The last door - Same procedure as every year?

It's New Year's Eve. Time for fireworks, champagne, resolutions, party, dancing .... or sleep.
Yes, it's true. The last years I celebrated New Year's Eve when I felt like it. Or I didn't. I went to bed early or I stayed up and read, played a game, watched a DVD while crocheting. Or once I tried to find the way home through the thickest fog I have ever seen in our town.

Am I a spoilsport? I don't think so.
What my plans for tonight are, you are asking? I'm pretty sure I will watch "Dinner for One" at least once, it's a New Year's Eve tradition. After that - time will tell, I don't know yet.

What I do know, though, is that I wish you a great day. Party into the night, dance, sing, but please take care of yourself (and your pets, should you have them!!).

And now let's get ready for a hopefully grand New Year!


The thirtieth door - the year is drawing to an end

So 2010 is coming to an end and I want to say Goodbye with a big Year's End Sale in all my shops.
No matter if you look on ArtFire, Zibbet or DaWanda, you'll get 20 % off on all items.

I hope to see you over in 2011! ;-)


The twenty-ninth door

My head feels like a cave. It's very quiet, all you hear from is the drip drip sound from one of the stalactites, in my case probably the sound of brain cells falling.

It's vacation time and it's relaxing, maybe almost a little too relaxing. Outside it's snowing again, so I don't have the urge to go out there.
I got a few new DVDs for Christmas and bought myself some books.

Some sort of  half-hibernation sounds really good at the moment ;-)


The twenty-eighth door

Only three more days, then it will be New Year's Eve.
You can never start early enough on your resolutions for the new year. If you are still game to make any, that is. I pretty much gave up on them.

It feels like a diet that starts tomorrow or on Monday - or in the new year. I will set up goals for my business, I will save money, I will lose weight, I will eat healthier, I will answer all my e-mails on the same day, I will get up with a smile in the mornings ... and maybe I'll save the world.

Well, I will try to go one step at a time. And if it doesn't work out, I won't beat myself up about it. If I stumble, I'll get up again.
This is all I can, want and will promise. After all we are all human.


The twenty-seventh door

Wikipedia says:
"Ice may be any one of the 15 known crystalline phases of water. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of these solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions. The addition of other materials such as soil may further alter the appearance."

I say: Ice is beautiful and I am totally fascinated.

Nuff said.


The twenty-sixth door - quote of the week

Christmas would not be the same without this one half hour of Peanuts. I have the video cassette and I have held on to it for many years now.

The story of Charlie Brown and his sad little tree ... Linus telling the Christmas story ... the group singing together in the end ... *happy sigh*

As my favorite quote I'll choose the one that fits best these days:
"Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!"

A Charlie Brown Christmas, USA, 1965


The twenty-fifth door - White Christmas

When I was a child, I got a book called "Christmas stories of our time". The editor wrote in her foreword that she challenged her fellow authors to write about Christmas and the result was a collection of happy, sad and thoughtful stories.
My favorite story that I shared with many others over the year is the one of the Christmas elf. He has to fulfil three tasks to make Christmas a white one.
This year the Christmas elf and his friend, the unicorn, seem to have done very well. They have found the nine bullfinches on a branch, they rung the bells of the abandoned church in the Five Lords Ground and they led Jack Frost back home to the Yew Forest.
And now we have loads of snow out there again ...


The twenty-fourth door - Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

May this box be full of everything that is really important - health, love, peace, friends, hope, enough food and a roof above your head ... I am sure we all have more to add to our personal lists, but it was hard enough to pack up all of these things.
Honestly, I wish I could pack them up and deliver them, but even if it sounds cheesy now, I guess all we can do is try and make this world a little better each day.


The twenty-third door

As children before Christmas we used to ask: "How more nights do we have to sleep?" I even tried to sleep faster which was just as hopeless as trying to force "re-runs" into my brain after I had heard that dreams which you have three times come true. I never got to see the living Kasperle from one of my favorite children's books series.

As grown-ups we feel time is flying by. "Only one more night we can sleep before it's Christmas??"

Which one is better? I often wish I was more like my cats, nah, let's say I could afford to be more like my cats. They live from second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour ... you get the idea.
And I never have the feeling they think life is slipping from them. They do live in the moment.

I'm looking forward to my vacation and to having the chance to do that again. Live each moment. Spend the holidays with family and maybe friends. Drink when you are thirsty, eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired - and watch all your TV show DVDs from the first to the last season.

Sorry, I guess I just had one of "those" moments ;-) It happens when you are my age.


The twenty-second door

One day it will happen and I will see this tree. Not exactly this one of course, the picture is from 1987, but somehow this is one of my goals in life, to see New York, to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Picture by James G. Howes

I just wish there weren't so many people, I tend to get nervous in the midst of huge crowds.
Gee, I get nervous at our local Christmas market! ;-)

That is one of the reasons why I didn't pack my sisters yet and just hopped on the next plane. But who knows?
Never give up your dreams.


