Sunday, 30 August 2009

Note(let)s from a Small Island

DD7 wrote me a note on Saturday. She is just about to crack the 'reading code' and has discovered - to her joy and mine - that she can now write her own notes and letters...well, at least, using the Danish sounds and letters she has learnt at school.


And just in case you didn't already know ;) the Danish alphabet has 29 letters. The 'extra' ones being æ, ø and å

Here it is:

Diø Mummy
[Dear Mummy]

I senk at ju sal km 2 Doggys pati
[I think at you shall come to Doggy's party.]

Fra Emilie
[Fra in Danish = From Emilie]





Spurred on by my excitement at getting her first real note she, of course, wanted to write me another... Hmm, this called for some special notepaper. I went to my stationery stash (ok, so it's a four drawer cabinet...) and found a perspex box which I have had since I was about 7 or 8. There are about 20 notelets in the box, 4 or 5 different motifs. Dogs, badgers,horses (don't know why those are in there, I don't like horses), one with a baby sitting in a spider's web (??) and a couple with recipes on them.







I didn't want to use them all as a kid, I wanted to KEEP them, because they were so special! LOL So here they are in a drawer in Denmark, over 30 years later...

DD7 set to work on another literary masterpiece while I reread the recipe notelets. One is for 'Strawberry Tarts with Apricot Glaze', the other is for 'Another Apple Cake'. That looked like a very simple recipe and it called for 2 cooking apples which, as we speak, are falling of my tree in the garden. And the final decider - use a funnelled cake tin - can't resist that, don't know why!



Took me all of 15 minutes to make and smells absolutely delicious. DS9 had three helpings (so did I...) so it tastes good too! Definitely a keeper.

Helen Corbitt's 'Another Apple Cake'


Mix together
  • ½lb sugar
  • 6 fl ozs vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Mix in
  • 6 oz flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 6 ozs (2 medium sized) cooking apples, chopped finely
  • 4 ozs walnuts (don't use them, don't like nuts in cakes!)
Pour into buttered angel cake tin with funnelled base. Bake at 375f, gas mark 5, 175 c for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean. Serve plain or with lemon glaze (4 oz sugar with 1 fl oz lemon juice, bring to boil, cool and pour over cake).




I decided instead to go with some white icing on top...Scottish people love thick, white icing :)

Here it is in all it's glory. I think you'll agree that this one fits - rather nicely - into the 'Jackson Pollock' school of icing... ;)

Saturday, 29 August 2009

'Hurdy Gurdy' Swedish Sausage Stew



I'm not technically sure that this is Swedish...or indeed that the Swedes have ever heard of it! But it's a dish that is popular in Denmark and in the local lingo is known as Svensk Pølsegryde (Swedish Sausage saucepan/skillet). It's popular with kids and you often see it on the deli counter of supermarkets where it is sold by weight.

Easy peasy to make and - using ingredients that I normally always have on hand - it's one of my regular stand bys. DH likes it too. Who doesn't like sausages? LOL


You're going to need:
  • an onion, chopped
  • a couple of carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • a teaspoon of mild or sweet paprika powder
  • 5 good quality frankfurter sausages (we use the 'Langelænder' brand), chopped into small pieces
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato ketchup or tomato purée
  • a tin of tomatoes (I normally add a tablespoon of sugar too, to counter the acidity)
  • a couple of dashes Worcester sauce ('English' sauce as it's called here) if you have it
and
  • 50-100mls of cream / a quarter-half a cup of 'half&half' (you could just add stock or water, but where is the fun in that??)
Fry in this order: onions, carrots, paprika, sausages

Add the tin of tomatoes (and sugar, if using), the ketchup or purée and the Worcester sauce

Bring to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes

Add the cream, plenty of pepper and some salt, and let it heat through gently

Serve with rice, bulgur wheat, couscous, pasta, noodles... I personally like it served with rice or bulgur. Which is also the easiest option for me, because I just plug in the rice cooker before I start making the stew and let it get on with the job ;)

That's it...a recipe worthy of the Swedish chef himself! ;)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Many thanks to Donna for stopping by the "Let's try that again, shall we" post and asking for the recipe :)

Pizza Shut

We had pizza last night. Seems like half of Copenhagen had the same thought because three other girls from DD7's class were 'oooing' and 'aaaing' about getting it for dinner, and we overheard other families when we were down at http://experimentarium.dk/ (science playground) talking about it too.

I made ours with half white flour, half spelt flour - yep, trying to keep it fairly healthy. Kids don't notice it at all and, if I'm completely honest, neither do I.

It got me thinking about my favourite pizzas from Pizza Hut... It's one of the first chain restaurants I can remember, besides Macdonalds and the Wimpy. Just like Macdonalds, you know that, even if the menu changes over the years, the food still tastes the same. Heavy, cosy, very little real nutritional value and, of course, perfect comfort food! :)

I've taken the DKs there a few times. Once in Edinburgh, when visiting the Scottish annex of the family and three or four times in Copenhagen. Needless to say, they loved it. Not so much the pizzas - they just remember the 'all you can eat' icecream buffet and the kiddies gifts.

We decided one rainy afternoon in March to go and have an early dinner there. DH wasn't coming home that night, it had been a busy week, and I was cutting myself some slack. Imagine our dismay on discovering that - horror of horrors - Pizza Hut had closed down! Not just that, but all the Danish branches of Pizza Hut had closed. Just weren't getting the business!

So here I am, left with mixed feelings. Pining for that comfort food. But proud of the Danes for voting with their feet and their stomachs.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Raaaaspberries!


Now if the title of today's blogpost is familiar to you, then come on in... we're going to be bosom buddies! Even if my 'fronts' aren't too full... ;)


I've been watching the film "Thoroughly Modern Millie" since I was a child. Watched it on the telly with my Mum (also a fan), taped it off the TV when video machines came along and watched it with my best friend from school, Gillian. Gillian and I started school on the same day, and are still in touch 37 years later. And still talk about the film :)

Mum and Dad managed to track down an official copy of the film on VHS because they were worried that my homemade copy would wear out... Years later http://amazon.co.uk/ was born and I managed to find - halleluja - not only a DVD but a CD of the original music. I still get goosebumps when I watch the opening credits...you can see it here on youtube!

