Mezeskalacs. (May-zesh-koh-lotch.) Traditional Hungarian gingerbread cookies painstakingly decorated as artwork. With a silver-tipped piping bag, Aniko dots icing into intricate lace embroidery and paints floral designs that mimic the colorful patterns on folk dresses. Whorls of white surround a small square mirror set into a red heart-shaped cookie. “You give it to someone,” she says, “to show they’re in the middle of your heart.”

Aniko is one of the few bakers in America that practice the centuries-old art, one that draws on German and Russian influences but over the decades has become uniquely Hungarian.

“Big social events, you always have mezeskalacs,” she goes on. This is especially true around Christmas, when the designs are the most elaborate. But at her home in Lebanon, New Jersey, Aniko also just finished up batches of heart-shaped cookies for the Valentine’s Day rush. Over the past five years she’s made mezeskalacs into a literal cottage business, selling cookies to the area’s Hungarian community and teaching the decorating art to church groups, school children, and the youth members of the Hungarian Scout Association.

Yes, scouts. There are a lot of them. But instead of merit badges for outdoor survival and physical fitness, the Hungarian scouts study the traditional folkways of their ancestors. Every summer Aniko joins with other scout leaders at a summer camp in upstate New York to teach their charges the Hungarian way to cook, dance, sew, sing, speak, live, and breathe Hungarian. And once every five years the camp is host to an international forum where 700 Hungarians born outside of Hungary (everywhere from the U.S. to the U.K. to Venezuela) gather to celebrate Hungarian culture. Naturally, there are mezeskalacs aplenty.

Hungarian honey cookies

If left in a well ventilated area, the cookies will naturally dehydrate. Aniko uses some of them, like this swan, as Christmas ornaments.

Mezeskalacs begin with typical baking spices: a little cinnamon, some clove, a dash of dried ginger. But their tawny color and characteristic lightness come from a slurp of honey, which brings not just flavor, but also moisture that converts into steam in the oven, poofing the dough high and giving the finished cookie plenty of air bubbles and a slight crispness. This light, mild cookie is the perfect base for royal icing piped into floral patterns (mezossegi) as well as cross-hatched lace, animal designs, and Hungarian aphorisms. “Keep calm and eat gizzard stew,” says one of the cookies Aniko shows me. Not a traditional saying, but one I’m ready to turn into a fridge magnet.

Aniko didn’t learn the art of mezeskalacs from her mother, who makes a mean pacal pörkölt(tripe stew) but doesn’t decorate cookies. As it turns out, she picked it up from the internet, watching videos on YouTube that have racked up tens of thousands of views. Go ahead, try watching just one. Before you know it you’ll have spent hours gaping slack-jawed at the time-lapse creations of cookies just beyond your grasp.

Hungarian honey cookies

Keep calm and eat gizzard stew = words to live by.

One particularly prolific mezeskalacs YouTuber, Tunde Dugantsi in Bowling Green, Kentucky, uses the videos as marketing for her online gingerbread business, where she sells her mezeskalacs as well as instructional books on how to decorate your own. Now Aniko is doing the same. She doesn’t have a website yet, but you can email her at to arrange an order and shipping.

“It’s taken years of practice to learn how to do the designs right,” Aniko tells me. Those multi-colored floral patterns have been the most difficult for her to master, but now she paints them as easily as her own whimsical designs that she often makes up on the fly as she’s piping. She first dove into the painted cookie world as a way to deepen her knowledge of Hungarian culture beyond her experiences as a teacher in a Hungarian school. “The culture is so important to me. With it I don’t feel alone, and I know I can give whatever I know to the next generation.”

Hungarian honey cookies

The mirror in this heart-shaped cookie isn’t edible, but “you give it to someone,” Aniko says, “to show they’re in the middle of your heart.”

That passing of the torch is especially important to Hungarians, many of whom fled to the U.S., Canada, Australia, and parts of Latin America following a bloody revolution in 1956. With such a widespread diaspora, local community ties are vital. Hence the scouts, and their emphasis on traditional folkways. And hence Aniko’s mezeskalacs, which are as much about community as commerce.

