Monday, September 24, 2012

Welcoming autumn

Things I love about fall:  cinnamon rolls and other warm Sunday morning treats. 
Fall started on Saturday and it was the most lovely, cool crisp and perfect day.  As were Thursday and Friday and Sunday...we've had the most beautiful start to autumn so far.  Even today, as wet and cloudy as it was, was cozy and perfect for sweaters and tea.  

Before I moved to Germany, fall was always my favorite time of year (although I had never really experienced a true one).  Then, when I first moved here, the darkness and the length of the winter turned me off to what was once my favorite time of the year.  It felt as though I had a chill in my bones that even summer couldn't erase and I dreaded the coming winter that autumn promised. 

Leaves under foot.
Then last year something changed, or went back to normal, I should say.  I found my love of autumn once again (it probably helped that we had the most beautiful one ever) and spent an entire three months completely in love with the world.  

This year, I already feel the same.  I feel alive and excited.  I feel the possibility of change and growth and also contentment with where I am.  I can't wait to enjoy every minute of the season, to spend time in the crisp cool air, with the warm sun on my face.  I love the sounds of dry leaves scattering across the sidewalk.  I love the cool moist days and cup after cup of tea.  I couldn't be happier to be in a place that has a real autumn for me to enjoy. 

Gorgeous, deeply colored and strangely shaped flowers and berries.  Don't you love the blue feather duster ones on the left?

A "kitchen spice" candle from Yankee Candle Company.  The best smelling candle ever. 

Some sort of funky autumn flora.
Autumn lighting, there's nothing like it...and a great flower by the lake. 
Figs and other seasonal fruits.  
A calm day on the lake. 
Another crazy bloom.
"Baby" swans.   
More of autumns bounty. 
A cozy place to read a book and drink tea. 
I hope your autumn is off to a fantastic start and that you enjoy every second of it!  I would love to hear thoughts about what you cherish most about this beautiful season. 

Walks in the park. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Food on Friday: Another September breakfast

In honor of the first day of fall tomorrow, I'm bringing you yet another autumn breakfast recipe that takes advantage of the bounty of the season.

I love apples this time of year.  I eat them like crazy and find that they taste so much better than apples during other times of the year.  And, when I know I can get them off of my in-law's tree, they are that much better.  All the apple trees here in Germany are just gorgeous.  They look wild and almost haggard, but produce such beautiful red shiny fruit.  This time of year, I squeal with delight every time I see one.

By far my favorite way to enjoy apples is lightly sweetened and cooked, which just a hint of cinnamon.      This apple, walnut, yogurt and olive oil cake is something I make constantly this time of year and I decided to adapt the cooked apples portion of it for other things, including this easy breakfast treat.

Treat is used loosely, as this is actually rather healthy (minus the touch of butter and sugar).  I had never really heard of bircher muesli (or Müsli in German) before I moved to Europe, but it is quite well known and common here.  Basically, it is oats soaked overnight in milk (of any sort) to make what I would call a kind of raw oatmeal.  It's great because you should make it the night before (be sure to make the apples then, too) and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  That way, when you wake up in the morning, breakfast is already finished.  I make mine in a mason jar and then take it with me on my way to work.  It's a life saver on my earliest mornings.

Here's how to make it:

Bircher Muesli 
See Sarah B's wonderful instructions on how to make bircher muesli on My New Roots .  Make two: one for you and one for a loved one.

Sautéed Apples
1 apple, sliced thinly
1/2 tbsp butter
a pinch sugar
a sprinkle of cinnamon

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.  Add sugar.  Mix in the apples and cook for 1-2 minutes on either side.

Top off your bircher muesli with a few apples and enjoy the perfect late summer/early autumn breakfast.  Enjoy with a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea (yay for this time of year)!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hunky dads

Image via Pinterest.

One of the greatest beauties (and perhaps mysteries--why isn't it like this in America?!) about living in Germany is the plethora of new, hunky, 30-something dads constantly walking around with their babies.  These are men, scruffy and masculine, pushing strollers, wearing slings, carrying diaper bags and walking around in groups like they were taking part in "mommy and me."  

