Monday, March 26, 2012

A new kind of Spring

I am experiencing Spring in Denmark for the first time.  I don't know if this is a 'normal' spring but whatever it is, I like it.  Having spent most of my adult life (and even childhood) in southern states, spring meant cool evenings and mornings and days that start out reaching highs in the 70's but then the 80's creep in and by May (or sooner) highs are in the 90s and summer is definitely knocking on the door.
 I honestly couldn't tell you what the temperatures have been here recently but the evenings and morning are quite cool. By the middle of the day temperatures recently have been so nice.  Nice enough to wear shorts around the yard (though if you go out and see the Danes in public, they still have jeans, coats, and scarves on..why? I don't know)  Anyway, this is what I always envisioned spring being like--a slowly arriving season that says it is actually spring, not the introduction to summer. (I'm sorry but if it is in the 80's in February, it may be nice at the moment, but it only means summer will be miserable!)  
So, I've been loving the spring here so far.  Flowers are popping up all around the neighborhood and in our yard even so I thought I'd show you a few flowers that I have collected on walks with Scout (fyi, these were in no ones yard--I wasn't picking flowers out of anyone's garden I promise!)
When I picked the purple flowers, they looked like a tiny tulip but by the time I arrived home, they were all open like this

I don't know what any of these flowers are called but the white ones remind me of lanterns.

To give you perspective on their size--(and the size of the tiny ball jars!)  A lego baker standing next to them.
 The rest of the pictures are from around the house.  Have I mentioned I love Spring, and Easter too :) 
Tealights on the dresser-turned-china-holding-side-table.

Bottle Brush chicks from Pottery Barn last year.  When I lived in DC, I stalked the sale stuff after Easter making sure I could buy these originally $20 dollar chicks for much, much cheaper. The colored stone eggs came from a store here called Søstrene Grene.  I can't think of what store in the U.S. it could be compared.  

Stacked basket in a bowl.  I used glass tealight holders to raise the basket above the edge of the bowl. I thought it was a pretty clever way to store them, since I was about to stuff them in a drawer.
Ball Jar candle holders
From the other direction

 The eggs in the jars are just plastic easter eggs.  I taped around the opening and then covered them with Mod Podge and scrapbook paper.  I've made about 10 each year for the past 2 years and now have quite a collection of them. 

Birds in my favorite branch

I bought 2 fabric birds and made the rest out of scrapbook paper. 

Mantle.  The bowl and the print were purchased in Germany on our way to Austria in February.

A picture where the print is in-focus.  It is of Rottenburg, Germany. (just south of Stuttgart) We haven't been there but this building can still be seen.
White bunny, another after-Easter Pottery Barn find.  His original purpose was to be a place card holder but I think he serves a better purpose guarding this massive egg.
I suppose I will leave my Easter/ Spring decorations up until it actually feels like summer...I forgot to mention this but, the days are getting much longer now.  Between the time change this past weekend and the shifting of the earth, the sun comes up around 7 and sets a little before 8.  The days will be getting longer until the end of June! I'm loving it now but will be thankful for my black out shades  when the sun is rising before 5 and setting after 10 :)

Love of Pinterest and a recipe

I know that I have once raved via blog about how much I love, but I do not believe I have mentioned Pinterest to date.  I decided that since I haven't blogged about much of anything recently, I would briefly mention Pinterest today.  Just before I left for Denmark, I opened my Pinterest account. I spent hours on it, literally many wasted hours, searching and repinning and dreaming about owning my own home one day so that I can oh...put storage in my staircase (obviously I cannot put storage in my staircase until 1) I own the staircase and 2) I have a staircase). Anyway, I digress.  

Since arriving and settling in here, my pinteresting has been cut down to a reasonable amount of time and usually for a purpose.  I have been pinning a variety of things that I may want to use in the future baby's room and also, I use it most often for recipes.  I have found that it is better to search for a recipe on Pinterest rather than in a regular search engine.  I am not sure why this is but I have narrowed the reason down to the fact that you are looking at pictures rather than words of what you are searching.  Yes, you will see a picture of stuffed bell pepper during a Google search, but it is also accompanied by a lot of other additional words that distract.  Pinterest is simply a picture and usually a small description that will tell you if it is vegetarian, has sausage, is stuffed with a tamale etc.  (If you've been under a rock and have never used pinterest, compare the 2 searches for stuffed bell peppers here and here. )

The real reason for this post is to share a now seasonally inappropriate recipe.  That's right, fall and even winter are over but I think canned pumpkin could and should be used year round.  It's in a can for a reason right?  Okay, I actually think eating anything pumpkin in the heat of the summer sounds pretty sick, but it's still pretty chill here, so pumpkin donuts (but in my case muffins) are just fine.  The original recipe for the donuts is found here, but I had to change a few things..So without further ado, I give you

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Muffins 
(because who has a donut pan)
If you squinted, they could almost be a donut hole :)

Mix wet in dry ingredients in separate bowls.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /190 degrees Celsius.
Spray muffin pan (or donut pan if you're so lucky) with some form of anti-stick spray

Wet: (try to use all ingredients at room temperature)

1/2 cup plus 3 rounded tablespoons, canned, pureed pumpkin
2 tablespoons of molasses (make sure you get every last bit out of the spoon!)
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened, unflavored almond milk (or your choice of non-dairy milk)
1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
Stir all ingredients until combined
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of salt 
whisk together till combined

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Do not over-stir.  The dough will be fairly thick.  Unless you have a donut pan, place a spoonful in each sprayed muffin tin hole or pocket. The dough will rise so use an amount that keeps the uncooked dough below the edge of the muffin hole. (so if you were at eye level with the top of the muffin tray, you wouldn't be able to see dough coming up from each hole-I have no idea how to effectively explain this!)  Using a convection oven, I baked my muffins for around 15-16 minutes.  Before removing, make sure a toothpick comes out clean when pricking the tallest muffin  Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, and an additional 5 minutes on a cooling rack. Then, melt 1 tablespoon of butter into a cup and use a brush to apply it onto the tops of the muffins. Dip the muffin tops into 1/4 cup of sugar and a few shakes of cinnamon that has been mixed  in a separate bowl.  

