Reviving the Art of Letter Writing…..

Reviving the art of letter writing

For the first time in nearly a week I have managed to escape the confines of my bed. It started with the flu and then just as I thought I was getting over the worst of it, I was struck by a stomach virus. As the saying goes, it never rains but it pours. Anyway I am up and about, looking forward to spending the weekend with my boys doing something outdoors. The youngest of the little people has asked me to make chocalate covered bananas with him this afternoon, with sprinkles of course. I also cannot wait until they come home and I get another hug or two, I have missed my close hugs and quality time with them.
I was feeling rather sorry for myself yesterday when something arrived in the mail, a letter from one of my dearest and most darling friends, my English bestie. A definate cure for any ailment. She really has a gift for encouraging and receiving her letter felt like getting an instant hug from far away. Just the pick me up I needed.
During her visit over the new year, we got talking about how we both used to write long letters to our parents while traveling and living abroad. How on our days off we would spend time writing them and how we couldn’t wait to receive letters in return. In those days, years ago (giving my age away here), there weren’t any cheap call cards to phone home and I remember how ten pounds literally gave me ten minutes on the phone to my folks. Those were the most precious ten minutes and I can vividly recall the sound of the coins dropping in the phone box minute by minute. I still have all my letters from my parents and my brothers. They are very precious to me. My mum would sometimes write a long one with with different dates, as and when she had a few spare minutes she would write and update me on what was happening at home. She would save the letters I sent her waiting until my brothers were home for a visit and they would all sit around the kitchen table to read them.
So, not long after my bestie’s visit, I received a letter from her. She decided it was time to revive the art of letter writing. I loved getting an update on her life and I wrote back and received another yesterday and I cannot wait to write back again. Something else that make her letters rather remarkable is the fact that they are handwritten and not typed and printed. It made me realise the time and effort put into them and that in itself made me feel very special. It is of course very tempting to write an email or a facebook message, but somehow there is someting rather exciting about mailing a letter and then the anticipation that comes with waiting for a returned envelope filled with exhilarating news. And putting actual pen to paper is almost therapeutic, calming and certainly helps with slowing down the pace in this world we live today.

In this information age where messages can be sent at the click of a button I am ever so grateful for my bestie reviving the ancient art of letter writing in me again. How about you? Do you still write letters and pop them in the mail the old fashioned way? And if so, just out of interest, do you handwrite or type and print?

Would you like to revive the art of letter writing?

While on the subject of handwritten letters, I know of this lovely lady living in Paris who offers a rather unique service. For a small fee you can subscribe to her handwritten letters! You can read more about her journey here, and can actually subscribe letters for a friend…. imagine handwritten letters from Paris. So sweet right? Don’t we all just love receiving snail mail?

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend filled with sunshine, from outside or just from within.

© Danish Exchange 2014

 

 

 

 

The Last Sprouts….

Brussels sprout SaladI wanted to post this at the beginning of the week but was delayed due to little people being ill and having them at home with me. I had so much fun with them though, especially on Tuesday, watching the funniest movie about a pet rat, “Svein og Rotta” [I even had a moment of weakness and considered getting the eldest a pet rat], playing games and reading our favourite books. I only wish I wasn’t sitting here with a wheezy chest right now. Perhaps having brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds for dinner tonight will have me up and about, busy as a bee in no-time again. I bought some earlier this week and I am pretty sure these are the last of the brussels sprouts as their season is usually from September to February. We’re in March now, but I cannot officially leave the winter and step into Spring without sharing this wonderful brussels sprout recipe with you.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with these miniature green cabbages. As a child I despised them and as an adult I adjusted my palate to love them around Christmas time. Perhaps it has something to do with the traditional Christmas dinner in England. That, plus my beloved, well, loves them. Recently however we went for lunch at Louisiana and they were served raw, as a salad.  This was such a revelation to me and I have been making this Sprout Salad ever since. I am not sure how they made their vinaigrette, but I made mine with Dijon mustard which adds just the right amount of tang and bite to these wonderful morsels.

As pomegranates are in season around the same time they make the perfect companion to the sprouts and add a little sweetness. You can vary the nuts and use toasted blanched almonds, pine or as I did tonight hazelnuts. This will be the perfect salad for Christmas, served with duck or turkey and also pairs perfectly with slow roasted pork. The love of my life is so impressed that he is willing to give up his quickly steamed sprouts at Christmas for a version of this with duck.

This salad serves 2 large portions. The little people of this household do not quite share the same level of enthusiasm for it just yet. However, you can double the recipe for a large serving for 4.

