decoration

Discovery of a beautiful Bavarian “witch” and of a cake

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blutenburg 201Halloween is just around the corner! It’s time to put together the final pieces of your costumes, pick out pumpkins to carve, and do some decorating. Treats for your friends and for yourself with an excellent historical cake to get in the Halloween spirit.pumpkins

The discovery of a beautiful Bavarian”witch” and her cake

Last week because the weather was so marvellous I decided to go for a ride tour in Bavaria. First I visited the botanical garden of Nymphenburg but because of the crowd I left for the adjacent village called Pasing. On my way suddenly I saw a small but very beautiful fortress which I haven’t noticed so far. So I stopped there I got off my bike and entered. Soon I learned that the castle was built in the 13th century and it had a very ominous name: Blutenburg which means in English “Bloody fortress”. Must be some tragedy happened here.-I thought and I was right. The mansion belonged to Albert III, the Duke of Bavaria. It was built in 1438–39 as a hunting-lodge, replacing an older castle burned down in war. (The origin of this fortress was a moated castle in the 13th century). Albert’s frequent residence at Blutenburg Castle beginning in 1433 because he fell in love with a beauty from Augsburg.

The witch and her cake

Agnes Bernauer was probably born around 1410; but nothing is known of her childhood and youth. She is traditionally considered to have been the daughter of the Augsburg barber surgeon Kaspar Bernauer, whose existence has, however, not yet been proved. Since the son of the Bavarian duke Albert III participated in a tournament and carnival in Augsburg in February 1428, it is generally assumed that he met Agnes on that occasion and shortly thereafter brought her to Munich.In a Munich tax roll dated 1428, a “pernawin” is listed as a member of his royal household, which is probably a reference to Agnes Bernauer.

In summer 1432 at the latest, Agnes Bernauer was an integral part of the Munich court. She took part in the capture of the robber baron Münnhauser, who had fled to the Old Court in Munich, and she annoyed the Palatine Countess Beatrix, Albert’s sister, because of her self-assured manner. It is possible that Agnes and Albert were already married at this point, but there is no concrete evidence of a marriage ceremony. There is no evidence of joint residence in Albert’s county of Vohburg, and there are no known descendants of the couple.blutenburg 212

But Duke Ernest, Albert’s father, was infuriated by the threat to the succession posed by his only son’s unsuitable liaison. While Albert was on a hunt arranged by his relative Henry of Bavaria-Landshut, Duke Ernest had Agnes arrested and drowned in the Danube River on 12 October 1435 near Straubing. When Albert discovered his father’s intrigue he became so upset that he didn’t want to see him again so that he went to Ingolstadt to Duke Louis VII (his cousin’s), but after a few months he was reconciled with his father and married Anna of Brunswick in November 1436. The feared military conflict between father and son did not materialze; it is possible that Emperor Sigismund (Hungarian king) exerted a restraining effect on Albert. But Albert couldn’t forget his great love. In December 1435, he endowed a perpetual mass and an annual memorial celebration in the Straubing Carmelite Cloister in memory of Agnes Bernauer. In 1436, his father had an Agnes Bernauer Chapel erected in the cemetery of St. Peter Straubing, probably to appease his son. It is not known whether Agnes was buried in the Carmelite cloister, which was her wish, or whether Albert arranged for the transfer of her mortal remains to the chapel dedicated to her. In any event, a tombstone of red marble with an almost life-size effigy of Agnes Bernauer was fitted into the floor of the chapel. The relief shows her lying with her head on a large pillow. In her right hand, on which she wears two rings, she holds a rosary, and two small dogs at her feet are there to guide her on her way to the hereafter. It was probably an oversight that the year of her death is incorrectly given there as 12 October 1436.

