In a Vase on Monday: Christmas Eve

A dried up branch was spotted and retrieved from the floor of the woods some time ago and carefully tucked away in a corner of the garage. Then yesterday I brought it indoors, stuck it in a vase with some brown paper to keep it upright, added some greenery and then started unpacking my little baubles and bits and pieces to decorate it. Such a pleasing and relaxing activity, and satisfying too. My favourite little tree decorations have been collected mostly from Christmas markets over the years since living here – this will be my 25th Bavarian Christmas – and each bring back memories as I unwrap them from their tissue paper.

The standing angel was given to me by a student many years ago, the vase itself a gift from my Man of Many Talents when we still lived in a flat in the town centre! My goodness, that seems like a lifetime ago! We had a ten metre long balcony that overflowed with flowers and tomatoes each summer!

The red fairy was a gift from my sister, while the pretzel decoration was found on the Christmas market in Regensburg fairly recently. And the tiny little green Christmas tree bauble and the little green house bauble were bought with my Mum when she visited one Christmas – we visited so many markets over the years that she flew over in December!

Christmas is always full of memories for me, and I try and make new ones each year. This will be our first Christmas in the new house, where we seem to have settled permanently now. But my thoughts are already streaming ahead to next year and all the plans I have for the garden…

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful new gardening year! Thank you for reading, liking and commenting throughout 2018. And special thanks go to Cathy who has tirelessly hosted this Monday vase meme for another year.

 

A Visit to the Christmas Markets

I mentioned Christmas markets in some comments last week and several people asked me to share some photos. I do find it hard to take photos that capture the atmosphere, but here are a few snapshots.

All over Germany the Christmas markets open throughout Advent attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Some are spectacular, nestled into candlelit hillsides or in the parks of great houses and castles. Some are world-famous, like Nuremburg with the angel (Christkind) opening it in an age-old ceremony. Others are simpler, offering just the traditional well-known specialities and crafts. Whichever type you visit, you will be caught up by the magic of a Christmas tradition going back centuries. Surrounded by the soft babble and chatter of other visitors, the smell of fried food and cinnamon sweets, the glitter of decorations for sale, and the cheerful faces around you, it is hard not to smile or be a little frivolous, splashing out on an extravagant candle, a glass of punch, a bag of roasted almonds or a huge jam-filled steamed dumpling covered in vanilla sauce!

I visited two markets this year – first of all Ingolstadt, which is about an hour’s drive north of Munich.

With the New Castle in the background, a sprinkling of snow, and good company, the market has all you can wish for… the traditional wooden decorations and crib figures, food and drink, jewellery, warm socks, cookie cutters, candles, more food, more drink, more decorations ….!

This man has been selling his wares on this market here for at least the past 25 years.

A smaller area nearby offered a quieter repose for another glass of punch (non-alcoholic, I assure you!) and a chat with my friends. But it was very cold that day, with a north wind.

Some of the stall-holders looked frozen to the bone, despite being well wrapped up…

On another day last week I took myself off to Regensburg, a beautiful city on the Danube, and not far from the Bavarian Forest. I always walk over to the old stone bridge if I visit, and the River Danube looked particlularly cold (but blue!) on this occasion…

Despite some bright sunshine it was a chilly day again, but the markets are so enticing and I did all my Christmas shopping there. Take a stroll with me around the markets in Regensburg and see the traditional goods they offer. (Click on any image for a slideshow…)

 

The markets take on a different atmosphere at night, which I have never managed to capture in photos as there are always SO many people and it is hard to move! The thing I love about them most of all is the cheer and friendliness which is definitely lacking in the shopping centres and supermarkets at this time of year. And the food of course. This year I had my favourite warm snack – potato noodles with sauerkraut – as well as some roasted chestnuts, roasted almonds and pumpkin seeds and some delicious non-alcoholic fruit punch. It was nice to go into a cafe afterwards to warm up properly though! 😉

What is your favourite tradition in the run-up to Christmas?

 

 

Blueberry Pull-Apart Bread (Vegan)

After a few months with no food appearing on this blog I think it is time I share this amazing recipe with you. And just in time for Easter!

Sweet breads are popular here at any time of year, but especially around Eastertime, and this one beats cake as far as I am concerned. (Yes, it’s that good! 😉 )

You will need a 30 cm/12 inch loaf pan and, for the dough:

  • 500 g (4 cups) strong (bread) flour
  • 1 packet (1 tbsp) of instant yeast
  • 45 g (4 tbsps) sugar
  • 125 g (1 stick) margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 250 ml (1 cup) soya milk, warmed
  • pinch of salt

… and for the filling:

  • 75 g margarine (2/3 stick), melted (and a little extra for greasing your pan)
  • 125 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 200 g (2 cups) blueberries (I used frozen)

 Sift flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and all the warmed soya milk and mix a little of the flour into the well. Leave to stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Now go back to your dough and add the rest of the sugar, the pinch of salt and the margarine. Now comes the fun part – mix with your hands until it all comes together into a nice soft dough. On a floured surface knead it for about 5 minutes. Then place in a clean bowl, cover, and leave it to rise in a warm spot for an hour or so.

In the meantime, scrape the seeds out of your vanilla bean and mix them with the 125 g sugar, grease your pan well, melt your margarine, and pre-heat your oven to 180°C/350°F.

When your dough has risen, punch it to release some of the air and then roll it out to about 40 x 35 cm (16 x 14 inches). Brush with almost all of the melted margarine. Sprinkle all but 2 tablespoons of the vanilla sugar evenly on top. Now cut into 8 x 10 cm (3 x 4 inch) squares and stack 4 or 5 of them at a time to make it easier to put them into your pan. Press a few blueberries in between each layer as you go, and then squash the layers up nicely in the pan. Finally, brush with the remaining margarine and sprinkle over the last of the vanilla sugar.

Bake for about 45 minutes. If it starts turning too brown during the end of the cooking time, cover with a bit of foil.

Leave to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before easing out and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

My tip: this tastes wonderful served still slightly warm. 😉 Oh yummy!

I hope this has inspired you! Go on, try it!

Will you be baking anything for Easter?

In a Vase on Monday: Lemon Star

When I walked into my dining room this morning I knew something was not quite right. It was only later, while having breakfast, that I noticed that the first of my Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) to flower this winter was bent over at a dangerous angle threatening to uproot the bulb and put the second bud at risk. So I cut it immediately and put it in a tall vase. Then I realised it is not only Boxing Day, but also Monday – serendipity! I have a vase to share with you after all!

‘Lemon Star’

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A neighbour gave me this bunch of red Amaryllis which are also lovely and cheerful on my windowsill.

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Do take a look at some of the other festive vases posted for Cathy’s meme on Rambling in the Garden.

🙂

A Very Happy Christmas!

The beautiful countryside around us has been shrouded in thick fog and covered in layer upon layer of frost for most of December. When I heard the lovely carol “In the bleak mid-winter” the other day I found it quite apt to describe our surroundings here – the earth is hard as iron (although it has thawed a little in places in the last 24 hours) and the water in the bird bath is hard as stone again. But no snow still. (Sigh)

So I’m afraid I cannot post any pretty photos of frost covered pine trees, glittering in the sun with a blue sky beyond…. but I can offer a glimpse of our black and white world instead.

frosty22nd

And I can wish you all a very Happy Christmas too!

I hope you have the opportunity to relax over the holidays, spend time with loved ones, read a good book or just chill out in front of a warm fireplace with a hot mug of tea…

frost22nd

Many warm wishes to you all!

😀