Brussels Sprout Salad above

The Vinaigrette:

  • 2 heaped teaspoons Dijon Mustard [Depending on how strong you like it]

  • 3 teaspoons runny honey

  • 60 ml white wine vinegar

  • Using a clean jar, mix the mustard and honey together until combined and add the vinegar. Screw the lid on and give it all a good shake.

The Salad:

  • Approximately 200g brussels sprouts

  • 30 g Blanched toasted almonds or roasted hazelnuts

  • Pomegranate seeds from half a pomegranate

Method:

  • Cut the stems off the brussels sprouts and thinly slice your brussels sprouts with a sharp knife.

  • Loosen the shredded sprouts and place in a bowl.

  • If using hazelnuts, ensure to roast them in the oven and once removed rub inside a clean tea towel to remove the skins.

  • If using almonds you can toast them in a pan.

  • Once the nuts are cooled place into the bowl with the brussels sprouts.

  • Slice your pomegranate in half and using a wooden spoon bash the back of the pomegranate until all the seeds drop out into your bowl.

  • Mix the ingredients and dress with the vinaigrette ensuring that everything is coated.

Serve immediately with roasted chicken, slow roasted pork or as a starter on it’s own.   

© Danish Exchange 2014

Snowdrops and sunny days…..

Snowdrops....

I took these pictures last week when I had a quiet moment to myself. I cut a few snowdrops from the lawn, styled them with some polka dots and snapped away. It was the oldest of the the little peoples’ birthday and I was feeling really happy and these made me even happier. The only reason I had a moment to do all this on his birthday was as the party was actually a few days later. So, the pressure was off or at least that’s what I thought. I actually had a mini meltdown on the day of the party, just before the boys arrived. The cake kept moving while I was trying to ice it. There was a moment where I felt like putting it in the bin. Good thing the love of my life was there to rescue the situation, the cake and me as he quietly and patiently reminded me that it was after all only a cake. How I love him! The caramel cream finally set after an hour in the refrigerator and I ended up finishing the icing while my love entertained the boys with water-balloons. Fortunately the birthday boy was none the wiser about all the drama and along with his friends tucked into and loved the cake.

polka dots and snowdrops...Back to my pick this month. Snowdrops or “Vintergækker” as they are called in Danish. I simply adore them. I love the intricate green lines on the leaves as if they’ve been hand-painted like delicate porcelain. Well they are I suppose, by the hand of their Creator. To me they are a little melancholy. Beautiful, dainty, white and pure and yet as their heads droop I cannot help but sense just the tiniest bit of sadness. A sadness however not without hope. Translating them from “Vinter Gæk” back to English it came up as Endless Winter. Perhaps that explains the sadness. Fortunately the sun shone here yesterday and is shining today and with 13 degrees Celsius we are hardly experiencing an endless winter this year. Instead there is hope that comes with Spring and Summer, hope of beautiful days ahead filled with love, laughter and lots of sun……

snowdrops from above...

© Danish Exchange 2014

Muffin Moster…..

Blueberry MuffinsYesterday I went to visit my Danish bestie for a much needed catch up. She recently accused me of not baking as much as I used to, so before I went I made a batch of blueberry muffins. Admittedly there was a time I wouldn’t dare visit someone without taking blueberry muffins or at least some sort of home baked treat. Living in England I was known as the muffin lady, which has followed me to Denmark where I am known as the ”muffin moster”. Moster being mother’s sister, or simply translated ”muffin auntie”.

I would always turn up with muffins or, if someone came over for a visit they instinctively knew muffins would be on offer. Actually I am pretty sure my sons used to get play dates because of them. For some reason I have not been making them too often of late. Perhaps I thought people got bored of them or more likely I did. What ever the reason, they are back on the menu and I am ever so grateful to my bestie for the much needed nudge. Driving over there yesterday my mouth was watering as the aroma filled the car. Needless to say they were divine with tea.

The recipe has evolved somewhat since I first started making them in 2006. They used to contain a lot of eggs, butter and sugar, but after a while I realised that not even a jog a day would keep all those calories at bay. They still have a fair amount of sugar and butter, and I mostly reserve them for special occasions and lazy Saturday or Sunday mornings. You can use less sugar, if you prefer a less sweet muffin, and also substitute the blueberries with raspberries [My eldest of the little people prefers and loves raspberries]. Either frozen or fresh will do. For an even healthier version substitute half the white flour with wholemeal flour. I can almost make these with my eyes closed….

So without further a do, here’s my recipe; a better, less fattening, well tried and tested yet still scrumptious version, as many of my friends will testify! ;)Rasberry Muffins

Copy, Paste, Print and Bake!

