Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poll: living room turnaround

The new setup, looking towards the window/table.  
About a week ago, I rearranged our living room, just to try something out.  We are always lamenting not having a balcony and I thought it would help just a BIT to have our dining table in front of the window (ya know, because porking out is our favorite pastime).

The new setup, looking at where the table used to be (the bar cart is there now).  
There are some things we both really love about this new arrangement and some things we don't really like.  It's absolutely wonderful to have our table by the window.  We love a good, long meal and it feels so much nicer with a light breeze and a lot of sunshine.  We think it will be nice in the winter, too, when we can actually see the snowflakes falling.  However, the general set up of the room is more awkward now.  Before it was clear that we had a designated dining area and a designated living area and now the two are completely integrated, which I am not really sure about.

The old setup, with a more designated eating area.  (This is before I put the mirror up and changed the artwork around.  The artwork is as it is in the new pictures, no matter where we decide to put the table.  But here you can get an idea of what it looked like before.) 
Since I have been having so much trouble, I thought it would get your take on it.  So, complete the poll below.  If you want you can also leave me a comment with your ideas!  It would be very grateful! 
The old setup with the chair near the window.
The old setup with the chair near the window. 

Summer of the jam jar

What can you do with these?  The possibilities are endless...endless, I tell you!
Perhaps you've noticed that they have been all over Pinterest this summer.  Perhaps you have bought a few yourself and topped them off with stripey paper straws.  Perhaps you have hung a few in your garden and put tea lights in them (lord I wish I had a garden).  Chances are that you have them sitting around and chances are (especially if you are reading this blog) you have come up with some creative use for them.

I am talking about jam jars or mason jars are whatever you prefer to call them--the favorite go-to of the blog world, the DIY world and of the Pinterest community.  And I, my friends, am not immune to the peer pressure.

I freaking love this jam jar craze.  Because, seriously, what is not to love about an inexpensive, reusable , multipurpose vessel that also has a ton of super cozy, rustic and whimsical style? I am telling you, the jam jar is pretty much the boot cut jeans of the food/indoor styling world.

Don't believe me?  I have assembled a huge list of uses, ranging from the seriously practical (kid you not, you can take your lunch to work in one of these bad boys) to the fabulously stylish (faux mercury glass jam jars anyone?).  And a set of four cost me 2 EURO and 50 cents at the supermarket...

Prepare to be amazed!

1) The salad in a jar

I saw this idea on Pinterest and just had to copy it (using one of my own delicious salad recipes of course).  The original post is from here and is for vegan salads in a jar.  And, while I would really like to try a vegan version at some point, I just had to add a little feta to my salad to complete it.  This is seriously SO convenient and perfect for a summer picnic.  (Recipe to follow in a few days.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Belated food on friday: Strawberry rhubarb summer crumble

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  Mine was truly wonderful and full of peaceful summer moments.  I wanted to post this on Friday, but when I uploaded the pics from my camera to my computer they were mysteriously missing!  Not just these but a whole bunch of pictures that I took last week (during a crazy cooking craze).  Imagine my disappointment.  Luckily, my awesome better half is much more computer literate than I am and was able to find them for me today.  

There is a "pick your own" strawberry stand on my way home from work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  A few weeks ago, I made a little promise to myself to buy strawberries every week from now until they stop selling them.  Last week, I came home with a huge basket of strawberries (which tasted like sunshine!) and a basket of raspberries.  The former I made into a simply delicious and summery strawberry rhubarb crumble (and the latter, you will find out more about soon).  I had never used or eaten rhubarb and I was super impressed--it's really delicious! 

I made this referencing several recipes, which I have noted below.  The ground almond (almond meal?) is the real secret ingredient, so be sure not to leave it out!  

Strawberry Rhubarb Summer Crumble

For the filling
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and My New Roots

500 g or one large basket ripe strawberries, quartered
3-4 large stalks of rhubarb, sliced
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 of a teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole grain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Pour into a baking dish.

