Paper and Scissors

Scandinavian papercraft
December 14th
Norwegian paper hearts 

For as long as I can remember we made paper hearts at Christmas.  As a small child, I recall how difficult it could be but how excited I was to see my finished woven paper heart hung on the Christmas tree holding a few sweets.  Memories are precious don't you think.  In this evocative time of year, it would not feel like Christmas to me if I did not have some paper hearts somewhere in my home.  This year they are to be found on the windowsill in our kitchen.  For details on how to make them click here . Many will argue that these are called Danish hearts, but in my heart they are Norwegian.

Woven paper hearts in situ in my Christmas kitchen

This year I have turned my attention to paper cutting baubles.  I had so much fun making these that the midnight oil was struck a few weeks ago as I just could not stop.  Fun, quick and easy to make.  I followed my pencil literally as I did not have a pattern and made it up as I went along.  All you need is some paper, a craft knife and some imagination.  The baubles are hung up in my study...

Paper baubles on the window. looking from the outside in 

Paper baubles on the window, looking from the inside out
Like snowflakes, no two baubles are the same

The Scandinavians have always enjoyed paper crafts at Christmas and the intricate details that some can manage is astonishing, the next link is for paid paper cuts but I show it here to give you an idea of what the Scandi's get up too... Swedish paper cut mobiles  And pop over and look at Ingrid's blog,
she maybe German but fell in love with paper art whilst in Denmark ... Ingrid    Norwegian artist Karen Bit has an international reputation for her paper art, it is beyond unbelievable.  And to give you some ideas of what you can do at home just look at this page from Pinterest:  paper cut 

  Have you dabbled in paper cutting? 

St Lucia Day Christmas baking 4

Swedish Juliga kolasnittar ~ Christmas Caramel cuts
St Lucia
December 13th

A Swedish tradition mainly but one that the Norwegians have slowly returned to is St Lucia Day 13th December  Clicking on the previous link will take you to a post that explains why this day is celebrated in Scandinavia and here too you will find the traditional bake in Sweden and Norway of Lussekatter.  Lussekatter is made with yeast and the all-important spice that is saffron they are best eaten warm, straight from the oven.
their own.

Lussekatter ~ saffron buns eaten traditionally on the 13th December

Saffron is the spice associated with December 13th in the Scandinavian countries and as I have previously shared the above Lussekatter with you so now this year I decided to share a saffron cookie, to become one of the 7 cookies I will be baking this year.  Let me present you with a Swedish inspired cookie~

Rolled dough with saffron

Juliga kolasnittar ~ 
Christmas Caramel Cuts

You will need:                                                            

  175g plain flour

  1 tsp baking powder

  100g butter softened

  100g sugar

  1tbsp vanilla sugar               
Roll out the saffron dough
into two equally sized rectangles

  2 tbsp golden syrup

  1/2 g saffron

1  Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius

2  Mix the flour, baking powder and both sugars.

3  Add the saffron to the softened butter and mix well, add to the dry ingredients.

4  Mix the mixture until it forms a dough, I used an electric mixer.
Cut the cookies as soon as they come out of
the oven, cut them on the slant as is traditional

5  Form two equally sized balls form the dough mixture.                                                                                           
6  Spread each dough ball onto a separate greaseproof paper baking tray and roll out to a thin 3-4 mm in depth rectangle.  Even out the edges as best you can.  See photograph for better clarification.

7  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden in colour.

8  Immediately begin cutting diagonal lines ( see photograph) across the cookie mixture whilst it is still hot.  If you leave it too long to cut the mixture it will crisp up and you will have many breakages.

9  Allow to cool and place in an airtight container until needed.

10   like to serve this is a wide-brimmed class as they traditional should be long and cut on a slant making them ideal to serve in such a way.  And Storage, I often use Norges glass (Kilner jar)

Juliga kolasnittar ~ Christmas caramel cuts,
a cookie with saffron for St Lucia Day

I have for a while been thinking of making my own Lucia wreath or doll to have beside the lussekatter I make every year.  In Scandinavia, there are many versions to buy, but something more homemade feels right.  As ever time is my demon and alas I have not had the time, but I have managed to save me time in the long run and do not need to create a pattern because look what the good old internet has found for me...

What did we do before the internet?

St Lucia doll crocheted created by the talented Swedish crocheter, just look at the proportions of this amigurumi crochet doll of St Lucia and her procession followers.   I definitely want to crochet them!

