A Happy Heart Day ~ A Valentine’s Dinner Worth The Work

A Happy Heart Day ~ A Valentine’s Dinner Worth The Work

 Yesterday is a day we won’t soon forget.

It turned out to be a Happy Heart Day for sure.

Earlier in the week I wrote about our plan to prepare a special Valentine’s dinner with our daughter Britt and her husband.  Zach wanted to try his hand at Beef Wellington.  We’d make it an event – take our time, cook and visit, learn, laugh, drink and enjoy each other’s company.  It was all that and more.  What a blast we had!

We’ve been in the midst of a blustery snow storm.  Thankfully they live a mile away.

Valentines Dinner 15 Snow StormOf course we had the fireplace cranking.

Valentines Dinner 32 Fireplace

I took out a red tablecloth and came across a vintage white table topper I forgot I had.  It made a pretty backdrop for a Valentine table for four.  I shocked Mr. Hungry by pulling out an iron on Friday night.

Valentines Dinner 26 Table Setting

I used to be fancy and fold cloth napkins into all sorts of configurations when we had company.  It’s rare we entertain so formally any more.

Valentines Dinner 3 Love Knot Red Napkin Fold

I dug out a little booklet on napkin folding I’ve had forever. This fold is called the Love Knot. Here’s a shot of the instructions if you want to give it a try someday.Valentines Dinner 4 Love Knot Napkin Fold Directions

Valentines Dinner 1 Salt and Pepper CellarsThat teeny cupid salt spoon?  Cut it out.

A single red rose from the grocery store looked pretty in a brass vase.

Valentines Dinner 2 Rose BouquetCandles were lit all over the place – as is the norm in this house – any night of the week.

Valentines Dinner 33 Candle in Heart DishI changed the wording on our dining room chalk board to fit the occasion.

Valentines Dinner 5 Chalkboard

Along with Beef Wellington, we also had requests for loaded mashed potatoes, “Magic Corn” – as Zach calls it – which is just frozen corn with butter and crunchy Kosher salt; roasted cauliflower & carrots and some kind of bread.  Britt’s loves roasted beets, so we decided to use them in a salad.

I made croutons using bread I had on hand.

Valentines Dinner 7 Heart Crouton Cut Outs

When you’re making them for so few people, it’s a quick job and so worth it.  I sautéed the bread in a little melted butter till golden.  Garlic powder, salt & pepper were added.  They’re so much better than store bought.

Valentines Dinner 8 Heart Shaped Croutons Toasting

Beets were rubbed with olive oil, salt & pepper; wrapped in foil and roasted till tender.  When done, the skins easily slip off with a gentle rub.  I sliced them and used the same cookie cutter to make hearts.Valentines Dinner 16 Roasted Beet Hearts for Salad

I gave Britt one of our best stand-by recipes from The Silver Palate Cookbook (one of my favorites) to make a simple vinaigrette.  You can find the recipe {here}.

Valentines Dinner 9 Vinaigrette IngredientsOoops – I missed a couple of the ingredients in that picture.  I forgot to include the fresh parsley and a favorite everyday olive oil (from O-live & Co.) – great for the price.  Making a vinaigrette from quality ingredients tastes much better than bottled dressing and is quick to throw together.

Valentines Dinner 11 Olive Oil and Parsley for Vinaigrette

I instructed her in some knife skills.

Valentines Dinner 13 Chopping Parsley for VinaigretteFor chopping herbs such as parsley, rather than holding the knife like that, you need to hold one hand on the top end of the blade and rock the handle up and down with the other.  It’s much easier when you get the hang of it.

We love this combination of beets, toasted walnuts and goat cheese on a salad.

Valentines Dinner 25 Salad with Roasted Beets and Heart Shaped Croutons

Zach offered to buy bread for dinner, but since we had plenty of time I wanted to make it.  Mr. Hungry thinks bread with dinner is just “filler”.  Silly Man.  I happen to think it’s one of the best parts of a meal.  We rarely indulge.  Now I had a good excuse to make my own.   I had {this recipe} for “Cloud-Like Crescent Rolls” on one of my Pinterest boards.  Ohh man, I’ll make these again!  I advised Britt who pretty much made them herself.  It was the first time she ever made rolls from scratch and realized it wasn’t difficult.  A little time-consuming – well yes.  But an enjoyable and satisfying process well worth the effort if you have time.

Valentines Dinner 27 Rollin Out the Dough for RollsThe dough is rolled out into twelve inch circles – like making a pie crust.  A pizza cutter is used to cut each circle into 16 wedges.  They’re rolled up and set on a pan, covered with a light dish towel, to rise up a second time.

Valentines Dinner 28 Dinner Rolls Before Baking

When finished they’re brushed with melted butter.

Valentines Dinner 29 Dinner Rolls brushed with melted butter

I put butter on the table, but no one touched it.

Valentines Dinner 6 Butter Dish

Not even me – the one who’s been called Mrs. Butterton.  The rolls are light & buttery and perfect on their own.