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Plain Flour [you can substitute half the amount of white flour with wholemeal flour for a healthier option]

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla sugar

  • 200g blueberries or raspberries [frozen or fresh]

  • 100g butter [melted]

  • 2 eggs [preferably free range or organic]

  • 125g sugar [sometimes I use 100g for a less sweet version]

  • 80ml milk

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (Celsius) or 180 for a fan assisted oven.

  • Fill a cupcake tray with 12 paper or silicone cupcake holders.

  • If using frozen berries, remove from the freezer and measure now so they are easier to use.

  • Melt your butter over a medium heat in a saucepan and put aside to cool.

  • Sift the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. If using vanilla sugar or powder add this to the dry ingredients.

  • Beat the eggs and sugar together until it leaves a thick trail behind and then add your vanilla extract.

  • Now gently fold half the dry ingredients into the egg mixture with a large metal spoon or a spatula.

  • Add the milk and gently fold in.

  • Add the last bit of dry ingredients and fold in gently.

  • Add the melted butter and once again fold in gently.

  • Lastly add the berries until just mixed, do not overbeat. Do not fear when using frozen berries, the mixture becomes quite stiff. It bakes fine.

  • Scoop into 12 cupcake papers. Bake for approximately 25 min and until lightly browned on top.

blueberry muffinsAllow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes and enjoy with your first cuppa in the morning or perhaps even at elevensies with tea.

© Danish Exchange 2014

 

Tea for thought…..

tea for thought....

In England if you need to solve a problem you start by putting the kettle on. A cuppa is halfway to solving the issue, most of the time anyway. I think that’s exactly it. Time…. it’s so easy to get over emotional, react immediately instead of sometimes just taking the time to make that cup of tea and think things over. They certainly have some things right, the English that is. I’ve kind of lost the habit of making a cup of tea the minute I get home from chores, projects etc. Perhaps it is because often I’m not alone, I am accompanied by little people that need attention and “mummy can you help me here”, or “I want to be batman too” and and …. So, once everyone is settled I try and make a cup of tea. If my love is working from home I usually make coffee, my speciality lattes accompanied by a biscotti or cookie. For me life is just so much better when presented with something sweet.

Anyway, I digress… today I managed to get home alone and decided to make a cup of tea. I bought some new herbal tea, something I have learned to drink and love here in Denmark. Danes don’t do ‘builders tea’, forget it, and I must say I too am becoming just a tad fussy over my teas these days. As I opened the bag to place in my cup I couldn’t help but notice a little saying on the back; “You can do everything right – and miss the most important”. It really made me think and gave me food, or I should say tea for thought. This year has new challenges for me, there are so many things I would like to do and achieve. “This is my year” I’ve said, but perhaps I needed to read that note today. Life really is a balancing act and I need to ensure that I do not miss what is most important. I couldn’t help but think of Mary and Martha in the book of Luke, and how Mary certainly did not miss what was most important.

I hope you enjoy the photo, a reminder…. Sometimes it is necessary to just take the time to make a cup of tea, no matter how busy life can be….

thoughtful tea..

© Danish Exchange 2014

Be my Valentine……

be my valentine....

Yes, tomorrow is Valentine’s day! Don’t panic, you still have time. And you don’t need money, you need to be romantic! If you think you don’t know where to start because either you are not the romantic type, or you want to be, but just don’t know how to…. then remember it is never too late to learn. Here is my ten point list that will turn even the most amateur romantics into native Parisians!

  1. Wake your valentine with with fresh coffee, croissants and kisses in bed…..

  2. Write your valentine a poem and then read it to him or her aloud…..or if you are musical write a song and sing it to your valentine….

  3. Kiss your valentine passionately and then ask him or her to be your valentine forever…do make sure the feeling will be mutual on this one….

  4. Go to a photo-booth together and make silly faces, kiss one another and then when printed, write the date and place on the back. Frame it to look at forever, or place on your wall with washi tape. It will make you smile and your heart beat faster every time you remember the moment…

  5. Have a picnic under the stars with votives filled with flickering candlelight, a nice warm blanket to sit on and some bubbly in two glasses. If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere as I am, have it inside, place the blanket in front of a roaring fire and unpack your basket with red wine and have soft music in the background…..

  6. If more formal is what you are after, why not give your beloved an invitation to a black tie event in your home, just the two of you. [If you have small children, give them dinner early and put them to bed early. If you have teenagers, make sure they stay overnight with a friend] Cook a fabulous dinner, place candles on the table, have soft music playing, put your prettiest cocktail dress and heels on, or guys, your tux and butterfly [black tie] and make sure you slow-dance with your valentine, cheek to cheek. You can even make your own cocktails…..