Traditionally the girl chosen to be St Lucia for the procession had lit candles on the head wreath, in later years this has been replaced by battery-powered candles but I rather like this crochet version for the youngest kindergarten-aged children.    Head wreath with candles

St Lucia head wreath with candles

Happy St Lucia day, why not try making some lussekatter or Juliga kolasnittar and bring some 
Scandinavian baking into your home

Scandinavian Nisse

Scandinavian Nisse   
December 12th

The Americans have Santa Claus, the Brits have Father Christmas and the Scandinavians have nisse,
Jul nisse with grøt, øl and a cat, but could
easily have been a pig or a goat,
typical animals found on a Scandinavian farm
but who are they?

In Norway and Denmark these little house/barn elves are indeed known as Nisse, but in Sweden, they are called Tømte Nisse and in Finland they are Tonttu.  These mythical creatures from Scandinavian folklore are usually associated with the winter months, especially the winter solstice and Christmas.

Being shy creatures they were not often seen and lived in forests, barns or attics.  Historically Nisse tended to attach themselves to a family of farmers and were known to work hard and create harmony and look after the farmstead, the home itself and especially the animals.  All they demanded in return for their hard work and bringers of luck, warding off evil was to be respected and fed at Christmas with traditional Grøt and øl (porridge and beer) 

Woe betides the family that did not respect the nisse as he was also known to be of bad temperance and very mischievous once upset.  One famous legend that is often retold was that the nisse became so furious when the grøt he was presented with did not have any butter that he killed the farmers best milking cow.  Only later to learn the farmer had butter in the grøt but that it was underneath.  On discovering his mistake the nisse stole the neighbouring farmers best milking cow to replace the one he had killed!

Grøt ~ porridge with butter, sugar and cinnamon

Today the nisse is depicted as a cheery soul with ruddy red cheeks, short and stumpy wearing a red pointed hat.  Historically the hat and clothes used to be navy blue or grey, but the hat was indeed red matching that which Scandinavian farmers wore.  It is said that nisse can become invisible and this is how they either work hard or create their mischief without being observed.  It is said the inside of their red hats is grey and that when they turn the hat inside out to have the grey side showing they become invisible!

In modern time the nisse is often just associated with Christmas and so has become known as Jul nisse.  A male family member will dress up as the Jul nisse wearing a nisse mask and costume and visits all the young children on Christmas Eve, asking each one if they have been good.  He frequently will ask the children to sing him a song and in return will deliver presents.  The song generally sung to the nisse  is this one:   Christmas Eve song is sung in Norwegian with the following translation:  

In the Barn Sits the Nisse

In the barn sits the nisse with his Christmas porridge
So good and sweet, so good and sweet
He nods and he eats and he is so happy
‘Cause Christmas porridge is what he loves
But around are all the little rats
And they peek, and they peek
"We really want some Christmas goodies!”
And they dance, dance around in a circle
But the nisse waves his big spoon
“Oh no, you be on your way!
’cause I want my porridge to myself
and I’ll share with no one, no one else!”
But the rats they jump and dance
and they waggle, and they sway
They scratch at the porridge and they stop,
and they stand close to the nisse
But old nisse is a feisty one,
and with his body, he makes a jump.
“I’ll get the cat if you don’t let off!
When the cat gets here, this will stop!”
Then the rats all run so scared,
oh so scared, oh so scared.
They sniff at the porridge a few times,
and one, two, three they are gone.

We too carried on the tradition of the Jul nisse visiting our children on Christmas eve, but I was very mindful that the shoes or boots worn were not ones that could be easily identified.  Our most memorable visit was when Ella was perhaps 4 years old.  She heard the bell ringing by the Jul nisse, looked out of the front window to see him walking up the drive, jumped up and down as if she were a teenager in a pop concert and promptly fainted from sheer excitement!   Another year the Jul nisse tried to give her a present clearly labelled for Eleanor, Ella seeing this squealed in delight barely able to contain her excitement whispering this was her best friend and she lived only a few doors away, the Jul nisse said that he visited all good children and Eleanor must be a lovely girl; Ella beamed.  But careful we were with the visits as my mother as a young girl recognized her uncle's boots and the magic was lost...

Over the years I have shown you many of my nisse that I have in our home, so today instead I bring you a round up of ones online that I particularly like.

