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A Christmas Carol (BBC)

My Christmas Carol movie marathon continues…

Christmas Carol cover 1977

You can’t go wrong with this movie adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The BBC did it in 1977 with Michael Hordern as Scrooge and he is fabulous. Mean and morose, he makes Michael Caine as Scrooge look like the benefactor of the year.

The production is rather spooky and bleak, no big special effects, just the bare story as we all know it. No lovely locations; you know, you can even make slums look picturesque if you want to, but here we are talking about black and white line drawings for setting the scene. They certainly haven’t spent a lot of money on location and decor, but instead focused on the cast.

Other than the previous two adaptations I blogged about (Muppets and Blackadder) I wouldn’t watch this one for jolly entertainment and a good time – popcorn and Coke included -, but rather for educational purposes.

A Christmas Carol at imdb.

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Dickens in December

Dickens in December is hosted by Beauty is a sleeping cat and Postcards from Asia.

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Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

Blackadder's Christmas Carol

I just love watching Christmas Carol re-tellings, especially the ones with a little twist. So what is better than a reverse one? If you know Black Adder (one of my favourite comedy series EVER) you will know already that this short movie – it is only 45 minutes – will be funny and entertaining.

Mr. Ebenezer Blackadder is a good person, charitable and giving, but after the visit of the Ghost of Christmas (delightful Robbie Coltrane alone is worth watching the film just because of his little ballerina entering dance) he decides to change his ways.

The whole Black Adder cast is present, Baldrick is the ubiquitous servant as always, and the usual suspects make an appearance, Hugh Laurie as the dozy Prince George, Stephen Fry as Lord Melchett, Miranda Richardson, Miriam Margolyes, Nursie, everybody you know and love is there.

Traditional Christmas Carol fans might be a wee bit disappointed in this rendition but for Black Adder fans this is a must see.

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Dickens in December

Dickens in December is hosted by Beauty is a sleeping cat and Postcards from Asia.

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A Holiday Card from Down Under

Holiday card and bookmarkThe holiday card from the Book Bloggers Holiday Cards Exchange arrived today. My swap partner was Jeanie from Sam still reading and she lives on the other side of the globe in Australia. How exciting!

Bookmark

I got a very cute Santa card and a handmade bookmark with an origami woman on it. I love handmade gifts, and a bookmark always comes in handy. Yes, I have seen the error of my ways and started to use bookmarks again, :). Thank you, Jeanie for a lovely gift and a great card!

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The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppets Christmas Carol

When it comes to Dickens in December for me The Muppet Christmas Carol is a must see. This is even more surprising when you know that I am not a big fan of the Muppets –actually I dislike everything animated, puppet-ish, cartoon-ish, you get the idea. Even worse, I don’t particularly like musicals either, and there is a LOT of singing in this Muppets movie.

Scrooge is played by Michael Caine and that is a definite plus. He is the perfect Scrooge and Kermit as his employee Cratchit is just as great. Gonzo, of all people, plays Charles Dickens as storyteller.
The music is pretty awesome, Waldorf and Statler as Marley and Marley do a great performance with the song “Marley and Marley”, which is one of my favourites in the movie.

The movie is fun to watch and enjoyable for adults and children alike. The only thing I don’t like are the characters of the three ghosts of Christmas, somehow they didn’t fit into the rest of the cast. But this is just a small complaint.

All in all this is a great and fun Christmas movie for the whole family.

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Dickens in December

Dickens in December is hosted by Beauty is a sleeping cat and Postcards from Asia.

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Week on the web

weekontheweb

I was looking around for strategies to survive the advent and all its busy side effects. And found Martha Stewart’s Helpful Hints: Seasonal Strategies

Some other things:

What interesting things have you found on the web recently?

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Perfect small bookish Christmas gifts

It is never too early to think about Christmas gifts. I have been on the lookout for something calendar-wise to create digitally for a while now and today I found those calendar bookmark templates.

Calendar Bookmark Templates

Use photos, quotes, patterned papers, even tiny scrapbooking pages, I can think of tons of possibilities. These are going to be such quick, fun and practical bookish Christmas gifts!

