Archive for the ‘Scandinavia’ Category

Here is a priority recipe again this season:

This is a picture from when I made Santa Lucia Crown bread for the first time last year. Santa Lucia Day is December 13th, but I thought I’d better post this now, and give you some time to prepare to make this. I don’t know how authentic or traditional this recipe is, but it tastes delicous! It is from a 1970-something Betty Crocker Cookbook, which I can’t seem to find for sale online anywhere. Lucky for me, my mom has  a copy.

My bread turned out a bit less “stacked” than the picture in the cookbook, but we enjoyed it anyway. Do give it a try, and tell me what you think!


Saint Lucia Crown recipe (a yeast bread)

Dissolve 2 packages active dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Stir into 1/2 cup lukwarm milk (scalded then cooled), a pinch of saffron (crushed). Mix milk with 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup butter (softened), and 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped citron, 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds, 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel, and enough flour to make dough easy to handle (2-3 cups all-purpose flour).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to grease all sides, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled – 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down and cut off 1/3 of dough for top braid – reserve.

Divide remaining dough into 3 equal parts; roll each part into a strand 25″ long. Place close together on a greased baking sheet, and braid. Shape into a cirlce and pinch ends to seal.

Divide resered dough into 3 equal parts, and roll each into a strand 16″ long. Braid as before, shape into a circle and pinch ends to seal. Cover and let rise until double, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375* F., and bake both braids 20-25 minutes. When cool, make holes for 6 candles in the small braid. Drizzle braids with icing, and garnish the small one with green and red candied cherries. Insert candles, then place small braid on top of large braid.

Beautiful, yes?

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I liked this because it is a different way to say the same thing as all those tired old “Welcome” cross-stitch pictures.


A gift from daughter to mother –

She looked at the picture she held, done in finest embroidery of colored threads on white linen – a perfect reproduction of the window – sixteen panes in each of the casements. There was the deep sill and on it two tall tapers burning, on each candle a trace of wick melting into a shapely, pointed red flame surrounded by yellow, and around each flame an aura of yellow and green and mauve.

In neat letters of script, below the sill, Sigrid read,

Jul ute, Jul inne,

Julefrid i hjarta och i sinne.”

The “J’s” were sewn in red, and the little letters in dark blue thread.

“Yes,” she said, “we have Yuletide out and Yuletide in, and peace in both our hearts and minds.”

– from April Snow  (a novel), by Lillian Budd

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“Here it is beautiful in autumn!” said the little girl, and the atmosphere seemed twice as high and blue, while the wood shone with crimson, green, and gold. The hounds were running off, flocks of wild fowl flew screaming over the barrows, while the bramble bushes twined round the old stones. The dark-blue sea was covered with white-sailed ships, and in the barns sat old women, girls, and children picking hops into a large tub; the young ones sang songs, and the old people told fairy tales about goblins and sorcerers. It could not be more pleasant anywhere.

-from “The Elder-Tree Mother,” by Hans Christian Anderson

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My tomatillos this year have been cause for amazement.

I started a few seeds in cups, to be transplanted whenever the weather got warm enough. They were 8 or 10 weeks old, at least, by the time Spring came, and the soil began to warm up. I waited two more weeks to set them out, waiting to be sure that the weather was going to hold, and also, waiting for a day on which the wind wouldn’t knock them flat the moment I set them in the ground.

They lived in the wind-damaged green house during those last two weeks, getting flooded by unseasonalbe rains, and broiled by afternoon sun, which came like a weight through a hole in the roof. Out of the five or six I originally planted, only three survived.

Carefully, I set these three in the garden soil, and placed miniature windbreaks around them, made of plastic cartons, bricks, and broken stone tiles.

Within an hour, one plant of the three had disappeared. Utterly. Without a trace. There was no sign of a cutworm. No sign of a maraudinng chicken. No sign of a careless cat.

No sign at all of my little tomatillo.

My mother and I immediately asked the Eternal what happened to the plant.

Now, before I tell you what He said, I will need to digress, and tell you a fragment of a different story.