Hungarian honey cookies

Mezossegi, the traditional Hungarian floral print, is also a popular design on folk dresses.

Over in New Jersey, the Hungarian social calendar is planned out well in advance. In June, the city of New Brunswick will be celebrating its 42nd annual Hungarian Festival, where over 10,000 Hungarians will gather for cultural performances, folk art exhibits, and massive amounts of traditional Hungarian food. For four frantic days before the festival, Aniko and other scout leaders will cook literal tons of stuffed cabbage, goulash, chicken paprikash, tripe stew, and plum dumplings. The income they raise from sales will all go towards the Hungarian scouts, which have members as young as five and as old as 82.

“Once a scout,” Aniko says with a smile, “always a scout.”

Home Remedies for Chapped Lips: How to Get Soft, Red & Gorgeous Lips

Home Remedies for Chapped Lips: How to Get Soft, Red & Gorgeous Lips

Just like a bad haircut, flaky or dark lips can make or break your look. They’re seemingly obvious and can’t be concealed, no matter how hard you try; 20 dollar lipsticks, store-bought lip balms, you can try them all but eventually the real deal will give way. There could be many reasons why your lips could transition to being dull and dark: too much caffeine, UV rays, unexpected allergies, smoking, caffeine and hormonal imbalances.  Once you identify the lifestyle change, you can work on treating your lips, armed with a handful of kitchen ingredients and consistency. Every woman dreams of pink or ruby-red, healthy and plump lips and today we’re going to demonstrate how you can get those without having to spend large amounts of your hard-earned cash.

How to treat chapped lips

When you’ve got chapped, flaky and dry lips, your first instinct would be to grab your lip balm and rub it over your lips in one quick motion. Would we be wrong in saying that sometimes your lips might feel more dry after a few minutes? We may have found you an easier and more long-term solution that will also help you escape this viscous circle.

1. Shea butter, Vaseline, almond oil, coconut oil or cocoa butter are going to be your new best friends. Apply one of any of them through the day and you’ll find your lips to be much softer and healthier than before.

2. Aloe vera has always been pegged as one of India’s best beauty secrets

and you know what, it’ll deliver. Apply some aloe vera gel twice a day and in a few days you’ll see your lips getting softer.

3. Vitamin E tablets can work as a great remedy and it doesn’t just help with lips but even your skin and hair in general. Vitamin E capsules are easily available in the market. All you need to do is break the capsules and use the liquid on your lips twice a day, for a few days till your lips are hydrated and in the pink of health.

4. Make your own balm – This might be easier said than done but if none of the store-bought balms suit you, it may be your best alternative. All you need is 2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil, half a tablespoon of shea butter, 1 tablespoon grated beeswax, 10 drops of vitamin E oil and 10 drops of an essential oil.

Method: Place the coconut oil, shea butter and bees wax in a glass dish or mason jar and microwave it for a few seconds till it melts completely. Now, let it cool. Then, mix in the remaining ingredients and let it set. (recipe from

Scrub, Scrub & Exfoliate: How to Lighten Dark Lips

Dark lips are something you cannot hide or conceal and once noticed are a real turn off.

1. Make a paste from turmeric powder

and milk, leave it on for about two to three minutes and wash it off. Then, apply some lip balm and leave be.

2. Lemon juice is known for its bleaching properties and can work wonders on dark lips. So make a mix of lemon juice, sugar and scrub your lips every alternate day with this. Lemon juice is highly and if you apply too much of it, it can dry out your lips. If you feel that happening to you, then add some glycerin or honey to the mix.

3. Grab some rose water, honey and saffron (if possible). If you don’t have rose water you can take some rose petals, soak them in water for an hour and make a paste out of it. Then, add some honey to it and a few saffron threads. Apply this mix twice a day till your lips starts to regain colour.

