Wednesday, November 26, 2014

twenty-four little surprises

Every year my children look forward to their Advent calendar. But why should the fun just be for little ones?
So this year, we decided that they should make Advent calendars for their grandparents!

Since my parents live an ocean away, we have already finished their calendar and it will hopefully be arriving in their mailbox in the next few days.
My daughter and I cut out 24 stars and she numbered them all in her pretty handwriting. It would ruin the surprises if I gave away all the gifts but I will share that some of them are little messages. We searched for lovely Christmas quotes and the children copied them in their best writing.
I think in the age of e-mails and instant messages, there is something deeply precious and personal about a handwritten note.
I love crafting and wrapping gifts and am glad my kids do too!  A pot of spiced tea and scented candles made the "it's-not-quite-Christmas-time-yet" atmosphere more festive and cozy.
We added gold to the edges of the stars and attached them to the gifts with double-sided tape.

When the calendar arrives, my parents have the assignment of finding a pretty tray or bowl in which to display their 24 little packages. Of course they also have to be sure to open their gift every day!
This weekend we will make another calendar for my husband's parents. It will look different and I promise to share it here!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Fall is the best

Love love love fall!
I've noticed so many bloggers feel the same.
This vibrant season is so alive and stimulating to all the senses.
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower".
-Albert Camus

(If you think about it - that's a lot of flowers!)
I love walking through the crunchy leaves.
I delay sweeping and raking a tiny bit - not because I am lazy - but because the ground just looks so beautiful.
My children love carving their jack-o-lanterns.
Life is an adventure!
We enjoyed a lovely fall break on Lake Zurich and in the Black Forest and Alsace, forest and mountain hiking, eating well, city shopping, discovering, reconnecting, hanging out with friends and family. We visited rushing waterfalls, an adorable waffle cafe, and a farm with a huge selection of pumpkins and apples.
Our family spent a few nights in a very small apartment and honesty, we got on each other's nerves. At certain moments I vowed this would be the last family vacation with teenagers, but in the end, everyone agreed we all had fun! I think we all felt incredibly re-energized when we got back home.
So much harvest produce and fabulous pumpkin carving art at this Swiss farm!
Sunshine and mountain air and pretty Swiss flags everywhere.
Life is back to normal and the skies have turned gray and rainy but that is fine with me. I am happy to be in my cozy studio making, sewing, crafting, dreaming! 
Happy November!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Crumble Cake

This crumble is more of a cake with a crumble topping but whatever you want to call it, it is delicious and not at all hard to make.
My daughter was super sweet and helped me bake this. She took over the apple-peeling step and artfully layered the apples slices on the cake in a beautiful spiral before we sprinkled the crumble on top.
We enjoyed a slice (or two, possibly!) with a cup of hot milk-coffee in a favorite mug after a lovely fall forest hike. With a pretty magazine to dream over and a curious kitten poking his hungry little nose as close as he dared to get this was a perfect little snack on a Sunday afternoon.
Apple Crumble Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
225 g cold butter cut into small pieces
1 t vanilla extract
dash of salt
1 egg
1 cup slivered or flaked almonds
800 g apples (we used Belle de Boskoop, a tart apple good for cooking)
juice of half a lemon
lemon zest
1 t cinnamon (or more according to your taste!)
1 T powdered sugar
margarine or butter for the tarte form (26 cm diameter)

1. Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl with the kneading attachment of your mixer: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, salt, egg and almonds. Once the dough is slightly combined, use your hands to produce a course crumble.

2. Grease the tarte form. Pour in half of the crumble mixture and press down firmly with your hands.

3. Peel and quarter the apples, removing the stems and seeds, and cut the quarters into slices. Distribute the slices evenly over the prepared cake layer and sprinkle with lemon juice.

4. Mix the lemon zest and cinnamon into the remaining crumble mixture and then sprinkle over the apples. Bake at 200°C (400° F) convection setting ( for about 50 minutes on the middle rack. You may need to cover with aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.

5. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Dust with the powdered sugar and enjoy the plain or with vanilla ice-cream.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup

Today I have a sweet, spicy and vibrant soup to warm you on a cool autumn day! With a few small substitutions which I include in the recipe, you can make this with dairy products or completely vegan.
Ginger & Sweet Potato Soup

(serves four)

1 onion
500 g sweet potatoes (approx. 2)
250 g carrots (approx. 4)
20 g fresh ginger root, or more to taste (about a one-inch piece)
50 g butter or margarine or 2 T oil
300 ml apple juice
1 liter vegetable broth
fresh chives
40 g almond flakes
150 g cream or soy cream
2-3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

1. Dice the onions. Peel and wash the sweet potatoes and carrots and slice. Peel the ginger and chop finely. Heat the fat in a pot and saute the onions until translucent. Add the chopped vegetables and ginger and saute for a few minutes. Add the broth and apple sauce and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.

2. Wash and chop the chives for the garnish, set aside. Roast the almond flakes in a pan without any fat until golden brown.

3. Puree the soup (I like to use an immersion blender), then stir in the cream and the lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne. Serve with a garnish of chives and roasted almond flakes.