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Week on the web #13

weekontheweb

Here are my finds for this week…

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Folk art from the Ore Mountains

My 24 days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

Candle arches in windows The woodcraft items from the Ore Mountains are a very popular Christmas decoration in German homes (if we can afford it, that is). The Ore Mountains used to be an area where ore mining became the main area of work from the 15th century on. When the ore deposits ran out towards the end of the 16th century the miners used their wood carving skills that they had already used in their free time to create a new field of work for them: wooden folk art. There was wood in abundance and so carving and turning became the new industry in the Ore Mountains. First everyday items were made but by and by toy making and the creation of Christmas decoration became a major part of the product line. Pyramid
The center of the Ore Mountain folk art production is Seiffen, a village with about 2.500 inhabitants. During the advent weekends about 30.000 people visit its numerous shops that sell wood products.

The most popular decoration items are:

Pyramids (Weihnachtspyramiden)

They originally combined the traditions of using light and ever green leaves or wreaths in winter. At first green twigs were wound around four sticks with lights that were tied together at the top. Later little figurines were added and slowly the pyramid developed. Nowadays they are available in a lot of styles and some can cost quite a bit.

Candle arches (Schwibbögen)

SchwibbogenProbably the arch is supposed to symbolize the heaven arch (?). The themes of the arches are everyday activities of the miners, forest and its animals or Christian. The arches are put into the windows in the evening and create a very special atmosphere. The lights at the bottom of the arches symbolize the daylight that miners didn’t see very often. At the same time the arch in the  window showed the miners the way home in the dark.

 

Räuchermännchen

Smokers (Räuchermännchen)

The first smoker was mentioned in 1830 and today they are a Christmas staple. The can be opened, a little incense cone is put inside and the smoker is closed again. Then, the incensed smoke comes out of the smokers mouth. The style can vary a great deal. They stand up, sit at the edge of the table, are dressed in various clothes to symbolize different professions like soldier, miner or woodsman. 

Nutcrackers (Nußknacker)

Nussknacker Nutcrackers have been around in ancient times already. In the Ore Mountains people started to make them after 1800. They look like soldiers, miners, policemen or kings. They are colorful and kids especially love them. The typical Ore Mountain nutcracker is the big red one with the big mouth that is supposed to awe people.

 

 

 

 

Now, if you feel like going on a shopping spree for typical Ore Mountain folk art, you could have a look at the Erzgebirge-Palast. But be careful and watch your spending. They have some nice goodies like pyramids for over 2.800 EUR there…..

Images: Arches in windows by devilsanddust at wikipedia, pyramid by Sabine Tilgner at wikipedia, arch by Christian Heindl at flickr, Smoker by André Karwath at wikipedia, Nutcracker by Gertrud K. at flickr

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The Grinch

My 24 days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Grinch stole ChristmasI am a big Dr. Seuss fan, so it comes as no surprise that my favourite Christmas book is “How the Grinch stole Christmas”. Even though I can’t quite see how the Grinch so quickly sees the error of his ways, I suppose for a children’s book it is necessary to keep it simple.

To get into the Christmas spirit Seussville offers various activities. You will find an online coloring game for your kids where they can color in various Grinch-related images. It’s fun!

There are a lot of other projects, like making your own Grinch mask, making a door knob, games and more to pass the time until Christmas.

And if you can’t get enough of the Grinch, check out the Grinch ornaments on Wizzley.

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Quizzical Monday

 

quizzical_mondayc

It’s time for another “Quizzical Monday”!

Question:

What are the titles of two Poirot stories by Agatha Christie that are set during Christmas time? They also have the word “Christmas” in the title.

Leave a comment with your answer. Then, to see whether you got it right,  click on "Show" below.  As usual, there is nothing to be won, this is just for fun!

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Weekend cooking: Stollen

My 24 days of Christmas

Stollen In my last weekend cooking post someone mentioned "Stollen" in the comments. Reason enough for me to talk about this traditional Christmas cake a little more.

The first time Stollen was officially mentioned was in 1329 as a Christmas gift for a bishop. However, at the time, they were meant for the Christian advent fasting and therefore only consisted of water, yeast and oil. Probably not very enticing!

