B.U.É.K.! That Great Hungarian Abbreviation!


One day my first year in Budapest I was giving my third graders a lesson on abbreviations. Kids like abbreviations. When given a choice, they will always choose to abbreviate a word rather than write it all out. For children, it’s way more fun to write Jan. than January and U.S.A. than the United States of America. After making a list of abbreviations on the white board, I asked my students to tell me their favorites. Kids have favorite foods, sports, and subjects in school. Why not have a favorite abbreviation? Continue reading

Poppy Seeds, Witches, and Stools! Oh, My!


I will never look at a stool in the same way again. Last week, I was having tea with my Hungarian friend Piroska when she told me about the Lucy Chair (Luca szék). The story sounded like something out of The Wizard of Oz. Many years ago in Hungary, when things like weather and illness couldn’t be explained, men would begin making stools on December 13, St. Lucy’s Day. They had to work on the chair each day up till Christmas Eve, use nine different types of wood, and the tools could only be made of wood. Continue reading

The Wrapping Paper

photo by Lennart Guillet

Of all my Christmas memories, there is one that stands out among the rest. It happened in Budapest several years ago. The Boy Scouts from my school were going to throw a Christmas party at a local orphanage. I’d help chaperone. The children at the orphanage were all preschool age and had severe hearing disabilities. Our Scouts were one of the first groups of foreigners these children would meet. Continue reading

Photo Friday: Budapest’s Christmas Market!


There’s nothing like a European Christmas Market to put you into the holiday spirit, and this week Budapest’s famed Christmas Market opened at Vörösmarty tér. Here, nestled under pompoms of lights and the branches of a giant Christmas tree, rows of wooden stalls offer traditional Hungarian foods and crafts. This afternoon, I visited the market for some sausage, roasted chestnuts, kürtőskalács, and forralt bor. As soon as I finish typing this post, I’m going to rush back. There’s only one thing better than a trip to the Christmas Market. Two trips! Happy Holidays from Budapest! Continue reading

Gesztenyepüré (Chestnut Purée)


“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack frost nipping at your nose.” The man who penned those song lyrics could very well have been Hungarian. This time of year in Magyarland, noses certainly get nipped, and you’ll see lots of chestnuts roasting on open fires – especially at the Christmas markets. Chestnut purée, or gesztenyepüré, is a wildly popular wintertime dessert over here. In fact, it’s said that a winter without snow is possible in Hungary, but a winter without gesztenyepüré is inconceivable. Continue reading



For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what in the world to send my friends back in California for Christmas. I wanted to send them something Hungarian. Wine bottles would shatter. Salami would never make it through customs. And then I got it. I’ll send them gingerbread! Known as mézeskalács here, you’ll find it everywhere in Budapest this time of year. This week I went down the big Christmas Market in Pest and bought a dozen pieces to send back home. Before I put them in the mail, I decided to take some photos. Note to self: never photograph mézeskalács when hungry. The gingerbread you see in these shots don’t exist anymore. So, to all my friends back in the States, today you’re going to see what you would have gotten for Christmas. Continue reading

Beigli! Mmmm!


Swirls. I’m a big fan of them. I like the swirl of park benches and chimney smoke. I’m fond of swirly signatures, too. When I doodle, I make swirlies. But my favorite swirl of all is a Hungarian one. And the best part is that you can eat it. This delectable swirl can be found in the center of the most famous Hungarian Christmas pastry called beigli. Beigli commonly comes in two types: poppy seed and walnut. Most Hungarians couldn’t imagine Christmas without it. Continue reading

Chocolate Mikuláses!


I love Christmas decorations. When I moved to Hungary, I shipped 25 medium-sized boxes from the States. Seven were marked “Christmas.” If I ever move back to California, I’m going to need way more than that to hold all my Christmas decor. Since moving to Budapest, I have discovered chocolate Mikuláses. Continue reading

Hurray! My First YouTube Video about Budapest!


I’m so excited! Today, I just launched my first YouTube video about Budapest. If you knew how non-technical I am, you’d know that this is quite the accomplishment. A giant shout out to my friend Paul Corfield for putting it all together. You can watch the movie of my Hungarian home here at: An American in Budapest. You’re welcome to share it with your friends, too. Thanks for your support. Enjoy! Continue reading

Send Szaloncukor!#@!


“What’s this? I asked as I sat down in the staff room my first December in Budapest. In the center of the table rested a bowl of candies twisted in shiny red, blue, green, and gold paper. “Szaloncukor,” my Hungarian friend Monika replied.  She picked up a piece and explained that szaloncukor are goo-filled chocolate covered sweets wrapped in colorful foil. Their centers come in a variety of flavors. “It would be hard to find a Christmas tree in Hungary without them,” another Hungarian friend piped in. “If you want to know how important szaloncukor is to Hungarians,” Monika added, “just imagine your Halloween without any candy.” Continue reading