The guys were in charge of the meat.  No surprise there.  We watched Gordon Ramsay’s YouTube video  and it was such a help to pick up some tips.  He says in the clip that Beef Wellington would be his choice for a final meal.  That started an entertaining conversation around what our own choices might be.

Like I said in my previous post, while it’s a splurge to buy such an expensive cut of meat, you still come out ahead over going out to dinner.  Zach treated on that too.

The meat is covered with a mushroom duxelle, which is mushrooms chopped fine and sautéed.  It needs to be cooked a while so juices are exuded and it’s nice and dry.  It tastes and smells like meat.

Valentines Dinner 12 Duxelle for Beef Wellington

Looks like ground meat too.

The beef tenderloin (filet) is browned on all sides on the stove top and then spread with Dijon mustard.

Valentines Dinner 17 Beef Tenderloin Spread with Dijon for Wellington

Thin slices of prosciutto are laid out on plastic wrap and spread with the duxelle.

Valentines Dinner 14 Prosciutto laid out for Beef Wellington

Valentines Dinner 18 Spreading Duxelle on Prosciutto for Beef WellingtonThe plastic wrap helps you to roll, turn and tightly wrap the roast.   It then heads to the refrigerator to rest.  Up till this point it can be made a day ahead, which would be helpful for saving time on a busier day.

Valentines Dinner 19 Rolling Up Beef Wellington

 We used Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry sheets  to wrap the beef in another layer.  The pastry is laid out on plastic wrap also, which again facilitates turning and wrapping.

Valentines Dinner 20 Rolling Puff Pastry around Beef Wellington

Valentines Dinner 21 Beef Wellington wrapped to shape

Once tightly wrapped it’s refrigerated another ten minutes.  Finally, it’s placed on a baking sheet, brushed with beaten egg yolk and scored with a design – if you want to be “cheffy” as Gordan says.

Valentines Dinner 22 Scoring Pastry on Beef Wellington

Valentines Dinner 38 Zach having fun scoring meat

All four of us took turns scoring the meat at the end.

It was sprinkled with some extra-coarse salt just before heading into the oven.

Valentines Dinner 23 Coarse Salt for Beef Wellington

It was a BLAST working together on everything.

We cut up cauliflower to mix with baby carrots and artichoke hearts to roast.  Cauliflower becomes so mild and rich when roasted.  We’ve converted many a non-veggie lover.  There’s no need to convince anyone to eat loaded mashed potatoes.  Right before putting those on the table they’re topped with shredded cheddar and run under the broiler till melted and slightly crispy.

The roast is removed from the oven when the pastry is golden brown and the internal temperature is 125 degrees on a meat thermometer (a necessary tool).  It sat for ten minutes before carving.  Phil ooops Mr. Hungry thoroughly enjoyed having a willing student in the kitchen.

Valentines Dinner 24 Cutting the Beef Wellington

Valentines Dinner 34 Zach Carving MeatZach jokingly said when he arrived that he wanted to wear a chef’s coat for his lesson.  We happened to have one from back in our catering days.  Ha!

Oh.  My Word.

Valentines Dinner 35 Finished Beef Wellington

Valentines Dinner 30 Beef Wellington Dinner PlateWe had to keep reminding each other to slow down and savor every bite.  After all that cooking and all its fabulous aromas it was not easy!

I’ve told you that Mr. Hungry isn’t a Dessert Man.  Well I was forgetting one exception and he offered to make it.  In our family, he’s the crème brulee maker.  He’s made it many a time over the years and it’s one of my favorites.  This time it was topped with brown sugar (white is typically used).  The guys got to play with the blow torch to melt it!  Now that looks fun.

Valentines Dinner 40 torching creme bruleeThe sugar melts into a crispy crust you have to break through to get to the custard.  Holy Yum.

What a day!  It didn’t seem like work at all to prepare everything from scratch.  Having the whole afternoon and evening together was a gift and a joy.  We all learned, we all laughed.  Zach left saying it was the best meal of his life.  And he made it himself.  Jeeeesh.  It’s going to be hard to top that one.

Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and try something new!  It may be YOUR best meal yet.  Wish you could come over so we could cook together too.

Valentines Dinner 26 Table Setting

Love you!

~donna

xo

P.S.  Here’s a link to Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for the Beef Wellington.  Put that on your kitchen bucket list!

Valentine’s Day Ideas ~ MoreThanHungry Style

Well Hello!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!

Mr. Hungry and I don’t do much to celebrate the day, but we do cook a special meal together.  I don’t have a problem with that!  I’m somewhat averse to going out to dinner.  I feel a vague unrest that we shouldn’t be spending the money.  Or I sit there thinking how we’re missing out on the fun of meal prep or it doesn’t taste as good as at home.   I KNOW.  Weird.

I mean – we don’t even buy cards anymore.  I rarely buy cards now for anyone.  (I do enjoy making my own if I have the time, and that’s a subject for another post).  So Pricey!  If I were to buy a card, I’d much rather support the little artist over the corporate giant.  Have you ever thought to look on Etsy.com?  You can purchase most cards individually and prices aren’t much different.  Just put in any search words that fit your liking…say… “Pizza Valentine” and see what pops up.

Cute.