DH passed the boyfriend 'test' when even he had to give in to it's charms. (And he's almost as word perfect as I am.) And he even - bless him - went along with calling our DD a variant of the name Millie! :)

Thought I was the only world with this addiction. And like Mrs Meers says, it's "Sad to be all alone in the world..." Until I discovered to my delight that a whole bunch of flybabies on twitter can 'do the 'Tapioca' too.

Add http://blogtalkradio.com/ to that mix, and the idea for a "Global Viewing of the film Thoroughly Modern Millie" was born....

We set up a show on BlogTalk. Start time was 6pm in Denmark, 5pm in the UK, 2pm in New York... Switched on our DVDs simultaneously around the globe and chatted while we watched - it was 'terrif'! We had 40 live Millie fans on the day from England, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Denmark and both sides of the USA. And of course, being the creative SHE that I am, I had to turn our dining room into the dining room of the Priscilla Hotel...not forgetting, of course, the 'Soy Sauce'!


And to finish it all off we had something 'sweet'. Pavlova with...raaaaspberries!


Thursday, 27 August 2009

Let's try that again, shall we?

Back to the meal planning table... There have been a couple of holes in my menu plans over the past few weeks - trips me right up and gives me so much grief... It's so eeeeeasy when I have it down on paper in advance.

So here we go. Yes, I know it's not Monday - it's Thursday - but as my online grocery order is coming this afternoon, here is the plan for the next 7 days:

Thursday

  • Crockpot Chili, will serve with brown rice, tortilla chips and grated cheddar cheese (My kids don't like kidney beans so, thanks to a clever tip I read on http://recipezaar.com/, I've blended the whole tin and added it to the meat mixture. So the chili has the trademark red colour but the consistency of meat sauce.)

Friday

  • Homemade Pizza, with bacon (for me!) and pepperoni (the other three), served with raw veggies (cherry toms, cucumber sticks, etc)
  • kids get their weekly ration of sweets today, so no dessert (see my earlier blogpost 'TGIF' )

Saturday (good, old family night)

  • Lamb 'Culottes' (large steaks - sorry - don't know what cut of meat that is in English!), served with mustard, roasted Portobello mushrooms, tomato salad, fresh raw spinach and baby potatoes

  • perhaps Krista's brownies for dessert :) :) while we are enjoying "Merlin" on the telly

Sunday

  • Swedish Sausage Stew, served with bulghur wheat with the leftover fresh spinach mixed in

Monday

  • Char Sui Crockpot Chops, sugarsnap peas and chinese noodles

Tuesday (scout night)

  • (all-in-one-dish) Roast Chicken Legs with oven-baked potato wedges and fresh, raw veggies or maybe flash-fried Danish 'pointy' spring cabbage

Wednesday

  • Homemade Beefburgers, either served on top of fried toast with balsamico/cream sauce (a swanky, grown-up version) or on buns with crisps + veggies on the side (traditional style)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Kitchen essentials

We're just about to start a (huge) remodel of our kitchen which will give us a place to sit down and eat in there. Right now, we either sit in our garden room (if it's just the 4 of us) or use our large dining room.

The kitchen has always been MY room. DH doesn't cook, and I don't ask him to. He has cooked for me twice (when we were first going out in 1994) and can reheat things if I'm on death's door. So I've always had full reign in there, and painted it bright pink.




I've got a couple of personal nicknacks in there that I'm not sure I'll be allowed to display in our new 'family' space...













Above the sink, photo of me at the tender age of 21 with H.R.H. The Princess Royal (Princess Anne, the Queen's daughter). It was taken when she came to visit our offices in Edinburgh. Makes me smile when I look at my permed hair and those long, RED nails I had at work... Must have spent hours looking after them!




My official Star Wars pencil - it says 'May the force be with you", though the writing has rubbed off a bit over the years. Got it in 1977 and it has, somehow, moved with me from Edinburgh to Luxembourg to Denmark. Didn't intentionally mean to take it with me, it's just been in one of those boxes of pens/pencils that follow you from house-to-house. I loved Han Solo as a child (more so as a woman...) and now that DS9 and friends have become the next generation of Star Wars freaks, I keep it on permanent display ;)

And my single drumstick, thrown by The Klaxons at an open-air concert they played in Malmö Sweden in late summer 2007. I had to fight off a small crowd of other fans to get it. Gives me hope that there's still life in the old girl yet...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Anyone for Wii? Part 2

I think this WiiFit and I are going to become firm friends. And I'm not just saying that because yesterday, when I retook my body test, it adjusted my WiiFit age from 71 to 34....that's eight years YOUNGER than I actually am! LOL

No, it seems like it's going to be a great supplement to the exercise I'm already doing with the NEWO system http://noexcusesworkouts.com/ Go check out Jonathan Roche's website, there are free workouts, recipes and training tips.

I heard about Jonathan Roche via (suprise, surprise!) the Flylady and couldn't resist the lure of his "6 minute" strength training exercise. As Jonathan says, if you've got 6 minutes to watch TV or spend on the computer, you've got 6 minutes to do this workout! Want to try? http://www.noexcusesworkouts.com/v/vspfiles/assets/images/NEWO_noexcusesworkout.pdf

I also try to fit in 3 interval workouts every week. I don't have a gym membership any longer (prefer my own music...), instead I go running twice a week in the park with some other schoolmums and mow the lawn (or #lawnmothering as I like to call it on http://twitter.com/) one to two times a week. Now, mowing the lawn may not sound much of a workout to you, but my heartrate monitor tells a different story ;)

You can google interval training, but basically it means pushing your body for, say, 3 minutes, and then recovering for 1 minute. So if you like biking, you cycle like mad for 3 minutes and slow down for 1. Or if you like walking, you powerwalk for 3 and go at a leisurely pace for 1. You get the idea. Repeat about 4 times, or as required. My interval workouts usually last 30-45 minutes.

So, back to the WiiFit... I tried the 'muscle' exercises and worked my way through lifts, pushups, lunges and squats. Very similar to what I'm doing now, but with the advantage of being able to put in your own number of reps. And, judging by the way my thighs feel this morning, this thing actually works.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Anyone for Wii?

