A Swedish 'tomte' in the snow, very similar to the Norwegian 'nisse'. Traditionally, each farm had a nisse that lived in the barn and had to be kept happy lest misfortune come to the family and their stock. So, on Christmas eve, a bowl of porridge was left in the barn for the tomte/nisse, to ensure good fortune in the coming year.
Well, The Indras' final gig last night was well attended and, dare I say, we cooked through two sets of 1950s and early 1960s rock&roll, rockabilly, R&B, a couple of country and western tunes, and even a few Christmas tunes thrown in. It was a good way to go out. The other three guys in the band are moving on to other projects themselves, so I might very well try to reconfigure the band in 2013, but I haven't made up my mind just yet.
In other news, the Grand Duchess informed me just a few minutes ago that she will bake a stollen tomorrow. . . Hurra!!! As I replied in a morose monotone, "That gives me reason to go on living." She was amused. . . luckily for me.
This evening, we have a small Christmas party planned for about ten guests, all of whom we gnuinely like but don't see enough of during the semesters because everyone is too busy with teaching and other commitments. And during the summers, everyone is off somewhere else. So, tonight will be fun. And the Grand Duchess will prepare her "medicinal" German Feuerzangenbowle, which is, according to Wikipedia:
Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. It is often part of a Christmas or New Year's Eve tradition. The name translates literally to fire-tongs punch. The popularity of the drink has been boosted by the 1944 film comedy Die Feuerzangenbowle. It is a traditional drink of some German fraternities who also call it Krambambuli as the red colour is reminiscent of an eponymous cherry liqueur from Danzig.
Feuerzangenbowle is prepared in a bowl, similar to a fondue set, which usually is suspended over a small burner (rechaud). The bowl is filled with heated dry red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel, similar to mulled wine. The Feuerzange was originally a pair of tongs, but nowadays it is common for a purpose-designed metal grate mounted on top of the bowl to hold the Zuckerhut (sugarloaf or literally "sugar hat"), a sugar cone around seven inches long. The sugar is soaked with rum and set alight, melting and caramelizing. The rum should have at least 54% alcohol per volume in order to burn properly. More rum is poured with a ladle until all the sugar has melted and mixed with the wine. The resulting punch is served in mugs while the burner keeps the bowl warm. For some the ceremony is more important than the drink itself, celebrating the gathering of friends and conveying a notion of Gemütlichkeit.
Mmm-mmm! And very pretty. Don't worry though. There is never enough for anyone to get sloshed or anything like that. Our Christmas parties are actually pretty staid affairs compared to some -- unless you count that time in December 2007 when there was a heated discussion about Freudian and Kristevan interpretations of dreams and melancholia that ended in naked fisticuffs between six or eight guests in the snow, and the police and fire-rescue had to be summoned to restore order. Terribly embarrassing at the time. -- but it's a fun way to mark the end of the academic term and the proper start of the Christmas season. And one nice thing about our guests. . . Everyone leaves by 10pm or 10:30, so I might be able to sneak back down here to Zum Stollenkeller for a little while for some late night painting.
Finally, I'm still not quite pleased with the new blog appearance. The Rococo damask wallpaper is nice -- I was after something opulent -- but it's not quite working for me today. Much too close in appearance to a lot of ladies' fashion and lifestyle blogs, which is fine for them, but not for the Grand Duchy of Stollen. I was thinking maybe of finding an old 18th century military print online, or perhaps a Knoetel uniform plate, to set as the background of this blog. Might that be straying too close to copyright infringement though? And that also might end up looking too busy. There was a really neat old print of exercises with polearms and pikes from the early 1700s that I came across online a couple of days ago. A simple pen and ink, so it would not distract the eye too much while reading the text. Sadly, the file size ended up being too large to upload into Blogger. Curses! Foiled again! What are your thoughts? I'll entertain all suggestions.