The first Christmas

Inspiration for Christmas with dear Maria Fynsk Norup, photographer, writer and web  designer. She kindly wrote a guest post for Northletters about her life on a tiny danish island, where she moved to with her family to live a slower way of life…Enjoy!

The first Christmas-  written by Maria Fynsk Norup:

This year there has been a lot of firsts for our family. We made a life-altering decision this spring, in exchanging our life in busy Copenhagen for a life on the tiny island of Ærø (Aeroe) in the Southern part of Denmark (so far South in fact that when the weather is clear, you can see the North coast of Germany). So we found a house (our first), with a garden (our first), and our two girls each got a rabbit (their first pets). We moved here mid-summer, and all through the autumn and winter there has continued to be amazing new first experiences.

Leaves and nuts

This Christmas is no exception. Not only is it the first Christmas on our island. It will also be the very first Christmas that we host ourselves! So we’ll have our first tree, and a chance to make our own Christmas traditions. We’ll also be celebrating it all by ourselves, as my family (including my mum) has skipped off to Thailand for the holidays (not jealous in the least..ahem). But seriously – we’re really enjoying the prospect of discovering what Christmas is made of for us, here on Ærø.

Little L’s first Saint Lucy’s parade in the kindergarden last Friday

Ærø island really is a bounty island, I find… So much local produce and so many incredible little business all around, driven by passion and fuelled by lifeblood. This weekend we visited the amazing start-up “Ærø Whisky” (that will release its first bottles next year) and decided to opt in as shareholders – for which we received a tasty bottle of island made mead (mjød; a honey brew).

Sweet local: Mead from Ærø Whisky and Sirup from Sophienlund

Keeping the weekend sweet and tasty, we decided to make gingerbread cookies with the girls (however we made the Danish version “Honning-kager”, made with honey and not ginger). And while I was away at a Christmas celebration in town, my husband built us a house…. (*big love*)


Moving to a rural area has also means that we are surrounded by fruits and vegetables – and thus by people who have traditions surrounding these homegrown goodies. One thing that the girls were introduced to this autumn was preparing pigeon apples for Christmas. Pigeon apples are picked while still yellow, and will redden over time if they are left in the light. Our bonus-grandma here on Ærø taught E and L that if you put stickers on the apples, and then gently rotate them for a few months, then come Christmas you can peal off the stickers and they’ll transform into beautiful little treats.

Pigeon apples

Today we’re starting our holidays, and with only a few days left before the big evening, we’ll probably bring in the Christmas tree, so the girls can finally have a go at decorating it (something that’s been looked forward to for a long time now!). Hopefully I’ll find time to make a wreath for our front door too (the first I made this season was made with make-do materials while we were on holidays at my mother’s at the start of the month – you can see it on my blog (if you want). Also please follow along on Instagram (@mafyno) where I share images from our life here on Ærø island and beyond.

Happy holidays!
Love, Maria

© All pictures Maria Fynsk Norup

Thank you dear Maria for your lovely story and these gorgeous pictures! Merry Christmas guys! Take very good care of yourself and your families! I’ll be back the 15th of January. Yours, Melanie

Breakfast at Christmas

Love these calm morning moments, when the house is still sleepy, there is mist laying above the river and the sky is announcing a warm and soft sunlight. With my pyjamas, sweater and socks on I’m strolling through the rooms. Normally my husband is already for a walk near the lake with our dog Pelle, and the rest of the family is still in bed. I love sitting by the Christmas tree, while time seems to stand still so peacefully, with a hot cup of coffee and a piece of my curd bread with yeast.  One of my favorite food blogs is Honeytanie with Tanya,  a London based freelance food photographer and stylist. Here are her delicious breakfast ideas for Christmas:

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Christmas granola
Mini cranberry pancakes


Tanya: “Breakfast is the main thing during the day for me and Christmas is the most loved and comfortable period. I try to make my breakfasts warming because of these early dark and rainy mornings in London. I want to feel homely so make a lot of simple things like porridge, crumble…simple and comfortable. At the Christmas period I use seasonal oranges, apples, bananas my adored persimmons and a lot of spices and chocolate of course to make my simple breakfasts more delicious. Apple-cinnamon crumble and spiced porridge with bananas are my favourite I could say. ” Tanya’s Christmas Granola is mixed with cranberries, ginger, walnuts and cinnamon. You can vary the granola with dark chocolate chips or lemon, suggests Tanya.

