12 Christmas Treats from Around the World – Part II

Last week we learned about six traditional Christmas treats from around the world, and today I’m sharing six more! There are many amazing (and delicious) Christmas traditions, hopefully this list will help you learn more about them. If you haven’t read the first part of this post you might want to go read that first.

7. El Turrón from Spain

El Turrón[Photo courtesy of “Lablascovegmenu“]

In Spain sweets are a staple at Christmas time. Whether it’s traditional cakes, marzipan, or the El turrón. El turrón is nougat made with honey and almonds. There is even an enchanting legend about how the king married a Scandinavia princess and when she came to live in Spain she missed her homeland, with all the gorgeous snow covered mountains. The king planted thousands of almond trees where she could see so that when they bloomed it would look as if it were snowing. The people then learned how to use the almonds to make many treats, including el turrón.

8. Bibingka from the Philippines

Bibingka[Photo courtesy of Roberto Verzo]

Christmas is a really big deal in the Philippines. It’s celebrated much longer than in America, all the way from September to January! During this time of celebration there are beautiful lanterns hanging everywhere, a series of Christmas masses is regularly attended, and it’s a time to help others.(link 20) The food is important as well. Coconut and rice is a staple, both of which are featured in the traditional Christmas bibingka. A cake made with rice and topped with butter, sugar, and fresh coconut.

9. Dundee Cake from Scotland

Dundee Cake[Photo courtesy of Alan Clark]

For over 400 years Christmas was abandoned in Scotland, it was first banned for 48 years due to it being seen as a catholic holiday. However, even after the ban was lifted it was still not made a national holiday until 1958. They still had their winter holidays though, most popular being Hogmanay. One of their beloved holiday dishes is Dundee cake, Scotland’s version of fruit cake. Dundee cake is made with marmalade, dried fruits, and almonds. Dundee cake is so important to Scotland that they’re bidding to make the label “Dundee cake” exclusive, so that no one else in Europe may sell it. It’s a legend that the first Dundee cake was made for Mary Queen of Scots, however the first time the cake was mass produced was by a Dundee marmalade maker in the late 1700’s.

10. Bolo Rei from Portugal

Bolo Rei[Photo courtesy of “Alberto….“]

As in many countries traditional Christmas food is very important in Portugal. One of these important dishes is the bolo rei, translated as king cake. While both made with a sweet bread bolo rei is very different than the Mari Gras king cake, which is often filled with cream cheese and a jam then topped with sprinkles. This Portuguese king cake is both filled and topped with candied fruits, as well as nuts and port wine. Along with the bolo rei there is also bolo rainha, also known as queen cake. Bolo rainha differs from bolo rei by excluding candied fruit and having a much larger amount of nuts. Bolo rei remains the more popular and traditional of the two, however they are both much loved.

11. Melomakarona from Greece

Melomakarona [Photo courtesy of Christina Milioni]

Walking around a town in Greece at Christmas time you’ll see bright lights, bells, and decorated boats, as a reminder of Saint Nicolas, who is believed to protect sailors. You’ll also often find children caroling and a variety of cultural events, such as musical and theatrical performances. Kourabiedes, Vasilopita, and baklava are all popular at Christmas time, as well as melmakarona. Melmakarona are cookies that among other ingredients contain olive oil, orange juice, honey, and spices. After baked you soak them in a honey and spice syrup and then proceed to roll them in spiced walnuts. Not only is this Grecian staple delicious and unique, but they can also be stored for up to a month in the fridge! If you’re looking for a delicious and unique cookie for your holidays this may just be the right cookie for you.

12. Roomboter Banketstaaf from The Netherlands

Almond pastry[Photo courtesy of Ruth Hartnup]

For the Dutch Christmas starts mid-November when Sinterklaas and his helpers, Zwarte Piet arrive. Every year he arrives by boat from Spain and lands in a different Dutch city. However, Sinterklaas is not the same as Santa Claus. On December 5th they hold a feast in honor of Sinterklaas, Saint Nicolas. For the Dutch Sinterklaas is seen as a much more elegant and witty character than Santa Claus. After the feast on December 5th Christmas is in full bloom with fairy lights decorating the towns. When Christmas comes around only about 50% of the families give gifts, however the number is slowly rising, along with the more American tradition of Santa Claus. There are two days of Christmas, both December 25th and 26th; both of which are spent with family, good food, caroling, watching TV, and telling stories. One of the traditional sweet treats is banketstaaf, a buttery and flaky pastry filled with a mixture of almond paste, sugar, butter, egg, and almond extract. You couldn’t go wrong of these at any time of the day paired with a hot chocolate and freshly whipped cream.

