How Luna Lapin met her best friend

One sunny spring sunday Luna Lapin went out into the garden to admire the spring flowers. It had been a long and cold winter and she enjoyed the warming rays of sunshine on her fur. the pretty colours of blossoms and new leaves and the mild spring breeze tickling her nose.

She was so happy to be out in the fresh air again after the long and dreary winter days when she had been locked inside the house, but even more happy  that she could finally wear her new spring dress (which she had already finished sewing in January) and which had been winking teasingly at her ever since.

Luna was playing with her bunny china pincushion: a heirloom from her mum, actually the only heirloom she had after she had lost her whole family long, long ago.

She was stroking the little bunny absentmindedly and suddenly remembered everything that had happened: She saw her three sisters playing in front of the house in the sunshine and heard her mum rattling the pans in the kitchen. Luna had hopped over to the big meadow to pick some flowers for her mum (her mum had loved flowers) when suddenly she felt something was wrong.

She ran home as fast as her legs could do but then suddenly remembered what her mum had told her time after time: “Luna, if you sense danger, duck, hide under a bush oder a plant, keep still and don’t move! It may save your life one day”.

So Luna hid under a hazelnut bush and froze. Only her delicate whiskers were moving whilst her eyes (wide open) were looking over to her home. And then she saw it: The fox had grabbed her mum and was carrying her away. She wasn’t making any noise and her limbs were dangling from the foxes mouth. Luna was too shocked to even look away. She watched until the fox had disappeared.

Hours later, after sitting under the hazelnut bush paralysed, she finally ventured outside. She found her home deserted, no trace of life, her sisters toys still lying on the ground and her mum’s sewing on the table.

Luna couldn’t bear the view and left the house but grabbed the pincushion as she ran out and put it into the pocket of her apron. She had never returned to the house she was born in ever since.

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A bee tickled Luna’s nose and with a sigh she returned to the present, shaking her head vigorously so that her long ears made flapping noises.

She put the pincushion back into her pocket and was just about to go back inside when she heard a noise. A tiny noise, very tiny. Whatever caused it, couldn’t be far away or must be really, really small.

Luna got up and followed the noise. She had very good ears and it didn’t take her long to find out where it came from. It took her longer to find out what or rather who made the noise but finally Luna discovered the culprit: There on the soft moss under the heather lay a teeny tiny mouse. She was half hidden under a hazelnut twig (oh, the memories!) and sobbing unconsollably.

 

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Luna slowly approached her, uttering soothing sounds. When the Mouse finally noticed her she raised her head and said one word whilst she was sobbing heartbreakingly: “The cat!!”

 

To be continued……

Next time: the horrible story of the cat

ADVENT

Hi ya, I know you’ve missed me because it’s been a while. To make amends I will give you two recipes today so you can fill more tins for christmas. 😉

Advent, the four weeks preceding christmas takes a very important place in the German christmas agenda. As mentioned before, we do not put up our trees before christmas but there’s one item that can be found in many, many houses before christmas time: the Advent wreath.

Considering how long we’ve been celebrating christmas the wreath is a fairly new addition as its history only started in 1839 when a protestant teacher took in poor children into his house and took care of them. Like all children they couldn’t wait for christmas to come around and kept asking him how long it was till christmas. The teacher took an old coach wheel and put 20 small white candles and 4 big red candles on it. Each day, starting with the 1st of december he lighted one white candle and on sundays he lighted a red candle so the children could easily see how christmas was approaching.

This tradition spread , first only in protestant circles but finally in 1925 the first advent wreath was hung up in a catholic church at Cologne. Traditionally, the wreath is made from green twigs like fir, boxwood or cypress which like the form of a circle symbolise infinity. The number of candles was reduced to four – I suppose for reasons of practicality.

There is a photo at my parents’  house showing me and my brother as toddlers looking at an advent wreath but my mum preferred the wooden carousel things with four candles. We had relatives living near Dresden where this craft has a long standing traditon (“Erzgebirge”) and though they were beautiful (and we really loved Mary and Joseph running their rounds when the candles were lighted) I returned to the traditional green wreath when I moved to uni. So brace yourself, here’s a picture of a very young Betti with her first advent wreath.

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I’ve made many wreathes over the years but here’s one from a few years ago which I especially loved.

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But now the serious stuff: BAKING!

Today’s recipes consist of one very traditional and one modern recipe. We will be doing Vanillekipferl and Chestnut Coins.

Let’s start with the Vanillekipferl. Kipferl is the south german/austrian name for cookies that look like mini croissants. They haven’t been part of the baking my mum did for christmas but my grandmother, who originally came from the area that is now the Czech Republic used to bake them. No need to tell you that I loved them as a child!

