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… 😉


‘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.


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!


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)

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…


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.


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.


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


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.


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! 🙂



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!


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.


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…