Thank you for joining me in learning about these twelve countries and their traditions! Do you have a Christmas tradition that’s special to you?

12 Christmas Treats from Around the World – Part I


It’s officially the holiday season! We’ve celebrated Halloween, and now Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching! It’s time to start decorating, planning, and stocking up on gifts for loved ones. Why not mix up the festivities this year and incorporate something new? Countries all over the globe have wondrous Christmas traditions of their own, from their own versions of Santa Claus to unique and delicious sweets. Why not add some of these delicious dishes to your own table this holiday? It’s never too late, or early, to start a new holiday tradition.

1. Pavlova from New Zealand

Pavlova[Photo courtesy of Kimberly Vardeman]

Being located in Oceania Christmas in New Zealand, as well as in Australia, ends up being in the summer time. Christmas barbecues have become more popular, as well as cold treats. One of the most traditional being pavlova, a delicious dessert made out of meringue, whipped cream, and fresh fruits and berries. You can never go wrong serving a pavlova, with the crispy crust and soft marshmallow-like interior, sweet and fluffy whipped cream, and a wide range of toppings it’s a delectable option with a recipe to please almost everyone. If you can still find high-quality summer fruits at Christmas time there are many recipes for a traditional pavlova, however there are also recipes that don’t require fruit and are still just as delicious, such as this chocolate hazelnut pavlova.

2. Pepparkakor from Sweden

Pepparkakor[Photo courtesy of Erik Forsberg]

It’s no secret that Swedes love their sweets. Whether it’s for their twice daily fika (a special coffee break meant to savor and enjoy the moment) or holidays, you can usually find a sweet around. One of their most popular Christmas time sweet treats is pepparkakor, a thin gingersnap filled with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and pepper. You can often find them cut into circles with flute edges, hearts, men and women, or cute little pigs. Oftentimes at Christmas time pepparkakor is served with a spiced wine, known as glögg. It’s also often used to decorate their Christmas trees.

3. Christmas Cake from England

English Christmas Cake[Photo courtesy of Simon Doggett]

If you’re wanting something a little more familiar, yet new to you, an English Christmas cake is a wonderful option. Filled with dried fruits, nuts, and doused in spirits it’s similar to an American fruit cake, however much more beloved. You can go for a basic recipe, or one covered in marzipan and decorated for the season. Even panda bears love a good Christmas cake, albeit a much more healthy version!

4. Cola De Mono from Chile

Espresso[Photo courtesy of Scott Schiller]

Along with New Zealand Chile also celebrates Christmas in the middle of summer. Often Christmas Eve includes families gathering, mass, and the holiday dinner. Christmas day families will go rock climbing, surfing, and try their hand at other sports. With it being summer cola de mono is the perfect drink, as it can be served both hot or cold. Not much history is known on cola de mono, translated as “monkey’s tail”; However it’s a traditional Christmas drink similar to eggnog, but with coffee added. If you’re a coffee addict wanting a creamy cocktail, this will be for you!

5. Stollen from Germany

Christmas Stollen[Photo courtesy of “Whitney In Chicago“]

Many of the Christmas traditions we know and love today are adapted from other countries, including Germany. Even the name Kris Kringle was adapted from the German “Christkindl”! One of Germany’s traditional Christmas baked goods is the Christstollen, or stollen. A delicious slightly sweet yeast bread filled with dried fruit, almonds, and rum. An early version originates back to the 1400’s, and was made to resemble baby Jesus wrapped in a cloth. The original version didn’t have butter, spices, or fruits, due to a ban on these ingredients. Thankfully the ban was eventually lifted and stollen turned into a delicious treat. The perfect Christmas morning breakfast, especially if served with hot chocolate.

6. Ris à L’Amande from Denmark

Rice Pudding[Photo courtesy of “Learning Lark“]

If you picture an idyllic Christmas, complete with a fireplace, warm food, and snow this is what Christmas is generally like in Scandinavia. In Denmark there are several popular rice dishes, risengrød is a popular warm rice pudding, and ris à l’amande is a cold rice pudding topped with vanilla, almonds, whipped cream,and a warm cherry sauce. It’s traditional to add a peeled almond in the middle of one bowl. Whoever finds the almond is considered lucky and receives a present!

Thank you for joining me to learn more about these six countries and their Christmas traditions. Join me next Wednesday to see part two! Do you have a favorite traditional Christmas treat?

Beautiful Magical Words

love-pen-bed-drinkingWords are a beautiful, magical, substance. They may be flat blobs of ink or pixels, scattered around a page or screen, but they have depth. Words can have impact on our heart and soul. When we feel lost listening to a meaningful song can make us feel less alone. When we’re in depths of pain a quote can bring hope. When life is too much our favorite book is there to embrace us. Reading an old letter from a dear friend can remind us of the love that surrounds us in the midst of darkness. When we feel as if all hope is lost the Lord’s word can inspire us.