DH calmly announced to the DKs in the middle of our summer holidays in France that, "When we get back to Denmark, we'll buy a Wii." Hello? Was there any discussion with the other grown-up in this family? LOL We already have a PlayStation (albeit not number 3, though we do have that little camera eye-thingy that goes on top of telly) and, to be brutally honest, it's often covered with dust.

Back in Denmark, DH goes off to the shops to acquire said Wii. I told him not to return home, unless he was also carrying a WiiFit in his other hand. Not that I actually knew what a WiiFit was, but a lot of friends have been raving about them ;)

So here we are...3 weeks since the acquisition and I still haven't had a proper shot on the darn thing. The first week it was impossible to get to the machine for small children. The second week we had visitors and it was impossible to get to the machine for adults masquerading as big children.

I have at least managed to set up my profile where I was delighted to read that I had a perfect BMI but a virtual age of 71...? Hmm, something wrong there. So - without further ado - I will switch off the computer, crank up the music, push back the sofa (putting my procrastination underneath one of the cushions) and go wii...

Full match report to follow.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Houston, we have a problem...




Houston, we have a problem...

Internet is down today (problem with provider in our area), which means I can only access my blog from my phone.

But, in true Flylady style, I will not get all perfectionist on you - I'll just post what I can and leave the long-winded blogposts with action colour photos for another day. Because after all, I haven't missed a single post since I started ! :)

I've heard lots of motivational quotes over the past couple of years. Some are lofty, some are intellectual, some are funny, some thought-provoking.

This one works for me...worldclass procrastinator and scaredy-cat! ;)

"You can do anything for 15 minutes" Marla Cilley, a.k.a. The FlyLady

Sent from my iPhone




Saturday, 22 August 2009

Harriet's Kokosdessert / Choco Coco Dessert

My DMIL used to make this for us many times. It's a great retro dessert with that quintessential Danish dessert component: a meringue-type base. Have no idea where she got the recipe from (she wrote it down by hand for me), but she used to try lots of recipes from weekly magazines for the 'older lady' like "Søndag" and "Ude og Hjemme".

My DH isn't too keen on this one (too much cream for his liking - he's not a dairy freak like me) but, as DBIL is coming for dinner tonight, I thought we'd do a trip down memory lane.

HARRIET'S KOKOSDESSERT (Harriet's Coconut Dessert)

4 eggwhites (I use pasteurised, see note on eggs below)
4 eggyolks (I use pasteurised, see note on eggs below)
140g + 60g (200g total) icing sugar
140g dessicated coconut
100g butter
100g chocolate (we like plain, dark chocolate best)
a small carton of whipping cream
some extra chocolate for decoration

Heat the oven to 170c.

Beat the eggwhites until very stiff, add a pinch of salt if you like. Fold in 140g icing sugar and 140g dessicated coconut. Pour into a greased, spring tin - makes it easier to get out afterwards ;) Bake for about 45 minutes on the lowest shelf. Will look slightly golden when it's ready. Leave to cool in the tin.

The next layer of the cake is, in modern terms, a chocolate ganache. Melt 100g butter and 100g chocolate slowly in a saucepan. Take off the heat and let it cool slightly, because we're now going to mix in 60g icing sugar and the 4 pasteurised egg yolks. And we don't want to cook the egg yolks or make scrambled eggs, right? Pour on top of the coconut meringue base and, at this stage, you can pop it into the fridge.






When the chocolate layer is cooled and set, you can decorate it with a few rosettes of whipped cream.






















Or, as DMIL always did, cover the whole thing in whipped cream and shavings/curls of chocolate. As they say around these parts, velbekomme.

A WORD ON EGGS (Thanks to Em, for bringing this up! )

No need to use pasteurised eggs in this recipe, because the eggs are 'cooked' => no risk of salmonella poisoning. I use them because they're convenient...not all recipes require equal amounts of separated yolks and whites.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Don't believe the hype

Unbeknown to me, DS9 has been reading Tolkien's "The Hobbit" at school. (To be precise, he actually read the book "Hobbitten", because he read it in Danish.)

I've never read any Tolkien myself - that was something the clever, nerdy boys in my class did. So when the "Lord of the Rings" films were made, I watched them - thinking that it would somehow make up for my lack of intellectual reading. Watched them all, and still couldn't understand what all the hoo ha was about. Is there something I'm missing?

DS9 wrote a review of the book as a Danish assignment. I was looking forward to seeing what he wrote - hoping for some insight - as he is rather nerdy himself. Nose-in-a-book type and loves anything to do with dragons, orks and Warcraft stuff in general. When he went to nursery, he used to take a Sudoku book when it was 'bring your own toy day'. And when all the other 4 and 5 year olds were mad about pirates and Spiderman, he wanted the nursery teachers to explain the solar system to him...

Here's the plot according to DS9: "De går kun hen for at hente en ring."

Which - roughly translated - means, "They're just looking for a ring."

Ahhhh...that's my boy! :)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh

There are lots of "Threes of Me" going round on Facebook right now. Here are 3 DVDs that make me laugh out loud. Please tell me yours!

  • Blades of Glory (with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder)
  • A Night in Casablanca (the Marx Brothers)
  • Peter Kaye 'Live at the Top of the (Blackpool) Tower'

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Christmas in July (or even August)



My friend Candace a.k.a. @C_Joy from http://twitter.com/ asked for the Christmas cake recipe that I mentioned in my "Time Marches On" post. Only too happy to oblige!



This recipe is adapted from the book "Delia Smith's Christmas". Delia being the British Queen of family cooking. It's actually billed as "Last-Minute Christmas Mincemeat Cake". The name attracted me because the first time I made it (in my pre-Flylady days), it was a few days before Christmas and, despite the chaos around me, I wanted to have a traditional British Christmas cake.

Even if I'm not too keen on fruit cake - apart, of course, from the thick white icing (which I am now allowed to pick-off, because I'm Mum and I made it) - Christmas just isn't Christmas without one.