For the topping
Adapted from My New Roots

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cold cut yogurt butter
1/4 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine rolled oats, syrup, almond meal, cinnamon and salt.  Add in butter until the texture is crumbly.    Add over fruit.  You can also add a sprinkling of raw sugar on top.  Bake at 350 (175 C) for 25 minutes.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Schorle refreshing

A refreshing lime juice "Schorle" and a good magazine on a hot summer's day. 
If it seems like I haven't been around much this week, it's because I have been making the most out of every minute of precious midsummer sunlight we have.  It's been great celebrating the longest day of the year and enjoying time outdoors and at the lake.  But, with the warm weather, I've been needing lots of cold, refreshing drinks to keep me hydrated (and happy).

Perfect for summer, German Schorle (or spritzer) is made with juice and sparkling mineral water and is both delicious tasting and hydrating.  It would be great to try for non-drinkers at your next party or is the perfect thing to take down to the dock while you sunbathe on a warm summer's day.

The most common version in Germany is Apfelschorle, or apple spritzer, made with about 60% apple juice and 40% water.  They even serve this out of the soda machine at McDonald's and Burger King in Germany, almost like iced tea.  It's what all kids drink and is almost as common as water.  I prefer to make it at home and use 40% juice and 60% water and organic apple cider.  It feels a bit more refreshing and less like a sugar bomb that way.

Other common versions of Schorle include cherry juice, grape juice and black currant juice spritzers.  Oh, and you can't forget the "weinschorle" or wine spritzers which are perfect when you don't want something too strong.  Of course, in the U.S. you could (should) use cranberry juice and pomegranate juice (which I am drying to try, it's just too dang expensive here).

For this post, I created a few of my own just for fun. Aside from the common Apfelschorle (in the back above), I created a lime juice schorle and a black currant honey schorle.  (There are some brief instructions below.)

Happy first day of summer!  Enjoy!


1/3-1/2 apple juice with 2/3-1/2 sparkling mineral water. 

Lime and agave schorle

a little less than 1/4 cup lime juice with 1/2 table spoon agave (or to taste) mixed with one cup+ sparkling mineral water. 

Black currant and honey schorle 

1/4 cup black currant juice with 1/2 tablespoon honey (or to taste) mixed with one cup+ sparkling mineral water. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gemütlichkeit is: humidity (at least for me)

Everyone's got their favorite type of weather--the kind that inspires, that makes you feel happy or that  makes you feel dreamy.   For some, it is the rain (it used to be mine) or the sun or some snowflakes falling gently to the ground.  For me, it is the humidity.  I love a warm muggy evening in the summer and the threat of thunderstorms.  There is something so wistful and romantic about it! We've been lucky enough to have a sticky, warm evening today.  I hope it lasts a few more days!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Food on Friday: roast peaches and goat cheese two ways

One of my absolute favorite things about summer is the fruit.  Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, nectarines, melons, plums, blackberries and peaches could be the only thing I ate for three months and I would be happy.  Nothing is sweeter or more pleasurable (or gemütlich) than biting into something juicy and delicious.

Peter brought home a huge basket of peaches the other day and I made it my mission to eat every single one before they got overly ripe.  In only 3 days, I think I ate twelve.  But, goodness were they delicious.  They were the perfect combination of sweet and tart and were soft but not too mushy.  Yesterday, I was completely inspired by some goat cheese we had in the fridge and made two different recipes, one for lunch and one for dessert.  

After feeling an unexplained need to combine the peaches with the goat cheese, I searched "peaches and goat cheese?" in Google.  Sure enough, I got a whole lot of results.  The first one I clicked on is the one I used as inspiration for these two recipes.  

Make these this weekend to really take advantage of the summer months.  And have a fantastic Friday, Saturday and Sunday!  Until next week....

Two delicious recipes.  

Serves 2 

1 large peach (or 2 small ones)
4 tablespoons of goat's cheese
3 tablespoons chopped nuts (I used walnuts) 
2 pieces sandwich (or gourmet) bread.

Slice peaches.  Roast at 425 for 10 minutes (until soft and getting golden around the edges).  When they are about 2 minutes from being done, toast the bread.  Spread goat cheese on both.  When the peaches are ready, lay them on toast.  Drizzle in honey and top with nuts.  Enjoy.