Here it is, straight from an e-mail to a friend. Back this spring, I wrote this to him:

My sister Christa and I had a breakthrough while praying over Billy about ten days ago. She got a good idea of some of the challenges we’ve faced with him, during her two week stay in this area, and agreed there was a definite spiritual problem. We prayed over this and that, such-and-such a behavior or challenge, and finally, in a flash, I knew he was being spoken to on a regular basis by a demon titled The Spirit of [our home town]. This was not surprising, only it had never come into focus before. This spirit seems to be responsible for the intangible, dark quality which has hung over the town since time immemorial, and, in fact, I saw like a map many of the communication pathways he has with other spirits…there’s at least one outlet on every property in town. We rebuked the spirit, and all it’s work in our lives and on our properties, and immediately, there was a change in Billy. He’s not an “angel”, by any stretch of the imagination, but much of the underhanded, defiant manipulativeness is gone out of him. For the most part, I feel like I’m fighting a child training battle much more than a spiritual battle now, and that, with perseverence and wisdom, many of his other negative behaviors and thinking patterns can be modified or broken. We also dealt with a spirit in his life that appears as a red-hatted garden gnome, and was residing primarily in the corner of our yard. I watched this creature for a time, and just shook my head when I saw how many parallel behaviors he and Billy had. It also seems to be responsible for killing off our old, but healthy apple tree last summer…the tree went from just after the blossom stage, absolutely loaded, to dead within a matter of days, and we had attributed it to what seemed to be a sink hole or old septic tank, which the roots seemed to have run into. A vision given by the LORD told otherwise: many of the roots were cut, literally, about a yard from the trunk, and the tree never had a chance. Possibly this seems overwrought to you. It wouldn’t if you knew about the challenges this property has given to gardeners, for at least three generations. How this and other similar spirits got a right to be here, I still don’t know.

My friend, who is spiritually astute as well as being educated, wrote back:

The spirit that has killed your apple tree sounds almost like a Huldre. I was taught about them when I was little, but can’t find much accurate information relating to them at present. If I search online I find lots of starry-eyed people with pictures of babies with gauzy wings attached writing poetry about the Fey. According to the myth that I was taught by my grandmother (German), the Fey were all the sons and daughters of Adam begat on Lillith. When Lillith was banished from Eden, so were they. Outside of God’s favor, they lived beneath the earth and away from His light. In order to avoid being claimed entirely by the devil, they must provide a tithe of their best once every seven years, hence the whole concept of swapping their own children for human babies; they’re also looking for people they can use for the tithe. It bothers me when people look at the legends and ignore the fact that they were all supposedly incredibly dangerous simply because they were cool looking. It’s guessed that the Huldre are an offshoot of the Fey.

I’m sorry, I’ve gotten off in the wrong direction. Essentially the Huldre, Huldu, or Huldofolk are common in Scandinavian myth as nature spirits that live under the hills. They look like gnomes, but where gnomes are supposedly pleasant and benign, Huldre are easily ticked off and tend to get even for any perceived slight by killing livestock and crops.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulduf%C3%B3lk This link is a little closer to the reality of them, but there’s never been any prescribed method of getting rid of them. I’m at a bit of a loss to think of any solution aside from greeting it to ask what it wants. There’ve been folk-tales of them asking to borrow things, which they always bring back. They find manners and etiquette to be extremely important, so if you’re going to try talking to it, you might let me know first so I can give a little advice on do’s and don’ts.


I had not known when I wrote just how seriously my friend would take my apple tree story. I half expected him to shrug and say, “Hm, sorry about your tree.” But instead, he sent me on a journey which isn’t over yet. I had not guessed that these gnome-looking creatures had a name, or that their name was recognizable in folklore.

But in reality, I don’t know that what I was dealing with were Huldre. They do fit my friend’s description (on principle, at least), but my sister’s own research into the matter led her to believe that Huldre are a separate species.

Still here I was with a missing tomatillo, and this apple tree incident fresh in my mind.

Could it be a Huldre…or whatever killed my apple tree?

The LORD gave my mother a picture of the creature responsible for the tomatillo’s demise, after assuring us it was not due to an animal and it was not a natural occurrence. It was a supernatural or spiritual occurrence.