{via}

 You can even find unique and artistic cards to download and print instantly for a couple of bucks.  Check that out {here}.

This year we’re sharing a sweetheart dinner for four with the newlyweds – our daughter Britt and husband Zach.

Love these faces.

Zach’s had a hankering.  He wants to try his hand at Beef Wellington, so we decided to make it an event and cook together.

beef wellingtonWe’ll be using Gordon Ramsay’s recipe {here}.

He’s a big fan of the British chef and restaurateur known for his hot-temper on the show Hell’s Kitchen.

hells_kitchen{via}

I’ve never watched an entire episode.  Put the word Hell and Kitchen together and add Screaming??  Ummumum, That’s not right .

Come on now – I’m all about Lovin’ in the kitchen – in case you didn’t know.  Ha!

  Zach’s been repeatedly watching this YouTube video in preparation.

Gordan Ramsay making beef wellington{via}

So rather than dropping money on the table at a crowded restaurant, choose a dish you’ve been hankering to learn or EAT and make it an event.  Make it together.  Even if you decide to use an expensive ingredient like Beef Tenderloin, you’d come out ahead.  I love it because we can crank up our own music, spend less on wine, talk and laugh cackle as loud as we want and not have to drive home afterwards.

Heck of a Win-Win in my book.

I can’t do a post about Valentine’s dinner and not mention dessert.  Mr. Hungry isn’t really a dessert kinda guy.  He’d be perfectly happy without.  But that’s not happenin’ this year.

I’ve been perusing my Pinterest boards for some Pinspiration.

This is adorable.

strawberries-and-cream-heart-cake-2-576{via}

The cake batter has strawberries in it and there’s cream cheese frosting under those conversation hearts.  Yum!

This chocolate fondue looks mighty fine and simple.

chocolate cherry fondue{via}

(Excuse me, but why have I never seen doughnut holes and maraschino cherries served with fondue?  My best friend in high school had a strong fondness for chocolate covered cherries, so there’s a fun memory when I think of them.)

But I wouldn’t serve him that.  Oh Lord no.  I see him shuddering and shouting “Too sweet!  Too sweet!”.  Oh.  So Terrible – Right?

  If I cooked this up for him?  This.  This would be up his alley.

heart shaped egg in toast{via}

I just might make that for breakfast. I’d outline the heart  in Sriracha – our favorite condiment – which would be quite fitting for Valentine’s Day now that I think about it.

Red. Hot.

I have one last picture to share – a blurry but treasured oldie but goody.  Here I am with my Sweetheart – Back In The Day.

 You’re still my Sweetheart.  Aren’t cha Honey?

Young Us 001I saw this quote and it reminded me of the song played for the first dance at my parents’ wedding, “Little Things Mean A Lot” by Kitty Kallen. You can check it out {here} if you’d like.   It’s so so sweet.

do small things with great loveNo matter who you’ll be sharing the time with, I hope you’ll have a Happy Heart Day.

luv you ~ donna

xxxxxooooo

P.S.  If you follow me on Instagram I’m guessing you’ll see a shot or two of our Valentine’s table.  Check it out.

Looking Back ~ Looking Forward

Looking Back ~ Looking Forward

A Year closed ~ A New One Unfolds. 

 I was sifting through photos last weekend and there were more stories and moments I wanted to share with you.   Some made it to the blog.  Some didn’t. Time was such a thief.

I’m taking a look back at some stand-outs and they aren’t all the most obvious.

There’s no doubt a major highlight took place last year at this time.  I shared a series about a trip to Las Vegas.  This was no ordinary vacation.  I visited a daughter who – for two years – volunteered full time with a non-profit called The Cupcake Girls.  I spent much of the vacation in a celebrity suite at the Hard Rock Hotel (set up like a luxury spa), giving hand and foot massages to porn stars and women in the Adult Entertainment Industry.  If you missed the story behind that, let me tell you, it’s worth reading.

You can check that out here: Little Things Are Big Things in Vegas with The Cupcake Girls

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ccg hair one

ccg pink cupcakes

Just before I left for the trip I scraped up and sprang for a new camera (Canon Rebel T3i).  I’m learning by doing and am sometimes flabbergasted by what gets captured in the lens.  I’ve never had anything close to this quality before.  I’ve got so much to learn, but jeeez…it’s a blast!

(Mr. Hungry would call me obsessed.)

Late last winter we took a day trip to Old Sturbridge Village, which is a living history museum.

I saw this sight and wanted to strap on an apron and cook along side them.

Beauteous in my eyes.

SV dirty aprons and pies

Here’s one more from that day.

Girls are never too old to play dress up.

SV Girls Dress Up

Oh heck – one more – Mr. Hungry, appreciating the Cooper’s barrel-making.

SV Phil with gin barrel

No wonder.

My “Vegas Girl” moved back to Connecticut in April to prepare for her June wedding.  I wrote a series about the Bridal Shower that was chock full of ideas for food, decor and all things classy neon!

Shower Three Sisters cropped

I’d like to think up a new reason to serve a Mashtini Bar.

