Top Social

Tuesday Tidbits - Motion & Man

April 28, 2015
Credit: Shanna Bruschi
“The true measure of a man is not what he dreams, 
but what he aspires to be; a dream is nothing without action. 
Whether one fails or succeeds is irrelevant; 
all that matters is that there was motion in his life. 
That alone affects the world.”
Mike Norton, White Mountain 

motion + man

+ a Martian sunset

+ Curiosity Rover finds water and takes an out-of-this-world selfie

+ don't forget your spacesuit!

+ clean, unlimited energy = almost a reality?

+ missing the color blue

+ and other things we can't see

+ a ski lover's dream 

+ you can work from anywhere

+ 10 most visited palaces & castles

+ best European road trip - starts with Innsbruck, Austria (Come say hi!)

+ travelling solo

+ travelling with kids under 10

+ what it feels like back in the USA after seven months travelling the world

+ cool tiny houses - yes, less can be more!

+ favorite streets in 12 European cities

+ stay in a volcanic hotel

+ Munich's gnarly surfer culture

+ my Southern romance

+ inside Iran

+ Italian man fixes toilet, unearths an ancient treasure trove

+ Vienna's 19th Century Coffee Houses

+ Fika, Sweden's Coffee Break Ritual

+ Coffee as Identity in Iceland

+ Tokyo love affair

+ architectural short poems by Matthias Jung

Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

+ a 1,300 year old Japanese inn

+ a peek inside the notorious 190 Bowery

Bucky Turco via Animal New York

+ motion + light = Shylights

+ motion + jellyfish = ocean's ballet

+ motion + movies = kurasawa magic


+ motion + dance = as·phyx·i·a

+ motion + starlings = mesmerizing

Happy 4th Birthday, Ella (Profiteroles)

April 26, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday, our dearest Ella! My, my, my... what a big girl you are!  Yesterday, we celebrated YOU and who needed birthday cake when we could have PROFITEROLES!?

But, before we got to the yummy bit... we got to have a day of being outdoors and spending time with animals!

Since we now live in the Alps, there's always something to do outside... whether it's lakes, mountains, road trips, or animals - we can always find something fun to do!  This weekend we went to the Nattererboden.

The Nattererboden, located in Natters, a Tirolean municipality not far from Innsbruck, is a lovely, back to nature compound complete with a farm, vacation huts, guest rooms, playground, and nature trails!  There's a little something for everyone!  You can even have your wedding there, too!

But, of course, the first business of order upon arrival was getting ice cream! 

Priorities, People!

Historical records date the Nattererboden to the 18th Century when in 1843, the Jesuits purchased this complex.  The well, discovered in 1978, was their creation, as well as the wine cellar still in use today.  The cellar is constructed in such a way that it is rare to find one of its kind in this day and age!

The Jesuits are deeply intertwined with Austria's history...  I would love to dive into it a little deeper here but it's a little too deep for a four year old's birthday post, if you know what I mean.  So, here are a few links to their history here and here, to their history with Austria here, to the only female Jesuit (maybe), and to their churches in Innsbruck and Hall (I live twenty steps away!).  Have fun!

And, back to the Nattererboden!

They have so many animals here... many are tame and walk around the compound - they even let you pet them... watch out! The alpaca will hop in the pool with you!

The Over Protective Mama & Dada Geese

My Little Horse Whisperer, Back in Action


Beautiful Horses

Curious Billy Goats

"Mooo... I See You..."

Princess, The Alpaca

It was a fun day for El's fourth birthday.  Afterwards, we hopped in the car and continued our birthday celebration at home.

Happy Birthday, Ella!!

. . .

So, the real business of the day begins with deciding what kind of dessert to make for the birthday girl.  I decided to forgo the usual American style birthday sheet cake and make something that I haven't made in a long while - Profiteroles!

The process is long, and the road is filled with possible pit falls - but the destination is utterly divine and worth the sweat!

First, you must make a batch of choux pastry which will lead you to the cream puff portion of this dessert.  Then, you must make a big batch of chantilly cream - aka vanilla shocked whipped cream - that is the filling.  And, finally, you must make a bowl of thick chocolate sauce that will bring it all together as a delectable taste in your mouth!