The twenty-first door

I guess this is not Santa Claus, those reindeer don't look like they will take off any moment. As a matter of fact this is a picture of a reindeer sleigh in Russia around 1900.

Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donder and Blitzen.
In 1823 the famous poem starting "'Twas the night before Christmas" was published anonymously. It has influenced the way we think of Santa Claus' appearance, his way of entering homes and giving gifts to children and of his means of transportation.

Let's not forget Santa's ninth reindeer, Rudolph with the red nose who entered the stage in 1939 in a coloring book.

I have to admit for me as a German it's a little sad that Santa and his reindeer start to come barging in like this everywhere now. I was raised believing in the "Christkind" (christ child) and I don't like to see local traditions die.
Important is the spirit of Christmas, though, right ...


The twentieth door - "The List"

Do kids still believe in the list dividing in naughty and nice?
A friend posted a website where you can check your own results for Santa Claus' list (shh, I cheated a little here, it's Jack Skellington once more jumping in for old Nick).

That made me wonder. Have I been naughty or nice last year? And what exactly would count to that list? Is it like a poll? I mean if at work I deny someone something sticking to the rules and that someone dislikes me for it while my boss is pleased with me, how does that count to the list? Or doesn't work count at all?

I'm sure I haven't always been nice. No one is, but how naughty was I? And why can't I remember anything at the moment? All I know is that I didn't help any elderly ladies across the street (... and I'm happy to say no kid regarded me as elderly and helped me across the street, either).

I yelled at my cats more than once, especially when they were showing me their claws, but maybe that would count as self-defense? I promise I didn't lock Esme into the cabinet because I wanted revenge for the scratch she gave me a few days before, I just didn't see her hiding in there when I closed the door.

What good things have I done?
I have accompanied my sister to the vet's to carry "The Cat Who Hates Me" (without any particular reason, I never locked her up her anywhere). That's not bad for starters, is it?
I never went on the train without a ticket.
I listened to old ladies' stories on the train.

Gee, I hope there is more that I just don't remember at the moment ...


The nineteenth door - quote of the week

I know it hasn't been that long ago that I quoted from Blackadder, but the list wouldn't be complete without a Blackadder Christmas quote.

And believe me, it was hard to come up with one, not because there is so little choice, but so much!
After seeing visions of past and future, Ebenezer Blackadder draws a conclusion:
"...it points to the very clear lesson thad bad guys have all the fun!"

Is that really so? Well, I won't tell you how it ends! ;-)

Blackadder's Christmas Carol, UK, 1988


The eighteenth door - Very random thoughts about angels

I think it was in a book by Astrid Lindgren where a child wondered about how angels get their tunics over their wings. The question always sounded perfectly justified to me. How do they?
And why didn't I give this poor little fellow arms? He's no bird who can get along with just wings.

What is it that fascinates us about angels, those messengers of God?
Why do angels look male and the known ones have male names?

Whatever the answers to these questions are, without any question the Christmas story is hard to imagine without angels.
Angels told Mary and Joseph about the child to be born. You will hardly find a nativity without little angels singing or making music.

And don't forget: "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." ;-)
I wonder what I have to do to get the little guy above arms ...


The seventeenth door

A cup of chai (matching the time of year in my high snowman mug), a blanket over my knees, silence all around except for the ticking of the regulator clock downstairs and the purring of the cat in my lap ... life was good last night.

I was so relaxed I couldn't think up a smart blog post, hm, not even just a blog post, but maybe you felt my thoughts going out to you, wishing your life was just as good at that moment.

In this spirit - cheers to all of you, may you be able to look forward to a wonderful 4th advent weekend!


The sixteenth door - Twinkle, twinkle, little star

Let's face it - the most fun I have in winter is sitting inside with some hot chocolate or chai and look outside. If you haven't understood that by now, I guess you haven't read all my advent calendar posts ;-)

The sky in a cold winter night however is something you shouldn't experience from the inside. Why there is a difference for me between a winter and a summer sky I don't know, but half of the fun is feeling the tip of your nose freezing, burying your hands deeply in your coat pockets, inhaling deeply, making your throat burning from the cold air, longing for some hot beverage and look up there ... to feel very small, very humble and thoroughly grateful for being part of this planet when seeing the millions of stars some of which have been gone themselves while their light is still travelling ...

If you insist on staying inside, though, I got some more stars for you. Click on the picture to get taken to the original collection on ArtFire.


The fifteenth door - the ten black thumbs are back!

Christmas plants - I don't have them myself. The mix of my ten black thumbs and of a gang of crazy cats is doing nothing for plants in this house.
Still I thought this would be a good subject for today when I walked by a garden store.
Poinsettias all over the place, in all colors, but they don't beat this poinsettia Christmas tree!

What else do we decorate with for Christmas? Of course I already talked about the Christmas tree itself, but what other plants are there?