Agnes’s life and death have been depicted in numerous literary works, the most well known being Friedrich Hebbel’s tragedy of the same name and the folk musical Die Bernauerin by the composer Carl Orffblutenburg 196

Agnes Bernauer cake

If you visit Straubing you can find not only streets and sacrelidge places that are named after Agnes but you can also enjoy the world famous piece of cake the Agnes-Bernauer-Torte. How can I describe? It is a layered cake, filled with almond meringue and mocha butter cream, and on the top roasted almonds and nuts feature in this rich, but “oh so good sweet treat!” It is heavenly but extremely filling. How interesting that such an awful story be commemorated with cake but I’m glad for it because the cake is sooo delicious!

Ingredients: 200 gr almond, 350 gr powder sugar, 80 gr flour, 2 kk cinnamon, 7 egg whites, 500 ml milk, 1 pack of vanilla  pudding, 2-2 tbsp of instant coffee  3 tbs sugar, 250 gr butter, 200 gr almond for the top

Directions: Combine the ground almonds with the sugar, flour, pinch of salt and cinnamon together. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites by adding 150 g sugar until stiff then add to it the dry ingredients. Mix everything together well . Prepare 5-7 pieces of wax paper, depending on how many layers you want for your cake, and smear to parchment papers evenly. When you are ready then place the bases into the preheated oven and bake them at 170 ° C. You must bake each layers first for 20 minutes, (covered with waxed paper) then without waxed paper for further 5 max. 10 min. Allow doughs to cool.

Meanwhile prepare the pudding according to the instruction, add the milk to the custard powder with 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of coffee powder and mix with a fork until smooth. Then, whip the butter by adding the powdered sugar.  add butter cream to the cooled pudding (making sure that the butter is at room temperature). Lubricate each layers in butter cream pudding.

At the final touch: roast almonds in a frying pan without adding any fat. Coat the top of the cake with the remaining cream and sprinkle the top of the cake with the roasted almond. Let it stand at least for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Before serving sieve some powder sugar over the top.

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Japanese manga festival in Münich

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Matsuri 2013 114The famous Japanese Gion festival originally takes place in Kyoto (annually) and it is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It goes for the entire month of July and is crowned by a parade called Yamaboko Junkō on July 17. By the way the festival was named after Kyoto’s Gion district.

But to fly to Kyoto from Münich, (Germany) would have been very expensive for me not to mention that, that the Gion matsuri is also organized once a year here in Münich in the English garden. A nice stroll around to see ikebana, tea-ceremony, martial arts, comics, Japanese puppet theater and so on that was what I did. But what I really enjoyed taking pictures of young people who wore funny dresses with the best haircuts and extravagant make-up ever. And of course don’t forget the fantastic food! Our lunch consisted of Takoyaki, Yakitori and Taiyaki. Everything was really delicious and made me would like to go back to Japan! After we finished eating we walked around the festival, admired the Japanese Pavillion and of course took some more pictures.

Matsuri 2013 107The Gion festival originated as part of a purification ritual to appease the gods thought to cause fire, floods and earthquakes. In 869, the people were suffering from plague and pestilence which was attributed to the rampaging deity Gozu Tennō. Emperor Seiwa ordered that the people pray to the god of the Yasaka Shrine, Susanoo-no-mikoto. Sixty-six stylized and decorated halberds, one for each province in old Japan, were prepared and erected at Shinsen-en, a garden, along with the portable shrines (mikoshi) from Yasaka Shrine. Kyoto’s downtown celebrates during three days and nights this festival leading up to the massive parade. Gion matsuri 2012. júli 15 057Matsuri 2013 111Matsuri 2013 088

Dille and Kamille, a store like no other

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Imagine that you are in the Netherlands, in the early seventies. In the cities there are many uniform stores when in this climate, in an empty yard in Utrecht basement of only 130 square meters Dille & Kamille opens its first shop. A store with wonderful combination of products: antique furniture and baskets of dried flowers, kitchen appliances, utensils, bake wares, cookwares, culinary products such as: pasta, oil, vinegar, herbs and spices, wine, chocolate, liquorice, wine and cheese and numerous tea blends. For the bathroom: towels, soaps and massage oils, beeswax and mirrors sold China. Everything is made ​​from natural materials, because the password is: plastic is forbidden.