How to Get Ruby Red Lips

Who doesn’t love red lips? And they look even better when they’re naturally red.

1. Increase your intake of red fruits like pomegranate, beetroot and carrots. They contain many essential vitamins and minerals and help increase blood circulation. You can also use beetroot paste or carrot pulp (which is the leftover part when you juice carrots) on your lips. It’ll help improve any dark spots or discolouration and make them look healthy and red. You can also take beetroot juice, mix it with lemon and sugar and exfoliate your lips with it.

2. Use naturally red fruits and rub them over your lips till some of the colour rubs off. Then, quickly apply some lip balm over it and there, that should do it.

3. Now that we’ve established that fruits are the best way to bring some colour to your lips, you can make your very own fruit-inspired lip balm. Mash some strawberries and mix it with petroleum jelly. Apply this a few times a day to get soft, red and luscious lips.

4. The ultimate exfoliator: Grab some beetroot and carrots, chop them up and throw them in a blender. Add some drops of water to this and puree till it’s a fine mix. Now, add 2 tablespoon of honey and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to it. Apply this once in the morning and then at night, leave it overnight. (Credits:

Image credits:

Milk Bath, the Centuries-Old Beauty Ritual for Gorgeous Skin

We have all heard that the Egyptian queen Cleopatra was known for her beauty across various kingdoms. Her beauty rituals were said to have been an elaborate affair with exotic scrubs, face packs, hair masks and what not, and one of the most famous rituals from the lot being the milk bath. Having a milk bath can be one of the most wonderful, invigorating, sensuous and rejuvenating experiences of your life. Not only does it make you feel good with all the pampering, but nourish and detan your skin, leaving you feeling feather soft and silky all over. Milk is touted to contain a host of beauty benefits, being an excellent ingredient for the skin.

Milk is a common household ingredient, and if you can get hold of full cream milk, it’s all the more better. Here’s my version of the ultimate milk bath experience and I promise you that once you start bathing like this at least once a month, you’ll look forward to it every time. It is important to pamper yourself once in a while to nourish your body and also feel good from within.

Milk Bath, the Centuries-Old Beauty Ritual for Gorgeous Skin

Anything that is luxurious also needs to be well planned so that it is picture perfect. You should gear up in advance as it’s not just the ingredients that go into this bath that make it special to me (as it will to you too) but also the things one can very easily put together to make it the ultimate bathing experience.

summer bath

What You Need to Equip Yourself With

5 litres full cream milk
100 gm rose petals or mogra flowers
10ml essential oil of rose/sandalwood/lavender
A good quality sea salt scrub
Almond oil
Some bubble bath, preferably a herbal one
A back brush or loofah
2 large bath towels
Some aromatic candles
Soothing music
Maybe a glass of wine or champagne


How to Go About


1. First things first; switch off your phone and keep it far away. Trust me, you don’t want any distraction.


2. Now run your hot water in a tub and add warm milk to it. Then add the bubble bath, essential oil of your choice and the flower petals.


3. Clean your face with almond oil and massage your face gently. Once you are in your steamy tub, this will soak into the skin and give it a natural shine.


4. Switch on the music, light the candles and soak yourself in pure luxury! Sip on the wine, relax and listen to the music and enjoy the luxuriating silkiness of milk on your skin. Once you have soaked yourself for a good 20 to 30 minutes, you will feel relaxed, the stress melting away.


5. Take some sea salt and scrub gently into the skin all over your body. This will help draw out toxins, dislodge dead skin and make you super soft all over.


6. Rinse your body well and avoid using any synthetic soaps. In fact the best time to have a bath is in the evening as after this invigorating bath you will sleep sounder and better.


If you are one of those people, like me, who want to block out the world even if it is just for a while, believe me the bathroom is the best place to do so. This haven of peace and tranquillity is a super spa experience that you can create at home. The best part is that it can be done any time with some careful planning and your own innovations. Try it as soon as possible and I promise you there will be no looking back!