Crochet Nisse ~ click link for the crochet pattern

Typically short with a large nose,
this is the perfect nisse

Tomte nisse ~ Swedish by name by showcasing the necessary long beard

Korknisse bent hat ~ over the years we have made many of these, I think my mother first made one about 40 years ago, I love this version though with the bent hat.  For both knitted and crocheted versions click here: Nisse ~ eclectic home life

Pattern on Ravelry:  Nisse

Two nisse with heart hats   ~ I just adore these nisse, a very modern take but super sweet.  I have not made them but they are on my list to give them a go.  The pattern is in Swedish but she does have a translate button, if you make them before I do, please let me know. 

And finally, a large Nisse made in the style of amigurumi from the blog 1dogwoof, Nisse pattern

Do you have any Nisse/Father Christmas patterns to share?   

Made with love

Christmas gift making    
December 11th  

London skyline in crochet
To me, Christmas is more about giving than receiving I so enjoy making my presents but life does not always allow us the luxury of time to do such things.  So with this in mind, I actually began making Christmas gifts soon after the summer holidays to avoid that mad rush of anxiety and despair.

Great pattern and design by Millie
I read recently that someone, I forget who now, unfortunately, had also run out of time in knitting the second sock for a gift for her father and decided staying up all night on Christmas Eve was perhaps not sensible bearing in mind she still may not have finished the second sock.  I can sympathise with her, I often suffer from second sock syndrome.  Instead, this clever lady caringly wrapped up the single sock with an IOU attached to the lone sock saying that in the new year it would receive its mate.  Apparently, this made the fathers Christmas, he laughed so much and promptly put on the single sock and hopped around all day laughing and giggling to himself.  What a wonderful gift that was.

I have not had my 'designing' hat on of late and so all my presents this year come from other wonderfully talented people whose patterns I have been grateful for.  There was not one thing I did not enjoy making, and all I would make again, well actually some I have made several of already, let me show you.

From the wonderful book by Mille Masterton, I
have made the London skyline cushion, the soldier egg cosy, two of them and another London red bus ornament, I made one last year and it was so well received I decided to make two more this year.  The patterns in this book are easy to follow and many very original.  I am so pleased to have this book on my shelf.  I am sure the recipients will be delighted.
Bearskin soldier egg cosy in crochet

See the egg fits snugly inside!

Red London bus Christmas bauble
For those of you who have followed the blog for the last 4 years, time flies, it really does, you may recall my husband has begun to despair at the alarming rate of newly knitted or crocheted items that find their way into our home.  He keeps saying could I not make something more useful! Cheek of it, I knitted him a jumper for his 50th, what more could a man want from his wife (hehehe)

So I put my thinking cap on and decided the most useful thing I could make him would be some plants that cannot be killed either by neglect or by overwatering.  This is where film and theatre come into it...

John along with the children loves the Guardian of the Galaxy films and I wondered if I could make him his very own Groot, I sat and thought about it and wondered where I would begin with pattern design when I decided to google make your own Groot and do you know what, there seems to be a pattern for everything out there already, so lo and behold there was a crochet Groot pattern already in existence.  I can honestly say I was really relieved, I'm not in the design frame of mind of late...  So may I present to you ...Groot...

Still needs a few leaves and eye
but this will be Groot

Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy

So in case this has inspired you to make your own, here is the pattern:  Groot

Not satisfied with just Groot, I thought about John's all-time favourite theatre production, The Book of Mormons and quickly ruled out anything possible to make from that and came upon his second favourite production, Little Shop of Horrors and of course, there is the man-eating plant, Audrey.  Would it not be great if I could locate an Audrey pattern too.  But to my utter shock and dismay, there was no Audrey pattern to be found.  I thought I would have to give up on the idea and began making other people's presents.  After about 2-3 weeks of my initial idea, up popped a plea for pattern testers for a crocheted Audrey pattern.  You have never ever seen my fingers dance so quickly over the keyboard to try and be one of the first to respond hopefully ensuring I would be picked to pattern test and YES! I was picked.  A fiddly pattern but easy to follow, I am forever grateful to Louie for designing Audrey and for letting me pattern test.  I cannot give you the pattern but I am sure he will make it available soon, should you ever need an Audrey in your life!  I cannot wait to give these to John and watch his reaction!