The LORD told my mother that a short (perhaps you could even say stunted), wizened, brown-skinned and yellow-hatted creature took the tomatillo.

Now, it seems reasonable to me that if such creatures existed so widely in folk lore, that some form of them also exists in reality. I did not doubt my mother’s answer.

After more prayer, we felt like we had a sure promise from the LORD that He would supply a 100-fold harvest, come late summer or fall, both of the tomatillos and many other things. I chose to keep my faith in this word.

Still, the remaining two tomatillos looked poorly. They were wilted, and small for their age. They remained so into the next week, and I chose to broadcast the rest of my tomatillo seeds near the first plants.

A few weeks later, here were the results:

Random#14 130

(The boxes are to keep the weeds down, as we chose to plant nothing else in this area this year.)

I debated whether to thin the patch, knowing that tomatillo plants often grow into shrubs, of sorts. The LORD said leave them alone, so I did. Perhaps they need each other’s support in this windy country.

But He wasn’t done with the blessings yet. Somehow, the seeds I had originally planted got mixed. Whether it was the company’s fault, or what, I don’t know. I was most careful in my seeding and labeling. Still, three or four of my “Roma Tomato” plants grew into tomatillos…and one of my original “Tomatillos” turned into a tomato plant.

Here is one of the oldest plants, beginning to bear well as of last week:

Random#21 122

Random#21 123

There is quite a mixture of fruits, from the youngest to those which were mature enough to go into my first batch of salsa, last Friday.

Originally, we had some trouble with these Roma-Tomatillos [wink], too. Insects got into them, and began to eat out the cores. Dozens of small tomatillos dropped from the vines, full of insect sludge. After prayer, the LORD did us the favor of posting His protection around the plants. In a way, such a use of angels seems like a waste, but then – I’m not God, and I don’t suppose I have the same points to prove that He does. All the same, it was good of Him. We have had virtually no more insect problems.

My God is good, yes?

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“Here it is splendid in summer!” she said…

…swans were swimming and peering into the old shady avenues. The corn waved in the field like a yellow sea. Red and yellow flowers grew in the ditches, wild hops and convolvuli in full bloom in the hedges. In the evening the moon rose, large and round, and the hayricks in the meadows smelt sweetly. “One can never forget it!”  –

– from “The Elder-Tree Mother“, by Hans Christian Anderson

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I just began learning to knit!

This is a long-time goal, and though I haven’t yet learned anything fancy, I thought I would share with you this passage from one of my favorite books, which has been an inspiration to me for years.

I can thank this description for being my initial inspiration, and I can thank my sister Christa for teaching me how to wield the needles.


The boy opened his gift. It was the blue shawl.

It’s beauty, as it lay there in his lap, reflecting the blue of his eyes, silenced them.

Fine as a spider’s web. Years in the making. Knit in the pattern sent to Sigrid by the Frost King – the pattern of diamonds and plumes and stars and fans and circles and darts – a pattern with which they all were familiar – a pattern which had awed each one many times as the winter came to decorate the windowpanes. Around the edge was a border of snowflakes, no two alike but six-pointed all, traced against a background of simple stockinette stitch.

To name her work, Sigrid had varied one snowflake from the perfect form. The casual glance did not tell that the six spears of one thin-spoked flake were not identical, but close inspection would have revealed the letters of her name forming the points of a star resting in the corner of the shawl.

Karl folded the shawl four times lengthwise and wrapped it close about his neck, folding it over his chest, and looked down at its length – almost to his ankles.

“The King never owned so fine a shawl,” said Johann, and they all seemed to know he spoke the truth.

– from April Snow (a novel), by Lillian Budd


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[Sigrid went] silently to her flax wheel, and sat on the linset. … She grasped one of the little turned handles between the spokes and started the wheel, drew a sliver from the big fibrous mass on the spindle, and drew thin uneven fibres between her finger tips, drawing it out, spitting on her fingers, drawing it again to even it, twisting as she drew and occasionally stopping to pick out and throw away bits of brown straw.

– from April Snow (a novel), by Lillian Budd

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