A very decorative plant that is often used in wreaths is holly or ilex. It's no wonder, the contrast between the beautifully shaped leaves and the bright red berries is not only gorgeous, but reflects the Christmas colors green and red.

Picture by Jürgen Howaldt

There are three kinds of holiday cacti (not that I ever heard of a different kind than the Christmas one).
This is a Christmas cactus, called that name because it blooms in winter. Wikipedia says that if taken care of properly, a single planting can last hundreds of years. I better won't comment on that one ... *hiding thumbs in pocket*

Last, but not least there is the mistletoe. Even I know that mistletoe is a parasitic plant. And we all know what we use mistletoe for. If you meet under a hanging mistletoe, you are obliged to kiss. It's not sure where this Christmas custom comes from, but I could imagine there are a lot of people who wouldn't even care!
Do you have one in your house?

Maybe you have more customs or maybe someone knows of a country where different plants are used to decorate for Christmas. I'm always eager to learn, but decided to stick to the ones I actually know myself ;-)


The fourteenth door - snow creatures

I tried. Really, I did. I went out there into the cold and I wanted to build a snowman. Unfortunately the snow was too powdery and all I could manage was a snow pile.
So I had to dig into my photo files and came up with this instead.

Easter 2008 we had a visitor from India. She had never seen snow before. We had had quite a bit snow, but in March it all was gone. After going to an Easter market, though, we decided to drive around a little to show her the landscape and when we got to the Swabian Alps, imagine our surprise ... there was still snow! Enough for children and their sleds and enough for our friend to get excited.
I showed her how to make a snow angel.

After the first surprised look she threw herself on the ground as well. Snow angel pair! (And a lot of footsteps ...)

My craving for activity had been satisfied by that, you know how I feel about snow. The two others however decided to build a snowman while I took pictures with my cell phone camera. You should have seen the people walking by. Almost all of them stood there for a bit to watch, they all smiled, some waved and told us how cute the little guy looked. And one even took pictures.
Regarding the number of children around I was a little surprised that it was the only snowman around.
I think I liked his ears and "hair" best. It was almost hard to leave him behind, but I think he enjoyed it, after all he was king of the hill! :-D


The thirteenth door - who wants to lick the bowl?

This recipe came into my family via my sister, from her cooking/baking class at school. Ever since it has been a tradition to make these for Christmas and although I'm not the baking kind and although I got quite a few weird looks by people who know me well, I overcame my inner "non-baker" to make some for to show you.
Actually there were a few bakers in my paternal grandmother's line, but that gene cried out when it saw me and ran for its life ...

Let's get going and make some "Rumschnitten". Which means "rum slices", by the way.

What you need - in metric numbers. When I tried to translate that into US measurements, I was accused of trying to mess with peoples' minds because the numbers were so odd, hehe.
Just use this converter and you'll be fine (I hope ;-)).

7 eggs (separated into yolk and egg white)
200 grams of butter or margarine
200 grams of sugar
200 grams of flour
200 grams of grated hazelnuts (I like to use almonds)
200 grams of finely grated baking chocolate

250 grams of powdered sugar
rum (I used whisky because I never have rum at home, but if you want your kids to be able to eat them, just use some other non-alcoholic flavor, it also tastes nice with lemon juice for example)

200° C, 10 to 15 minutes (that's 390° F).

Don't forget to pre-heat the oven to 200° C.
And now get ready to mess up your kitchen! If you are like me, that is. After baking my kitchen looks as if a herd of warthogs has run through. Warthogs with very sticky feet, that is.

First mix the sugar and the butter until it reaches a fluffy texture.

Now add the yolks, the flour, chocolate and nuts. This is a pretty heavy dough without any fluid, so be sure to mix well!

This is what the dough will look like. Tempting already, I tell you ...

Afterwards add the beaten egg white and fold it into the mix.

You'll notice it'll feel a little heavy in the beginning, but after a bit the dough will be getting smoother and it won't lose much of its fluffiness although it may seem so to you. Just be sure not to thoroughly mix dough and egg whites, but probably it's not necessary to tell you that unless you are a non-baker like me. "
Breeze it, buzz it, easy does it" as Stephen Sondheim put it in "West Side Story". "Turn off the juice, boy." Noooo, not the oven's juice!
Instead we'll spread the dough on a baking tray now, about 1 cm high and into the oven it goes, for about 10 to 15 minutes. The ones you see here were in for 14 minutes and 23 seconds.

In the meanwhile I mixed the powdered sugar with some whisky for the icing of the cookies. Don't use too much fluid or the icing will run off, but I also highly recommend not to use too much fluid on yourself and leave nothing for the sugar ;-)

When the cookies are done, take them out of the oven, apply the icing and cut them while they are still warm.
Voilà, there you are. Enjoy!

P.S. I will not jump into one of the discussions about if it's good or not to lick the bowl. Let me just tell you that sometimes I wondered if I even should bother baking those things before eating ...