Mashtini Ingredients

Top-Your-Own Mashed Potatoes in Martini Glasses…

Shower Mashtini Bacon in the Bottom

Now, this may seem like I digress, but hang with me.  Last month I shared a look into our family Christmas celebration, in what appeared to be a storybook location for a party – our Fest Hus (which means Party House in Swedish).

Ahh yes – what a beautiful looking room.  But But…

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What I didn’t show you is the “Before” picture taken less than a month earlier.

end year fest hus messy

Less than a MONTH people!

Holy Transformation!  A Christmas Miracle!

And you’re only seeing a small portion of the teetering towers and piles of shtuff filling the entire space.

We were once told the room looked like “Ten pounds of Sh*t in a Five Pound Bag”.

(Why do I love that saying?)

We’ve Been Busy!!!

Multiple car loads were brought to the Good Will and the consignment shop.

So think about that when you’re wondering if you have the gumption to clean out a drawer this week.

The place had been a workroom and storehouse for all things weddings and showers for months years.  As many of you know, all three daughters were married within 2½ years of each other.  We weren’t done with one before we were planning another.  I’m sooo bummed I never wrote a proper post about the last two weddings.

Would it be lame to do it long after the fact?

I’ll give you a peek at some of the projects from the last one.

Gold-tipped feathers~

end of year gold painted feathers

Vases and containers lined up to fill for reception tables~

end of year wedding vessels

They were combined with vintage silver pieces. Every table had a different conglomeration of vessels filled with flowers and candles.

Wedding Prep flowers in silverI need to show you this cute detail.  Rather than Flower Girls, there were Feather Girls!

cut.it.out.adorable.

end of year feather girl bucketsSo they’re all married now.

end year britt three girls(The bride’s stunning gown was actually painted with silver brush strokes!)

Once all the festivities settled down we were finally able to decompress and put our feet up.

Feet of friends on Peaks IslandMiss those long summer nights.

Ladies Week Silhouette GirlsSpeaking of which, one night in September I was up out of bed in the middle of the night.  I took my camera and walked around the yard and talked to the Good Lord.  Call me a Kook.  Go ahead. I don’t want to forget the moment.

end of year night sky

Here’s another shot you never saw, taken at my sister’s place.  She has a magazine-worthy shed in her back yard that we transformed into a tiny guest cottage.  We’ve had many a sleep-over there, even though its only a mile from our house.

end of year laurens stuga and poolI’ll have to give you the full tour come summer.

 In a previous post I showed you this picture that was taken right across the street from her.

Summer Zinnias at Ed's Farm Stand.mhtBut I didn’t show you two other pictures taken that day that are too cute to be missed.

Open Cash Box

Pay Later SignIt’s one of the sweet joys of living in a rural area.

Zinnias are my favorite.  They look so pretty in an old copper pot,

Zinnias in Copper Pitcher

and as part of a summery yellow and blue table setting.

Summer Table setting with zinnias on the deckMany a meal was shared around that table.  I love breakfast outside in the summer.

end year plattarI’m all about the presentation.  It elevates the simple into a feast for the eyes – as well as the mouth.

Summer Grilling Pork Tenderloin

Summer Grilled Vegetables Plated and Garnished 2014Grilled vegetables are artfully arranged on a platter and topped with a simple mix of mayo, plain Greek yogurt and fresh herbs.  Minced red onion adds zing.  Pretty as a picture.

Ohh to have farm fresh veggies right now.  But don’t wait, you can do something similar with vegetables year round.

cropped-summer-tomatoes-at-farm-stand.jpg

summer veggies next to stove 2013

end of year cheese tray for thanksgivingHere’s another example of presentation.  The only thing I actually “made” on the platter – if you can even say that – is that I chopped dried mangoes and rolled a small log of goat cheese in them (there in the back).  Everything else was dumped straight from the container it came in.  I sprinkled pumpkin seeds between the bowls.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a jar of fig jam in the middle.  I like to keep it on hand for a sweet element on a cheese plate.  It’s found in the specialty cheese area at most grocery stores. My collection of bamboo platters and bowls is both practical and attractive. You don’t have to worry about taking them somewhere.  They’re light and unbreakable.

Remember the simple recipe I shared for healthy ground turkey lettuce wraps this summer?  I brought the bamboo collection with me!  Doesn’t everybody tote serving dishes along on vacation?

Ladies Week Eating Alfresco Turkey Lettuce Wraps 2One of my goals for the year is to share a whole lot more simple ideas and Good Cookin’ with you.  I hope you’ll stick around.  I want to savor the every day with you.

For example, try to disregard the fact that there’s a lake in the background of this picture.  I could be having my wine and cheese just about anywhere.  But I’m having it on our chippety red table – that looks better all worn out than it did freshly painted.  There were leaves falling all around me.  I put my cheese and crackers in a wooden bowl that was pleasing to the eye – just for me – not just for company.  I could have stood next to the counter and scarfed it out of the box.  But no.  Stop.

end of year autumn cheese and crackers on deckI’m glad I went back to grab my camera when I saw the deck on this autumn day.