At the end of the 15th century the pope sent a "butter letter" which allowed to use butter for Stollen, in return people had to pay a monetary fine which was used for the construction of the Freiburg cathedral. A Saxon baker had later the idea to improve the Stollen with richer ingredients, like for example candied fruit. Dresdner Stollen label

The most famous Stollen is the "Dresdner Stollen" from the city of Dresden. Just like with "Nürnberger  Lebkuchen" "Dresdner Stollen" is a protected designation of origin. It has to contain at least 50% butter and 65% raisins (referring to the amount of flour). Stollen used to be called "Striezel" in Dresden, and this is what gave the name to the famous Christmas market in Dresden, the "Striezelmarkt". In 1730 August the Strong had a Stollen baked that weighed 1.800 kg and was divided into 24.000 pieces. This event is the origin of the annual "Stollenfest" at the Striezelmarkt.

Nowadays a lot of bakeries bake their own version of Stollen. Each tastes a little different and varies in ingredients. Some bakers add marzipan, almonds, poppy, nuts, quark, chocolate or they leave out the fruit. Instead of soaking the raisins in rum, they soak them in champagne or wine. There is no limit to the creativity of German bakers.

Now, if you would like to try to make your own Stollen, I have found a Stollen recipe online that sounds rather nice. It is a marzipan Stollen, my favourite kind. I can’t vouch for the recipe though, as I would never make a Stollen myself. Going to the next bakery and buying one is just so easy!

Images: Stollen by su-lin at flickr, label by sludgegulper at flickr.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads

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Paper snowflakes

My 24 days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

snowflakes

Are you desperate for some last minute Christmas decoration, but cannot afford to go shopping or don’t have the time? No problem, create faux paper snowflakes in no time! They are cheap and look fantastic. Once you know how to fold the paper you can easily create new flakes that always look a little different (or very different).

Some tutorisls to help you along the way:

Image by erin_everlasting at flickr.

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The Christmas tree

My 24 days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

Tree in Rothenburg o.d. TauberThe Christmas tree is another German tradition that made its way all over the world. People always decorated their homes with evergreen twigs or branches on Christmas because they symbolize health, and it has been customary to decorate whole trees for certain occasions since the middle ages (e.g. Maypole).

It is said that in Freiburg a tree was used in 1419 for the first time to be decorated with sweets, fruit and nuts that the kids could eat from it after New Year’s Day, but this cannot be proven anymore. The first official date where Christmas trees were mentioned is 1521. They stood in the homes of the rich as Christmas decoration. Christmas tree

After a while the Christmas tree became more popular in other countries in middle Europe and in 1832 the first Christmas tree was put up by a German born Harvard professor in Massachusetts. After Queen Victoria married Albert von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, the tree was introduced in London and also came to other countries like Russia, the Netherlands or Italy. 

When I was a girl we used to put up our Christmas tree only on December 24, but nowadays people put up and decorate their trees earlier and earlier. The tree normally gets taken down again on Epiphany (January 6).

Christmas treeThe most popular tree for a Christmas tree is the fir tree (especially the Caucasian fir), but people also use pine trees or spruce. Artificial trees are not that popular in Germany; nothing beats a real tree and its scent. To use tinsel to decorate the tree is an idea that was born in Nuremberg in 1878. It is supposed to symbolize glittering icicles. A lot of people decorate their trees with glass baubles and lights, but also straw stars, wooden ornaments and bows are very popular. Some people even use real candles even though I wouldn’t recommend it, especially when you have kids. Just like with the advent wreath there is no  limit as to what you can use as decoration. Homemade or bought, inexpensive or very pricey, traditional or funky colour combinations – everything goes.

 

Tree images from flickr users MightyPirate Threepwood, onnola and hombertho.

What does YOUR Christmas tree look like?

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Quizzical Monday

quizzical_mondayc

It’s time for another “Quizzical Monday”! Today my question is at the same time my “24 days of Christmas“ topic.

Question:

What are the names of Santa’s eight reindeer?

Leave a comment with your answer. Then, to see whether you got it right,  click on "Show" below.  As usual, there is nothing to be won, this is just for fun!

Answer SelectShow
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Weekend Cooking: Lebkuchen

My 24 days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been a while since my last weekend cooking post. Today I want to tell you a bit about Lebkuchen (gingerbread). As it happens I live in THE German gingerbread city. “Nürnberger Lebkuchen” are very well known, they are exported into many countrie, and the term is a protected designation of origin. We have a lot of Lebkuchen bakeries and factories in town. There are small family owned bakeries that have existed for centuries as well as big companies that produce Lebkuchen as part of their very large product line.