Banana bread


Tanya worked 10 years as a TV director, realizing one day that food really makes her happy. Now she combines two of her passions in her professional work – food and photography. Especially baking makes me happy too and I love English scones for breakfast or tea, my grandmother did them. Tanya: “English scones are little buns which are usually served with tea. I think freshly baked scones are great little treats for afternoon tea or perfect company for our breakfast, moreover they are so easy to prepare and use ingredients you probably have in your kitchen anytime”.

Tanya: “When I was eight years old I loved the kitchen room much more than my own bedroom, because my mom’s cookbooks were stored there. I didn’t like to read difficult recipes (I didn’t understand all those words then), but I liked to get seated into my favourite cozy armchair and watch pictures in these books again and again, while listening to the sounds of cooking. Those quite old books contained some colourful pages with pictures of sweets. I so loved these books! I was looking through every detail on those pictures. ”

Delicious crumble

At Christmas we prefer our own self-made plum jam for breakfast. The opening of one precious jar  is always a magic moment. Tanya: “I’ve made jam while thinking about cold autumn and winter days. Nothing is better for me then a cup of a hot tea or coffee with a flavorous jam when I feel sick. A raspberry jam reminds me about my childhood. My mum used to make a classic jam, she boiled it for many hours until jam became dark red in colour and had very rich raspberry taste with amazing flavour. It was my favourite jam to eat in winter.”



© All pictures Honeytanie

Tanya: “I like making recipes which my mum used to make many years ago for my own family. Isn’t it magical?” Oh yes, it is. I love the baking utensil I still have from my grandmother and I’m proud of the cookbook my mother wrote for me by hand. I’m doing one for my son, too. Tanya’s advice: “Christmas is the time when you always have loads of food at home so it is also the best time to make a breakfast with all those leftovers. Use bread to make french toasts or cheese leftovers and eggs for cheesy frittata…just improvise! Christmas is the season of improvisation for me I could say.” And Tanya can never say “no” to chocolate: “It is the best sweet thing for me ever. Every time when I’m choosing what to order in a cafe – a cheesecake or a brownie – the latter always win. The same happens in my kitchen – I like to experiment with my old favourite recipes adding chocolate or cocoa.”

I`m a little bit in love with Tanya’s awesome blog Honeytanie,  you will find there many recipes all worth a try and pictures to dream with. Enjoy! Take good care of yourself guys! Melanie


lights on the other side of the river…

This was a difficult week. In times like these we need some comfort and piece. So I wasn’t quiet sure, if I should write a blog post or not. But maybe to read this little story about Sweet Root can be a mindful and a quiet moment with some positive energy, we all need so much. As I have promised the story about Sweet Root continues. I want to show the the world of these mindful food-story-tellers.

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In their cooking ingredients, colors and tastes are continously changing according to the rhythm of nature. Winter time is coming. Some more comforting food is preferred on the table, says Sigitas, owner of Sweet Root, the wonderful restaurant in Vilnius, Lithuania. A winter dish at Sweet Root sounds like parsnips, parsley roots and Jerusalem artichokes together with puffed buckwheat, roasted sunflower seeds and egg yolk sauce. So poetic. Or: Caramelised apples, leeks, quail egg yolks, smoked mayo and crispy sage leaves… food-story-telling. To me in sorrowful times having a meal together with family and friends has something very supportive, so we did last weekend. We put candles in the windows and so did many people. We could see their lights on the other side of the river.


I asked Gintare Marcel, cookbook author, photographer and voice behind the wonderful food blog Gourmantine  about being guest at Sweet Root and she told me:

“Sweet Root is one of the places I cannot wait to come back to, not only because of their approach to using local ingredients, some to be honest, I have not seen used much in cooking before, but because of their concept of humble flavors we grew up with, something essentially Lithuanian. They turn them into spectacular dishes, their cucumber panna cotta is amongst the best I have tasted and eel dish with smoked potatoes and nettle sauce is just sublime. Visiting Sweet Root you cannot help but feel that everything is about the experience of food, from the fresh and minimalistic interior to passionate introduction into every plate in front of you.”


I’m already thinking about Christmas. So I asked  Sigitas about Christmas in Lithuania and he said: “The typical flavours and aromas will appear naturally on the menu according to the weather and emotions outside: Honey, poppy seeds, grains, sweet flag, smoked fish, dried mushrooms, cinnamon, dried berries and fruits…” 

He told me that in Lithuania the family is gathering around the table on Christmas Eve for a calm and quite dinner. “Typically we would have 12 dishes to represent 12 months of a year. The Christmas day itself  is for gifts and visiting neighbours and friends. Typical Christmas cakes vary  from honey-cake, to jam crumble, honey and poppy seeds crispy pie”, says Sigitas.