That was new, that was different from the other conventional shops. No wonder that it was an immediate success. Since then, the Dill & Kamille has conquered twenty cities in the Netherlands and 5 in Belgium. The concept of that first store, the wonderful mix of products that are still great together and the belief in natural simplicity, standing still as a rock. During 36 years Dille & Kamille has survived all fads, economic crises and changing ideas but it is flourishing….

The pleasure of good service, the convenience of kitchen appliances, the seductive scent of herbal tea and lavendel,- that was my first impression when I entered the Dill & Kamille store in Bruxelles. On the shelves there were plenty of products what make life more enjoyable. Rattan baskets and wooden chairs, pots & plants and garden tools, children’s toys. A range that simplicity radiates with a preference for trade, crafts and natural materials. There was no superfluous decorations or fancy shapes, because natural simplicity is the core of Dille & Kamille. And hospitality. A casual atmosphere, a place where you can be yourself.  And Hospitable. Advanced cooking for friends. Carefully set the table. Or just spoil yourself with a bottle of wine or with a delicious tea. Or a personalized gift.

No more word is necessary because at Dille & Kamille the products spoke for themselves. Living in harmony with the environment was the message here. Between the hustle and bustle in the streets Dille & Kamille was a relief. No frills, garish displays, neon, fashion statements or piercing music from the speakers: classical music and the seductive scents of soaps, oils and spices filled the room.

Dille & Kamille opened its shop in Brussels in 1995, in Bruges in 2001, in Roeselare in 2002, in  Aalst in 2004, in Turnhout in 2005…

Easter egg market on the top of the Sacred mountain

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Abbey Andechs and the “Heiliger Berg” (Sacred Mountain) in Bayern/Germany is a favourite day-trip destination for many München inhabitants. Upon it sits the abbey of Andechs a millennium-old Benedictine monastery and church. The place of pilgrimage rises above the lovely Ammer see (Lake Ammer) about 40 kilometres south-west of central Munich. But the main reason for going there is the 3,500-seat beer garden and restaurant which surround the church. The monk-brewed libration is considered one of Germany’s finest. To top it off, there are great views of the lake and surrounds from the top of the hill. All in all it’s an excellent spot to while away an afternoon.

But approaching Easter, the highlight is not only visiting of the “Bräustüberl” famous brewery restaurant and listening one of Karl Orff’s organ concert in the Church but the main attraction is the Easter egg market (Ostereier markt ) where each year genuine eggs are exhibited that have been blown clean and decorated exquisitely in a variety of ways. On first of April egg artisans will fill the Andechs hall with their booths, each displaying eggs of a distinct style. Their hand work is always incredible.

see my slide!

In the year of the Dragon

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Two days before the Chinese New Year my friend Na Sun asked me the favor to help her to do the shopping. It was my pleasure to go with her. On our way for the shopping mole Tian and Ching joined us so finally instead of taking care of our business we landed at a new stylish bar the Bubble tea (down-town of Münich) in order to discuss what to cook and how to decorate the tables for the party. Meanwhile we were sipping our shakes (by the way mine was fantastic) I grabbed the opportunity to learn more of the year of the Dragon.

I am sure everyone knows the fact that according to the Chinese traditions each year is dedicated to an animal. 2012 ushers the year of the Water Dragon. According to my Chinese friends it means that the water exerts a calming influence on the Dragon’s innate fire. Moreover the Water Dragons are more open to other people’s opinions than other Dragons which give them the ability to channel their personal charisma into real leadership qualities. And meanwhile last year the year of the Rabbit was characterized by calmness and tranquility, the Year of the Dragon is marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. The Chinese New Year will bring lots of energy, vitality, unbridled enthusiasm, and optimism.