We can also use this beautiful magic to release what is in our hearts, words we are too afraid to speak aloud. When we feel full to the brim with confusion and anxiety with a pen and paper we can release our thoughts and come to better understand our hearts. Amidst smiles and tears we can madly type out a vivid world that may be fictitious but crafted with our hands and strands of reality.

The power of words is great, whether used for good or evil. I long to continuously learn to use them better. To be more kind, to inspire, to create, to connect, to learn, and to discover.

Fur, Feathers, & Quills

This week has introduced some rather spectacular changes in my life. One week ago Hannah informed me and Caroline that she was giving us a joint birthday/Christmas present. When she told me what it is I was shocked, terribly excited and happy, but shocked. I couldn’t really believe it until I was holding it in my hands Monday afternoon. That gift? A baby hedgehog. 

Meet Dame Thimbetack of River Shribble; or just Thimbletack, or Thimble. She’s twelve weeks old and the sweetest little snuggle-bug. The breeder did an excellent job with keeping her and the rest of the litter healthy and socialized. Oftentimes when you meet a new hedgehog they’ll be grumpy because they’re unsure of new people and because they’re nocturnal and want more sleep. However, when we met up with the breeder and Thimble and her two brothers, despite it being the middle of the day they were friendly and running up our shoulders wanting to play and cuddle. 

Since then almost all my thoughts have been on my little darling. I even started a pet blog, Fur, Feathers, & Quills. I’ve wanted to start a pet blog for quite awhile now, I’m terribly passionate about animals and have been wanting to share my knowledge about them, so this was the perfect opportunity to start that. I hope to use it to share both the love of animals with others who are passionate about them, and to also spread more knowledge and awareness about animal care. Of course all of that will come with plenty of cute pictures and stories of Thimble and future pets.

I love my little Thimble dearly. She’s a little sweetheart. She’ll just spend hours cuddling with me and Caroline, but she also has an amusing little attitude at times. I’ve loved spending the past few days with her, and I’m so thankful to have her in my life. If you want to follow little Thimble on social media you can do so at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr. You can also follow Fur, Feathers, & Quills on Blog Lovin’ or via RSS.

I look forward to sharing mine and Thimbletack’s adventures with you in the future, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with her as well.

Do Something That Scares You

Du se inte? Jag får inte. - Don't you see? I can't.

Du se inte? Jag får inte. – Don’t you see? I can’t.

When I was little I hated trying anything new. I was always too worried about failure to even try. My mom would encourage me to try without pushing my limits, and because of that I’d slowly come around. Two of the things I love, art and cooking, I was absolutely against trying when I was little. Yet now they are my passions. I still remember the shock on my grandmother’s face when I said I wanted a cookbook for Christmas when I was nine. 

All too often we let our fear get the best of us. We let the fear keep us from even trying something. This is something I’m still working to overcome. I started vlogging because it terrified me, and now it’s a lot of fun. For many years I’ve wanted to learn another language, but I always put it off. Whenever I would think about it, or even begin to attempt to learn, I would remember how much I hated speech therapy. I have auditory processing disorder, which means my brain does not process sounds properly. Due to this I had to go to speech therapy to help me learn how to properly pronounce and spell words since I couldn’t properly “hear” them. While it was something very important and I’m thankful I had the opportunity, it was something very discouraging. 

Due to my past with speech therapy I would tell myself that I couldn’t learn another language–I had a difficult enough time with English! That I wouldn’t be able to learn the subtleties of different sounds. That I wouldn’t be able to pronounce the words. That if I tried speaking with a native speaker I would just embarrass myself. I let my fear get in the way for many years. However, when I recently read a Swedish book about fika I realized I wanted to learn Swedish. I decided not to let my fear get in the way of me this time. It might not be the most common of languages, but it’s something I’ve been excited about for months now, and the excitement keeps growing.

kärlek kan tina en frusen själ

Kärlek kan tina en frusen själ – Love can thaw a frozen heart.

I make mistakes, but instead of letting them control me I’m trying to use them to help me improve. The other day I made a mistake in a phrase on Tumblr. I felt terrible about it all day, especially since other people had reblogged it so I couldn’t correct the mistake everywhere, only on my personal Tumblr page. However, I went and researched how I made the mistake and how to properly phrase what I was saying, and after that and correcting myself I was able to let go of the anxiety.

I may still only be in the early stages of learning Swedish, but it’s already worth it! Not only did I find something else I’m passionate about, but I’ve made progress in overcoming my fear. 

What is a fear you want to overcome?