Wednesday, October 22, 2014

5 Apple Recipes for Fall...

When you go apple picking with enthusiastic toddlers, it doesn't take long to somehow accumulate 14kg of them.... So in anticipation of this picking outing, I've been ginning up some good ways to use them up beyond just apples slices with peanut butter (though that still ranks number one as a snack for the diplo-tot and I).

Denmark is seemingly drowning in apples throughout most of the fall, and the nice thing about grocery stores here is that they stock a lot of local varieties.  So while you'll pay and arm and a leg for a handful of berries or other fruits, apples of myriad varieties are a dime a dozen. Oh and they don't have steroids or other weird mutations so they actually look like real apples - imperfections and all.
Between the store and this weekend's batch of booty that we hauled away, apples will definitely be featuring on the menu.  Here area  few recipes I've marked to try in the coming days:

1.  Apple-Pear Crumble: Right up there with apples around here are pears, so the two become one in this  crumble that has had me salivating since I read the recipe on a plane, catching up on magazines during some recent flights.  I kind of organized the apple picking to just be able to try this out.

2.   Stuffed Baked Apples: There have been two excellent apple bakers in my family: my mother, whom I remember making them for us as dessert growing up; and my grandfather, who did as well when we spent our summers in Poland.  So I have a nostalgic thing for baked apples.  I clipped this one when reading the Forest Feast's features on Rosh Hashana menus.  I passed it on to a friend who claimed less that picture perfect results but I'm willing to still give it a go myself.  Nostalgia does that to you, right?

3.  Apple Butter: If there's a queen of apple picking and other toddler fall activities it's probably Love Taza.  But she recently featured a few apple recipes as well that would incorporate her spoils into toddler friendly dishes.  I can't tell if I'm more drawn right now to the idea of finding a good toasted bagel here in Denmark, which is remote, or to the apple butter itself, but figure this is one of those things that might be diplo-tot approved.

4.  Apfelkuchen: I'm a terrible pie maker but pretty good with forgiving cakes and this seems like it fits into that latter category.  I love Zucker Zimt und Liebe (Sugar, Cinnamon and Love if three years in Vienna taught me anything in German) as a blog, and although my lack of language skills prevents me from making much from it, I always fall for her photography.

5.  Dutch Baby Pancake: I've never tried those pouffed pancakes but always have had it on my to-do list - maybe this apple version will get me to finally give it a go.  Just seems like it would be warm and cozy and everything that keeping warm as fall cools should be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How about them (Danish) Apples?

Denmark is full of apples.  In fact, we're knee deep in apples around here.  So you didn't think we'd let all our US friends, with photo feeds full of pumpkin patches and foliage get away with all the fun did you? Nope, me neither.  

Especially since apple picking here in Denmark seems to be serious business...

Since it gets cooler here earlier, and rainier too, apple season already started awhile ago.  In fact, this weekend was the only weekend for picking (or self-plucking as they say here) left in the season.  Luckily the rains held back but that certainly didn't stop a healthy dose of mud and good use of galoshes…

As I mentioned, apple picking is serious stuff here.  None of the distractions like corn mazes or hay rides or whatever else we did at those fall festivals in the US last year.  No, here it's apples and apples alone - well, with the exception of pears, which also grow in this Vedbaek Frydenlund orchard (while self-plucking had ended for those boys, you could still buy them from the pre-picked stands).  People come with some serious accoutrements here. I was trying to figure out how to take pictures without looking totally creepy, but there were side harnessed metal picking baskets…wooden crates…and full on wheelbarrows that people were using.  I just couldn't get over how emotionally committed people were to really leaving with some serious apples.

In fact, there really weren't that many children around so as not to distract from all the self-plucking I suppose.  Or maybe the kids do all their apple fall things at school - diplot-tot seems to constantly be picking apples and doing fire roasts with them at school from what I can tell.  But I have to say, it was incredibly refreshing to do a much simpler take on these fall outings as a parent.  And guess what? The kids didn't even seem to notice that all those distracting bells and whistles weren't there - we had just as good a time, if not better.

At the entry there's a stand where you can try (small and rationed) slivers of the various apple varieties - and the the first thing you'll probably notice is that you're spoiled for choice.  The catch is that if you go on the last weekend you can't actually self-pluck them all so in that sense the tasting is more symbolic.   However, there are plenty of all kinds to be had at the pre-plucked section (and the price is the same actually so you might as well go for what you like).  Apples in the US can be fairly homogenous, unless you are close to farms or live in Washington State, so trying all the different kinds was definitely part of the fun.

Jonagolds and Topaz were all that was left this weekend but that was good enough for me - one of my favorite kinds anyway.  Plus let's face it, we didn't exactly arrive there with wheelbarrows and a semi professional agenda - a few pictures and enough for an apple cake were more my objectives.  

The little apples here and there are crab apples I believe.  And while there wasn't a whole establishment around food and entertainment, there was a small stand selling honey and crab apple jelly, and while there were no petting zoos, they had some real actual sheep which seemed just as entertaining for the diplo-tot.