Lebküchner, 16th century Lebkuchen come in a large variety, different sizes and can cost from only a few cents to a few Euros a piece. They either have no frosting at all, a sugar frosting or they come covered with chocolate. At the bottom they either have a wafer or  they are also covered with chocolate. There are the “regular” Lebkuchen and the very high quality “Elisen-Lebkuchen” which are made with either very little or completely without flour. They can contain ginger, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, honey, marzipan, aniseed, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, all spice, cloves, candied orange and lemon peel and much more. The oldest written Lebkuchen recipe is from the 15th century and is stored at the Germanic National Museum in Nürnberg.

You can go on a Nuremberg gingerbread tour where you learn a lot more about those delicious little “cakes”.

If you would like to try out some Nürnberg Lebkuchen yourself, you can order them online in various shops. I was surprised at the prices that American online shops charge for them, though. You will be better off orderingLebkuchenstall directly in Germany, even considering the postage charges. Probably the most well-known shop shipping worldwide is Lebkuchen Schmidt. My company buys from them for Christmas treats, so you can trust me that their products are lovely. And they have nice tins, too. For kids the Janosch-Truhe is a lovely container to store some treasures in after eating all the Lebkuchen. All those tins come out every year, always a little different and some people collect them. 

My favourite Lebkuchen brand is Witte & Ray. They not only have the best regular Lebkuchen, they also have wonderful Elisenlebkuchen with a white chocolate icing that are absolutely yummy.

What are your favourite Christmas treats? Have you ever had Lebkuchen from Nürnberg, and if you have, did you like them?

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Images from wikipedia. Gingerbread stall by Schlurcher

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Christmas Markets

My 24 days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

German Christmas markets are very popular. Almost every town or city has one. One of the best known worldwide is the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt.

Christkindlesmarkt

This is what “Welcome to Germany” says about it:

Attracting two million visitors annually, Nuremberg Christmas market or Christkindlesmarkt is likely the most well-known outside of Germany. Its prominence lies in its traditional role as a marketplace for handcrafted wooden figurines and decorations. Early historical evidence of the market dates back to 1628.

By tradition, a teenage girl dressed as the Christmas Angel opens the Nuremberg market.(© dpa – Bildfunk)It is also known for the tradition of the Christkind or Christmas Angel, a girl dressed as an angel who opens the market on the Friday before the first advent Sunday by reciting a solemn prologue. The Christmas Angel is played by teenage girl from Nuremberg who is chosen to serve for a term of two years. In addition to appearances at the market the Christmas Angel also visits nursing homes, hospitals, kindergartens and other charitable institutions to bring Christmas cheer.

The city of Chicago has modeled its Christmas market on the Nuremberg market since 1996. The Chicago market is opened every year by the previous year’s Christmas Angel from Nuremberg.

Zum Christkindlesmarkt Christkindlesmarkt

Two weeks ago was the big opening and I went there for the first time ever, even though I have been living here for many years. Let me tell you, I know now how sardines must feel in their tin. The marketplace was so crowded you couldn’t get across. Before and during the ceremony all lights were out, so it was rather dark, only the church balcony was lighted. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the balcony because of all the stall roofs, so we could only hear what was being said. After the Christmas Angel had finished her prologue all stalls turned their lights on and we all felt blinded for a few seconds.

Old fashioned Ferris Wheel  Ornaments Horse carriage

Afterwards we went to the children’s Christmas market which is on an adjacent square. It is smaller with a few old fashioned carousels and various booths where kids can get involved in various activities, like baking cookies or dipping candles. Then there is also the market of Nuremberg’s sister cities which is my favourite. It is small and next to the main market square. It is rather cosy, but not as crowded as the main market. You can buy food specialties, traditional clothes and (Christmas) goodies from all over the world as Nuremberg has quite a few sister cities from Venice to Atlanta, from San Carlos to Shenzen.

Has your town a Christmas market? What is it like?

Images from flickr users jwpriebe, Rai Manaf and Eva Sanagustin.