Audrey, I was lucky to
be a pattern tester

Audrey, the man-eating plant from
the musical Little Shop of Horrors

Many of you will know I am a fan of the monthly box subscription that is Little Box of Crochet and a couple of months ago they included a slipper pattern.  I tend to keep these boxes for when I am travelling or going to be away from home as everything you possibly will need to make the project is inside the neat well constructed sturdy box EXCEPT scissors.  It means when packing I do not have to fret about finding all the things I may need for my crochet project, I just pick up a box and a pair of scissors and I'm away.  Easy as that.

The patern is a dream and so cleverly constructed and works up uber fsat, a bonus when you have many things to make.  I had intended to only make the pair that came with the box, but soon relasied what a gem of a pattern this was and made another two pairs.  So three presents made from one pattern.  Bargin!  And after Christmas, I shall be making a pair for myself too.

The slipper on the right was the yarn that came in the box.

I've had this drops yarn for ages and it was just waiting for
the right pattern to come along.
I love how the colours flow into each other.

The teapot cosy was actually the first Christmas present I made this year, again another genius pattern from the Little box of Crochet.  I was a fool with this and have not crocheted for almost 6 months sat down to make this whilst in Norway attending my aunts funeral.  My mind must not have been fully on it as I made a HUGE error which I only discovered once the whole blasted thing was finished.  It was thrown into the naughty corner for THREE months until just last week I felt I had to rectify the problem.  Do you ever experience it when the thought of something puts you off doing it but when you actually get down to it it's not as hard as you feared?  Well, that's what happened here and I cannot believe I waited so long with this heaviness sitting over me, I should have just plunged straight in and sorted it out earlier!  Will I ever learn?

A crocheted frilly flowery teapot cosy

Where do I get my energy from and this need and absolute drive to have to make and create, my mother and my mother's mother for sure.  Mamma has not been well this year yet despite that and all that she has had to endure, she has knitted and knitted and knitted.  Just look at these hats she has made only in the past few weeks for Christmas.  There are some very lucky soon to be recipients out there...

Mamma's knitted hats mainly from Fru Soleng

And it's not all been crochet, there's been some glass fusing too, such a fun medium and you never really know how things will turn out when you open the kiln the next day...

Glass fused robin

Snowflake baubles

Glass fused Christmas baubles

If you are short on time but really want to give a homemade present, pop 
over and read about  Ella's idea such a lovely thoughtful gift.  

  Do you make any presents for Christmas?

Christmas trends

December 10th 
Second Sunday in Advent

Sorry for the delay in posting. The British struggle to cope with a bit of snow and having left at 9am this morning we are still in the car trying to get Home six hours later. Only another 40 miles to go. This journey should have taken two and a half hours!

Before the Second World War, it was only really the churches in Norway that decorated for the Advent season and the colour was purple.  After the war, there was a definite shift and decorating one's house for the season became a 'thing'.

Arrow points to numerous drying racks, located
all over Lofoten, especially on the island of  Moskenesøya
Close up of the drying racks around the fishing village of Reine
As the churches before many Norwegian homes would have an advent wreath with four purple candles or if they were to be truly correct there would be three purple candles and one pink.  The third Sunday of Advent was supposed to be pink marking the difference between thinking and behaviour of the weeks leading up to Christmas itself from repenting to the celebration of Christ's birthday.  Traditionally too it was a time when families were supposed to eat slightly less and more healthily so as to truly enjoy and appreciate the Christmas meal.  It was perhaps because of this that eating fish during Advent became popular in post-war Norway and even to this day many restaurants will serve 'lutefisk' as their special seasonal advent food.

Lutefisk is a fish dish made from cod that has been dried and then rehydrated with water and lye, an alkali that prevents the fish from disintegrating when broiled.  The only issue with this is that this dish becomes very smelly! I also find it to be very gelatinous, it is not a dish I really would want to eat again, yet my mother will go and eat out every Advent and order this dish.  She is a true Norwegian.  The drying process of cod is now mostly completed commercially although the large drying racks found in beautiful Lofoten in the Arctic circle are still used to this day to dry the cod that is caught between February and April. Unlike salted cod, cod dried in Lofoten needs no preservatives as the temperature prevents the fish from rotting and the winter sun is enough to allow it to dry naturally still retaining all its nutrients.

Traditional Advent dish of lutefisk, mashed
potato, mushy peas and bacon, photo from Wikimedia

But traditions are changing and what was once trendy is now slowly fading out.  It has been reported recently in the media in Norway that Norwegians are no longer wanting to dress their house specifically for advent and then switch to Christmas colours later on in the month.  So the trend has become to either decorate ones home in white or red.  Sales of purple have year on year been in decline.  This was unbeknown to me and I too this year have bought white candles for advent, not often I am on trend!