There is something that makes me smile about these involved dads.  They don't seem at all embarrassed or even phased by the crazy mess of bottles, wipes, binkies and blankets.  They wear their fatherhood proudly and own their role as a nurturer.  And this, of course, is rather hot.  

It's pretty fun for me to watch and can't be bad for little German babies either.  Why can't American men catch on and stop treating fatherhood like a threat to manhood?  Embrace it and all that it involves (stinky messes and all).  If not for your children, then for the attention of the like this and the one above might just be the new porn.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Honey-caramelized figs with yogurt

Some things in life are super a brand new autumny candle, for example.  And the first apple latte of the season.  When your boyfriend tells you that he likes your morning smell (to people not in love I'm pretty sure it's called B.O.).  A much needed drink with good friends.  The first crisp days of fall.  Sleeping in late on Sunday morning.  Big Bang reruns on the couch with a cozy blanket.  And, of course, this delicious breakfast.

This is September in a bowl.  It is sweet and hearty at the same time. It is both warm like the sun and cool like the breeze.  It tastes halfway like summer and halfway like fall.  It's the perfect thing to eat on the first morning you have to put on sweats as you get ready for a day of soaking up the last few rays of warm sun.  It's oh so good and is something you will want to savor forever...just like September itself.

Honey-caramelized figs with yogurt
from Whole Living Magazine

serves 4

1 Tbsp honey, plus more for drizzling
8 oz fresh figs, halved
2 cups plain low-fat greek yogurt
Pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Heat honey in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook figs, cut sides down, until caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Serve over yogurt with cinnamon and pistachios.  Drizzle with honey if desired.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Super simple housewarming gift (aka thank goodness for good friends, tea and cheesecake)

I made this super simple (shh! don't tell) housewarming gift for my friend Nicole yesterday.  Since it's her first real place on her own, I wanted to do something personal and went with a monogram.  I picked out a frame I liked and then bought a few pieces of heavy colored paper to print the monogram on.  

I loved this woodsy stick monogram from Martha Stewart and chose to use it.  You can find each letter of the alphabet here.  The only problem is that the letters are intended for ironing on and are therefore backwards.  I had to flip it in an editing program before I printed it.  Since it was a PDF, I couldn't flip the image as it was.  First I took a screenshot of it (see picture below) and then I mirrored the screenshot.  

As you can see from the image below, I chose the flip horizontal option to make the N look right.  If you don't use a Mac, you can use a similar function. 

This is how the letter looked in the end.  I simply printed it on the pretty colored paper and cut it to fit inside the frame.  And simple as that I had a lovely monogramed piece of wall art for a lovely new home.  

I added to the picture a pretty candle holder and a little fruit tea and I had a great little gift.  Best of all?  I got to see my friends place for the first time.  I got to drink tea with her and dish.  It was wonderful and very much needed and I can't wait to do it again.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Typography: instant art (and happy Monday)!

Image from The Graphics Fairy LLC

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a nice anything fun?  Peter and I had a fantastic date night, complete with all of the fun things we could find at our local grocery store: fancy pasta, a bottle of yummy wine, fresh bread and panna cotta.  It was a lot of fun and felt really special.  We also had brunch with a friend and two autumny soups (here and here), although summer seems to have come back today.

Today I am bringing you an idea for some cute instant art.   I love typography and think it looks great as "art" because it is so graphic and unfussy.  For Peter it works well because it isn't too girly.  Plus, it is as easy as printing it on a piece of card stock.

There are many places to look for cute typography on the internet, but my favorite is a website I love called Graphics Fairy (I am sure you remember me mentioning on here before).  I found this awesome piece of typography there and simply printed it out on a heavy white sheet of paper and put it in a frame.  I chose white to pop against the vanilla background, but you could choose any color you wanted.  This one in particular seems like the perfect combination of simple and special.  I decided to hang it over my couch.

I think it looks really fun there.  What do you think?

Here's how to get the look yourself:

1. Go to the link above or click here.  Save the image file on your computer.

2. Print the file in the size you want on heavy paper or card stock.

3. Buy (or salvage or thrift, like I did) a frame.  Put the image in a frame.  Hang.  Enjoy your super simple art.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Food on Friday: Vegan corn chowder with cilantro cream

Let's talk FAILURE, shall we?  'Cause it's my middle name this week.  I keep trying to win, but it just doesn't seem like it is in the cards or--dare I admit--my capabilities.

