Thursday, December 31, 2009

the countdown starts

New Year's Eve and we're just about to have dinner and start our celebrations. Let's see if we have everything we need.

Tons of snow? Check!

Fondue pot? Check! (I will spare you pictures of raw meat)

Fresh oysters (for Mr. M, not for me!) and non-alchoholic "champagne"? Check!

Dessert with 5,000 calories per serving? Check!

Enough fireworks for the whole neighbourhood? Check! (Never fear - my three sanitation engineers will be cleaning up every scrap off the lawn tomorrow morning.)

Marzipan piggies and lady bugs? Check!

Yep, looks like we're all set.

But before I go I'd like to wish everyone health and happiness in 2010!

See you on the flip side!

January 1, 2010 - 1:00 a.m.

Happy New Year!

Enough partying for me. I've got a touch of bronchitis so I'm going to bed now and leaving the rest of the fireworks to the experts.


Friday, December 25, 2009


How much snow do you need to call it a white Christmas? Right now it's kind of a rainy, slushy, windy Christmas, but earlier in the week, our terrace looked like this. Snow and lots of it! So pretty.

On Christmas Eve afternoon we met the mother-in-law at father-in-law's care facility for a short visit before coming home for a nice meal of Raclette and the opening of the presents. The latter just for the kids, mind you, because the adults already have Too Much Stuff, you know? We've decided to spread our gift giving throughout the year.

Lately I had been feeling all nostalgic for days gone by and had a craving for mincemeat tarts and Christmas pudding, desserts I enjoyed as a child and that my mother made year after year. My grandmother was English so I guess it's in the genes. The Germans around here won't touch the stuff. All the more for me.

For the tarts I had two options - it was either trek downtown to the British store to buy a jar of overpriced mincemeat that I'd never use up, or make my own.

Guess what? Making your own mincemeat is really easy. Lynda kindly directed me to Nigella's recipe. Yes, that Nigella really knows her stuff. I halved the recipe, making a smallish jar, and varied the ingredients a bit, using what I had on hand and it still turned out wonderfully.

The pastry, a pâte brisée from the Joy of Baking site, was so simple to put together and very easy to work with. I'll be using it again and again for all sorts of things.

I made twelve regular size tarts...

...and twelve wee ones, just one bite each.

Can you guess how many are left?

For the pudding I chose a steamed carrot pudding with hard sauce, my mother's favourite. She always made a large one but I reduced this recipe and used four custard cups to make individual servings (which I will be eating all by myself, thank you very much!).

I also got to try out my brand new snowflake cookie cutter. You can never have too many cookie cutters. Ask me how I know.

This evening we enjoyed roast turkey with herbed bread stuffing, green beans and bacon, red cabbage and cheesy mashed potatoes. We are all so full we can hardly move, but there may still be room for dessert, an English trifle, by the time Die Hard 2 starts. Bruce Willis and his dirty undershirt are (unfortunately) a Christmas tradition at our house.

So from our house to yours, a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

'tis the season

Well, well, well, it's been a while hasn't it? I don't know what's gotten into me. So much busywork, so little time and it's almost Christmas!

December in Germany is all about bringing a little light into the darkness. We still have a couple of weeks until the shortest day of the year and it's already dark by 4:30 p.m. That can get a bit depressing.

The first Advent Sunday was November 29, time to light the first candle on the Advent wreath. We took a less is more approach this year, dispensed with tradition and made do with a simple arrangement of four candles and some shiny things. It looks nice on our coffee table.

Can't do without the Lichterbögen, though. We have three now and I love the way they look in the windows. Lichterbogen or Schwibbebögen, as they are sometimes called, originated in the Erzgebirge, the Ore Mountains between Germany and the Czech Republic. The candles are supposed to light the miners' way home after a hard day's work.

One thing we usually do on the first Advent Sunday is to visit our town's teeny tiny Adventsmarkt. I love the old church as a backdrop.

And of course no German December is complete without an Advent calendar. We're well into the chocolatey goodness!

And here's something I had hidden away and just found the other day. My very first Advent calender. It must be over 40 years old now, I can't remember when I first got it but I know my younger brothers had the same one with little boys on it. So sweet.

This past Sunday was Nikolaustag when St. Nicholas fills boots or stockings with all sorts of treats. Bearing cookies, we went to visit my father-in-law in his care facility and had a little celebration there.

Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents)

Really happy gingerbread man

Sugar cookies

The Hannover Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) is on until December 23, so while we were in the neighbourhood, we decided to take a look.

The market is divided up into several areas...

The Medieval market is home to many fascinating hand-made items

At the Finnish market you can buy a wooly hat

and feast on reindeer sausage or cedar-planked salmon

Mmmm! I thought I was back in B.C. for a minute there!

The more traditional part of the market offers lovely Christmas decorations and sweet treats

And let's not forget the wild and crazy places where you can eat to your heart's content and get all sorts of warm drinks to warm you up on a cold day.

The Skihütte sells something called Jagertee (Jäger means hunter in German and this is a variation on the spelling), black tea mixed with rum and spices. Sort of like a German hot toddy, I suppose.

Glühwein (mulled wine) is always popular and this place will also make you up some Tiger Milch (tiger milk) if you so desire. Not quite sure what that is, but it's guaranteed to contain copious amounts of alcohol.

The market wasn't as crowded as it has been in the last few years and I really enjoyed it, coming home with a few treasures for our tree.

Since Sunday we've been burning two candles which means we're halfway to Christmas already. Wow, time flies when you're making cookies! And I've been making LOTS of cookies because these large and hungry people I live with keep eating them. Which keeps ME from eating them. And that's a very good thing, believe me.

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