VANILLEKIPFERL

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You will need:

  • 50g of ground hazelnuts
  • 50g of ground almonds
  • 300g flour (plain)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 200g of margarine
  • 2 egg yolks

To roll them in:

  • 5 sachets of vanilla sugar (preferably the one containing real vanilla)
  • ½ cup of icing sugar

How to:

Prepare a dough from all ingredients. Wrap in cling foil and put into the fridge for at least two hours. Preheat the oven to 170C. Take a portion of dough, form a roll (about 2cm thick) and cut into pieces of approx. 5cm length.Bend each piece slighty and pinch the ends a bit until they look like tiny croissants.

Bake for about 10-12min, then take out and let cool down for a few minutes.

Meanwhile mix the sieved icing sugar and the vanilla sugar on a plate and roll the still warm (!) Kipferl until they are completly covered in sugar. Be very careful as they break easily and you don’t want to eat too much. 😉

Store in a tin in a cool place.

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Recipe no. 2 is something I discovered a few years ago in a baking journal. I do love chestnuts and so I gave it a try.

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CHESTNUT COINS

You will need:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinamon
  • 1 pinch of cardamom
  • 350-400g ground almonds
  • 100g chestnuts (cooked and peeled)
  • 60g flour (plain)
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cocoa

How to:

Beat eggs whites stiff. Slowly add sieved icing sugar.

Put 4 tablespoons of egg white aside in a cup. Add vanilla sugar, cinamon and cardamom to the reimaining mix. Add ground almonds until the dough is only slightly sticky.

Purée the chestnuts and add to the dough along with flour, orange zest and 1 teaspoon of cocoa.

Form 4 rolls (2,5cm thick), wrap in cling foil and put into the fridge for about two hours.

Preheat the oven to 100C (convection).

Take the rolls from the fridge and cut into slices approx. 1 cm thick. Put on a tray and use your fingers to flatten them a bit.

Take 2 teaspoons of the remaining egg white-sugar-mix and mix with the remaining cocoa.

Cover the coins with the light egg white-sugar-mix, then put of droplet of dark mix on top and form a spiral with a toothpick (or a heart if you are an artist).

Bake for about 15 mins. Let cool down and store in a tin.

And now …. Enjoy baking!

 

Trees and traditions

What would christmas be without a tree?  A decorated christmas tree is the epitome of christmas for me but also for the majority of the people in Germany. 60% of the Germans put up a tree for christmas.

In fact, the christmas tree was invented in the 15th century in Germany and started conquering lounges all over the world from here. In the beginning it was a privilege of the aristocracy and the church – as trees (wood) were expensive but as years and centurys went by they became more and more popular and common.

The first christmas tree in the USA was set up in 1832 by a professor at Harvard University and Great Britain followed a few years later in 1840 when Queen Victoria married Albert von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha, who brought the tradition over from Germany to his new home England.

When I was a child my dad used to buy our tree. Much to my mum’s annoyment he often postponed this task to the last minute and our trees often had what we would call “character”, in other words they were crooked or missing twigs.  I can remember times when he attached twigs to fill up holes in the tree with a wire. I also vividly remember the one time we bought a tree on the 24th of december and the stallkeeper -knowing whatever he hadn’t sold until then, wouldn’t be sold at all  – gave my brother and me a tiny christmas tree as a present. We were immensly proud and set it up in the nursery. Of course we didn’t have candles on it but we made a lot of garlands and stars for it from tin foil.

Traditionally christmas trees in Germany are set up on the 24th in the morning and we were no exception to this rule. When my brother and me were smaller and still believed the christchild brought all the presents, we weren’t allowed to go into the dining room (where the tree was usually set up) until the evening. My parents told us this was so the christchild could decorate the tree and put the presents under it and it mustn’t be disturbed whilst doing so! (No need to tell you we tried to pry).

A german christmas tree is short lived: Usually it will stay until the 6th of January but I know a lot of people who get rid of it on January 1st. That’s why the majority of Germans still has real trees: they simply don’t have enough time to become a real mess in the house. 🙂

The tree in my family has always had real candles, even when my daughter was a little girl. I don’t think there’s anything as magical as a tree with real candles. People keep telling me it’s dangerous and I will admit we don’t light the candles very often but when we do we do it more consciously and the tree is in the centre of interest (if only to keep a close eye on it).

So here’s a picture of our tree to give you an impression of what I am talking about:

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Christmas 2015

 

After you have bravely read through all this, you reall deserve a treat  and I won’t keep you waiting any longer:

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Miss Piglet proudly presents….