Take this soup for example.  Peter and I haven't seen too much of each other since Tuesday, so I wanted to make him a nice dinner before he went off to his night shift tonight.  Since it has felt so much like fall this week, I knew immediately I wanted to make this delicious soup.  And then I proceeded to look forward to it all. week. long.  I even bought a blender (yes!) just for this occasion!

Cut to dinner time tonight, Peter wakes up to find his girlfriend (and kitchen) covered in corn soup and dinner no where near ready.  My clothes, the floor, all stained because the soup contains turmeric.

I failed.  I made a huge mess,  I didn't have dinner ready and I was stressed (translation: bitchy).  In my excitement about the blender and my haste to get dinner ready, I hadn't exactly read the manual that accompanied my new blender...and I almost ruined dinner. Sometimes, the more effort I put into something, the more horribly wrong it goes (must remember should I ever have wedding).

Luckily, after some help from my patient other half, the soup was salvaged and we actually quite enjoyed it.  It's really summery, which isn't what I expected, but perfect for September.  And don't get me started on the cilantro cream...yum...

This recipe is from a blog I just LOOOVE called My New Roots, which is all about whole foods and a "whole" lifestyle. The soup is also vegan and is perfect for a Meatless Monday or a picky crowd.  Instead of posting the recipe, you can find it here (her pictures of it are gaw-geous).  The only warning I have is to be careful, as you are using a blender for a soup that contains turmeric, which stains.  I learned this lesson the hard way and lost my favorite T-shirt in the process.

In the end, though, I must say the beauty of failure is that it isn't all encompassing.  It passes and you quickly realize that at the important things, you can't fail.  The soup was still tasty and the mess only took about 40 minutes to clean up. I still got a text message thanking me for the nice meal and the time together (he appreciates the effort ;-).  I have a cup of tea in my hand and a new vanilla scented candle on my desk.  Above it hang pictures of people I love and I am going to bed tonight after a hard but rewarding week of work.  I am not sure there could be a greater success.
Pictures that hang above my desk, from a friends wedding, of many people that I love.
Have a fantastic weekend everyone and be sure to count your blessings!!

As the seasons change

It really is amazing what a difference two weeks can make.  Just about 15 days ago, it felt like the middle of summer here--we were dying in the oppressive August heat and it seemed like we would never stop having juicy peaches.  

This week has been the complete opposite.  The days have been sunny and the sun has been warm, but the air itself is cool and many trees have begun to change.  September has certainly begun and fall feels like it is on its way.  

To make my place a little more autumn-appropriate, I decided to change up the colors, textures and patterns just a bit.  I took away many of my bright, springy colors and added lots of warm earth tones with pops of bright jewel hues.  The look is a bit more natural and warm--perfect for September and into fall.  

I also changed out much of the art on the wall above the couch, added my first two pumpkins of the season and tossed in a striped throw.  The graphic look of the throw and the "love" art give the room a more contemporary and young feeling and offset the otherwise overly-neutral look (compare the picture below to the one above it or two below it).

I finished the room off with some antlers and a vanilla scented candle and now I am eagerly anticipating the season of apples, plum cakes, soups, blankets, cool mornings and warm afternoons.  

How do you warm your place up for fall?  Do you love the season as much as I do?  What's your favorite thing about fall?  I'd love to know! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

When Monday is awesome

1. Because this is a real book. And in it, an elephant rubs a dog's belly with its ginormous foot. What's not to love?

2.  Because this was my weekend.  And with a weekend like this, how can you not go into Monday feeling awesome?

3.  Because this is my living room right now, all geared up for September (and yet still enjoying the end of summer).  (More about this tomorrow!)

4.  Because I had a between-work lunch date with boyfriend today and it was kind of amazing.

5.  And because I was so lazy this evening that I couldn't even make dinner and ordered a salad to be delivered.  I didn't even feel guilty about it because it was soooooo good and worth not having the clean up.
6.  Because we are going to Ikea tomorrow and I am finally getting this ^, hopefully!