The second candle lit for the second Sunday in Advent
 Looking at Pinterest and putting in advent candles,  this year it IS predominately white, who knew!

A screenshot of the first images that came up with advent candles and they are nearly all white.

This photo comes from the Norwegian company that is
equivalent to our Kilner jars, they always style their photos
immaculately.  I enjoy following them on IG, but see they
too are white this year! Norges Glasset

And I'll steer you to last year's post if I may, we discovered in our house the most gorgeous light cake yet still full of Christmas flavour, brought to us by one of my favourite cooks and author of several great books, Norwegian, Signe Johansen Advent Cake  Do give this cake a try, it does, however, contain nuts but it is gluten-free, so it pleases some of you but not all I know! It really is yummy ...

  Care to share your advent traditions? 

Norwegian Cake for Christmas

Cardamom cake
December 9th

Christmas baking in Norway is all about warming spice.  It's a cold time of year and anything that can warm you is a hit.  This cake takes a whopping 450g of flour but it is so worth it!
Allow the cardamom cake to cool in the tin
for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack
I dare you to be different this year and try this cake instead of something that you would normally bake...

Cardamom cake with coffee drizzle
~ for the original recipe go look at the fabulous website that is Sweet Paul

You will need:
Cardamom cake with coffee drizzle
  250 g butter
  285g brown sugar
  4 eggs
  1 cup of milk
  2 tablespoons of vanilla essence
♥  450g plain flour
♥  2 tsp of ground cardamom
  1 tsp of baking powder
  1/2 tsp baking soda
  1/2 tsp salt                                                       

For the drizzle you will need:
  1 cup of icing sugar
  2 tablespoons strong coffee

1    Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celcius

2    Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar

3    Add eggs, milk and vanilla.  Whipping together until light and fluffy.

4    Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt.  Mix till all combined, do not over mix.

5    Pour/spoon the batter into a prepared greaseproof paper tin and bake for about 1 hour or until golden and set.  It should come away from the edges a bit.

6    Cool cake in the tin for about 10 mins before completing the cooling off period on a wire rack.

7    Whisk together the icing sugar and coffee and drizzle over the cooled cake.

The drizzle works surprisingly
well with the cardamom cake

This cake has the taste of a Scandinavian Christmas without being too rich or too heavy.  I really love this cake.  Sweet Paul, you've done it again, great evocative Christmas tasting cake.  It will become a staple in my Christmas baking book.

  Do you have any Christmas recipes you care to share? 

Scandinavian Christmas baking 3 ~ Julecookies

Julecookies ~ Christmas cookies  
December 8th  

I have found a new favourite Norwegian cookie, aptly named as the simple Christmas cookie.  It has all the flavourings of the infamous   pepperkaker  (ginger Christmas biscuit) but with added nuts and dried fruit.  It is all the taste of Christmas in one bite AND such a quick simple recipe.  I will definately be making these again and again.

Roll the dough into a sausage shape

You will need:

125g butter
150 g sugar                                                                         

125g brown sugar
2 dsp of golden syrup
1 egg
200 g of chopped almonds OR walnuts
100 g dried cranberries OR raisins
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 ground cloves
2 fl oz double cream
400 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

♥  Pre heat oven to 175 degrees Celcius
Place balls of dough on baking sheet
and then squish to cookie shape
  Mix together the butter, both sugars and syrup.
  Add the egg and beat in well.
♥  Add the nuts, dried fruit, and the spices and finally the cream, flour and baking powder.  Mix altogether to form a dough.
  Roll the dough into a sausage shape and take a bit of dough at a time and form into balls approximately 4 cm in diammter, (size is not vital).
  Place the balls on a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and squish them down a bit to resemble a cookie shape, do not flatten too much, leave some depth.  See photo for better clarification.
  Bake cookies in the oven for about 12 mins or until an even golden colour.
  Cool on a wire rack.
♥  I tend to leave mine plain and do not decorate but it is usual to decorate with icing sugar as in the photograph.

Julecookies, Christmas in one bite

I used cranberries in  my cookies but
you can use other dried fruit too

Icing adds a decorative touch to the Julecookies

♥  Have you baked anything for the Christmas season yet?