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Before opening the restaurant, Sigitas and Agne, owner of Sweet Root, were both in other jobs, but the idea of running a restaurant was always in their mind. So one day they decided to go for a journey. They put the bag-packs together and started volunteering in Italy in tiny organic farms, country residences of agro tourism, in wineries and small restaurants. A wonderful story I think, a good example for not losing one’s dream out of sight…


© All pictures Sarune Zurba photo

Special Thanks to Sarune for her atmospheric pictures and to Gintare and Sigitas. Have a calm, clear winter weekend full of shelter, solace, fresh air, long walks, tea and cookies, dinner with family and friends and some quiet moments….

Take very good care of yourself! Mel

Kinfolk- a home for what matters most

Once we had a small cottage near the sea. What I loved most was the feeling of no man’s land, just the voices of the sea gull, the sound of the wind, a fire in the fireplace, no telephone, a deep darkness outside and the city far away. Slow living with awareness means a lot to me. It’s such an honor to me to present Kinfolk Home, the new wonderful book of Kinfolk:

© Kinfolk: The home of Jenni Jayne & Richard Ehrlich, Los Angeles

In Kinfolk Home author Nathan Williams and the Kinfolk team welcome us into 35 residences across five continents, embodying the values of slow living, as cultivating community, simplifying lives and homes and reclaiming leisure time. We can see in the book “how these values sharpened their homes and how their homes sharpened their lives“. The interiors featured in Kinfolk Home have a quiet and calming impact on the beholder, Zen-like. In the book there is an essay written by Nikaela Marie Peters ” Room with a view” about exactly what my small cottage meant to me: time for doing nothing, time for contemplation. No laziness, no productivity, instead some other sort of creativity, one that our society unfortunately does’t value anymore.

The time we spend idle makes for a healthier state of mind. Simpler things bring us joy. We want less and are more at peace when we get it. We sleep better and work harder. When we observe our immediate surroundings, we are more grounded in our context and more attuned to the rhythms of whatever seasons or home we are in.”

© Kinfolk: The home of Jenni Kayne & Richard Ehrlich, Los Angeles
© Kinfolk: The home of Khai Liew & Nichole Palyga, Adelaide
© Kinfolk: The home of Khai Liew & Nichole Palyga, Adelaide

The essay “Before the day starts” written by Margaret Everton represents my morning philosophy: to start early to walk with my dog, then have quiet time with books, coffee, tea, some yoghurt and fresh fruit, sometimes outside even in winter:

“If all you do is wake up 15 minutes earlier to sip rather than gulp your coffee , you’re opening yourself up to a more intimate life.”  Social media can wait. “Early mornings are dark and quiet…starting the day before your day begins, can leave you feeling enlightened and ready to meet life`s forthcoming and requirements that rise with the sun….beginning with a routine makes these moments distinct.

© Kinfolk: The home of Geraldine Cleary, Brisbane
© Kinfolk: The home of Geraldine Cleary, Brisbane

A while ago My husband and me decided to cook regularly for lunch in our studio, for staff, family and guests. Sometimes it’s a lot of work to manage it. But I’m happy that we are going this way, because our lunch break is a part of slow living, sharing a freshly cooked meal, talking, resting for a short while in a busy world of photography.

Slow living “is about identifying the things and people we can’t live without and cultivating spaces devoted to whatever brings us joy and meaning.”

© Kinfolk: The home of Jessica de Ruiter & Jed Lind, Los Angeles

The chapter “A sanctuary in the city” shows how it’s possible to create a calm and regenerating home and maintain a slow lifestyle in the fast-paced city. This morning I enjoyed my morning coffee on the balcony very early, it was still dark outside and the city in a sleepy mood with the sky getting slowly a little bit brighter in color. I worship these quiet moments especially in the city.

