Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our Christmas traditions: Doggie biscuits & new labels

Yep, that's right. We make doggie biscuits every year. And we don't even own a dog. But our friends do, and my in-laws used to, so I started the tradition when I was quite pregnant with little brother.

This little guy here, routinely rolling out dough and cutting out bone and dog shapes.

Big brother also likes to help. We use this Epicurious recipe and the boys take turns measuring out ingredients, rolling out, cutting shapes out and carefully placing them on baking sheets and brushing them with egg wash.

This year I designed labels using PicMonkey. My favorite web-based editor for quick blog photo editing, and now it also lets me make all these cool labels using overlays and design elements that almost look like I know my way around Photoshop. Which of course I don't.

It's so easy that I made all kinds of labels for all our handmade gifts. I love it. Love it. LOVE it. Did I mention I really really like it?


Here's to Christmas traditions and adding to them. Because maybe these labels will be a permanent addition, saving me the trouble of designing and making / stamping new ones every year, thinking about Christmas label design in September. I mean, not that I would ever think about Christmas labels and gift lists in September. Ha.

What's your favorite tradition?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Christmas traditions: Kulleraugen

These are hands-down my favorite cookies. Known as jam drops or thumbprint cookies to the rest of the world, we call them Kulleraugen, which translates to something like googly eyes.

Funny thing is, I hardly ever make them myself. My mom makes them, as one type of cookies in her annual Christmas repertoire of a dozen or more types of cookies.

And she only makes them because I request them. Every year she'll ask me what to make, and every year I don't care about all the elaborate confections and artfully decorated cookies and request Kulleraugen instead. And every year I ask her to make a double batch. She never does, but she also doesn't include these in the cellophane bags of cookies she gives to friends and neighbors. These are our to eat.

Of course, with two boys, my share of these cookies is getting smaller by the year. And on top of that, big brother has the Christmas get-together at his class this wee, and with me having to work both the day before and the day of the little party, I opted to bring cookies.

But what to bring? As pretty much every year, we made those cookies that by now make up our holiday cookie tradition: fig and cinnamon swirls, plum streusel stars, Christmas cantuccini. But those aren't necessarily for kids. At least not all kids.

There's only one answer to that: me making a double batch of Kulleraugen today. What makes them special is not just the fact that they belong to my Christmas for as long as I can remember or that I make them from a photocopied newspaper clipping that dates back to the Seventies. They are also filled with homemade red currant jelly from our own backyard. Bright red and wonderfully tart.

I have a feeling I have to hide these well or they'll be gone before I can take some to school. Or maybe I should just make another batch. Or two.

Kulleraugen (Jam thumbprint cookies)

250g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
100g sugar
homemade vanilla sugar or vanilla extract to taste
3 egg yolks (save the whites for another use, such as coconut macaroons. Just saying.)
150g butter
red tart jam or jelly such as red currant
1 egg white and some chopped almonds, optional

Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add sugar, salt, vanilla and egg yolks. Mix briefly with dough hook. Turn the mixer off and add butter in cubes. Mix until small crumbs form. Knead the by hand until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Roll the dough into longs and cut off walnut sized pieces. Roll pieces into little balls and push a well into the with your finger. Place on a lined baking sheet. Fill cookies with a little jam and bake at 175 C for about 10-12 minutes.

Optional: once you have rolled your little balls, brush with a little egg white, dip into chopped almonds and proceed as above.

The cookies should not brown and just set, maybe turn a tiny bit golden around the edges.

We store them in Christmas tins where they keep for a few weeks. In theory, that is.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

More Fall: Trying black & white again

I've spent a bit of time on Pinterest recently. You know, just that tiny bit of time one spends there when one isn't addicted to it at all. Searching for specific ideas and projects. Never getting carried away by other Pinner's beautifully edited collections of images.


One of the things I have learned, and why, yes of course I learn things on Pinterest - important things, not to say vital, you know, really useful and such. Anyway. One of the things I learned is that I should try to experiment a bit more with black & white in my photography.

That time-sucking imagine-pinning monster has a way of showing you what you like. And what you forgot you liked. Such as black & white photography. Dreamy photos, Fall photos.

So in a pathetic little attempt to bring some of that look-how-great-my-dream-photography-/wardrobe-/cooking-skill-/very-next-DIY-project-is to my actual real life, here is a few of my Fall photos in black & white:

Hey, there has got to be some credit for getting off my pinboard and onto my camera...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Something about Fall

I like Fall. No, actually, that is an understatement. I love Fall.

But lately, I have been looking at the trees slowly turning color and thinking - Stop. Not just yet. Don't you dare turn color now. I mean, wait a minute, when did it get to be October? I'm not ready yet.

It seems that for all of those thing that make Fall wonderful, you need time. Plenty of time. Think about it: walks in the wood, drinking a hot cup of tea and just looking a tree outside your window, reading books (ok, magazines for all busy moms) all cuddled up under a soft knitted blanket, picking the perfect pumpkin, sleeping in on a Sunday morning, breathing the crisp air, making big batches of pumpkin soup and baking apple tarts (more on that later. Unless I'm taking a nap).

