Hallowe'en at Tivoli

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This last Sunday, Nicola and I dragged our husbands to Tivoli to partake in the Hallowe'en festivities there. The holiday is slowly becoming a thing here, which is funny to see happen. I was worried it would be really cheesy, but it was pretty darn cute with all the pumpkins (including the biggest and smallest ones in Denmark - ha!), a haze maze, candied apples and spooky things everywhere. Unfortunately, the haunted house was only open after dark but we consoled ourselves with hot chocolate and tea. Today will be pretty quiet, with classes all day and night, so it was the perfect way to celebrate a bit. Hallowe'en is a bit strange as an adult, isn't it? It's not filled with quite the same magic and excitement. Still, there are decorations up, apple cider and candy corn to go along with a Hitchcock movie tonight and a party on Friday (I know, after Halloween?) where I'll probably dress up like a cat like I have an embarrassing amount of times through the years. Cat girl/lady 4ever. Happy Halloween, friends! 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We turned back the clocks here this weekend and it's noticeably darker now during the day. I always get a bit nervous about it, since it feels like the whole city goes into hibernation as the days get shorter and colder. I talk a lot about light on this blog in the winter time, but that's because it's so important when you don't have it. We got a wake up light this year, just in time, and it is amazing. I wake up right away with the light, and I love that it has a sunset setting at night so you can fall asleep to a cozy, warm glow. The other week when I was sick I forced myself to go out for a walk around the moats before the sun went down, just so I would have gotten outside once that day. I'm trying to get in the habit of taking a weekly walk, which sadly can seem hard to fit in my schedule these days. But I find when I do take the time to slow down, breathe some fresh air and take in my surroundings, I feel so much better. And it's even more important as the days get shorter, to try to appreciate some of the beauty of this time in between fall and winter, instead of just hiding away from it all. 

Carrot Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I've just spent this last week running around trying to get caught up from being sick the week before and hopefully I'm somewhat back on track. I had a big project for school to finish and Nicola and I hosted a clay bead workshop for Craftenhagen on Friday which was so much fun. All my creative time has been taken up with projects for school so it was really nice to get together with some ladies and make things. Now I just have to keep my head down and work hard for the next six weeks or so until my programs are finished. But for now, let's talk about cupcakes. I made these for my birthday, since it's a tradition for both Mark and I to have carrot cake for our birthdays. It was one of the first little things we bonded over, which led to me bringing him a carrot cupcake one Sunday afternoon and leaving with him as my "official" boyfriend, whatever that means when you are in high school. I've been making carrot cake almost every year since, and also made these cupcakes for our wedding. So, long story short, I guess I like carrot cake even more now. I wasn't sure how they would work as a gluten and dairy free version, but luckily they turned out great. I feel like after a few months of doing this, I'm now finally starting to feel like I am getting the hang of baking and cooking this way. I found a gluten free flour mix which is amazing, it has all the extras like sorghum gum already in it so you don't have to fuss with all the different additions. I've also found out that it's best to work with the restrictions instead of trying to make something like shortbread or croissants which will always taste like a disappointing substitutions. Just some little tips I'm picking up along the way. I also wanted to say thank you for all the birthday wishes and words of wisdom. You guys are so lovely, and I ended up having a really nice day despite being a bit under the weather. I was completely spoiled with a massage, sushi and the best fall weather Copenhagen has had. I don't think 25 is going to turn out to be too bad after all. 

Carrot Cake 
Adapted from the REbar cookbook

1 1/2 cups grated carrots
3/4 cup crushed pineapple
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cane sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten free flour mix
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamom 
1/2 tsp allspice

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.  Oil  cake pans if using. Combine grated carrot, pineapple, coconut, walnuts, dates and raisins in a large bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the sugars with the eggs. Stir in the vanilla and whip on high until the volume has tripled. On low, pour the oil in slowly to blend in.
2. Combine the remaining dry ingredients and gently stir into the egg mix. Fold in the carrot mixture. Divide the batter among the muffin liners or cake pan and smooth the tops. Bake 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Coconut Frosting
Adapted from My New Roots

1 cup coconut milk (just the solid)
¼ cup  honey

Pinch of sea salt
¼ cup coconut oil
2 ½ tsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. water

1. In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, honey and salt, simmer no low for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t burn.
2. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water to form a smooth paste.
3. Pour cornstarch mixture into saucepan.
4. Mix contents of saucepan with a hand blender (or quick hands) and bring to a boil, briefly.
5. Remove pot from heat and very gradually blend in coconut oil.
6. Place pot in fridge for 30-40 minutes, until frosting solidifies and turns white.
7. Remove from fridge and blend again, until fluffy.
8. Spread over cake or cupcakes, and top with toasted coconut. 

At Home: Brittany and Paul

Monday, October 22, 2012

This post is part of my ongoing At Home series where I peek around the homes of other foreigners in Copenhagen.  In this series I wanted to explore different concepts of home and what it means to be at home somewhere. 

