Christmas is a relatively new thing in Vietnam. Our Christian populations have been celebrating it for ages, of course, but it’s only in the last 10 years or so that it’s become more of a nation-wide thing. People don’t do anything much other than putting up a few decorations and playing Christmas music., but our family usually makes a bigger deal out of it, because of our connection with Germany – both my parents, my sister and her husband studied there, and we are lucky that their German friends still travel regularly to Vietnam and bring us things like fir boughs, spiced cookies, and stollen. So it may not be our big winter festival (that is still the Lunar New Year, which will be around February), but we do have a lot of fun celebrating it. Merry Christmas everybody!
P/S: Jess and I have decided to give SIA a break this week since it’s the holiday and all. We’ll be back after the New Year, on January 7th.
Things have slowed down a great deal around here, but I figure I might as well keep with the posting schedule, since I’m leaving next Tuesday for San Diego and won’t be back until after the New Year. Also, I was so excited to receive this Christmas card from Loren of The Inclined Plane (we’re doing Christmas card swap.) Adorable, right? Thank you so much, Loren! I’m afraid mine is not as nice…
Links of the Week:
- First off, a few inspirations for holiday outfits, in case you need something for a party later tonight: how to wear red and green together, and the wear*it Wednesday edition of holiday-inspired looks.
- I was featured as the Local Fashion Blogger on Go Chic or Go Home. Thank you, Cynthia, for putting together a lovely post.
- And, finally: I’m pretty sure most of you guys have seen this, but I have to spread the love: the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is here! Richard Armitage doesn’t even look like himself and I don’t care!
Blog of the Week: Another non-fashion blog for you guys – Krisatomic by Kristina. She’s a great photographer and wicked talented illustrator. I was inspired to get back into drawing and painting after looking at her lovely illustrations, but I have to resign to the fact that I’m not good at drawing people. Trees are more my specialty. Nevertheless, I love the colors and the graphic quality of Kristina’s works.
Book of the Week: “Salt: A World History” by Mark Kurlansky. I’m reading this as research for my next book (set in the salt mines of England.) I guess I think about salt more than the average person, since I cook, but it’s still fascinating to learn about it. For example, did you know that “salary” and “soldier” both originated from the Latin sal, meaning “salt”, because soldiers were paid in salt back then?
Song of the Week: “Tiny Tree Christmas” by Guster. In case you’re not sick of hearing it from those Time Warner commercials yet
And that’s it! I’ll try to post while I’m in San Diego, but no promises, so in case I won’t see you guys until next year, happy holidays everyone!
I was having trouble finding a location for the photo shoot when I stumbled across this little alley garden, which I’ve never looked inside because the gate was always locked. But this time it was opened, so I peeked in, and found something straight out of The Secret Garden - tree stumps with mushrooms growing on them, leaf-strewn ground, ivy everywhere… It’s magical. Although the whole time my heart was beating like crazy because I was afraid someone might come by and charge me with trespassing, it was too pretty to pass by.
Anyway, the outfit is something I would wear if I had a fancy Christmas party to go to. But since I’m going to spend Christmas cooking and eating (as one should), most likely I’m just going to chill in stretchy jeans and a comfy sweater. I’ll still wear the brooch though.
Dress: Zara, remixed
Tights: gift from my friend Trang
Shoes: Steven by Steve Madden thrifted, remixed
Because everybody in my family (except for me) studied in Germany, when we do celebrate Christmas it is with German traditions. And one of those traditions is the Stollen, the German Christmas bread. I haven’t been able to find the exact kind here in the US, so I’ve been making it myself for a couple of years now. It doesn’t taste quite the same, but it’s fun to make, and it helps me feel closer to home.
ETA: Recipe adapted from here.
What You Need:
1 tablespoon yeast
2/3 C warm milk
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C butter, softened
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 C bread flour
1/3 C each currants, raisins and candied cherries (quartered)
2/3 C candied citrus peel (I got a tub of mixed dried fruits for fruitcake and used 1 C of it in place of the cherries and peel)
1 ts each ground ginger and allspice
6 oz. marzipan (found in the baking isle)
About 2 tablespoons melted butter and powdered sugar, for dusting
1. Dissolve yeast in the milk (I also added 1/2 tablespoon sugar to help the yeast along), let stand until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the sugar, butter, egg, salt and 2 C flour. Mix well. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead in the dried fruits, ginger and allspice, until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, make sure it’s coated with oil. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
4. After the dough has doubled, punch it down and roll it out. Shape the marzipan into a log and place in the middle. Fold the dough over, pinch the seams together to seal. Place the loaf, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 300 degrees F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more. Let cool completely. Pour the melted butter over the loaf and dust it with powdered sugar (the traditional loaf is rolled in powdered sugar, but I find that a little too sweet.) Enjoy!
I usually don’t do Christmas decorations, because I didn’t grow up with it as a family tradition, being Vietnamese and all. This year, however, all the other Christmas stuff around the blogosphere has gotten me all inspired, and when I saw this picture, I knew I found my tree. So I emptied out about a third of my bookshelf (or a forth, I don’t know. All I know is that that stack barely made a dent in the amount of books I have) and stacked them in a pinwheel design. I wanted to put the HP books on top, but they’re too thick, so my Neil Gaiman collection got the honor instead.
If that looks a little too labor-intensive for you, above is a smaller version that you can do with 3-4 paperbacks and about 10 hardcovers. It’s inspired by this photo. I should have gotten a piece of cardboard to support the pages of the first book to stop them from drooping down, but… oh well.
Here’s how I made the bow topper:
What You Need:
- Newspaper (the link above calls for an old book, but I absolutely hate any kind of craft projects that call for destroying books. Unless you’re Andy Dufresne trying to hide a rock hammer in the Bible.)
- Scissors, stapler, glues
1. Cut 5 to 6 strips of newspaper at 8″ long and 3/4″ wide. Twist and fold two ends of the strip in the middle to create loops at both ends.
2. Staple the ends down. Repeat.
3. Glue three of the loops together.
4. Add the other two on top, to form a bow.
Put the bow on top of your tree with a little piece of tape, and you’ll have a tree that screams “I’m a bookworm!”