Even though I now bake my Christmas cake well in advance, I still use this recipe because it's easy and doesn't require 10 different spices (Denmark is still a bit of a developing country when it comes to baking ingredients). The kids and I bake it together in the school's autumn week holiday - yes, it's even written in my diary.


  • 450 g mincemeat from a jar (1lb)
  • 225 g wholemeal flour (80z)
  • 3 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 150 g dark brown sugar (5 oz)
  • 150 g butter or margarine (5 oz)
  • 175 g mixed dried fruit, chopped into small pieces (6 oz) [I use whatever I have handy - normally prunes, raisins, apricots, cranberries]
  • 50 g walnuts (2 oz) [yuck, don't like nuts in cakes, so I don't use them ;) ]
  • grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon [I don't always bother]
  • 3 eggs

Put everything in a large bowl. Mix with an electric hand whisk if you have one because this mixture is pretty heavy. Get everyone in the family to stir it with a big wooden spoon (just for theatrical effect) and make a wish. Naf, I know, but that has become our little Danish/Scottish family's tradition.

Pour into a 20 cm (8 inch) round or square cake tin. Make sure the base and sides are lined with paper, because it's going to be cooking for a looooong time.

Put into the oven gas mark 4, 325 fahrenheit, 170 celcius. Check it after 1½ hours. If it is firm and springy in the middle and doesn't leave a mark when you press it, it's done. Otherwise give it a bit longer (can take up to 2 hrs in all). Depends on your mincemeat, what fruit you're using etc.

Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out and finish cooling on a wire rack. Don't bother taking off the paper.

I then wrap mine in tinfoil, put it in a plastic box and feed it once a week (an integral part of my WHB each Monday morning up to Christmas).

Feeding it involves poking it several times with a skewer, then drizzling with a couple of tablespoons of Drambuie (Scottish whisky liqueur). Or cognac, Grand Marnier, brandy - whatever you happen to have to hand (can't really be tasted in the final cake, mainly gives a richness to the fruit).

Just make sure that whatever you use is fairly alcoholic. Because the 'proof' of the cake is in the eating... boom boom!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Fangs for the memory

Today I went to the dentist. Dentists and I go a long way back. Though I could certainly see them far enough. (Insert a big 'ho ho' here.)

Starting with the school dentist, where Mum claims I had a gold sticker at the top of my appointment card to show that I was a 'special' customer (read "terrified"). I still shudder at the thought of walking down that little alley at the bottom of Leith Links in Edinburgh. Not off to a good start.

When I grew up and got a job in my 20s, I was able to choose my own dentist. (General healthcare is free in the UK, but you pay for dentistry from the age of 18). I worked my way through several but finally found one which was close to my office near Broughton Street. The main attraction was being able to pay for (I kid you not) laughing gas. If I remember rightly, it cost £15 for a session - cheap at half the price! Certainly beat having to have an injection and was much more fun. Also taught me that Nancy Regan was right when she said "Just say no to drugs" - I reeeeeally enjoyed those sessions and did NOT want to come back to reality. There was only one side-effect, and that was that the gas took a while to wear off again. So I must have looked like an utter loony, grinning inanely at strangers on Leith Walk on the way back to the office.

Moved to work at the European Court in Luxembourg and the hunt was on yet again for a good dentist and doctor.

My first doctor there was called Dr Goerts (a Luxemburger). His receptionist spoke with a guttural 'g' which meant that she answered with phone with a "Hello, Dr Hurts" to which I, with my childish sense of humour, longed to reply "I do hope he won't". But I didn't. (And I suppose I should add, he didn't either.)

It was in Luxembourg that I found my best ever dentist. He was the dentist of my boss (the British Judge) and was a Dane by the name of Hans Ågerup. His (very sweet) wife helped him and the reception area had a large collection of Danish magazines and children's books. I actually used to turn up early for my appointments because I saw it as an opportunity to use what little Danish I had learned by then, and do some reading practice. :) (I was, as you will no doubt have guessed, dating my Danish DH by this point.)

Hans Ågerup was very patient, quietly spoken, extremely professional and explained EVERYTHING he was doing. I was completely at ease and didn't have to resort to my usual calming trick of looking up the dentist's nose... ;)

Got married, moved to Copenhagen and the hunt was on again. I saw an article in "Politikken" (Danish broadsheet) about dentists who had alternative methods when dealing with nervous patients. One in particular caught my eye. Jens Bjerregaard (and his better half, who also sits in reception) of Hellerup, who has draught beer in his waiting room.


In fact, not just one but several. You can just help yourself, there are proper glasses and beermats on the counter beside the beer taps. A band even comes and plays when the Christmas beer arrives. He claims it calms the patients and smells better on their breath than coffee. Who am I to argue?


I've been a patient there for 3 or 4 years now, but don't normally partake of the free booze. Mostly because I'm always there first thing in the morning (apparently it's quite busy in the afternoons). Though last December I did have a small glass of Tuborg Classic (an ale). It was just after a lengthy operation (not to mention an anæsthetic that would knock out a horse) on my lower jaw and Mrs Bjerregaard even kindly provided a straw. Now that's what I call a good dentist.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Time marches on

Autumn is officially on it's way. I know this, because the new Ikea catalogue came through the postbox yesterday :)

Now, I'm not an autumn fan. The changing colours of the leaves doesn't really do anything for me. In an ideal world, it would constantly be spring (like my personal colour ID). All that fresh produce, everything beginning to bloom in the garden, bright mornings and long evenings - together with a dash of summer's heat and winter's cosiness.

Anyway, the Flylady says to fake it till you make it, so I'm making a list of all the things I actually DO like about autumn:
  • lighting even more candles (in Denmark, we use candles all year round)
  • using our wood-burning fire in the living room (even a few bits of kindling is enough to brighten up a dark and dreary afternoon)
  • concert season has started (no, not opera, ballet or serious theatre for us - we 'heart' rock concerts)
  • going out with the girls on a more regular basis now that everyone is back from summer holidays
  • making our Christmas cake (a family tradition, we make it during the autumn school holiday in mid-October and feed it once a week with Drambuie after that)
  • putting the sewing machine to use (maybe this year I'll actually get round to starting and finishing those 'handmade' Christmas gifts)
  • doing lots of baking (in an attempt to use up the eating/cooking apples from the garden)

And lastly - and perhaps the best one of all - an e-mail from the Flylady towards the end of October, inviting me to get a cup of something "warm and wonderful", to pull out a notebook (or, in my case, my Holiday Control Journal started in 2006) and start planning for Christmas...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Pesky lunchboxes

I hate making packed lunches. Not sure why - certainly not because they take long to make - 10 minutes tops. Think it's more finding that delicate balance between being creative (threading different colour veggies on to skewers and calling them 'traffic lights') and giving the DKs something they want to eat day after day (meatball sandwich with ketchup or remoulade and roasted onions).

