Christmas is…

or how I found Santa, his elves, ALL his decoration,lights & more……

sitting here on my couch in Vancouver with the sun slowly setting on the last day of the year, it feels like I had just been dropped of by Rudolph with his shiny nose. I’m not entirely sure if the last month actually happened or if it was one long glittery dream and my mind is playing tricks on me. Yet, I can actually recite the lyrics and hum the tunes of more Christmas carols than I was ever able to as well as knowing the answers to questions, that were definitely not in my “repertoire”, e.g. the name of James Stewart’s guardian angle in the film ‘It’s a wonderful life’!

Maybe it is not that important to label or tell what factually happened (nobody wants to write or read that – least me!). However, what I do feel compelled to share is my tale of how I became witness and part of some true Christmas spirit moments.

Put on the kettle, snuggle up on the sofa with your favorite blanket…
As once upon a time, in a far away land – in the UK to be specific – a young Canadian and Swiss (both very pretty 🙂 became friends while singing for a small amateur opera company in North London. Little did they know that ten years down the line, after having lost contact for over a decade, they would re-connect on Vancouver Island where the talented Canadian had created a Christmas Spectacular. A show where professional singers and dancers entrance the audience with music from a wide variety of genres (musical, country, pop, jazz, etc.) accompanied by a versatile small band with more costume changes that you can count! The program is interwoven with humorous readings, a Christmas quiz and of course, an audience carol sing-along 🙂

So, how is this different to any other show? you might ask…well, imagine this:
a community hall outside a 80’000 soul city, on a Monday morning early in December. Trucks with horse trailers in tow have just pulled up. About 30 Santa Carpenters and Elves (all friends and family) get busy with unloading trees, wreathes, sleighs, wooden market stand, ribbons, bows, curtains and lights…and then more lights…within a day the hall becomes the most charming Christmas Wonderland, where rehearsals happen alongside the fork lift beeping, hammering, chatter, children running around and over a pic-nic lunch the latest stories are exchanged.

And then…finally, everything is ready (or almost 😉 and 250 people get transported each show to another world when entering this now magical place, greeted warmly by Santa’s helpers. You discover the little market area where Santa stands with some of his deer and getting engulfed by the smell of the mince pies and punch, while Bing Crosby is dreaming about a white Christmas in the background. The Christmas decoration and all the lights let you go back into your own childhood, when you couldn’t wait to discover that one present underneath the tree that had your name on it.

I had the honor of being the stage & light elf (my elf name: Sparkle Garland), and I was charmed by every single performance by the artists, a crew colleague, a volunteer or a member of the audience – or all of the above 🙂 I watched young and old having a fabulous time, creating an atmosphere you want to be in on a daily basis. The generosity of heart, support, humor, passion, professionalism, team spirit, countless hours of work by everyone who was involved left me with a smile I just couldn’t shake off. That was when I realized and got the distinct feeling that this is what Christmas IS all about…

Thank you and congratulations to Katy, who created with her family (Dave, Annette, Peter, Tim) including their beautiful young sons (Nicholas & Matthew) a Christmas experience we all want to be part of…

P.S.
if you want to sign up as a Magic Sponsor, Christmas Carpenter or Special Elf, go to: http://www.yellowpointchristmasspectacular.ca/ and drop Katy a line!

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Recipes that deliver

…the spooky, yet heart-warming Halloween feeling!
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from The Witch’s Handbook (M. Bird)

Pumpkin Soup
(this is so easy, yet what you definitely need is a good knife or an ax – that’s right – not to scare some kids off, but to tackle the pumpkin)

1x pumpkin (preferably eatable – except you want to get rid of your guests)
1x onion (red or yellow – Europeans, you might need 2, as the sizes here do differ)
– vegetable broth (ideally without glutamate, yeast or sugar) depending on the amount of pumpkin
– cream (NOT sweetened or other funny business)
Optional: 3-4 carrots, ginger, chili-pepper

Get a big enough pan, delegate the pumpkin peeling, cutting, de-seeding to someone strong & willing 🙂 you can peel & cut the onion in the meantime (trust me you will prefer the few tears to the fight with the pumpkin).

Fry the thinly cut onion in some oil first, then add the pumpkin chunks, stir/fry for some minutes, before “extinguishing” with the vegetable broth. Add the optional ingredients if you want. Let it all cook on low heat, until you can squash the pumpkin with the ladle easily (takes approx. 1 hour maybe?). Take off the heat, let it cool down a little and either use a blender or hand held mixer pole to liquidize.