According to the crystal ball (and Na Sun, who is very superstitious) the year of the Dragon will also be lucky for anyone thinking of starting a business or initiating a new project of any sort because money is easier to come by for everyone, whether it’s earned, borrowed or received as a gift. Consequently we can expect the economic downturn to ease up a bit in the coming year. Fortunes can be made but they can also be lost: Keep in mind like all good things, the Year of the Dragon will come to an end and you will be held accountable for unreasonable extravagances.

My Chinese treatment, the menu, the decoration and the party

When the big day has sat in I helped Na to dress the table which was not as easy job as you think because we had to take into consideration many aspects such as that that in traditional Chinese art and culture, the black, red, blue-green, white and yellow are viewed as standard colors and all have some special meanings.

You can’t do any harm if you use the red because it is the most important color in China. It was once believed that red could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. So that windows and doors are decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”.

The second important color is the yellow which was used to be the color of the emperors, only he was entitled to wear it, however nowadays it is the color of the progress, fame and efficiency.

The black according to the Chinese traditions was the color of respect and the dignity.

The green specially combining with the white gives people stamina, endurance, and it is also the color of rebirth-spring and if it is mixed with red it will bring an especially good luck and fortune. (How ended up our table decoration see the pictures)

The menu

Na Sun told me that in Sanghai (from where she is originated), on the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Several foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and for exchange they receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

The menu

Starters: Marble tea eggs

Ingredients: 4 eggs, 1 tablespoon sesame salt, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 1 whole star of anise, 3 teaspoons smokey tea (Earl Grey tea), sesame salt

1. Boil eggs for twenty minutes over a low heat. 2. Cool in water. 3. When they are cooled enough, drain eggs and tap the shells all over with the back of a spoon until shell is completely cracked. 4. Return eggs to pan, cover with cold water, salt, soy, star anise, and tea. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer very slowly for 2 to 3 hours. 5. Turn off heat and leave eggs in liquid for 8 hours. 6. Drain the water from the tea eggs, leave in their shells until ready to use. Keep well wrapped in the fridge (up to one week) until ready to serve: carefully peel the eggs. The white of the eggs will be marbled with dark lines. 7. Cut into halves or quarters. Serve with sesame salt.

A tossed salad of leaves and fresh herbs (chives, parsley, tarragon, chervil) can be served with this dish, as a simple garnish or side salad. A quick mix of 4 tablespoons of olive or hazelnut oil, whisked with 1-2 tablespoons of reduced cider and 1 teaspoon of lime juice, provides a dressing for the leaves.

Chinese soup

Ingredients: Chinese rice noodles, 8 chicken wings, 1 chicken breast, Tandori spice, 1 whole garlic, Chinese radish, stem of the bamboo, ginger, coriander. Pinenut, lemon gras, chicken bouillon, 1 star anise, black pepper, chilli paprika, 1 pinch of sugar, few cloves, 1 leek, soy sauce, fresh soy

1.Cook the chicken wings and breast in boiling water with the bamboo stem and Chinese radish. 2. Add the whole garlic and leek, flavour with salt and pepper, and star anise. 3. Add the bouillon, season with one spoon of soy sauce and lemon grass. 4. When the chicken is tender, rinse and discard the bones. Keep it warm. 5. Cook the Chinese rice noodles with the fresh soy. Sieve and keep it warm over boiling water. 6. Fry the chicken breast in some vegetable oil and season it well with the tandori. Chop into very thin slices. 7. Strain the stock, discarding the onion. 8. Serve the soup „layered”, in each bowl, make a nest from the rice noodles, then pour over the bouillon, also adding the cooked soy sprouts, ground pinenut, fresh spring onions and one dumpling for each person (wonton) just before serving. Put some hot chilli paprika seeds on the table and add some more pinenuts. This makes a very tasty soup.