Then, enjoy while perusing Pinterest :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3 plus 1 makes 4

There is Ed, Scout, me and now....

...which makes 4!  This he or she will be arriving at the end of September!

Alpbach: Austria's most beautiful village

Over winter break, Ed and I returned to Austria for another few days of skiing.  After our last trip to Kitzbuhel, we decided that we should get them most out of our new skis and boots by heading back to Austria one more time this winter.  I don't recall why we picked Alpbach but we figured that a place voted 'most beautiful village in Austria' in 1983 had to be alright.  It is at a lower elevation so I think we both were a little bit worried that we would arrive to find no snow....we couldn't have been more wrong!  There was more than enough snow and we had a memorable week!

We arrived on Monday around noon after spending the night somewhere in Germany.   We checked into our hotel and decided to relax the rest of the day.  At first, everything about our room and hotel was great. 
Not a bad view right?
 The room was large, clean and had a nice view.  It did seem a little cold though.  Ed discussed this with the front desk and they explained that the temperature went down during the day when everyone was out.  Fine. I understand that. They brought us a small space heater to warm the room up for us since we were staying in the room for awhile.  So after cranking up the space heater and turning the radiators to high, we kicked backed to relax and surf the internet for a bit...but there was no internet service to be found.  Ed made a return trip to the front desk to inquire about the lack of service, to which they replied "We've never had a problem with your room before but we are having an internet specialist come tomorrow so if you need the internet tonight, you may use the 2 hour internet voucher (that we paid for at check in) here at the lobby computer"  To skip to the end of the story, we ended up checking out of our hotel in the morning because of that pesky heating issue.  They turned the radiators off (yes, completely off--they came back on at 7a.m.) at night as well so by midnight, the room was so cold that even the thin cotton duvet didn't offer much comfort. In the night, while we were huddling under our duvets in attempt to stay warm, Ed found a nearby guest house with a 2 person room available.  The cost for the remaining nights was a third of what we were paying at our first place and our room was about 100 times better.  It was cozy, warm, had fluffy down duvets and a great view of the valley.
After checking into room number 2, we went skiing.  Alpbach has a great little ski resort. I think that if I didn't know how to ski, this would be where I would want to learn--which is probably why there were hundreds of ski school attendees on the mountain while we were there. Our first day of skiing was nice, uneventful, pleasant even....Enter: day 2.   I guess that it began snowing at night.  When we woke up, our car looked like this
and it was still snowing.  We have winter tires but did not have chains so we ended up walking to the ski bus and leaving our car in the safety of the parking lot.  Day two of skiing was a bit different than day one.  It was really windy and nearly white-out conditions.  After lunch, we left the restaurant to find no one on the slopes (which was very strange-feeling to me) It was snowing and blowing even more than before lunch so we decided that we should just ski to the bottom of the hill and call it a day.  We found a run that we both thought we had skied before lunch and headed down---I would never make this up--the entire run was untouched powder to our knees. As it was even more white than before, I was nervous that I would lose Ed in the storm.  Every time I would fall in the powder I would try to keep my head up so I wouldn't lose sight of him.  I will add that falling in powder is definitely more fun than a normal fall on skis :)

The next morning, we planned to drive to Innsbruck and walk around for the day but upon attempting to drive down into the valley, (and sliding on very slushy, and icy roads with no snow chains) we turned around and thankfully made it back our guesthouse parking lot without being involved in any accidents.
The most snow the mouse car has ever seen-we never did find out how much snow fell but apparently it was a lot even for Alpbach
 It was still snowing so we opted to go tobogganing instead of skiing.  We walked uphill for over an hour to reach the start of the run.  The trail hadn't been plowed yet, so we were walking in several inches of snow and following a set of footprints from earlier in the day.  I have been warm while skiing but I have never been so warm that I wanted to take off my jacket.  I guess walking uphill is an entirely different animal because I would have been happy in a tshirt!
I can imagine that in the summer, Alpbach would be a beautiful village

Ed did make it into a tshirt
We finally made it to the lodge at the top of the hill where we had lunch and visited this friendly fox.  When preparing to leave, we discovered that they only accepted cash as payment for meals.  Ed pulled out his wallet to find the cash clip..empty.  Fortunately, I had left my little cash purse with 20euro in it in my jacket pocket so after scraping all of our coins together, we had enough to pay for lunch and our toboggan rental. 
We collected our toboggan and set off down the hill.
Ed, the one with a cat allergy, stopping to make a friend...

 We had no prior tobogganing experience before our trip down

The snow had finally stopped, but the low-hanging clouds stayed
And look, a video!  Taken by yours truly as I screamed...possibly cried down the mountain.

The tobogganing turned out alright so we continued to sled for awhile after we made it back to the main road. It was my first time to use one of these disk sleds--they are fast on a steep hill!

We left the next day.  The roads had been cleared so we had no problems. I would like to just add one more thing to this post...if you ever visit Alpbach, I would highly recommend that you stay at Gästehaus Larch.  It is owned and operated by a family.  Most rooms include a kitchen (ours did not) so it would be a perfect place for a family to stay.  They serve breakfast only.  Other restaurants (and the ski bus) can be reached by an eight minute walk.