Heat it up again, add as much cream as you like and serve with roasted pumpkin seeds and/or add some pumpkin seed oil – Done.

Note: make sure you invite enough guests, or freeze the rest, or don’t add any spices and use the pure pumpkin mush as baby food.

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Apple Sauce
(also very easy – one of my FAVORITES)

1kg of apples (or 4 giant apples like they sell them here, see picture below)
Important: the type has to be good for cooking (hard, acidic etc.), forget about sweet types or Granny Smith – terrible
Fresh lemon juice (from real lemons, squeezed by yourself)
Lots of cinnamon & some vanilla sugar or extract
Optional: fresh cranberries, fresh ginger, Cardamom

Take a big enough pan, put approx. 2 cm of water in it. Cut the apples in medium-sized chunks (you can peel them if you prefer or the apples are “waxed” – Europeans, you are lucky there, as they don’t want to make the apples look shiny). Drizzle some lime juice over the apple pieces to prevent that they turn brown. Add the cinnamon and vanilla as well as any other optional items you like.

Cover the pan, let it cook/simmer (approx. 1 hour maybe?) until you can squash the apples easily with the ladle. That’s for me where it’s done, you might prefer to put it into the blender or take a hand mixer to it, or put it through a strainer…feel free.

Note: you can make a big quantity and keep it in the fridge pretty much for forever, or freeze it or again – don’t add any spices and use it as baby food.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away!

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Have some fun with your buffet food!
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from The Witch’s Handbook (M. Bird)

Recipes that deliver

happiness, connection, love, peace, light, strength, freedom ~ all in one…

 

Of course, they come from my stories or have been introduced to me here in Vancouver. Even if you have no baking or cooking background – I promise you will succeed with these!

BROWNIES 
(from my story with Abigail Patmore my stove & oven)

150g butter (non-salted, soft, i.e. take out of the fridge early)
250g sugar (white)
3   eggs (from happy hens not cold, i.e. take out of the fridge early)
150g dark chocolate (naturally, ideally from Switzerland)
150g flour (if you have the funds, get unbleached, organic
-> be prepared for the price shock that will hit you)
1  tip of a knife backing powder
1  pinch of salt
1  teaspoon vanilla sugar or the equivalent of vanilla extract
(please not the fake stuff)

Put the oven on and preheat for 180d Celsius or 375d Fahrenheit, check that you have a oven tin/tray and prepare/line it with baking paper.

Set the chocolate in a “bain-marie” (one small pot with the broken chocolate placed into a bigger pot with approx. 2cm of water in it), and melt it on medium stove temperature.

bain-marie

While the chocolate is melting, mix butter, sugar and eggs well (I suggest with a mixer – otherwise it will turn into quite an arm muscle exercise) until it is “fluffy” and lighter in color than at the beginning.

Add the melted chocolate and the rest (flour, backing powder, salt, vanilla) and stir with a ladle (not with the mixer) to form a smooth, sticky dough.

Put the dough on the prepared baking tin and place in your by now heated oven. Set the alarm for 15-20 minutes. Rule of thumb, rather take them out a little early that they don’t turn into dust brownies…

p.s. you can add nuts of course

 

MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT
(no oven needed – less ingredients than this, doesn’t exist)

3 eggs (very fresh & even happier hens than before)
100g dark, excellent chocolate

Melt the chocolate as explained above in a bain-marie.

Separate your happy eggs, the yolks in one, the egg whites into another bowls. If you don’t know how to do this properly – you find instructions on You Tube or just take a tea sieve 🙂

Mix the melted chocolate with the yolks by using a whisk, i.e. do it manually.

Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them to a stiff snow with the hand mixer (otherwise, you will be there for hours). To check if ready: turn your bowl upside down – if it stays – well done.

Fold the egg snow under the chocolate mixture. Note: under no circumstances use a whisk or mixer for this! Use a hard plastic spatula and in a what seems painstaking slow motion, FOLD…until it becomes a light, still fluffy, not too liquid, even mixture.

Fill into 4 glasses, cover with cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

p.s. it is excellent with freshly (unsweetened, real) whipped cream

p.p.s. the dinner the precedes this dessert should be light in nature

ENJOY!
and notice how all those positive emotions start to kick-in 🙂

Apologies for everyone who measures in cups, ounces etc…there will be more where I will balance it out – promise!