  7. If you want relaxed, watch Amelie and sit very close to your Valentine holding their hand or cuddling together eating spiced popcorn….

  8. If it is for her, buy her flowers, it might be a cliché, but she’ll love it anyway…and you for it even more….If for him, look at no.1 again!

  9. If money is not an obstacle, then book two tickets to Paris straight away and kiss your Valentine in front of the Sacré-Coeur overlooking Paris and with the Eiffel Tower in the distance….

  10. And last but not least, leave your beloved or Valentine a love-letter on their pillow. Before they go to bed, they will know how much you love them. Place a strand of your hair in there too and he or she is bound to dream about you all night….

Valentine....Romantic...

P.S. A future Valentine popped his head out behind the roses during my shoot and I couldn’t help but snap him up!

Future Valentine...Roses and Scrabble..

Happy Valentine’s Day!

© Danish Exchange 2014

Did you get it all this morning? [The ultimate Breakfast Smoothie....]

Oat and Date SmoothieI am not really a morning person. I can stay up all night to write an article, edit photos or do some freelance work. I put my earphones on, listen to music and while the rest of the house is fast asleep I get work done. Lucky me you could argue, but actually not at all. The problem is the rush hour starts early in this household; little ones need to have breakfast, lunches need making and smoothies need well, smoothing and you guessed it, if I don’t get up it won’t get done. So, often I am sleep deprived and as a result get a little anxious and perhaps a little grumpy.

I needed to say it out loud! Really loud, because I have decided that these nocturnal habits must come to an end. I most certainly did not marry a vampire, nor are my little people vampires. It also made me realise that I do not get what I need most in the morning either. Breakfast, for a start, I can’t seem to get anything down, other than coffee, strong fresh coffee! Not before 9am at least and neither do I get to read the Word and much needed prayer for the day in either. ”I do oftenish”, I say. When the house is empty after the school run, I have my toast and tea and sit with my bible. Then there’re days when I am rushing out the door to do other projects and before I know it the day has gone and I’m up late again, working, and not spending quality time with the One I really need to spend time with. I end up praying on the run, much like eating on the run.

I came up with an analogy the other day. My spiritual health is like a yo-yo diet, sometimes up and sometimes down. When following a diet I am usually quite disciplined, but the minute I reach my ideal weight, I relax and before I know it, the weight’s back on again. I really dislike diets. I have always maintained, healthy eating should be a way of life. Eat all things, including desserts and sweets, just in moderation. Then again it’s easy for me to say as I’ve been fortunate enough never to have really struggled with my weight, and I know it is not easy for everyone. However, I cannot say the same about my spiritual life. I go through stages of being disciplined about reading my bible, praying and meditating and then as soon as I think I am okay [I have reached my ideal weight] I relax, and life takes over….. I get busy and forget to be healthy and end up suffering the consequences, and perhaps not only me but those around me too. Attending to my spiritual life needs to be a way of life not just a quick fix when I feel I am not my ideal weight. How on earth can I expect to be more like Jesus, unless I spend more time with Him?

So, in celebration of this new ”resolution” [although I am not a fan of the word as it always seems to me I am doomed to failure by uttering it]. Perhaps it’s better to say my new ”goal”, which is to start early in the morning, and go to bed early or earlier, so that when my little people awake I will be fresh, full of smiles with smoothies and pancakes on offer. I lost track…. in celebration I share my ultimate breakfast smoothie recipe with you…..

Oatie smoothie..2

Breakfast in a glass…

I love this one, because if you like me struggle to eat breakfast first thing in the morning, this is the perfect breakfast in a glass. Enjoy!

  • Half a large Banana or one small ‘nana’ [as my little person says]

  • 4 Dates pitted

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Oats [depending on how thick you like yours]

  • 250 ml Milk

  • a good pinch of Cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour and enjoy! Serves one large or two small glasses!

P.S. I know not all my followers and readers are believers in Jesus. This post is not intended to be a sermon or to preach, only to share some truth from my life. What I do know is that for me, I just cannot do life without Him!

© Danish Exchange 2014

Oh Winter, oh Winter……

Beloved Winter 2A wheelbarrow

stacked up wood

and a forgotten Christmas tree

What beauty is to be seen if but only we see

Snowflakes falling, snowmen smiling

sleigh tracks soon not to be seen

Hot chocolate in polka dot mugs

Muesli slices and log-seats

A feast fit for a king

Snow warriors playing

Lapping up a bounty of white

Snow angels whispering crisp notes in the wind

Oh winter, oh winter, oh how we adore thee….

Spotty Blue Mug

© Danish Exchange 2014