Ahhhh... Sounds lovely, no?

I've been nagging my older son to finish his homework on time and go practice the guitar when all he really wants to do is ride his bike with the neighborhood kids. He had a really hard time adjusting after the long summer break, his first ever real summer break after his first year of school. You can tell he misses those lazy days of summer, where all he had to do was get up when he woke up, throw on some shorts and a tee, grab some breakfast and see who'd be there to play with.

All of a sudden he is faced with deadlines and worksheets that need to be finished until the Fall break in two weeks. Guitar practice after not touching the instrument much over the summer. Books to be read, additional assignments to complete. Getting out of bed when it's all of a sudden still dark in the morning. Wearing a jacket.

I told him he'd have to adjust to the school year routine and just finish the things he had to do first and then he'd have time to play.

Today it dawned on me that I am not all that different.

I have to force myself out of bed in the morning when all I'd really like to do is take a nap. For three days straight. All of a sudden I am faced with deadlines and assignments and to dos. At work, where there are events to prepare and newsletters to write, at home where there is a house full of messes, from refrigerator to closets that have been neglected all summer long and need to be taken care of now. And at school and kindergarten, where it seems that no day goes by without some teacher telling me what I have to do or make sure that my kid does. And don't even get me started on the holidays, because I know they are just around the corner just another thing I should be on top of.

I just nod in silence.

Of course I add it to my list and mostly we cross things off and get them done.

But for some reason, it is so much harder this year. It's not so much that I miss the lazy summer days, it's more that I miss the time to enjoy this season. And with every tree I pass that is sporting yellow leaves it reminds me that this goes by so quickly.

Within the blink of an eye October will be gone.

Will I have taken photos, made apple pies and sat in that last bit of sun that still has the warmth to it? Will I have had the time to made myself a cup of tea and sip it, slowly, why it is still hot? Will we have collected pretty leaves and chestnuts and made those felt acorns I have been meaning to try forever?

Or will it all just rush by in a blur, a whirlwind of to dos and tasks to be crossed off? Where finishing my annual family photo book is just another thing on the list I that I need to force myself to focus and work on? Or will I be able to slow down and enjoy that task, because it's about our family memories and I really like doing it.

But that is just the thing. I like the things on my list. Well, mostly (let's just not talk about housekeeping here, ok? Cleaning out closets is fine. Dusting? Yawn.). Most of the things I do enjoy - given the time to do them. And not under pressure to complete the next item and the next and then the one that just came on top of it.

So I am here and now making a pledge to slow down. At least a bit. To squeeze in the little things that I love so much. To sit in the sun. Find the most beautiful leaf of all. Make hot chocolate. Go read some poetry for a change. Find books about the season to read with the boys. Or take half an hour to go into the woods and take some photos (and actually noticing in the process that there are still plenty of green leaves on the trees. No rush.)

But most of all, slow down enough to enjoy the things I am doing anyway. And help my kids do the same.

Wishing you a wonderful Fall,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vacation photo dump: the beach

Salty air, the sound of waves, bare feet on the sand and kids chasing seagulls (turns out those aren't so easy to catch)... yep, we escaped to the beach over the weekend. On a whim, just for a few days. With pretty much zero time to pack.

It was lovely.

Of course the kids caught croup. Sigh. Nothing is perfect, right?

It was still wonderful to get away for a bit before school starts again. And it was even better to spend my birthday on the beach. Not wiping crumbs off the counter, baking my own cake or folding laundry. Nope, just eating ice cream, sitting in the sand, having some fresh mint tea and watch the kids have fun.

Here's a little photo dump of our mini vacation:

Big brother with his surfer style hair. Too cute. Of course I get an eye roll when I say that. "Mom!"

My men!

 Don't you just love those chubby feet? He's just growing out of the toddler chubbiness.

And he is one big funny goofball. Making the strangest faces when I try to take his photo.

It was even warm enough to splash around the water a bit.

Beach sunsets. Seriously: is there anything better?

Love the light.

I didn't really want to leave, but our house wasn't directly at the beach and the kids had to get some sleep.

Going shopping for a bit. Mmmmhhh, chocolates! Tartes! Quiches!

Seagulls. Hungry seagulls.

Catching crabs and other tiny critters.

Trying to relax for a bit.

"All seashells are pretty, mommy". So they all went into the bucket. 

This is a seagull trap. Seriously. The bait? Waffles. I mean, you can catch anything or anyone with waffles, right?

Except for seagulls as it turns out.

Big brother didn't give up though. It was pretty funny.

I could spend days just wandering the beach and looking for treasures.

Some are real, others images I treasure, scenes and details captures that will remind me of the beach when I am back at home.

Some black and white -  I really don't know why I don't do this more often. I mean, it's not like you have to use a different roll of film and decide in advance anymore, right?

Well, so much for now. I need to catch up on my sleep - the remaining week will be busy and there are way too many photos of big brother's birthday still on my camera, waiting to be sorted and edited. But for now, I will go to bed and think of walking barefoot on the beach.