Brittany is an American designer living in Copenhagen with her Canadian/Danish husband Paul. Here she is in her living room getting one of her handmade paper flowers ready to ship. She also runs the popular craft/design blog The House that Lars Built. Brittany recently reupholstered the couch as one of her many DIY projects. In her spare time she plays the cello and performs concerts around Copenhagen. 

A detail of their bookshelf full of books and craft supplies. Paul works for an insurance company and is also a writer. He authors his own blog of short stories and they have collaborated on articles for publications like Kinfolk together. 

The living room window sill filled with craft projects made by Brittany, a basket of yarn and plants. Brittany is a classical music fan, hence the bust. 

More colourful flowers, these ones metal candleholders, hang alongside a Hindu god hologram in the hallway. The hologram was given to Brittany by the village of Namje, Nepal, for her birthday while she was there working there with Spirit of Place last year. 

A paper wreath made by Brittany hangs in the bedroom. 

The kitchen, where Paul spends his time experimenting with new recipes like this cheese bread. Paul does the cooking, Brittany does the washing up. The oven mitt is from Brittany's shop. 

The house Brittany and Paul live still has many vintage details, like the mint tiles in the bathroom. The tea towel here is also designed by Brittany. 

The sunroom at the back of the house, used as Brittany's workshop and storage. She recently moved into a downtown studio. 

Bright rag rugs and old wood floors from the entrance to the living room. 

A Quarter of a Century

Friday, October 19, 2012

Today I turn twenty five, a quarter of a century. I normally don't make a big deal out of my birthday, but I usually look forward to it with some degree of excitement. Who doesn't like getting to eat cake and to hang out with their favourite people? This year, though, is the first year I've felt some anxiety towards getting another year older. My expectations of where I would be at this stage of life are just so different than the reality. Moving here has been an amazing and challenging adventure but it's also slowed me down and caused me to loose some sense of self that I am trying to regain. Sometimes I can't help shake the feeling that I've somehow been left behind, watching my life pass me by as my friends are starting master's or PhD programs, careers and families. Maybe this is part of reason why I blog, the desire to document my life to prove that it has some purpose and I have some control over it. Maybe it's just part of getting older, of letting go of idealistic, youthful dreams of changing the world and things like that. I always figured that by this time I'd have things figured out, and it scares me a bit to realize that nobody really seems to figure it out, at any age. I guess I'll just keep doing what I've been doing, trying to hang in there and enjoy the journey and all those other adages of wisdom. Don't get me wrong, I like my life. I'm so grateful for the amazing people in it and the opportunities I've been given. I know I'm still young, and there is still time. I just hope this next year makes me wiser, and also more patient. 

Some Favourites

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I am now officially sick, after feeling like I was coming down with something for weeks. Thank you, fall in Copenhagen. So now I am trying a bit desperately not to fall behind on my school work, sketching half hearted ideas in between blowing my nose and sips of lemon ginger tea. I thought I would put together a collection of some favourites that have been inspiring me lately, since it's been a while. And it counts as research, right? Right. 

1. One of my good friends, Aidan Knight, is getting ready to put out his second album next week and it's incredible. It's available to stream on CBC, and there is also a really lovely trailer starring another pal (and my dad's old restaurant) here. Also, how good is the album art? Really, it's all just great.
2. I've been back into a bit of a documentary kick lately. One of the better ones I've seen lately is Jiro Dreams of Sushi about a 85 year old sushi chef, considered the best in the world by everyone but himself. Searching for Sugarman and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry are also on my to-see list. 
3. As always, the latest issue of The Gentlewoman is really good. I'm trying to get better at reading books and not just magazines and blogs but these kind of publications make it hard. I also love that they featured Angela Lansbury on the cover, so cool. It's so nice to see a fashionable older woman. 
4. I've been meaning to post about another friend, Darcy Dubose, for ages  She sent me the sweetest drawing of Tiggy that still breaks/warms my heart every day. I was so happy that she started a blog for her drawings, since she is so talented and I can't get enough of her charming style. Plus, her subject matter is so dreamy - flowers, kittens, moons and pretty girls. 

All of these things seem to have a common thread of honesty and authenticity, of perfecting your craft regardless of age and expectations. I can't think of anything more inspiring than that. 

Sweden, Part III

Monday, October 15, 2012

Before we took the ferry back home from Sweden, we stopped at a small seaside resort called Mölle. It's full of winding roads and cute, old houses perched on hills over looking the ocean. We hiked out to the nature reserve to have dinner there before the sun went down. That's one of the fun things about camping, how you can bring a stove with you and make a hot dinner anywhere you'd like. It started to get chilly really fast after sunset, so we had tea and cake at cafe in the harbour before driving down to Helsingborg and sailing back to Denmark. Mark had also gotten a 35mm lens for his camera so we spent some time playing around with it on this trip. Here are our faces! Ha. I think we may even be wearing matching fleeces... 