Cucumber and meatball soup

Ingredients: 200 gr ground meat, 1 fresh cucumber, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 egg, 200 gr fresh soya beans, 1 chicken bouillon, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, salt and pepper, fresh spring onion, red pepper flakes

1. First prepare the meat balls. Sauté the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon oil and mix into the ground meat. Season with salt, pepper and add some Hungarian paprika powder. 2. Beat the egg, add to the mixture. Stir the ingredients together well. 3. Mould into ball shapes by hand. 4. Prepare chicken broth and it is boiling drop the balls in. 5. Wash the cucumber but don’t peel it instead cut into small cubes. Add to the soup. 6. Add 1 or two spoons of the soy sauce and the fresh soya beans as well. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat balls are tender (after 10-15 minutes) serve the soup garnished with chopped fresh spring onion.

Mean dishes: Chinese chicken bites with broccoli

Ingredients: 2 chicken breasts, chicken spice mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 broccoli, 4-5 carrots, 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 200 gr rice, salt and pepper, 2 tbs mirin or rice vinegar

1. Clean the vegetables. Wash broccoli. Cut into small florets. Chop carrots. 2. Sauté the finely sliced chicken breasts in the 2 tablespoons of oil until nicely browned. Season with salt, pepper and chicken spice mixture. Set aside. 3. Sauté the broccoli and carrots together in butter. 4. Season with curry powder (optional) and add two tablespoons of soy sauce and flavor with mirin. If necessary add some water. 5. Prepare rice in the usual way with a bit of garlic. Put the chicken back in the pan and warm through with the vegetables. Serve with rice.

Easy Cantonese Duck

Ingredients: 2 duck breasts, 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil, 1 portion Chinese noodles, 2 onions, 2 carrots, 1 red pepper, 1 ginger, 1 tablespoon corn starch, parsley, salt, pepper, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon tabasco

Follow the same process with the duck as with the turkey with pineapple recipe. 1. Over a high heat fry the breasts in a non-stick frying pan for 15 minutes. Then remove from the heat and put into the oven and roast for a further 15 minutes at 220C. 2. Clean the vegetables and boil them in hot water for a short time. 3. Cook the noodles as well. Put them aside and keep them warm. 4. Prepare soy sauce, mix with tabasco, salt and pepper. 5. Prepare bouillon and if necessary thicken with corn starch. When the duck is crispy and golden brown cut into slices and serve hot with the noodles, vegetables and the gravy.

Fish with Chinese cabbage

Ingredients: 4 slices of cod filet, half of a Chinese cabbage, 100 gr smoked ham, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil, salt and pepper

1. Sauté the chopped cabbage in the hazelnut oil for 15 minutes. 2. Pour white wine into a pan, add cream and lemon juice (half of the lemon). 3. When the cabbage is soft, add smoked ham. 4. Fry the cod in hot oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Put fish on a plate, surround with the cabbage. Serve with fried potatoes.

Desserts

Asian people don’t consume that much sweets than the Europeans or Americans however they have some delicious fluffy dessert specialties what I adore for instance the Water chestnut cake which is a sweet Cantonese dim sum dish made of shredded Chinese water chestnut. When served during dim sum the cake is usually cut into square-shaped slices and pan-fried before serving. The cake is soft, but holds its shape after the frying. Sometimes the cake is made with chopped water chestnuts embedded into each square piece with the vegetable being visible. One of the main trademark characteristics of the dish is its translucent appearance.

Mantou which often referred to as Chinese steamed bun/bread.

In size and texture, they range from 4 cm, soft and fluffy in the most elegant restaurants, firm and dense for the working man’s lunch. (As white flour, being more heavily processed, was once more expensive, white mantou were somewhat of a luxury in preindustrial China.)They offer with condensed milk.

Green tea cake  (I know it is more popular in Japan but I love it)

Ingredients: 2 large eggs, 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 Tbsp matcha (green tea powder), 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preparation:

Cream butter in a bowl. Add sugar in the butter and mix well. Gradually add beaten eggs and stir well. Sift flour, baking powder, and green tea powder together and add the flour to the egg mixture. Pour the batter into a buttered loaf pan. Bake in preheated 340 degrees F oven for about 30-40 minutes.

