Sunday, December 25, 2011

God Jul!

We celebrated on Christmas Eve, as is the custom back home. While we missed sharing the holiday with family, it was the most relaxed Christmas we've ever had. A small Julbord with vegetarian meatballs and sausages, potatoes, beet salad, and Swedish crisp bread. Then on to the gifts!

When asked what they wanted most of all, both girls said Legos. Gayatri then specified that she wanted the Lego Kingdoms Castle.
Sarasvati: "Oh, you know you're not going to get that. It costs over $100!"
Gayatri: "Of course I know that I am not going to get it. That's okay. But if I said anything else I would be lying."

In the end Gayatri said her favorite gift was a porcelain doll that we had bought her at a thrift store for $3. Sarasvati's favorite was a 1915 edition of Heidi with a matching set of handkerchiefs. (By the way, just to be clear, Heidi is Swiss, not Swedish.)

Especially given our limited budget, I am glad our children have such an old-fashioned sense of fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gift Making

Oh my, I think I have found myself a new hobby! These granny-square slippers (for my 8-year old) took just a few hours to make. A great way to use up some old wool scraps!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Christmas Time in the City

This weekend we went downtown to visit the Christmas Village in Love Park. It has been quite cold here, but everyone still enjoyed some outdoor time. Plus, they had a heated tent full of hand-made German ornaments ("Don't touch anything! Do you realize how much that costs!") Toasted almonds. Pretzels. The girls lingered at the table full of Russian dolls. We picked up a few gifts, and then headed over to the holiday show at the Comcast Center, just a couple of blocks away. These are both fun, free family activities (until you start buying things, of course) which are open until Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Glögg/Mulled Wine

One of my Christmas favorites: Glögg! Just pour a bottle of red wine (or non-alcoholic wine or fruit juice) in a pot, add about 1/4 cup sugar, a cinnamon stick, and say 10 or so cloves and cardamon pods. Heat slowly, then let steep for about an hour. Now it is ready to reheat (some add crazy amounts of vodka at this point...) and serve over raisins and blanched almonds.

The tray and glögg set were gifts from my sisters, and they sure are getting a lot of use!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sankta Lucia

Today was one of those days that make it all worth it! The sleepless nights, gray hairs, chipped teeth(!), and all that. Like the first words, first steps, first day of school, the kids doing Lucia for us is one of those sweet things I have looked forward to since we first became parents. This is their first time to have done it all on their own, and I am so proud of them!

The girls set their alarm and woke up early this morning, having planned it all out the night before:

"And if I don't wake up, just pull my eyelids open, ok?"

While I was lying in bed dreaming about row-house-fires and girls tripping on long gowns in steep stairs while carrying hot beverages, they got themselves dressed and ready. They prepared our tray with saffron buns, gingerbread cookies, and hot coffee (thank you Mr Coffee with timer-function!) and woke us up with their sweet singing. It was perfect!

You can read about Lucia here, and watch this year's televised procession from Domkyrkan in my hometown Göteborg here.

We ended up with a late start to the school work today, but I love that we are able to have such flexibility!

Since we ate up our last saffron buns in the morning, we had to bake more to bring to the Swedish School party tomorrow.

And some sweets for the raffle!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tomte Figures

Aren't they cute? Many of these tomte-figures were gifts to me from my great-aunt Vera. They each have my name and a year written at the bottom. The first one is from 1978, the year before I was born. This always intrigued me.

Perhaps it was just a gift to my parents that they later added my name to. But wouldn't it be fun if it was given to me before I was even born?

"Here, this is for your unborn child," says my great-aunt. "You know, it is never too soon to start thinking about your child's tomte-collection."

Is it possible I had one more tomte than all of my class-mates and I didn't even know it?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Simple Apple Cake

Craving apple dessert, but don't have time to make a pie? This cake is a good alternative to apple crumble.

2/3 cup milk ( I used coconut milk)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
about 2 apples, thinly sliced
1-2 oz grated almond paste/marzipan (alternatively just sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a round cake pan (8" or 9" will do). Combine the milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and let sit for a couple of minutes. Add the oil, sugar and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, then add to the wet ingredients. Pour into cake pan, spread out a little if necessary. Press apple slices down into the batter and sprinkle with grated almond paste. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Tree!

This is our first Christmas home in a few years, and I am so excited about it! I love when the house smells like Christmas. Pine, fresh gingerbread, clementines... It is all so cozy. I always make iced gingerbread hearts for the tree (because that's what my mom did), and mark some with the kids' initials for when the tree comes down. We also dried some sliced oranges, and the kids made heart-shaped paper baskets at their Swedish school. We are still looking for a good tree-top ornament.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Our daughters have reached a much appreciated new level of independence. Like toddlers asserting their independence, they want to do everything on their own. But they are actually able to now! They do the dishes. They make up their own lunch. They have even taken up cross-stitching, and can do it without needing constant help from me. They even set their own alarm to get up in the morning!

"What would be a really early time to get up?" asks Gayatri.
"Well, I was planning on waking you up at 7:30."
Gayatri turns to her sister:
"Let's set our alarm for 7:00!"
Girly giggles galore.
"Sure, but you will have to get your clothes out tonight so you don't wake your brother in the morning."

7:30 and my alarm wakes me up with what could very well be the beginning of a cold.

And no, they didn't.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vegan Pizza All Around!

Although we have been living in Philadelphia for several years and often have pizza without cheese, I hadn't heard about tomato pie, a Philly-area classic, until my friend Lynn wrote about it on Scissors & Spice the other day. I was of course intrigued. Imagine my surprise to then see it served at a birthday party over the weekend! Isn't it funny how that happens?

Tomato pie aside, so many pizza places now offer really good veg options, including faux meat and vegan cheese. We just got the new menu from a local pizza place, Fino's, that now has a full page dedicated to vegan food. It looks really good! I/we eat mostly vegan; cheese is really the only dairy that I have a hard time staying away from, but this should be very helpful!

Today was another unseasonably warm day here. While the girls had a school activity in Delaware County, Rasika and I ate lunch in a nearby park. We picked up a vegan stromboli at Carmen's Pizza, another great place to know about (they also have gluten-free dough). Unfortunately, we had to cut our lunch date short, as a bunch of men with rakes and leaf-blowers (seriously, about 15 of them!) arrived at the park shortly after us.

PS - I just got a new phone. I know the pictures here are blurry, but I am playing around with the camera, have patience with me!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Time sure flies, and it's been a busy couple of weeks here. We hosted Thanksgiving, with family visiting from both sides. Not too many pictures were taken, but a great time was had. Nobody seemed to mind the fake turkey, or at least everyone was polite about it. I had said I was going to make things easy and just buy frozen Tofurky, but when I realized how many we would need and how much it would cost, I gave in and made my own. There were plenty of hands to help out in the kitchen so it really wasn't a problem (and it is much tastier too!). I had a hard time finding the recipe I had used before online, but ended up finding it here on a friend's blog.

But that was then and this is now. Christmas preparations are in full effect. I think I love Christmas more and more every year. It is also the time of year that I get most homesick and sentimental. I suddenly become more Swedish than ever. (As little as hearing a Swedish Christmas song can make me cry. It is a bit ridiculous.) I want everything to be old-fashioned, because I love old-fashioned, no multicolored lights for me! (Well, we have made a compromise that we keep the multicolored lights outside the house.)

The weather has been gorgeous here lately. Today we went for a long walk up Chestnut Hill, stopping at a couple of holiday markets along the way, then came home for this cozy Advent Fika.