(This would also be wonderful on whole grain toaster waffles for breakfast or lunch!)

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run
Serves 2

2 medium peaches, halved and pitted
4 tablespoons goat's cheese
3 tablespoons chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 425. Put peaches on baking sheet halved side up and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool slightly.  Put goat cheese in the center and drizzle with honey.  Top with chopped nuts.  Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Keeping cool

So, I won't lie to you, this wasn't my idea.  I found the inspiration here on Joy the Baker's amazing site, dedicated to all things delicious.  I just jazzed it up a bit by adding a little bit of variety and some flavors different than strawberry.

Clearly, I am having a total love affair with summer right now.  Probably because it's been more like March here--cold, rainy. It's only fitting that the day I took that picture of the lake below was the only nice, warm day we have had in about, oh...14.  Luckily, I think summer weather is coming this weekend.  And I will be ready with tons of flavored ice.

It's really simple.  You need this stuff:

Now you need to cut it into small pieces and put it in an ice cube tray like this:

It's okay if it overflows a bit.  Put the trays in the freezer.  Wait a day.  It will look like this:

YUMMMMMMM!!!!!! Enjoy on a day like this:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gemütlichkeit is: lazy Saturday morning

Despite the busyness I have been experiencing lately, this past Saturday was downright heavenly.  No alarm, we woke up naturally super late in the morning.  The sun was streaming through the open windows and birds were singing their little songs, darting to and fro.  There was a slight breeze and the smell of coffee downstairs (where Peter was sweetly cleaning the previous night's dishes and starting breakfast).

I spent about 30 minutes reading and enjoying the stillness of the morning and all the sunshine and happiness that summer has to offer.  It's moments like those that embody what Gemütlichkeit (in the German sense) and this blog are about: enjoying the simple pleasures and making the most of them and out of the situation.

I recently found a lovely post on coziness on one of my latest blog loves called My New Roots.   The lovely Sarah, the author of the blog, says this:

"In Denmark, [the pursuit of coziness] is know as “hygge”, and it applies to just about every facet of life. From crispy autumn afternoon strolls to family dinners, hand-knit sweaters to petting the cat, hygge is everywhere and the ultimate reason for doing anything." 

Those words and the Danish mindset express my feelings about and view of coziness exactly.  It is my ultimate reason for doing (almost) anything and is way of life to me.  I am constantly searching it out and trying to create it because it is what allows me to enjoy life.  

In that way, you could definitely call me a coziness fanatic and maybe even a coziness expert.  Thanks for coming here to share in the things that help me build my cozy little world.  Let me know your thoughts on coziness in the comments.  I would love to know if you think I am crazy or if you often feel the same way, too!

Monday, June 11, 2012


Dear Summer,

I absolutely love you!  I used to prefer autumn, but then I moved to a climate that sees about 7 (or more) cloudy months a year and now you are my one true love.

Because I adore you (and the way your sun kisses my cheeks and your breezes drift through my window at night) I am writing you list--a list of everything I want to do to soak up every last minute of your simple beauty.

Please bring me lots of sun, ripe fruit, bike rides, humid days and thunderstorms this year, summer!  I <3 you!

Yours truly,


Saturday, June 9, 2012

4 years ago today...

we met and I started one of the most memorable and important journeys of my life, literally. 

I can't believe it has been that long; time passes more quickly with each day.  Over those 4 years, I have gotten the chance to grow up with someone I truly admire and love.

Since the Camino is such an important part of our story and my life, I will be sharing some stories and information about it with you over the next month, the amount of time it took us to complete it. 

But, today, I am just going to enjoy the sun and the time I have with Peter and be thankful for that fateful June 9th 4 years ago. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy Friday, everyone!

I can't even tell you how excited I am for this weekend!  For the first time in a long time, I can say it is well-deserved.  The weather is supposed to be relatively okay.  And, I am going to make absolutely certain that we savor every second of it and celebrate summer as much as possible.

Tomorrow we are heading to Peter's parents' house for a BBQ (and sunbathing if we are lucky) and the first German game of the European Cup.  It should be great!