After a few spills in the mud and a crate full of fruit, a nice snack outside of cheese, pistachios, and of course, apples, at the tables by some of the sheep pretty much made it a perfect fall afternoon.  So as it turns out, them Danish apples turned out rather well.  Next year,  I'm coming for the pears!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Notes from the Field: London, England...

Of all the places that I go for work, London is the most reoccurring destination.  And I've often wondered what it would be like to be there for longer than just the five days, either for my own work or the diplo-husband's - to give it a real go as a city to live in.  Candidly, I go back and forth - there's so much going on one hand....on the other hand, there is so much going on.  Kind of makes you wonder if an individual can ever really find their own corner in a place like that...But then again, when I read something like today's Notes from the Field, I kind of think maybe it's possible.

Erin shares her own take on London as a diplo-spouse but keeps pretty good tabs on her adventures through her blog Erin Maree.  Follow her along on instagram for London snaps, Pinterest and Twitter - and of course, get a head start with her post below!

Diplo-mat or Diplo-spouse (or other)? Diplo-spouse

Current Post: London
Three words to describe your current post:  Pricey, Parks, Beautiful.

Best thing about London:
Living in London you have all of Europe (and many other places) at your doorstep. You can take the train to Paris for the weekend, Italy and Spain are quick trips away, plus there are countless places to visit around the UK.  And all are so accessible! It feels like you can forever be a tourist here in London. With so many museums, cultural/historical sites, restaurants, pubs, markets, shopping… you will never be at a loss for something to do!

You have visitors in town for the weekend, what does the weekend look like?
There would definitely be a trip to Borough Market! Think humongous outdoor market where you can find everything from fruits, vegetables, and fresh cheeses and meats, to yummy, fresh-baked pastries to your pick of international cuisines, wine, beer… pretty much any and everything you could ever want!
I am dying to go on the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, and having out of town visitors would be the perfect excuse to check it out! I can’t imagine a better way to see all the sights than riding around on a vintage London bus while enjoying tea and delicious sweets. We live about a 10-minute walk from Abbey Road, so we would have to swing by the famed crosswalk. If anything, it’s just fun to watch all of the tourists dodge traffic as they attempt to re-create the Beatle cover. It is quite the sight!

We could then walk to “Little Venice” and hop on a water taxi to the London Zoo. Of course there would be some pint drinking at one of the many neighborhood pubs thrown in. We would also do some strolling along our neighborhood High Street, and if our daughter has any say, we would hit up one of the many parks!

If you’re in London, you must try:
Afternoon tea at Selfridges or any of the other high-end department stores. It is a bit pricey, but you can’t come to London and not experience a proper British teatime!

What are your go-to sources for learning about the culture or things to do/experience while you’re at your post city?
As a blogger I was all about searching out other London blogs before we moved. I found several that I still follow today. Some of the best resources are those who are currently “living the life” in whatever post you find yourself. I have learned so much and added so many items to our “things to do in London” list by reading blogs. Facebook groups are wonderful as well. I belong to our neighborhood mums group on Facebook and it is a wealth of information! I love having all of those women to bounce questions off of and to learn from. I also have to say that our social sponsors from the Embassy were fantastic in setting us up with a long list of both practical (ie: doctors, grocery stores) and fun things to do around town!

Most difficult about living in London: 
I think the hardest part is being so far from family and friends. But honestly that comes with any post. I feel just as far away from family now that we are living in London as I did when we were living even further away in Abu Dhabi several years ago.

Biggest adventure at post?
We recently rented a flat through AirBNB and took a long weekend to Deal and Dover. We hiked the White Cliffs, explored Dover Castle, and walked along the breathtaking rocky beach that was just a block from our flat. It was our first “adventure” at post, having only been in London for a couple of months now. We can’t wait to add to the list. Next up is a trip to Paris in November!

When did you realize you were far from home?
The first time I went to cross the street! You have to completely re-learn the proper way to look. Right THEN Left! A lot of the bigger intersections have this gentle reminder painted on the ground, just in case you forget.

What’s the most important thing about re-creating your home at post?
Having an almost two-year old, it was most important for us to re-create her bedroom from home here in London. If she was happy and comfortable here, then we knew we would be. We shipped over her crib, dresser, rocking chair, bookshelves, and toys (of course!) and crossed our fingers that it would all fit! It did, barely, much to our relief. Also, bringing lots of pictures and other keepsakes from home really helps. Once we started filling our walls and shelves with familiar faces it made this place instantly feel more like home.

Three things you can’t live without at post?
My camera/iPhone, comfortable walking shoes, and a really good, compact (for fitting on buses and in lifts/elevators) stroller…I mean buggy… how un-British of me. ;)

One thing you thought you couldn’t live without but have had to?
Oooh, that’s a tough one. We can pretty much find anything and everything here. And, if we can’t find it there is always the DPO that allows us to shop online to our heart’s content.  I anticipated really missing Trader Joe’s and Target as they were a huge part of life back in the States, but I honestly haven’t really thought about them much. There are plenty other amazing places to shop here!