Leaves on the deck 100514

end year coffee mug on deck with view

And here’s one more shot that makes me smile.  I’ve told you before how I have this thing for laundry on the line.

end year laundry sheets on line by wall

Its been a fulfilling year in many ways.

Our oldest daughter and husband bought their first home just a few miles down the road.

in front of house

Many projects are in the works there and I look forward to sharing some with you.

My Mom recently took up watercolor painting (not only that, but lately she’s been teaching herself to play the ukulele!).  She painted this little gem after they moved in.

My Word.  She was worried it wasn’t good enough to give them.

Frye pizza mom's painting

Um – Mom.

Have you not been listening to me here?  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite phrase of 2014…

It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful 2{The Nester}

In the last year, I’ve come to realize how much I love the whole creative process – and not just the photography. The writing and design have developed into a new love for me that I didn’t even know existed.  I’m seeing life’s moments through new eyes as I think about sharing them in this space with you.

Snow on the Deck Nov 14

I’ve found that writing helps me clear out my head.

So how about you?  Can we work on this together?

If you’ve stayed with me up till this point I have to hand it to you.  You’ve put up with my ramblings and that means an awful lot.

Thank you for meeting me in this space.

I appreciate every single comment, share, pin and words of encouragement!

love you so,

~donna

xo

P.S. If you haven’t yet entered your email address in the subscribe box – now’s the time!  You’ll  receive emails when I post anything new – (it’s free of course)!  You can follow me on Instagram and Pinterest  too if you’re looking for more inspiration.

TG8

Party in the Fest Hus!

Party in the Fest Hus!

~ Welcome ~

All is quiet in the house this Christmas night.

We were up at seven o’clock, opening gifts with daughters and husbands.  We shared a traditional breakfast and then they were off – on the road to other branches of family.  I stayed awake for just minutes, before heading back to bed for a couple of hours.  I’m wiped out and energized at the same time.  Does that even make sense?

I have pictures to share while I have some relaxing moments.

Family festivities took place last night in the Fest Hus.  Earlier in the week I wrote about the family history behind our celebration in a post {here}.  I went into detail about the Scandinavian alternative to Santa, known as The Tomte.

As mentioned, Fest Hus means ‘Party House’ in Swedish and the building was actually a Carriage House back in the days of horse and carriage in the 1800’s.

There were 42 of us there for dinner.

Here’s a look around just before everyone arrived.

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I’ll try not to be too wordy and let pictures speak for themselves.  Oh, it’s hard though.

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Some of the décor stays out year round, such as Mom’s collection of Dala horses in many sizes and the carved Viking.

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Even serving utensils are festive!  The God Jul Pig decorates the Christmas ham.

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The menu varies little from year to year.

A favorite part of the night (make that favorite parts of life and food and drink in general) is the tradition of shots of Aquavit as guests arrive.

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Aquavit – which means “Water of Life” – is poured into tiny shot glasses.  It tastes like caraway seeds.  As each new group  walks in the door, another round is poured.  (Oh the benefit of being the first one there!).  We raise our glasses and shout “SKOL!!!” (it’s actually Skål!) and chase it with a piece of Swedish flatbread (knäckebröd) topped with pickled herring.  Lord – what a fabulous combination!

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If you’re interested in the origin and tradition of Aquavit you’ll find more info {here}.   For those not adventurous enough for pickled herring, there’s a variety of Scandinavian cheeses to choose from.

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 Aren’t those little shot glasses darling?

My nephew has taken to making the Aquavit the last few years.  He and Mr. Hungry are in charge of keeping the glasses full.

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Another traditional offering – that isn’t actually Scandinavian – is made by Mr. Hungry.  People go crazy over his Cold Spiced Beef.

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It’s marinated in whole allspice, juniper berries, cinnamon and nutmeg, along with brown sugar, salt and pepper.  He starts marinating it on Thanksgiving weekend and doesn’t roast it until the day before Christmas Eve.  After roasting, it sits overnight in the refrigerator with a brick on it.  It get sliced thin and is served cold.  It’s dense, dry and spicy and tastes like Christmas.

I could easily make a meal out of appetizers, but you need to save plenty of room for the Smörgåsbord, which is a groaning board of Scandinavian specialties.

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(Ugh – can you guess how much it bothers me that I forgot to unplug warming trays before snapping pictures?  But-But there was a line of 40 people behind me waiting to dig in, and I’m all in there with my camera – no pressure or anything.)

Please don’t judge me too harshly, but here’s a shot of my plate loaded to the hilt.

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I can’t possibly take some of everything.  These are my favorites, along with a slice of Swedish rye bread – called Limpa – smeared with butter.

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festhus26Our family has turned into a melting pot of nationalities.  For one, Mr. Hungry isn’t Swedish at all  (although I may have convinced him he is).  He’s 100% Polish.  Through marriage, we now have branches of loved ones born in or with family ties to India, Trinidad, Puerto Rico and many more.  You see lots of blondies everywhere, but take a look at the beautiful range of skin tones in the next picture.

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After dinner, the Swedish music was turned up and chairs were pushed in.  Everyone joined hands and danced around the room.  Those of us who thought we knew the Swedish words, sang along loudly.