Camping in Sweden, Part II

Friday, October 12, 2012

Camping in Sweden is different than camping in Canada, instead of separate little forest alcoves you can instead pitch your tent anywhere you want. In this park, there were designated spots near what used to be old farmhouses. You could also stay inside the farmhouses (which were really rustic but cute inside), although we opted to stay around the corner. Even though there were less facilities than in many BC parks, it still felt less wild than being right in the trees. We also weren't roughing it that much - Mark had bought this fancy coffee in a bag which he was all excited about. After we had breakfasted and packed up, we headed to the coast to hike down to this driftwood sculpture, with a tea stop at another cute old farmhouse on the way of course. The sculpture, called Nimis, has a really interesting history which you should read about here. It's looks completely crazy when you are in it, and you can climb all over it, even up to the tops of the towers. I can't believe one guy made it just from nailing pieces of driftwood together. I was telling Mark how this kind of art was my favourite - accessible, interactive and connected to the landscape. He pointed out that was also what architecture was. Sometimes, slowly, my path is starting to make more sense to me. 

Camping in Sweden, Part I

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

As a farewell to summer, Mark and I took a little camping trip over to Söderåsen National Park in Sweden before we started back at school in August. It was amazing weather, and the park is really gorgeous. Being in the forest reminded me a bit of being back in Canada. We also had the best camping food - fresh mushroom tortellini with lemon, oil and parmesan. Back in the pre-gluten and dairy free days, sigh. It was the perfect transition to a busy fall but I'm already looking forward to being in the forest again sometime soon. 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Thanksgiving, the Canadian one, is my favourite holiday. Second only to Halloween. This will always be the best month ever. But really, Thanksgiving is just like Christmas but without all the stress and with cozy fall weather. We decided it would be a great excuse to gather good friends and good food and be thankful for all that we have. We were inspired by Mark's family friends who host a huge annual Thanksgiving potluck and invited everyone to bring a dish and come on over. We are lucky that our apartment has an (ugly, but functional) party room that we could use, so we could spend the whole day cooking turkeys, decorating with gathered branches and foliage and listening to Canadian folk music. I also made my first gluten free, dairy free pumpkin pie! I used this recipe and think it turned out quite well. Of course, as soon as people started to arrive I put my camera down and had too much fun to rest of the night to remember to pick it back up again, which was a bit sad. We asked everyone to write down something they were thankful for on a slip of paper and put it into a bowl, which was passed around later that night and each person read one out loud. I was afraid people would think it was too hippie, but I think everyone really liked it and it was my favourite part of the evening. There is something so simple but so special about getting people together to share food and gratitude. I hope we can make it a new tradition over here. Happy Thanksgiving, friends! 

The Best Chili

Friday, October 5, 2012

I don't usually like to toot my own horn all that much, but this chili is really pretty much the best. We've made it dozens of times over the years, slightly tweaking it here and there until we've gotten it exactly the way we like it. Feel free to adjust things to your own taste, one of the great things about chili is that you can usually thrown in almost anything you've got on hand and it will still turn out well. I find that using a mix of beans, toasted cashews and mushrooms gives it a really satisfying flavour that even meat lovers seem to like. 

Cashew Chili 
Adapted from the Wings of Life cookbook by Julie Jordan

2 - 3 cups cooked kidney and/or pinto beans 
2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
4 or more cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1 heaping tbsp chili powder (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin
3 cups sliced mushrooms 
3 cans tomatoes
2 grated carrots
2 roasted red peppers
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 bay leaves
1 cup toasted cashews
1 handful raisins
1 tbsp brown sugar or molasses
1 tbsp chipotle sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar or a bottle of dark beer 

1. Seed and oil the red peppers and roast, until skin is loose and blackened. You can also roast the corn kernels along with the peppers, if you wish. Remove the skin of the peppers and dice. Toast the cashews on a dry, hot pan and set aside. 
2. Fry the onions and garlic in oil in a large pot. While they are frying, grind spices and add to the onions and garlic, and let cook for a few minutes on medium heat while being careful not to burn the spices.
3. Add the mushroom and let cook for a few more minutes until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are cooked through. 
4. Add the canned tomatoes, grated carrots, roasted peppers, corn, bay leaves, raisins, sugar or molasses and chipotle. Season with salt and pepper. 
5. Add beans and beer or cider. Let simmer uncovered for an hour or longer. Serve with brown rice and green onion, or whatever toppings you would like.

Fall Wish List

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's October! As excited as I am about my favourite season/month, I am also a little nervous about the increasing rain storms and darkness. Winter is coming, guys. It seems to almost skip right over fall here, and straight into winter which always throws me off. So as much as I just want to cover my apartment in decorative gourds, I also have been taking some time to think about how to prepare for hibernation. Others have said the same thing recently, but fall always seems like the beginning of a new year, maybe especially to me since my birthday is in a couple of weeks. So I'm often compiling lists, dreaming of back to school clothes and making changes to my daily routine. It might just be wishful thinking - instead of buying a new wardrobe, Nicola and I went through our closets and hosted a clothing swap last weekend, with plans for a refashioning workshop soon as well. I am instead trying to make small changes, trying to get up early to have some quiet time in the mornings to read, stretch and slowly get ready for the day while the sun rises. I'm trying also to make sure my evenings at home are extra cozy: wrapped in blankets with a hot water bottle, good reading, the smell of cedar burning, lots of candle light and hot chocolate. Still, a little day dreaming doesn't hurt. 

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