What are your plans for the weekend?  I'd love to hear about how you are celebrating summer!  (Oh, and I have a couple of fun summery posts coming up for next week!)

Have a great one!

Food on Friday: Amazing black bean sweet potato enchiladas

Today I am posting something truly delicious: black bean and sweet potato enchiladas.  I really don't even know how to tell you how much we love these (or how to explain to our neighbors the noises that come out of our apartment when we eat them)!  They are delicious; simple, but everything that an enchilada should be and packed with flavor.

Now,  I really don't think much of myself as a cook and am not normally one to toot my own horn, but these are more or less my own recipe.  I looked up a few random recipes--I don't even remember which now--before I went into the kitchen and started these for the first time, but I ultimately experimented the first time I made them.  I wrote what I did and will share it with you now.

I am sure that you could find some delicious, gourmet version online if you wanted to, but these have been consistently moan-inducing for us, so I feel no need to ever make anything else.

Here's how to make them yourself:

Makes 6 enchiladas, serves 3

Vegetable bullion
2 medium sweet potatoes, skinned and cut into chunks
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
basil (to taste)
sweet paprika (to taste)
spicy paprika (to taste)
coriander (to taste)
1-1 1/2 dried chilis crushed (to taste) or equivalent in chili flakes
1 bag grated cheese (cheddar, gouda or a mexican blend)
6 tortillas
enchilada sauce
garnishes (cilantro, sour cream, avocado or guacamole, lime, queso fresco or mild feta)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Boil sweet potatoes in a pot of water with a bit of vegetable bullion like you would make mashed potatoes.  While they are boiling, saute onion in olive oil in a pan.  When the potatoes are mashable, add them to the pan  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add tomato.  Mash all ingredients with a potato masher.  Add black beans.  Add spices and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on medium for about 4 minutes.

Pour half of the enchilada sauce into a baking dish.  Put the sweet potato and black bean filling into a tortilla with a little cheese.  Place into the dish.  Repeat with all 6 tortillas.  Top with the rest of the enchilada sauce and a little more cheese.  Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, or until the edges of the tortillas start to get crispy.

Top with with cilantro and queso fresco or mild feta. Serve with a wedge of lime, avocado and sour cream.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A few more thrift finds

A funky, bright yellow mirror for above my dresser.

So, happy Thursday!  I know I haven't been posting much this's been an absolutely crazy one (more on that next week) and I haven't had even a minute to spare for most of it.  I'll see you here tomorrow for Food Friday and hopefully posting will be a little more consistent next week.  

I just wanted to share a few more thrifted finds with you today...these are things I have gotten at thrift stores or flea markets in the last few weeks (except for the bird, which I got at more of an antiques store).  Everything was under 5 EURO (again except for the bird), and the wood mirror was an especially fantastic deal at 3 EURO.  

It's amazing what you can find if you look hard enough!  Have you found anything exciting at the thrift store lately?  I'd love to hear your stories! 

Oh, and a few thrift store tips for you: 

-Look around and look hard-- you probably won't see anything good upon first scanning the store.  Spend some time looking under and behind things.  

-Go often-- The more you go, the more likely you are to get the good stuff right when it comes in.  

-If you like it, get it; never hesitate-- Things at a thrift store go in an instant.  If you like it, get it.  It probably isn't expensive anyway.  

-Re-imagine-- Think about what you could change about a piece, how something would look removed from the shop and placed in your house, what it might look like in use, etc.  Sometimes things seem really ugly until you imagine them with a coat of paint.  You can get great furniture with ugly fabric and reupholster it.  Even art that can look scary in store could be a really interesting, funky piece in the right setting. 
A new lamp on the left, with a wood base...I'm totally in love!

Finally, a good picture of the mirror I thrifted before my mom arrived.  Isn't it beautiful?

A vintage little bird bottle opener, made in Germany.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bavarian day trip: Kelheim and Kloster Weltenburg

The city of Kelheim

A few weeks ago, while my mom was here, we took a day trip to the Bavarian city of Kelheim and Weltenburg Abbey (known in German as Kloster Weltenburg).  It was possibly the most fun thing we did during my mom's trip and is something that I highly recommend doing if you ever find yourself in Bavaria.  