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I wasn’t prepared for these action shots that came out a blurrrr.

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There’s Mr. Hungry in the denim shirt and pony tail.

Following the dancing, we settled in for carol singing.  Mom used to play the guitar, but the torch has passed to one of my son-in-laws.

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A quartet sang harmony on “Oh Holy Night”.

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I wish I had a video!

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In the midst of caroling, the front door burst open and in walked the Tomte!  (He doesn’t say a word – not a HoHoHo to be had).  Helpers joined him on the couch to pass out gifts to everyone.  Well….almost everyone.  This year there was a ‘ooops’, and he forgot to include a gift for one of the little “believers”.  Ohhh dear!  That’ll be a story she’ll be sure to share in the years ahead!  Hopefully it wasn’t too traumatizing.

Young and old take their turn sitting with the Tomte to receive a gift.

Here’s my baby sister.

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Here’s Mom – the Swedish Matriarch.

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And my precious ones – our daughters and their husbands.  My Three Sons!

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The youngest member of the family there last night was only three weeks old.

Baby Isaac.

festhus17 The meal ended with a dessert table filled with traditional cookies and more sweet treats brought by all.  And of course – Coffee.

What a night!

It’s an evening filled to the brim with tradition, love, laughs and catching up with one another.

We take time to acknowledge the reason we gather – to celebrate the love that came down to earth in the form of a tiny baby – the reason for this Holy season.

Once again LOVED ONES…Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

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Christmas House 33

Wishing you Good Tidings of Great Joy!

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love,

~donna

xo

My Swedish Christmas House Tour – Come On In!

My Swedish Christmas House Tour – Come On In!

Hello!

Come in!  I’d give you a big hug and hand you a beverage if I could.  I’m taking you on my Christmas House Tour today.  If you missed it yesterday, I explained {here} how my Swedish ancestry and the traditions of my parents influenced me in many ways – including my decorating style.

House and Fest Hus in winter

 Here’s the Advent candle wreath I made and wrote about earlier {here}.  I’ve so enjoyed participating in an Advent study this month.  It’s helped me focus my scatter brain on what’s good for the soul this holiday.  Put that thought in your back pocket for next year!

Christmas House11We had to add another tree to the house when the food and drink ornaments were crowding out the Swedish ones.  That tree sits in the dining area and will be a blog post for another day.  For now, here’s the living room.

Christmas House 1We light a fire in the fireplace pretty much every single day from fall through late spring.  Those are reindeer antlers hanging above it.  They were carried over on a boat from the Mother Land by one of my Great Grandfathers. There’s a note about that written on the back.

Christmas House 17Mr. Hungry cuts the tree down Thanksgiving weekend.  We hunt for one that’s Charlie-Brown-ish with open spaces between branches for big ornaments and real candles – just like the kind I grew up with.

Christmas House 31After cutting the tree he uses a hatchet to make gashes around the base, so it’ll really suck up water.  He sets it in an old ceramic pickling crock and jams rocks around it.  (It’s also wired to the window frames). He’s vigilant about keeping it well watered.

A few years ago we found strings of red wooden beads and those big clear white lights at a yard sale.  Score!  See the strings of mini Swedish flags there?  Those over-sized red felt snowflakes were snapped up from a clearance rack for something like a dime or quarter each.  I think they make the tree.

Christmas House 16

Christmas House 15I keep my gift wrapping simple but coordinated.  I don’t use bows.  Usually it’s just brown kraft paper, solid red and a few matching prints.  Lordy – I have a bunch more to wrap tonight. Helppp!

Christmas House 7

Christmas House 6If you missed my last post, first off, you’re going to {check it out}- right?  But really, I was thinking if you hadn’t read it you’d be thinkin’ “What the heck is God Jul?”  It’s the Swedish version of Merry Christmas pronounced “Gooohd Yule!”.

Here are a couple ornaments I made with needle felting.  Have you ever heard of it?  What a fun way to take out aggression.  Ha!  It’s a process using a barbed needle and repeatedly jabbing into wool fibers to tangle and condense them. You can create all sorts of three dimensional sculptures.

Here’s Santa Lucia…

Christmas House 13…and I made my very own tomte holding a blue bird.

Christmas House 12

Christmas House 5Many of the ornaments are made of straw, wood or fabric.  I love how they’re folksy & whimsical.

Christmas House 4We have real candles on the tree just like my parents had.  We don’t light them very often.

I did for you though.

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Christmas House 18In our living room this little table sits by the window. It’s possibly my favorite spot in the house.  Oh, maybe not.  That would be the kitchen.  Anyway, I sit here most mornings with my coffee and talk to the Good Lord.

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Christmas House 20And Mr. Hungry and I like to have dinner there most nights when it’s just the two of us.

Christmas House 9I love the traditional Swedish advent story of Santa Lucia.  She shows up all over the house.

Christmas House 8She’s even in the bathroom!  Here’s a framed photo of my girls in a Santa Lucia program at church one year.