Anyway, our DKs go to a local Danish school. We pay for school fruit (they get one piece a day at the first break) and school milk (which they get at lunchtime, which is around 11.30am). I make up their packed lunches the day before (ideally when I'm prepping dinner, because after dinner I'm dropping...) and they go in the fridge overnight. There is a large fridge in the corridor at school, with space for (our must-have Flylady stainless steel) water bottles and lunchboxes.

Here's what goes into a typical lunchbox:

  • wholewheat roll or ryebread sandwich with Danish liverpâté, Danish meatball, Danish fishcake, salami, egg mayonnaise etc
  • sometimes I use leftovers from dinner, like a slice of pizza, chicken drumsticks, tortilla wraps
  • a couple of veggies (cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, fresh peapods, carrot sticks, you get the idea...)
  • piece of ryebread with Danish fig topping or small packet of raisins, dried apricots, handful of peanuts
  • piece of ryebread with thin slice of chocolate/chokolade pålæg (Fridays only, see previous blogpost!)
  • sometimes a chunk of cheese

No crisps, chips, Danone yoghurts masquerading as healthy dairy snacks, sweets or biscuits. Though the occasional AllBran muffin (thanks to Kim @flybabyf) or brownie (kudos to Krista @luvschweetheart) have been known to get in there somehow...

Some nurseries/kindergartens even inspect kids packed lunches and confiscate the unhealthy stuff! :)

So hopefully you are beginning to see that, in general, these Danes are a pretty healthy lot. Darn. No chocolate for me before bed then... ;) Night!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Michelin Star Pork Scratchings





We went out for dinner last night at Restaurant Herman which is part of Hotel Nimb in the Tivoli Gardens. It's a Michelin star restaurant which means = painfully expensive, almost more staff than customers, lots of surprises on the plate, lots and lots of courses and, last but not least, the standard stack of fluffy handtowels in the ladies toilets, instead of paper towels or electric dryers.


We had a great night (because, of course, we were in the good company of our friends, Mark and Carine, who are staying with us as part of their Danish summer holiday) and had a perfect table overlooking the Tivoli Gardens (N.E.R.D. were playing on the open-air stage).

We were plied with rosé champagne on our arrival but, just to make sure there was an earthy connection, a waiter appeared brandishing a (very beautiful) glass bowl filled with...pork scratchings. But not just your common or garden pork scratchings - no, they were organic, made on the premises, lighter than air and dusted with herbs. Tasted good. But then again, what's not to like about fried pork?


To be honest, I'm having trouble remembering everything we got to eat but, luckily, I had the presence of mind to take a few pictures during the evening. Amongst other things there were oysters, gem lettuce with truffles, scallops in a hazelnut soup (fantastic), turbot, foie gras with (a bit too many) variations of cherries, veal tenderloin and sweetbreads (love sweatbreads, me, just don't think about where they come from!), cheese, and (in true Michelin style) not one, but two desserts. The 'Frozen Camomile Tea with Honey Cake, Blackcurrant and Meringues' was amazing. And to finish it all off, tea, coffee, and petit fours. Oops! Almost forgot the wine menu - 6 or 7 different wines chosen specially for each dish.





When we got our coats (we were the last to leave the restaurant), the very charming waiter even handed us a little white box. Breakfast. Organic rolls (made by the restaurant), fresh butter and chocolate milk (made by the hotel's own in-house dairy). No doubt because, after an evening at Restaurant Herman, we'll be living on porridge for the rest of the month... ;)






Friday, 14 August 2009

Those crazy Danes - Part 2 (Elevator buttons)

I've mentioned that the Danes are very liberal. They are also very down-to-earth and very plain spoken. Though certainly not rude. Or, at least, they don't mean to be.

So I feel it's my duty to warn potential visitors to Denmark about elevator buttons. I took this picture today at Copenhagen Central Station (platform 10). There are two buttons on the exterior of the elevator. The literal English translation of the first button is "in motion", the second is "to here". But I'll let you see for yourself...


Thursday, 13 August 2009

Those crazy Danes - Part 1

Just while it is in my head - and because we've Scottish friends staying with us at the moment - here are some lesser-known things about Copenhagen and Denmark in general.

The buses (single decker, yellow) sometimes drive around with Danish flags on the roof. A sign that it's one of the Royal family's birthdays or a special day like 5th June, Danish Constitution Day. Inside the bus there are pictogram signs to indicate that you are not allowed to consume drinks, icecreams or...hotdogs! (more on those another time)

I'm proud to say that Denmark is an extremely liberal and generally very tolerant society. Three cheers for that!! If you look in the 'Births, Marriages and Deaths' section of the newspaper, you can see happy, smiling, newlywed photos of the bride and groom. Or the bride and bride. Or the groom and groom.

The most popular baby girl's name right now is Emma. In fact, it's been in the statistical top 10 for the last decade. But how about calling your baby daughter 'Grit'? Not very common, and not in the top 100, but I do know one girl by that name. 'Lucas' is this season's hot name for baby boys (24 out of 1000 boys will be christened with that name). Not quite so international sounding are the boys' names "Bent" and "Strange"!

And what about my name? Mum and Dad thought they had chosen a fairly unsual name for me and were rather chuffed with themselves. Until the day I started school in Scotland, and there were three 'Dianes' in my class! In Denmark, out of the current population of 5,519,441 there are only 150 who share my name. Which would make me rather exotic... :)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Supersize Me

When we were on holiday in France, we had lunch at Macdonalds. Doesn't matter where in the world you go, you know what you're getting at Macdonalds, we joked. But are things really the same the world over?