What’s the best advice someone ever gave you about the diplomatic life? 
I’m not sure if this is advice I heard before moving overseas or if it is just something I have come to learn, but diplomatic life can feel very isolating at times. It is hard to get out there and explore and make friends when you are in a new and unfamiliar place. It can be especially difficult as a spouse that isn’t working out of the home. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is stay put in the house because that is what is familiar and safe. But it is so important to learn your new city. Find a favorite coffee shop. Learn how to get to the grocery store on the bus. Go to the local library. It is so empowering to feel like you know your way around like a local! Also, find a circle of people you can lean on while at post. Be it a book club, church group, play group, your neighbors, etc.  Diplomatic life will be whatever you make of it. It can be an amazing, eye-opening experience only if you allow yourself the chance to experience all that your new home has to offer!

What’s your daily uniform? 
Skinny Jeans, a light shirt, a scarf, a light jacket, and flats. I am all about comfort since I am always walking places with my daughter… to the park, to the grocery store, to the library. Layering is key as the weather can change at a moment’s notice. Oh, and an umbrella. I always have an umbrella!

You’re having guests over on Saturday night, what’s on the menu?
Probably something warm and hearty as the weather has quickly taken a turn to Fall here in London. It would be full of fresh veggies from the organic market just down the road. For dessert we would have a selection of sweets from our favorite local bakery. I am always itching for an excuse to buy yummy baked goods! If we were feeling extra lazy, Indian from Bombay Takeaway on the corner would be our go-to. Their curry is to-die-for!

Dream post for next assignment? Why?
If my husband had his way we would be headed to Japan or South Korea. New Zealand is also high on his list, which wouldn’t be too shabby! I would love to go to Spain or somewhere in South America. It would be great to brush up on and use that Spanish I studied all those years in high school and college. Portugal would be amazing, too! We have yet to live somewhere that English wasn’t widely spoken. Learning a new language (or brushing up on an old one) would be such a fun challenge!

One thing you wished someone had told you before arriving?
How inaccessible a lot of the Tube stations are for buggies (strollers). I always wonder how anyone living in London that is wheel chair bound or otherwise physically-impaired is able to easily get around on the Tube. There are very few stations with lifts (elevators) and a lot of the train platforms have a large gap to maneuver in order to step on to the train. (Hence the phrase, “Mind the Gap!”) Buses are much more buggy-friendly, so we rely on them to take us most places.

Parting thoughts?
If you ever get the chance to live or travel abroad, do it! Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone a little and explore a part of the world you know nothing about.  You won’t regret it!

If you have your own blog, what are three of your own favorite posts?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Spanish Holiday: Montserrat...

After so much time exploring the coast on the Spanish Holiday this summer, we thought at some point it might be good to head inland into the mountains and picked Montserrat to explore.  Since we did it on a Sunday, this little hamlet, which is actually a Benedictine Abbey is up in the mountains. 
Or is it monastery? It' hard to tell since they call themselves both  - the main area is home to monks still, and I believe there is a cloister for nuns on the other side as well.

We chose Sunday to go, which worked out nicely since we could then also see the church and also the weekend "market".  The monks -and now with other associates - still make assorterted cheeses and jams and honeys using products from the local area.

But the main religious "attraction" (for lack of a better word) is a "black Madonna" statue in the sanctuary of the church.  It's place of pilgrimage for many and considered to be one of  - if not the - holiest site in Spain.  Hint for those visiting, if you go early in the morning, before the buses come, there won't be a line at all and  it's actually pretty special to see, regardless of what your own beliefs might be.

The courtyards and gardens offer plenty of nooks and crannies for exploring and enjoying the cooler breezes of the altitude...And the art museum, which has everything from a ginormous collection of greek icons through Picasso, is definitely worth the visit as well....

We drove up to the monastery but there actually are several ways up there between the the train and cable car and then funicular up top...but even if you just walk around the views are pretty amazing.  There were actually groups that walked all the way up the mountain, and even more impressive, those that biked all the way up...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Frilandsmuseet Video...

Somehow a little more time went by than I intended since the last post - I think travel, a broken computer, and a general state of confusion might have had something to do with that.  The grand irony is that I even had posts ready to go - which is good since it might be a bit before the computer is fixed up...

I haven't had much time at home and what I have I try and give to the diplo-tot without much reservation.  Part of it is mom guilt from being away, and part of it is because I'm realizing that the days where it's just us are fewer and fewer.  Don't get me wrong, we're excited to add to the brood, but it will be in some ways the end of an era both for her and for us...Change is a good thing, but it's still change...

So this weekend we took advantage, just she and I, of the absolutely beautiful weather that broke up the rain and headed out to the Frilandsmuseet.  It's a fantastic "open air museum" where a whole series of typical Danish homes have been transplanted for people to view and explore.  That's the part that's cool for me.  It's cool in her eyes becuase it involves pony rides...
A real post with photos to in the future  - but in the meantime, a little video above to count as proof of life.  Regular posting to come soon!