The city of Kelheim is ancient, quite literally--it's believed to be the site of the Celtic city of Alcimoennis, which was thought to be founded around 500 BCE.  The town itself if cute and sits on the confluence of the Danube and Altmühl rivers.  From there, you can take a riverboat (where they serve you beer if you want one!) up the Danube to Kloster Weltenburg, an abby founded 1,392 years ago by Irish or Scottish monks.  The boat ride is breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly relaxing--perfect for a lazy summer's day.  Additionally, you can hike the ca. 10K to the abby if you are feeling more sporty.  

Kloster Weltenburg is gorgeous--with buildings built in the 1700'--and is also a brewery.  It brews one of the oldest and most award winning beers around, which you can drink in its beautiful Biergarten.  The abby also makes its own cheese served on a "Käseplatte," or cheese plate with other delicious cheeses.  We adored every cheese we tasted and thought them especially delicious on the abby's remarkable bread.    

The abby church is stunning and there are some fun gift shops to visit, as well. Once you feel like you have seen the sights, you can hang out by the river and skip stones or take the boat back down river to go home.  Heck, order one more beer on the ride back if you want to!  

Suggested to me by someone I teach, Kelheim/Kloster Weltenburg is a really worthy day trip.  You can easily reach it from many different Bavarian cities and as soon as you get on the boat and sail off, you will be very thankful you went.  

In case you are interested in seeing, there are some pictures below.  We had excellent weather and a really wonderful day!

An old building (and not so old statue) in the city of Kelheim. 
Getting ready to go on the boat. 
Heading up river and through the narrows.  
A distant view of the abby, Kloster Weltenburg. 
This beer has been brewed since 1,050.  We really enjoyed it and the cheese, as you can see.  Talk about pure relaxation.
The abby church. 

Painted ceiling of the abby church.
In memory of lost family members.  

Before boarding the boat back, the beautiful Danube Gorge.  

Love these two!

An old bell tower back in Kelheim.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Food on Friday: Chocolate dipped strawberries

Yesterday, Peter and I had something to celebrate.  Nothing big, really, but Peter got some good work-related news and I was itching to do something to make it festive.  We don't go out to dinner often, so special occasions often call for a delicious homemade meal, a beautifully set table and rich dessert.

So...I put on my fancy pants and made chocolate covered strawberries.

Now, I am not going to pretend like I need to tell you how to make these, or like you haven't made them yourself before.  My aim here is simply to remind you how AMAZING they are and that you need to have them right. now.  Because, honestly?  They are the perfect summer dessert.

I'll also give you a few ideas to dress them up a bit....these strawberries are about to get chic!  Boyfriends, husbands, best friends, parents, siblings will love you.  As Peter said "I am totally addicted to your strawberries! You are the best girlfriend ever"  Who knew it was so simple?  

Start with really, really red and sweet smelling strawberries.  I used organic ones.  I know the one at the top of the picture there looks little sad and dying, but I assure you he was beautiful and delicious!

Choose your chocolate.  Go high quality for this, guys.  It will really make a difference.  Seriously, I use toilet paper that feels like bark.  But who cares?  Fancy chocolate is way more important than soft TP.  I used 50% cocoa and 75%.

Now, assemble some fun toppings to spice it up.  This is what will take them from ho-hum to fantastic!  I used almond bits, white chocolate and Elaine's Toffee Company crumbs.  Yum. 

 Dip them and try to resist the urge to lick the spoon...and your fingers.

Don't they look fabulous?

I rolled mine around the the almonds and toffee crumbs and melted the white chocolate to drizzle over the top.  Then, I dipped a few raspberries for good measure. 

Finally, serve a few strawberries on a plate and listen as the people you gave them to tell you that you are the most amazing person on earth.  (Oh and just in case you really don't know how to make chocolate covered strawberries, you can get a recipe here.)

I hope you are going to the beach/pool/lake to live up this first weekend of "unofficial" summer.  Have a great one and see you back here next week!