I told DS9 that I had heard someone on the radio talking about drinking sodas/fizzydrinks from Macdonalds and that the size was 48 oz.

Now, when I heard that on the radio, I actually thought I had misheard. Went to the kitchen and got out my Pyrex measuring jug and worked out how much that is.


That is three times what my Pyrex jug holds. If I convert it to European measurements, it gives almost 1.5 litres of liquid. Which is a 'family' sized bottle of cola for your typical Danish family. Something they might open on Friday night and expect to last the whole weekend - for the whole family.


Blinking hell, no wonder people are overweight if they are drinking those amounts of fizzy drinks! LOL Granted, that is the largest size available (and, of course, not everyone, orders the largest size) but it certainly gave a good family discussion about eating habits and food pyramids, not to mention what fizzy drinks can do to your teeth... On a side note, Danish children take a water bottle to school, and that is usually what's in it.

For good measure (if you excuse the pun), we checked the largest size of a soda/fizzy drink at Danish branches of Macdonalds. The largest size available is 500ml, which amounts to about 17 oz or approximately one Pyrex measuring jug.

Food for thought, no?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Fail me never...

A have a small, red folder of recipes that I collected as a child. Cuttings from magazines (all cakes and biscuits!!), recipes from Home Economics classes at school and - the ones I now find most intriguing - recipes my Mum wrote down on the back of envelopes or notepaper from the office, or was given by friends and neighbours. One of them is called "Fail Me Never Gingerbread".

Today I'd like to share with you my recipe for "Fail Me Never Bread Machine Bread".

I love my breadmachine. Bought it over 15 years ago when I worked in Luxembourg - it cost a fortune then and the same model is still expensive now. It can't do anything fancy, like bake cakes or make jam but, year after year it's been the 'Best in Test' in the Good Housekeeping Magazine). It's a Panasonic.

Now, making bread in a breadmachine is easy. Just throw in the ingredients, hit the button and off you go. Which is what I normally do. However, today I tried a new recipe which @MaritzaSylvia sent a link to on http://www.twitter.com/ Sounded good, a wholemeal bread, but with cinammon. (And the Danes LOVE cinammon, so was sure to be a winner with the DKs.)

Only problem was, breadmachines come in different sizes and European ones are generally not as big as the ones Over There. (Another blogpost coming soon on European vs. USA cola sizes at Macdonalds. Has been a topic of conversation with DS9 for weeks.)

So I took the recipe and 'eyeballed' the amounts. Bad idea. Bread came out very heavy - with a big crater in the top. Tasted okay but looked terrible!

So here is my own, basic "Fail Me Never Bread Machine Bread" recipe which I've been using for the last decade:

½ teaspoon dried yeast
300 grammes flour (use at least one third white)
1 tablespoon white sugar/brown sugar or honey
2 tablespoons butter or any type of oil
1 teaspoon salt (or a little more if using sea salt, which I love)
220 mls water or milk (or apple juice if you like your bread crusty)

Makes a great, basic bread that the DKs love. We could happily eat our way through this as soon as it comes out the machine, smothered with 'Kærgården' (easy to spread Danish butter).

Now, to this basic recipe you can add what you want to ring the changes: handful of raisins or cranberries, cinammon, dried herbs, nuts, chopped fresh rosemary, some grated parmesan, chopped olives, chili flakes...

Just make sure, before you get too carried away, to check the flour capacity of your machine (take a look at the little book of recipes that comes with it) and stick to that amount.

OK - bed and book are calling. Night!

Monday, 10 August 2009

What's for dinner?

Menu planning is not to be scoffed at. I'm still no expert, but sitting down (or even standing up) and actually making a rough plan in my diary takes away one of my biggest 'being a mum' stress factors. It was - yes, you guessed it - the Flylady http://www.flylady.net/ who got me started.

I look in my diary, see what's coming up for the week and try to plan accordingly. For example, the DKs go to Scouts (at different times) on Tuesday nights, so that's a day that I keep things simple and do something in the crockpot or use Danish meatballs from the freezer.

It's not rocket science... A normal menuplan for the week just includes:

various meats and fish: chicken, beef, lamb, pork, sausages
non-meat (pizza, quiche, main-course salad)
family favourites (pizza, Danish fishcakes, roast pork, Swedish sausage casserole)
crockpot meals (lasagne, stew, soup, curry, spaghetti bolognaise)

Make sure to vary the side dishes and vegetables:

Asian noodles, potatoes, couscous, rice, pasta, bulgur wheat
salad, raw veggies, cooked veggies

If the whole idea leaves you reeling, you can always do it backwards. Write down every dinner you have for a couple of weeks, then go back and use that. Another good idea from the Flylady is to have everyone in the family make a list of 5-8 meals that they like, and use them as a starting point.

I can't claim that we eat exactly what is written down on my list. Of course not - plans change, we get invited out, DH doesn't come home for dinner, fill in the blank. So I also keep a few ready-made things in the freezer.

And - as the proof of the pudding is in the eating - here's this week's menuplan... Bon appétit!

Monday

  • breaded fish, rice made in ricecooker, sugarsnap peas
  • Koldskål og kammerjunker (Danish summer dessert, bit like eggnog with small biscuits)
Tuesday (our guests arrive: 2 adults, 1 toddler)

  • Parmesan chicken, tagliatelle, spinach salad
  • The Moistest Ever Brownies courtesy of @luvschweetheart on http://www.twitter.com/ (see blogpost)

Wednesday

  • Danish fishcakes (made with fish, egg & cream, no potato) from the fishmonger, brown rice, carrots & peas, remoulade (Danish pickle sauce) and rucola/feta salad
  • Vanilla icecream with 'flødeboller' (Danish kiddies' fave, biscuit base topped with artificial cream, whole thing covered in chocolate. Can't remember what you call them in English.)