Kinfolk Home is a book to read again and again. As you might guess I’m very much in love with this book and very grateful to Kinfolk team to make this blog post possible. It’s definitely a gorgeous Christmas gift for yourself and your beloved ones too. It’s an inspiration for a slower paced life and a home reflecting this. To me it’s a confirmation to continue this path and the perfect book for quiet reading moments. So I think this weekend I will be inspired by Kinfolk Home. Have a wonderful slow weekend and take care! Mel


© All pictures and quotes: Kinfolk with kind permission

a childhood inspired garden

“Cannot stop smiling since I tasted our own grown tomatoes for the first time this morning”

Today I want to tell you the story of  Sigitas and Agne and their garden. They are the owner of the restaurant Sweet Root in Lithuania, Vilnius. Through the seasons they use the produce of their garden. I really like their appreciation of local tradition and seasonal food. When choosing ingredients they focus on produce that grow in their garden or around them, especially on those kind who are traditional, forgotten or undervalued.


Sigitas: “We seek to remind ourselves of the incredible beauty and diverseness of the four seasons in Lithuania. We plan our own garden in spring time, looking for summer treasures in the forests and meadows, enjoying harvest in autumn and creating dishes from scare recourses in cold winter months. Our cooking is inspired by our childhood memories, local traditions and the rhythm of nature.”


They started getting vegetables from Agne’s parents garden the summer they opened the restaurant, because during this time they noticed, how difficult it was to get the needed produce from local suppliers. A big part of the vegetables and fruit is imported. Therefore, they decided to grow their own garden and greenhouse at Agne’s parents house near Vilnius. Sigitas: “Feels good to know where the produce placed in our plates come from. Feels even better to see the sincerity of the local produce.”



Sigitas: “We did the planning during winter and started working on it in early spring. We planted varieties of beetroot, carrot, radish, cabbage, kale, spinach, green pea, sage, mint, thyme, to name just a few. In our greenhouse we ended up having 19 different varieties of tomatoes.” From the orchard  they get apples, quince, yellow plums, black, red and white current, gooseberries, chokeberries. During summer they turn back to wild nature picking all the lovely givings of Lithuanian nature as wild strawberries, evening primrose leaves and blossoms, wild thyme, goosefoot leaves, nettle, bishop’s weed, cornflower and lime blossoms.




They do their farming with respect to nature and that means a lot of work starting early, every Sunday and Monday, together with their dog Prila, when the restaurant is closed. Most of a chef’s work depends on the quality of the ingredients. Sigitas: “With the products from our own garden we get the quality that we want and the true emotion involved in a simple carrot or an apple you have grown by yourself. It feels good. It does bring us back to the roots helping us to understand nature and seasonality, being more aware of every single ingredient.”


© All pictures: Sarune Zurba photo


“We have a wish: to bring back dinner to it’s roots — when food starts talking and bringing emotions.” Sigitas Zemaitis

Have a relaxed weekend and take care! Mel






A dreamy world- Frieda Mellema

For the weekend I want to share the poetic work of artist, photographer and stylist Frieda Mellema from Rotterdam with you: Her images are fragile, feminine, childlike, always unpredictable, with a playful, surprising and fresh element. It was really hard to choose some pictures for this blog post, as I love all of them. The following belong to my favorite. Frieda reminds me of the great storytellers of magic realism, who describe how the fantastic suddenly get into real life.  So dreamy, so soft the world she shows us, teaching us another point of view….



Frieda’s style is full of humor, surrealistic  and out of the ordinary with unusual combinations and details. Frieda: “I love small strange things, which seems to be insignificant, such as post cards or tiles. I can be inspired by a container I walk by. I do not believe in trends, I just do what inspires me. I work best with music playing. And when my head is too full of ideas, I take a walk past the docks, I love that, especially when it rains or there is a cool wind blowing.”



Frieda: ” I like to daydream and contemplate on poetic thoughts and channel these thoughts into my pictures. I don’t like mass production and items that exist thousands of times. The items I use in my images are usually scraps, leftover pieces, things I found on the street or on our grandmother’s attic, old toys lost and forgotten or items from thrift stores , flea markets or supermarkets that amaze me, or things I find in the back of a wardrobe or the bottom of a trunk. I collect these items and hold on to them until I find a use for them, and when that happens the odd found item I’ve had for such a long time is suddenly the key item that really makes the image complete. ”




Frieda collects unwanted objects giving them a new life in wondrous and beautiful still lifes. Have a look on her site, to discover more of her little stories, she tells us with her imagery.

