chopped pineapple, cherries surround by oatmeal, breads and cakes. It’s doubtful that most of these concoctions would have even been available in 19th century Russia. So what is the real deal? Well, I have found a recipe for drying and sugaring plums, updated from a 16th century version. For those interested in drying their own plums, check it out here. I also found an interesting discussion about a dried fruit and nut version, inspired by Turkish candies. Given that The Nutcracker has an exotic local, maybe this is what Tchaikovsky had in mind when he wrote the music.

So the dried sugared fruit or the nut/fruit concoction – I don’t know which is the real “sugar plum” treat of Tchaikovsky and Twas the Night Before Christmas. I guess the only visions of sugar plums dancing in my head will be those little ballerinas/ballet dancer working on their pirouettes.

 

"You are a good housekeeper, Mommy…" November 30, 2008

Filed under: Holidays — LotusMama @ 8:05 pm
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“You keep the flies out of the house.” High praise from my eight year old. I guess I should be glad that he notices anything that I do around the house.

Last night, we decked the halls (or started the process, anyway) and put up our tree. I’m still working on how to get the outdoor lights strung, but here are a few snaps from the living room:
NR’s Candy Canes
Our kitty under the tree – love the green and gold eyes
Close up of the mantle
My Scandinavian heart garland

 

Ya sure you betcha, it’s Christmas (almost) November 24, 2008

Filed under: Holidays — LotusMama @ 5:02 pm
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I said this a few days ago but I’m excited to put up my Christmas tree. Some years, I really dread doing it and I put it off until the last moment. That’s a stinky, Grinchy, Bah-Humbug kind of attitude, huh? Yeah, well, I have small streak of Grinch if I’m not careful.

But not this year. This year, I’m in the Spirit – spike the egg nog, Auntie Mame on roller skates, capital S kind of Spirit. I’m also inspired by those countries that know a thing or two about snow, the land of my forefathers/mothers – Norway. Yeah, the spirit hasn’t completely made me crazy; I won’t be sampling lutefisk or donning the St. Lucia crown of burning candles. But I will be adding some Scandinavian spirit to the festivities this year. What makes it Scandinavian, you ask? Plenty of red and white, heart motifs, snowy stuff and gnomes, of course. Well, that’s my version anyway. I suppose someone in Stockholm might have a different perspective, but this is my interpretation.

I’ll be conjuring up a few decorations and posting photos in December but I thought a little inspiration from Flickr was in order. There are some amazing (and mundane and weird) photos on Flickr, as well as some things that inspire me for Christmas. Here are some of my favorites:

 

Filed under: Uncategorized — LotusMama @ 5:01 pm
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The gnome knows…
Originally uploaded by DesignMinistry

The gnome knows….says DesignMinistry on Flickr.