Thursday

  • grown ups are out for posh dinner (yay!), DKs will have spaghetti bolognaise and
  • rice pudding

Friday

  • herb-crusted salmon, garlic/mustard/mayo sauce, Hasselbach potatoes (old Danish classic), roasted green beans/anchovies/tomatoes/sundried tomatoes
  • cake from the bakers or maybe homemade

Saturday

  • homemade pepperoni pizza and salad
  • homemade chocolate mousse (the real kind, the best kind, French, made only with eggs & chocolate)

Sunday (think our guests are leaving today)

  • roast chicken, bulgur wheat, salad

POSTSCRIPT: No sooner than I had published this post, our friends rang to say they would arrive a day later than planned - and we are now going out for dinner in town on Friday instead of Thursday! So remember that menuplanning is not set in stone, just a guideline... :)

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Twinkies salad

We had family over for lunch today. Normally lunch in Denmark is a smørrebrød affair - ryebread with different toppings, normally starting with pickled herring if it's going to be a celebratory meal.

I didn't feel like making that today for some reason - so decided to go with a French theme. Helped that we're just back from our summer holidays in France and had a tin of confit de canard (duck confit)...ready to open, drain and grill - et voilà - lunch is ready!

I served it with couscous, plain spinach salad and "Twinkies salad" - a recipe I got from a friend and fellow flybaby, Harp Girl, who used to be on http://www.twitter.com/.


It goes like this:

1 small head raw broccoli
1 small head raw cauliflower
1 jar olives - black look best, those without stones are easiest to eat ;)
1 punnet of small cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup Italian dressing (not creamy type, the oil/vinegar type)

Break the broccoli and cauli into tiny florets, add the olives and tomatoes and douse the whole lot generously with Italian dressing. Best made a few hours before and can also be made the night before.

Doesn't spoil easily so is great for picnics, potlucks and school functions.

It's been a few weeks since I've made this and, unfortunately, I forgot Harp Girl's final instructions when making this salad. Make extra - you want leftovers...!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Steamy windows

I'm a dab hand with an iron, even if I do say it myself. Can iron one of DH's shirts faster than it takes my Tefal steam station to heat up... ;) I actually like ironing - have always loved that feeling of taking something 'messy' and making it better. But even I (the perpetual optimist) can sometimes get bogged down when faced with a pile of DH white office shirts. This is my ritual:

a) do the ironing first thing in the morning (best way to 'swallow your frog')

b) set my timer for 15 minutes (thanks to the Flylady for this mantra, http://www.flylady.net/)

c) turn up the iron as hot as the fabric allows

d) only iron surfaces once (if the iron is hot enough, you shouldn't need to go over things again and again...)

e) imagine that the shirts belong to Jason Statham (he of "Transport 1, 2 and 3" fame)

and -- if it's a really bad morning --

f) imagine that Jason himself is coming to collect them.

Job's done!

Friday, 7 August 2009

TGIF

Thank goodness it's Friday! Best day of the week. If you ask my DKs, that would be because Friday means

a) a slice of ryebread with 'chokolade pålæg' (thin slice of chocolate) in their packed lunchboxes - the only day of the week where they get anything remotely sweet

b) weekend in sight, no more school til Monday morning at 8am

c) Disney Show on TV

d) weekly sweet ration.

The last two go hand-in-hand. The Disney TV cartoon show starts at 7pm every Friday night on the first Danish public channel and last for 60 minutes (no ads). A mixture of old and new Disney cartoons which always ends with a classic 1930s or 40s one. If the DKs are lucky, it will be a Donald Duck one (Donald Duck is sacred in Denmark - the most loved of all the Disney characters). Mickey is cute, Donald is funny.

Disney Show is not just a tradition in Danish households, it's an institution. The whole family gathers around the television set and breaks out the sweets. Danes are, in general, pretty good at limiting their (small) kids to one portion of sweets per week. And Friday is usually the day.

We have the same tradition in our little Scottish-Danish family and, I have to say, there's nothing cosier.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Lazy days and holidays

The school holidays are fast coming to an end - eek! The weather is still hot and balmy and today we had another trip to Bellevue (our local beach). Only 5 minutes drive from our house, but feel like I've been away for the weekend when we go there.

One of the things I associate with holidays is reading books. Before we had kids, DK and I would take 5-10 books each with us. These days I'm lucky if I manage to get through 2 or 3 when we're away.


One time when we went to Gran Canaria, DD7 came down with chickenpox (on the last day of our holiday, groan) and we weren't allowed to fly home. It's an infectious disease. We had to repack our suitcases in the hotel lobby, and waved goodbye to DH and DS. DH very kindly left the book he had been reading - which was just exploding on to Best Seller charts around the world. It was the Da Vinci Code. I remember those 7 extra 'holiday' days as being a nightmare (DD was 2 years old, ill, extremely narky and we were in a strange place, not knowing when we would be allowed home). Two things saved me: a large bottle of gin and that book.

That book got me reading again. A good, old page-turner. Nothing too heavy and highly entertaining.

Since then I've rediscovered the joys of reading. Normally read a few chapters every night. Fits in really well with the Flylady's idea of pampering. I've re-read all the Agatha Christies I read as a child - who cares if I can remember who the murderer is? As Candace a.k.a. @C_Joy on http://www.twitter.com/ so rightly said: "I just want to live the life of those who have 'country weekends' at manor houses - sans murders of course" :) Ben Elton's books make me laugh and amaze me with his intelligence.

So what am I reading today, I hear you ask? Reading Twilight 4 ("Breaking Dawn"). Will be happy to get to the end of this vampire saga. Fairly entertaining but too much teenage anguish and by book number 4 I actually want to strangle Bella myself. Hoping to finish it tonight.


And then I can start on yet another Andrea Camilleri. He writes the books that spawned the TV series "Il Commissario Montalbano". And, at the risk of repeating myself, that is another blog post.

Night!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

One for the Pot

My favourite boardgames as a child were 'Ghost Train' and 'One for the Pot' (both made by Denys Fisher). I took them to Luxembourg when I left home 20 years and it amuses me that my kids like to play One for the Pot too. Basically a teapot which squirts water into different coloured cups, you keep adding spoons and plastic sugar lumps as you go round the board, whoever overflows loses...you get the drift.

These days I have a new 'pot' that I play with - my crockpot. Bought one originally because the Flylady http://www.flylady.net/ always goes on and on about them. Didn't really understand at first why people loved them but, 2 years down the line, I'm learning to love mine. In fact, I now have two.