Christmas House 29We might as well take a peek in there while we’re at it.  Those mushrooms are another bit of needle felting.  I bought the big red coffee mug at a thrift shop for a dollah.  Sticking a few greens into a mug, bowl or vase with a little water is a super simple way to add festive color.  Run your hand through it for a burst of piney-ness.

Christmas House 27

Christmas House 28In my neutral bathroom, just adding red towels packs a Christmas punch.

Christmas House 30Did you spot that cute little mini guy?  I think he might be a German gnome.  Dad bought him for me on a trip when I was just a kid.  A tiny treasure.

Christmas House 26I’ll let him stay even though he’s not a Swede.

Back in the kitchen, I won’t be zooming in too closely to the stove.  Eh hemm…if you know what I mean.

Kitchen Christmas 012One of my favorite decor items out for winter is this framed print next to the hood.  It’s titled “Girl Knitting” by Swedish painter Anders Zorn.

Anders Zorn print cropped

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Christmas House 22Love that spoon handle!

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Mini Mora Clock at Christmas

I’ll wind things up here in the kitchen.  It’s a big room – 18’x24′.  I don’t have a formal dining room.  This space opens right up to our living room, so it’s all just one big party space.

My favorite kind.

I stitched this embroidery hanging above the buffet in the 80’s, when many of us were big into counted cross-stitch.

Kitchen Christmas 005It’s a whole tomte village!

I knowwww…likely I need an intervention of some kind.

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Did you notice there are lady tomtes too?

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That little guy on the end has a bowl of rice pudding.  Ooohhhh I want some!…warm, with cream poured on top.

Is that tiny knitting bag adorable or what?  And I love her suede apron and mittens.

If you’re looking at this on a little phone screen, I hope you can see detail.

I don’t know if this guy’s Swedish or not, but he’s bringing the wine so he can stay.  Am I the only one who puts the words “Swedish Wine”, “Tomte Wine”  or “Elf Wine” into the search box on Ebay or Etsy to see what shows up?

Kitchen Christmas 011

It’s a red-nosed Christmas ornament but it’s no Rudolph.

So friends, that about wraps up the tour.

We have another whole building on the property that was originally a carriage house back in the day of horse and carriage.  That’s where we’ll be having our big family Christmas Eve celebration.  I wish I had time to take you out there now too.

But then again – I don’t want to throw you into tomte over-load.  If I haven’t already.

Christmas House 24If we don’t catch up with each other before Christmas Day, I want to wish you a time of memory-making, love shared and good cheer.

This place, space and your company are a blessing to me.

Know you are loved.

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Merry Christmas my friends.

love,

~donna

xxxooo

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Our Swedish Christmas Traditions ~ Meet The Tomte

Our Swedish Christmas Traditions ~ Meet The Tomte

Välkommen!

The holidays came barreling in like a freight train.  I’m making concessions now.  I decided last night there’s no way I’ll get cards out on time.  I’m pairing down the numbers and they’re going out late.  Darn.  I haven’t baked a cookie.  Not a one.  Not gonna happen.  I didn’t “craft” a single gift.  And there’s a big pile of presents to be wrapped.

Ohhh…and 42 people will be here for a sit-down dinner in two days.  Really.  Well two of them are babies.  Ha!

Breathe deep – All Is Well.

But I’m with you now for a short visit.  I want to share a few favorite parts of the holiday — those based on ancestry and tradition.  I’m not just procrastinating.  Really I’m not.

I’ll be back again this week with my Holiday House Tour also.  I know, I know, nothing like cramming at the last minute.  But if you haven’t signed up yet to receive an email when I write, maybe today’s the day.  You won’t risk missing a post.

I  want to dedicate this very post to precious memories of Mr. Christmas himself – My Dad.  Christmas has never been the same since he passed away in 2008.  He LOVED Christmas – the food, the gathering of relatives and especially the children, and most importantly the celebration of the birth of the baby in a manger.  Oh he loved to talk about that.

My parents come from full-fledged Swedish lineage.  They were born here in the U.S.of A., but most of the previous generation walked off the boat from the Old Country.  They instilled strong traditions into family gatherings, and Christmas is by far the most Swedish-y of them all.  Our relatives in Sweden tell us our homes are more Swedish than theirs are!

Mom wears a traditional costume on Christmas Eve.   It’s a replica of the national costume made  in Sweden by the same person that made one for the queen!

This particular year Dad got a new hat from one of my daughters.

Dad and Mom in Swedish Costumes

The house I grew up in had cathedral ceilings and the tree went straight to the top.  Along with the ornaments hung strands of mini Swedish and American flags.  Real candles were held to branches by special metal clips.  Dad would light them one by one and assign each to a guest, to keep an eye on.  Here’s an oldie.

Old Christmas Pictures of tree lighting 001

Old Christmas Pictures of tree lighting 002

The candles stayed lit through the carol singing, while Mom played the guitar.  This is sounding like a Hallmark Holiday Special.  But it is true.

At one point, the singing would stop abruptly when people started shouting “The Tomte is Here!!  The Tomte’s Here!!”

All eyes light up, the kids turn giddy and in walks the Tomte.