ALPENBROT (ALPINE BREAD)

You will need:

  • 500g flour (plain)
  • 250g margarine
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 30g cocoa powder (the stuff for baking not drinking)
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of clover (ground)
  • 1 pinch of cardamon

For the glazing:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • water (warm)

How to:

Put all ingredients (not the ones for the glazing ;)) into a bowl and mix (works best with your hands). Separate dough into 6 portions and form rolls with your hands which are as long as your baking tray is wide. Wrap into tin foil and put into the fridge for one hou r.

Preheat the oven to 180C (convection oven). Put 3 rolls on a tray and bake for 10-15 mins.

Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the glazing into a thick liquid. Spread the glazing with a baking brush thickly on the baked rolls immediately after baking. Let glazing dry and cut with a sharp knife into slices approximately 2cm wide. Store the cold biscuits in a tin.

German Christmas

German christmas is popular: the thousands of people attending traditional German christmas markets worldwide bear witness of this. But why is this?

First of all, German christmas is different in many ways because it is a very quiet event. It is an event you celebrate with your family and only rarely with friends. There’s probably no day in the year you can feel more lonely.

German christmas is also rich with traditions: The glass baubles which decorate millions of trees worldwide were invented in Germany. German christmas baking is also unique: there are so many varieties – traditional and new ones – that it is impossible to taste them all in a lifetime. The christmas markets, the wooden toys… I could name many things.

Also the agenda for German christmas is different: Our trees are set up on the 24th in the morning and this is the most important day of our christmas. As soon as it gets dark, the hustle and bustle of daily life dies down, families gather around the tree and children get excited. The candles (real or artificial) are lighted on the tree and finally the childen are allowed to open the presents the christchild put under the tree for them. (Father christmas and Santa are busy trying to take over its role but I don’t think they can ever replace our christchild.)

I have always loved christmas. The secrets, the smells, the sparkle… it’s a wonderful time.

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Here’s a picture of me, my mum and my brother at Holy Night 1966. I was just 1 year old and very poorly because i had a fever.

My mum was baking christmas cookies each year, only a few varieties and very traditional ones.  My favourites were the cinammon stars and her homemade gingerbread. She kept them in a big tin in the bedroom that was labelled – on my brother’s request – Caution, gold treasure inside!

It was an unwritten law that cookies mustn’t be eaten before christmas so of course we were forever trying to nick some. 😉

I have changed this law in my family because – seriously – who is interested in cookies with all the other food that is served at christmas???

I usually start baking around mid-November and it takes me around two to three weeks to finish. I give away cookies to friends as a present and – since my parents have grown older – I also make some for them.

Over the years my repertoire has changed: I started out with very traditional things but then I discovered a magazine that contains many of the favourites I will share with you over the next days and weeks.

So here is our recipe No. 1 – The Coco-Marzipan-Thingies (Macaroons)

In a perfect world, they should look like this:

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You will need:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 250g coconut flakes
  • 400g marzipan paste
  • 250g icing sugar
  • grated lemon zest (½ lemon)
  • 2cl rum (or more;)
  • 1/2 cup of caster sugar
  • 250g dark chocolat couverture

How to:

Beat egg whites stiff, keep beating whilst adding a) half of the icing sugar, b) marzipan (rip into flakes and add slowly), c) coconut flakes, d) remaining sugar, d) lemon zest and e) rum. Switch off kitchen machine.

Preheat oven to 150C (fan). Take two teaspoons, form small macaroons and set them on a tray covered with baking paper. Sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and bake for 15-20mins until slightly brown.

Melt couverture in waterbath/bain-marie (be careful to heat it up slowly and not to get any water in it!!! 30C max. temp.)

Let macaroons cool down and dip into chocolate. Leave them to dry. Store in a tin in cool place

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Please share your experience, criticism and results with me – I am looking forward to hearing how you like them.

Also if you have any questions around christmas traditions in Germany, feel free to ask me!

And now: Enjoy baking – but most of all eating 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures with tiny creatures

New beginnings… 

 

So, in other words, I have started a blog! I have been thinking about this for ages now but last night (sleepless again :() I decided: today’s the day!

Many people know me from my Instagram account bettis_stitches where I display my  work as a miniature soft toy designer. The success of these creations has completely blown me away and many people are interestesd in learning more about how theses animals are created.

I am happy to comply with your wishes and will try to keep your entertained with insights, information and news about the inhabitants of the Teeny Tiny Mouse House on a hopefully regular basis.

I am a novice to blog writing so please bear with me! I have loved writing all my life and I have been told I am fairly good at it (sorry for bragging) so I am really enjoying this a lot.

If you would like to have a specific topic covered, please let me know! :).

Betti & the inhabitants of the Teeny Tiny Mouse House