We've got friends coming for dinner tonight and I made some lasagne in the crockpot at lunchtime. It'll be ready when we are. Krista (a.k.a. @luvschweetheart from http://www.twitter.com/) put me on to the joys of crocking lasagne. No more conventional oven for me.

Go check out our Krista's blog http://typical-ramblings.blogspot.com/ - she has a killer recipe for brownies (more on those another day).

Bon appétit!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Working Girl

My friend Mark is coming to stay next week - haven't seen him for over 2 years but we'll talk about the same old things and share the same old (very well worn) in-jokes. I met him while at the EC Court of Justice in Luxembourg, where we both worked for the British Judge, The Rt Hon David Edward KCMG.

Mark became my best friend and he was also my bridesmaid when I married DH. Though as he said in his speech at our wedding, he did phone his Mum in advance and told her - "Don't worry Mum, always the bridesmaid, never the bride!". Mark got married a couple of years ago and is bringing his wife and toddler son with him. Will be very strange to see him in Husband and Dad-mode. Can't wait! :)

When our boss, whom we always refer to as "The Professor", retired from the EC Court, Mark and another good friend and colleague, William Robinson, organised a Festschrift - a collection of essays in his honour. Mark and William asked me to write the first chapter in the book and I am delighted to say that I am the only non-lawyer in there! My piece is a kind of "Week in the life of..." thing. And if you're wondering why there are so many footnotes in it, that was an in-joke. Legal documents are full of them...

http://books.google.dk/books?id=tk9Ic-WzuYIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=A+true+european&ei=-0R4St3MO46ENMnZ8UY#v=onepage&q=&f=false

It's going to be a real trip down memory lane when Mark arrives, though our days in Luxembourg were a long time ago, 15 years to be exact. Think I'm going to reread my own piece and catch up on some memories so I'll be up to speed when he arrives. :)

PS: It's still available from Amazon if you really want the hardback ;) http://www.amazon.co.uk/True-European-Essays-Judge-Edward/dp/1841134473/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249396406&sr=8-1

Monday, 3 August 2009

If it's Monday, it must be...

If it's Monday, it must be...WHB a.k.a. 'Weekly Home Blessing'. Or, to the unitiated, the day I do my cleaning.

I found Flylady (http://flylady.net/) the night before DS9 started school, August 2006. Desperately searching the net, looking for a way to get rid of the clutter and ultimately get the house and family organised. I'd always prided myself on being organised at work (was known as Miss/Mrs Information) but the house was a different matter. Mum had taught me well how to cook and clean but the problem was more, where do you start? Where does it all end? :) I was overwhelmed. A common affliction amongst new flybabies.

Flylady's site was different to all the other 'get organised' methods I found. She had a plan - every day had structure and there were set tasks. And, the deciding factor, it was free! I signed up for e-mails and can remember being excited (yes, you read that right) that Monday morning we were going to clean, do the WHB. Seven tasks, each taking ca. 10 minutes and, at the end - our pot of gold - a clean house. Sounded too good to be true but, to be honest, I didn't care - I was looking forward to finally having an instruction manual and following it.

My DS9 is just about to start 3rd grade. Our house looks pretty good these days (getting rid of clutter is an ongoing process, but it's getting easier and easier), is pretty clean (thank you WHB) and we're all pretty organised. The daily stress factors are gone, laundry is up-to-date, meals are planned. And I still enjoy doing WHB! ;) These days there is even a podcast available on iTunes, where Flylady takes you by the hand and guides you through it.

If you want to have a go yourself, go visit http://flylady.net/ She'll tell you to go shine your sink. Just do it. Sounds bizarre but, trust me, what do you have to lose?

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Top of the Pops

I think it was @softthistle who recently asked on http://www.twitter.com/ "What gets you out of bed?" Simple answer for me: music. Can get me out of bed, get me cleaning, even got me running (though Jonathan Roche, creator of 'NEWO' http://www.noexcusesworkouts.com/ can take the credit for me putting one foot in front of the other).

I started making top 10 lists when I was a girl. Started in my early punk days. (How about the Buzzcocks, with Joy Division as support, for a first concert?) All through New Wave, New Romantics, a little dabble in soul (definitely not Northern Soul - ugh!), pop and electronica. Lists of songs for friends and boyfriends [cringes]. Lists of songs to play at parties

 :::On a sidenote be warned that, if you ever invite me (and DH) to your home, we will ruthlessly hunt down your CD collection and ridicule every CD that does not meet our high standards. I once counted 17 Queen CDS - on a single shelf - at an address north of Copenhagen. To our friends in Luxembourg we were known as the Music Police. :::

I don't make top 10 lists anymore. I make iPod playlists. Here's one I use. Every day. Amongst other things, it can 'get me out of bed':

LØBETUR 2 (RUNNING LIST 2)
  • When Love Takes Over - David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland
  • The Girl and the Robot - Röyksopp
  • This Must Be It - Röyksopp
  • This Boy's in Love - The Presets
  • LSD Någon? - Kent
  • Vesterbro - Magtens Korridorer
  • This Boy's in Love - The Presets
  • Dance Wiv Me - Dizzee Rascal feat. Calvin Harris
  • Knights of Cydonia - Muse
  • (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) The Stranglers

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Wonders of technology

When I was at school, I used to write a Fanzine and had it photocopied on the school computer. Not that I sold many copies of it. I used it basically as an excuse to try and meet bands that I liked, under the pretence of being a reporter. Incredibly, it worked a few times. Biggest name was Morrisey who, though he arrived late at the concert venue and didn't have time to do interview, did accept my gift of daffodils for his backpocket. Ahh, those were the days! :)

When I started working, I liked to make up fake copies of newspapers for friends who were leaving. At the EC Court of Justice I used to make up fake judgments for the same purpose and, if I was really lucky, managed to get someone from the Registry to put on the official court stamp. (Probably get fined for doing that these days.)

Fast forward to 2009. Stay at home mum. Got that itchy feeling again and - due the the wonders of technology - I can even have my own blog. Not sure where the blog is going right now, but will certainly include food, music, Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Flylady.

Welcome to my world.