Have a weekend full of inspiration & take care! Melanie

© All pictures: Frieda Mellema

to see more of her work go on: Lab71






Mindfulness with the Chef de Cuisine

Images: Thomas Kettner & Words: Melanie Kettner

Dirk Luther is the chef  de cuisine and director of the hotel Alter Meierhof at the Fjord of Meierwik, near the Denmark frontier. He received the best distinction from the famous restaurant guide Gusto and since 2008 continuously gaines two stars from Guide Michelin. We visited him and his team in his kitchen. You immediately feel craftmanship when entering the kitchen, composure, calmness and tension at the same time. The whole team is concentrated on accomplishing absolutely the best. What strikes us is: we do not bother the cooks, in some way they are moving us with them, in their choreography, in a very polite way, sidelining us gently when necessary. Camera, photographer, blogger obviously do not disturb their peaceful concentration. They are treating us like the food, mindfully, caring. The people working here love what they are doing. Dirk Luther is the choreograph and conductor of the kitchen. We sense the meditative atmosphere, the cooks are focused on each meticulous movement, they are performing confidently, attentively and thoughtfully. They are speaking with low, calm voice, every now and then Dirk Luther voice rises, never loudly, and still every cook knows exactly who is meant.

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Hardly to put in words the variety and intensity of flavors and the aesthetic of his dishes, you surely will never forget, this is food for the mind. Exactly this explains Luther his young cooks, as he told me, when developing a new recipe: “The flavor must be sensed in the mind deeply, not only in the mouth, otherwise the recipe is not ready .“ Always an exciting process for the whole staff, when Luther develops new recipes with his team. The movement of the cooks are full of mindfulness, they are focused, unhurried, concentrated, knowing that no fault is allowed and still in some way they seem absent-minded in their artful work. This mindfulness passes over to the one who is eating their miraculous food. How the dishes are prepared seem like meditation, slowed, with tweezers and outmost cautiousness, miniature compenents are placed and added together in an elaborate composition.Eating them evolves memories and sensations in your mind, you never want to let go and still they are created for the moment. A lecture in mindfulness.Without noticing you are lead to a mindful posture while eating, you eat slowly, gently, focused on the food and yourself, calming down, time is decelerated and you just sense the music in your mind, the cooks have created.

771715052107060kettner-thomasFashion Photographer@2015 Germany Hamburg All rights reserved

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©all pictures Thomas Kettner for Dirk Luther

Dirk Luther is a humble virtuoso with social responsibility, getting involved with cancer patients, helping them to regain their lost sense of taste and teaching children a mindful way of cooking and eating. Mindfulness and art in his hands melt together. It was wonderful to visit him in his kitchen and to be part of his world for a few hours.

Many Thanks to Dirk Luther and his team!

Definitely worth a journey, visit:


Ilse Crawford: A Frame for Life

„We want our public space to feel more human”- Ilse Crawford

“A Frame for Life”, the inspiring book of Ilse Crawford, designer, creative director, academic and head of the design agency Studioilse in London, has the mission to put the human being at the center of design and strategy. Before each project the designer of studioilse pose the question: Who are the people living in these rooms, what are their dreams, wishes, motivation? They create a design, that “that can be smelt, heard and felt” and that makes sense to the inhabitants.

© Studioilse with kind permission

At the centre of the working world, there still is productivity, control and hierarchy. At the same time, design, spaces and behavior need to develop towards humaneness, hospitality, encounter and communication to restore human balance  and coherence. The spaces of a company represent the philosophy of the company. Studioilse stands for “well being, happiness, beauty, comfort and atmosphere”, therefore the office reflects exactly these emotions and perceptions.  Ilse Crawford says about her agency: “It is furnished so that we don’t all feel like cogs in a machine. Where we work is also where we live, where we spend so much of our time. Our studio, more than any of our completed projects, is our calling card – it’s a place where friends and clients, old and new, step inside and instantly see and feel and experience who we are and what we do. It is not our workplace, it is our home.”


© Studioilse with kind permission

She says employers and entrepeneurs need to be more like hosts and learn from the hotel business. Working should be more about well being and motivation. Small daily rituals and homely gestures as meals can be supporting in a working surrounding.

In Studioilse creative people are purposely sitting near accountants. Ilse Crawford overcomes barriers between people, her design invites staff and clients to communicate, by creating casual spaces like a large kitchen to sit at a long table and talk. Different rooms allow diverse working types and dialogue forms. Rooms, furniture and design remain flexible, as not only human beings but also spaces are in a constant developing process.

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© Studioilse with kind permission

Design and interior design have an influence, of how we feel and behave, how we see things, how we communicate and bring out the best in ourselves. The way we organize and shape spaces  reflects the way we assign priorities in our daily lives.

“A good room is not just a space, but a story. A narrative, which needs never to quite finish”- Ilse Crawford

More about Ilse’s  wonderful book here.