What’s a Tomte you ask?  The Tomte of my understanding lives on the property year round but stays in the shadows.  He doesn’t head back to some far away North Pole after the Jul (Yule) visit.  He may live in the barn, but you won’t be able to find him.  He’s much smaller than Santa and does good deeds for the family year round.  He’ll likely have a long white beard & wear a red stocking cap.  There are many many tomtes throughout the world.  It’s not up to just one to deliver presents to all good Swedes on a single night.  That’s just absurd.  They love to feed and care for animals and help in the kitchen too.   Families will often leave out a bowl of rice pudding for the tomte on Christmas Eve.

I’ve put together some vintage Tomte Art so you get the idea.

tomten feeding birds knackebrod

tomte in sleigh with reindeer

tomte with cat and mouse

tomte with big pig

The Tomte’s making Duck Face in this one:

tomte grinding coffee

tomte with lucia

tomte with woodland animals

There he is with his bowl of Rice Pudding

There he is with his bowl of Rice Pudding

tomten in fox hole god jul

If you want official info on just who the Tomte is, take a look at this {link}.  It’s quite informative.

So I’ve digressed a little.

Simply to say that you don’t see signs of Santa in our house.  But oh – have we got Tomtes.

Here’s an old Christmas card picture of my little ones back in the day.

Girls as Tomtes 001

Once the tomte arrives on Christmas Eve, he sits silently – not saying a peep and hands out gifts to everyone there.  Often it’s a gift straight from The Old Country – which is how we’ve accumulated so much over the years.  EVERY person must sit on his lap to get their present.  Even adults.

Here’s one of my nieces sitting with tomte in recent years ~

Stella with the Tomte

After gifts are dispersed, he waves goodbye and silently heads out into the chilly night air.

At that point, we get up off our chairs to start the dancing. We hold hands and with Dad in the lead we’d circle round and round the house dancing to Swedish Christmas music.  We stomp our feet, pretend we know the real Swedish lyrics and hoot n’ holla.

Christmas dancing

Lord knows shots of Aquavit – the Scandinavian Water of Life – with pickled herring chasers, fuels our enjoyment of these fine traditions.

SKOL!!!

Old Christmas Pictures of tree lighting 006

So how about you? Do you have any favorite ethnic traditions?

If you don’t have many or any of your own, why don’t you start some?

Enjoy these moments.  The days fly by so quickly. Create your own precious memories.

As they say in Sweden….GOD JUL!!!

(Sounds like Good Yule).

Merry Christmas!

tomte with pig god jul

And don’t forget!  Come on back for my Holiday House Tour.

In the mean time, I’m taking a deep breath, having a glass of wine and gearing up to tackle that pile of presents.

Love You Friends.

~donna

xo

The Start of the Season and My Swedish Style Advent Wreath

The Start of the Season and My Swedish Style Advent Wreath

Today’s the first Sunday in Advent.

Lord knows I need some focus.  I need to boot this attitude of unrealistic expectations and frustration and spend time relaxing in what’s meant to be a Peace-Full season and time of reflection.  There are so many burdens we choose to place on ourselves and others intentionally!

What’s With That?

I decided last year that when the season rolled around I’d make an effort to spend focused time during the Advent season.  Just four Sundays before Christmas!

I need refreshment in both Hope and Faith, and that’s what Advent is all about.

I planned to make some kind of Advent wreath or candle grouping.

I did it!  It turned out to be such an enjoyable part of the weekend.

Advent wreath Swedish Style -  unlit candles

I took a metal cookie tin and filled it with cut-up floral foam blocks.  I pushed candles down in to it and covered the top in dried moss (from a craft store).  Actually, it was yet another item left over from a family wedding.  Yes. Moss.  Even the whispy feathers were part of centerpieces I pulled apart today.  I’ve had the red speckled mushrooms for several years (purchased on Esty), which are so very Swedish in style.  The little wooden birds I stuck in the candles are Swedish also.  Sweet -no?  (I must admit I didn’t come up with the whole idea myself.  I was inspired by something similar I saw on Pinterest.  I added feathers and then the birds & mushrooms to make it even more Swedish-y.)

Advent wreath up close 2

I used a glue gun to attach ribbon around the tin.  I first used a polka dot one, but came across a  one that looked more Scandinavian. I glued one right on top of the other.

We grew up attending Sunday School and performing in the yearly Christmas program.  I’ll never forget the seven words my younger sister had to say as her memory “Piece” one year.  I think she was probably 5-ish.

“Advent is a word that means Coming.”

I can still hear her little shy voice.

So the coming of Christmas is upon us.  The celebration of the birth of a Savior.

I’ll make an effort to try to reign in these wandering thoughts.  To set aside time to read and pray and meditate on what this means.

If this is something you’d like to do, don’t get bogged down in perfectionism.  If you start tomorrow or later in the week – so be it.  This isn’t a performance.  It’s an attitude of the heart for the month ahead.

You don’t need Advent candles to accomplish this.  For me, I was craving tradition and the beauty of the visual reminder this year.

Advent wreath Swedish Style week one candle lit

And so the season has begun.

“Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel.”

love to you.  peace to you.

~donna