It isn’t really Christmas without the pickled herring

Homemade Swedish Pickled Herring

Homemade Swedish Pickled Herring

People often take me for being either French or Italian, which I am, but they often don’t realize that I’m actually half Swedish as well. So Swedish that my maternal grandmother (Mormor to me) was born in Sweden and didn’t come to America until she was almost 8.

Having Scandinavian blood means that (if you’re lucky) you’ll spend Christmas Eve opening presents and enjoying a serious smorgasbord of goodies — from homemade headcheese and potato sausage to spritz butter cookies and rice pudding. If you’re not so lucky, there will also be lutefisk and pickled herring present.

I’m (kind of, sort of) kidding on the last one. Half of my family seems to love the pickled pieces of fish while the other half — myself included — glad pass over it for another slice of ham instead. The lutefisk seems to have an even smaller following — I think the taste for that ended with my grandparents. I certainly have never seen my mother try a piece.

But just like most edible family traditions, the older you get, the more curious you become at the process of making them. This is the first year that I was able to spend the weekend before Christmas with my grandparents, and I asked if my grandma would wait until I arrived to make the herring.

She happily agreed. Maybe she thought that if I helped to make it, I’d be more willing to eat it. (Just between us, that will never happen. Ever. Sorry Mormor!)

Regardless of whether I enjoy eating it, I did enjoy watching her prepare it.

The first thing to do is secure your herring. My grandma used to buy whole fish and would have to gut them and clean them herself. These days, around late November she makes calls to fishmongers looking for Icelandic herring fillets. This year she found a small fish shop that promised to have some for her the week before Christmas.

When I arrived, the fish had been soaking in cold water overnight — unrefrigerated, though in a cool place.

Herring Fillets

Herring Fillets

pickled herring goodness

You’ve come a long way baby — happy birthday little blog!

Happy 1st Birthday!

Happy 1st Birthday, Attempts in Domesticity!

It’s now been, to the day, a year since I created Attempts in Domesticity. I resisted starting a blog for a long time, but my husband (who knows I love to write) prodded me into creating one and finally I caved. Since then, it’s become a big part of my life. On a basic level, it motivates me to cook more, even on nights when it’d be easy just to whip up a bowl of ramen for dinner instead.

But it’s more than that too…

I’ve learned a lot (not related to cooking) in the past 12 months. When I started writing posts, I was totally unaware that if I didn’t tag things they wouldn’t appear in the “reader” section. For the first month or two, I think my page views were averaging about 30 per week. (Don’t worry, Ree, no competition here!)

I was also so busy (considering it was the holiday season and all) that I hadn’t really started reading other people’s blogs, so I had no connections to anyone on WordPress. My blog was more like a public journal that no one besides my close friends read or even knew about. Finally I understood that I needed to take time to read other people’s posts if I wanted anyone to bother with mine — it’s not a one-way street.

Since then, I have gotten quite a few followers (thanks to all of you!) and made some virtual friendships with people who I really enjoy. I love feeling a little invested in other people’s — yes, basically complete strangers — lives, seeing what food they make, what crafts they create, the lives they’ve lived and where they’ve traveled to. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of different points of view which I think is pretty fantastic.

And so even after 12 months, I still feel like this project is fairly new — it’s constantly growing and developing, which means I am too. There’s no time to sit around and wait to be inspired — you’ve just got to go for it.

Anyways…back to the reason for the cake at the top of this post:

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Homemade Marshmallows & the Making of a Mug Topper

Mega MarshmallowI love marshmallows. Not so much on their own but I grew up eating a lot of s’mores and drinking a ton of hot cocoa, so every winter I start to crave their sticky, sugary sweetness. As an adult, I really appreciate a toasty mug of hot chocolate, spiked generously with Rumple Minze, topped with melty marshmallows. Last year, when this blog was just a baby, I decided to try making my own marshmallows with (shockingly) great success.

I was so impressed with myself that this year I thought I’d take it one step further.

Inspiration hit when I discovered these giant two-pound marshmallows online. (As an aside: I love Plush Puffs, their flavors are fun and — big bonus! — they actually taste good too. Not at all rubbery, just soft squishy marshmallow goodness.) Then, on the same site, I saw another item the company offers — mug toppers. They are slices of marshmallow that perfectly fit a cup of cocoa. Seriously brilliant!

I became a bit obsessed…

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Sparkles and Shines…

I really meant to take down all of my holiday decorations last weekend. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do after the first of January? You take down all the sparkling lights and stockings and stash them away again until next December. I know that’s the way it works — I do it faithfully every year. But this January I’m having trouble. I look at the strings of lights glimmering, the lit-up stars twinkling lazily below them, and  just can’t bear to do it.

I don’t know what’s making it so much harder this year. Maybe it’s because last summer came and went too quickly, and with this gray and dismal weather, it’s nice to have some cheerfulness around. The lights brighten up the house and make the long dark nights a little cozier.

Maybe I can compromise…I’ll pack away the wreaths and my little wooden Santas, and even all of my cinnamon-scented pine cones, but I’m keeping the lights up. They will be my winter night lights — helping me believe that even though I’ve got months to go until summer, I’m pretty sure I can make it.