Candy in the salon

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In Hungary there are not many special Christmas traditions comparing for example to Germans or I can put it another way: our Christmas customs were very much influenced by the German’s so that for the time being we can’t disentangle that who took over them from whom. However I think there is one Hungarian ornament what is traditionally associated with Christmas and it is the salon candy or “salon sugar” literally: the “parlour candy”, a type of sweets. The candy is usually made of fondant, covered by chocolate and wrapped in shiny colored foil, then hung on the Christmas tree as decoration. The tradition started in the 19th century and it got the name szaloncukor because the tree usually stood in the parlour (szalon in Hungarian, and cukor means “sugar” or “candy”) but it is also possible that the name derives from the German-Austrian Salonzuckerl, and -here we are again-this is why the name became szalon zukkedli.

Fondant candies in the 19th century came in only a few flavors (vanilla and strawberry for example), but nowadays there is a wide variety of different kinds of candies, including jelly, coconut, hazelnut, chestnut, marzipan and so on filling covered by bitter or milk chocolate fondant. It is usually hung on the tree with small metal hooks.

No Christmas without German ornaments!

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When I spent my first Christmas in Germany-more precisely in Münich, I was really astonished by the wide offers of the Christmas ornaments but at the same time I felt that they are too goudy, kitschy-mushy. At first glance of the Christmas departments they seemed to me a glittering cavalcade of colour and tinsel, but I established the fact that the decorations weren’t lack of sparkling ideas at all. At Ludwig Beck (it is like the Macy in USA) I discovered a corner with ornaments inspired by the Victorian era. It was up to me a nostalgic travel back to the mid of 19th century…..when for the Victorians, Christmas was full with joy, a time of year when people’s enthusiasm for decorating reached colossal proportions. It was an age in which the world was rapidly changing and Christmas decorations reflected that. The resulting blend of old and new magicly came alive when the tree was lit, whether by candlelight at the beginning of the era of electric lights at its close. After their marriage in 1840 queen Victoria and prince Albert adopted many German traditions in their holiday observances at Windsor castle. The public followed the royal couple’s lead, and soon Christmas trees and other decorations enjoyed widespread popularity, both in Britain and the United States. Over the next sixty years Christmas celebrations evolved and grew exponentially. At the beginning of Victoria’s reign in 1837, most decorations were natural variety: sprigs of holly and garlands of evergreens transformed homes for the holidays, trees wer adorned with fruits, nuts, and other delicacies, by the late nineteeth century, a more diverse array of ornaments has made their way onto boughs. Glass balls from the glassbowing center of Lauscha, Germany, were introduced as tree trimmings, tiny dolls, furniture, and musical instruments made of tin and wax became sought after items. Nevertheless, the splendor of the Christmas tree was largely dependent upon the ingenuity of the homemaker and her family. Such amateurs took full advantage of newly available materials, combining them in the eclectic style of the day. Many of the decorations utilized what we were called, with endearing understatement, scraps-exquisitely detailed renderings made by the then innovative process of chromolithography. Scraps were finished with coating of gelatin and gum, giving them a luminous gloss that made them seem vibrantly alive. Postcards with illustrations die-cut and ready to use were sold in stores. Scraps depicted a wide range of subjects, including fruits, animals, children, ladies, angels, and saint Nickolas. Decorating scrapbook pages with these figures became a popular hobby in Britain in the 1850s and caught on in the USA within a decade. Another type of paper ornaments, which came to be known as a Dresden after the German city where it originated, made its debut in the late nineteenth century and was quickly incorporated into homemade decorations. Thin sheets of silver or gold-coloured cardboard were machine embossed with images of birds and other animals, musical instruments, or holiday motifs and were then die-cut and handpainted in shiny colors by cottage workers. Today scraps in Dresdens, and ornaments that feature them, are highly collectible.

The Victorian era and some of its ornamental excesses-came to an end with the queen’s death in 1901. Yet something about the period’s unrestained enthusiasm remains appealing. But more than a century later, a Victorian style Christmas still seems the quintessential expression of the holiday!