Archive for December, 2010

Is it a sled, sledge or toboggan?



Our white Christmas

I thought perhaps you might be a little sick of photo-laden Christmas posts from my corner. So, I delayed putting these up. But here they are for posterity – our very first winter Christmas. I learned that white Christmases aren’t perhaps as dreamy as we might think (or sing). They’re definitely pretty, but they play havoc with festive events of any kind. Unlike many others, our plans stayed relatively intact. Our lovely guests (Hannah and Chris) were brave enough to walk through the deluge to reach us for lunch. Unfortunately, when they did, we were huddled in our living room wearing hats, scarves and mittens after a grease fire in our oven lead to three hours of emergency ventilation measures. The goose was delicious, by the way.

#12 ‘Twas the night before Christmas

One can do a lot at the last minute. At the last minute, we’ve made paper hats and toilet roll bonbons. At the last minute my camera has arrived, and I’ve celebrated by breaking out the tripod I was given for my birthday. And at the last minute, I’ve knitted a Christmas ornament to match the one made by my sister in law; I had enough red wool from Rose’s cardigan, and I even found a tiny bell to hang inside it, hiding in my great grandmother’s button collection. Oh yes, one can do much at the last minute.

Dear friends, thank you for joining me for these twelve days of Christmas. I’ve had such fun sharing these experiences with you and loved the communication. I now know for sure that blogging competes directly with sleep. And with that I say “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”


#11 The Breakfast Club

I’m not exactly sure, but I believe the Breakfast Club started when all the Leemen children were away one Christmas. And somehow, the idea stuck. I can barely remember a Christmas morning when when we didn’t thrust aside our freshly unwrapped gifts, rip the labels of our new clothes and walk the short distance to Jill and Dick’s house for our annual neighbourhood breakfast. Essentially, the party is made up of three family groups (whichever fraction is present that year), but over the years we’ve had plenty of guest appearances by people who happen to be with us for Christmas. Exchange students, friends and long lost family members, we all become friends instantly when the bonbons are popped and the paper hats go on. To date, we’ve had visitors from Japan, Finland, England and Switzerland. Only now do I realise how those guests must have felt around the brightly decorated table, far from home. And that’s the thing I love about this tradition of ours; it’s a way of defying this strange, narrow idea of family we seem to have in Australia. Many of these friends I wouldn’t see from one Christmas morning to the next, and yet it wouldn’t be a proper Christmas without them. Others I have only met once, but it’s always a lovely feeling to meet a complete stranger on Christmas morning, during the most sacred family hours Australia observes. Though we never know who’ll be there, we do know what we’ll be eating. It just wouldn’t be right without large platters of fruit, bacon with maple syrup and Dick’s incredible blueberry pancakes. I’ll miss them sorely this year. To all of you in the Breakfast Club, I say “Fröhliche Weihnachten!” Thankyou Leemen family for being our hosts, neighbours and dear friends.

My apologies that the first set of photos failed to load. I’ve since added some more that Dick has dug out and scanned for us.

#10 Pack away your santas

Funny thing about Christmas in Germany: seems it’s over before it begins. With three days to go, it was a little disconcerting to watch the Weihnachtsmarkt being packed away before our eyes as we gulped our last feuersangenbowle. Perhaps it’s because Germans have been diligently noting the days of advent, marking each Sunday with successively lit candles, doing their elving early and often. Perhaps it’s a recognition of the need to actually spend time with family, as well as buy for them. Many friends have left for their various hometowns in the past day or two, preparing for intense festivities. It was a sad feeling to watch trees being undressed, schwibbogen packed into boxes and lights being switched off, while a month’s worth of snow lay around in muddy creeks and icy mounds. Meanwhile, we’re celebrating the arrival of Tim; a friend who has known us both since aged 12. As the time draws nearer, it’s slowly becoming real that we won’t be in Australia for December 25th. I know this is painful for our families in particular, and perhaps it’s been easier to gloss over this rather than acknowledge it. I encourage you to read this post by my Aussie friend Rachael, whose reflections after five years of living in Leipzig are invaluable. Perhaps I’ll take a leaf out of the book of German Christmas, and spend the three remaining days with family, immediate and otherwise.


#9 Decking the halls

Christmas is a busy time for everyone, especially Australians. Unlike in Europe, Christmas coincides with summer and the end of the school year, creating a kind of “perfect storm” of social events. Perhaps it’s because we’re new in town, perhaps it’s the challenging weather, but I noticed a  lack of Christmas events in my life this year. So, I had my own. We ate lebkuchen, we drank glühwein, we listened to Christmas music, we made decorations. Paper, ribbon, beads, cinnamon sticks; we used it all. Remember salt dough? Petra brought along some salt dough ornaments, several of which are now ready to hang on the tree, bright with the creative touches of the Horne boys. Anne presented me with a boxed set of gold stars she had folded by hand. They’ll be in the permanent collection for sure. It was certainly the perfect way to round out my Christmas decor… and make the festive season just that little more festive.

#8 Lebkuchen

Thanks to Anne for sharing with us her special recipe for lebkuchen, an essential part of Christmas in Germany. This recipe originally comes from Nürnberg – the home of all good lebkuchen.

5 eggs
600g sugar
5g lebkuchengewürz
cardamom (“one scrape of the knife tip”)
ground cloves (as above)
nutmeg (as above)
cinnamon (as above)
50g candied orange peel
50g mixed candied peel
500g ground hazelnuts (or 400g plus 100g almond meal)
4 or 5 stale croissants
250g plain flour
200g bitter dark chocolate
7g hirschhornsaltz

Preheat the oven to 150-170 c without using the fan. Grate the croissants into a bowl and add 500ml of “hand warm” water. Finely chop the candied peel. Combine all dry ingredients minus the hirschhornsaltz. Add the eggs and croissant crumbs, mix thoroughly to form a thick batter. Add the hirsch-hornsatlz at the last minute. Place spoonfuls onto 7-10cm round back-oblaten, on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20mins. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or saucepan over simmering water. When the lebkuchen have cooled slightly, smooth the chocolate over to coat.

* Readers should be warned that “hirschhornsaltz” could be translated as “ground up deers’ horns”. No need to worry, it’s merely ammonium carbonate, a very fast acting raising agent. Substitute with baking powder if necessary, though I’m told the effect is not quite the same.

* Back-oblaten might best be described as thin sheets of edible paper. I’m confident success is possible without them, placing the mixture directly onto baking paper. Readers are welcome to contradict this.

* If lebkuchengewürz is hard to come by in your part of the world, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s made up of household spices any Masterfoods shelf might hold. Here’s a link with a recipe.





About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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