Choux Pastry, Chantilly Creme adapted from Baker Bettie
Chocolate Sauce adapted from Ina Garten


Choux Pastry
* I used only 3 eggs.  I've read online that there are several things that can influence a good or bad batch of cream puffs... This is why the eggs are added one by one and mixed thoroughly... you are looking for that sweet spot where the dough is still stiff enough to hold its mound like shape once you pipe it.  A little too much egg and you've got pancake batter - oh no!
* I couldn't find my piping tips, so I took the lazy route and used a large zip lock bag with the corner bit cut out.  Worked like a charm!
* My oven is old and a little hard to predict - I had to take them out after the first baking step because I was afraid they would burn if I left them in too long.
* During the cooling phase, I used a knife and poked a half inch slit along the sides of the puffs to let any trapped steam escape - soggy puffs are not puffs at all!

Chocolate Sauce
* OMG, totally unprepared - I had no honey, no coffee, and only 1/4 of the chocolate I needed.  And, we are not the "just dust the cream puffs with powdered sugar" kind of people.  We need the chocolate!!
* So, luckily I found some left over Easter bunnies in the cabinet and threw those into the mix!


Flohmarkt Theresienwiese (Caramelized Pork Belly and Eggs)

April 22, 2015

The clouds finally made way for the sun on Saturday, April 18, 2015... and just in time for the giant and cult favorite flea market, Flohmarkt Theresienwiese.  Two thousand exhibitors gathered for this one day annual event.  The location?  Why, the Oktoberfest fairgrounds!  It was huge.  You'd have to start very early in the morning to get a glimpse at all of the goods.  We didn't have much time to spend... so, we made a quick sprint through the tables and grabbed a few things for the girls.  The Flea Market Insiders have a nice recap of their experience from 2010 as well as a list of some of the best flea markets in Munich.

We love flea markets, and there's constantly one somewhere in Munich.  I particularly love the neighborhood yard sales, Hofflohmarkt, that go on each summer weekend in a different neighborhood of Munich.  It's a lovely experience to see all of your neighbors (and their personal items on display) and sneak a peek into hidden courtyards that you might never see passing by on the outer sidewalks!

Standing high above the Oktoberfest fairgrounds, was the bronze, sand cast 19th century Barvarian Statue of the female personification of Bavaria.  She was commissioned by Ludwig I of Bavaria and was the first collosal statue since Classic Antiquity to be made entirely of bronze.

She is still a technological masterpiece - 60 feet 9inches (18.5 meters) high and 87 tons with an interior circular staircase leading to her head which has four openings for great views of Munich.  For comparison, The Statue of Liberty stands at 90 meters.

The story behind the statue and the Bavarians' love of their country makes me see it like this

We arrived early in the morning before the rides or games got started.  All quiet was the ferris wheel, reisenrad in German.  In 2002, this 50 meter ride became a permanent fixture of the Oktoberfest. I've never been to the Oktoberbest before... but I'm gradually getting an idea of the size and fun to be had in this annual event.                                                                                                                                            

On the north side of the fairground sits St. Paul's Church.  Built in 1892-1906, the Roman Catholic cathedral was designed by an Austrian architect, Georg von Hauberrisser in the Gothic Revival Style.  The height of the main tower is 97 meters. 

During World War II, the church was heavily damaged and in 1960, a plane, from Munich to London, crashed into the 318 feet steeple and continued on to crash into a crowded two section Munich tram.  All passengers and crew aboard the flight perished, including a group of students on holiday from the University of Maryland.

This church felt very modern, relatively new.  It didn't have a lot of the old gloom and gore that I've seen in older churches.  Many even have old body parts on display!!

. . .

But on we go... the weekend was short... mostly because I've been dealing with some tooth issues... and no one can feel inspired to do anything when their tooth hurts.  So, I made a pot of Caramelized Pork Belly with Hard-Boiled Eggs - to boost the moods and comfort level in the house!

Caramelized Pork Belly with Hard-Boiled Eggs

adapted from Vietnamese Soul Food

1.5 lb boneless pork belly
2 nobs of ginger
6  hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/8 C sugar
1/8 C fish sauce
2 medium shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 C liquids (use coconut juice or soda, which is traditional.  I used 2C Coke + 1C water)
4 green onions (finely chopped green part for garnish, 2 inch segments of white part for cooking)

1. Cut pork belly into large 1-2in cubes.  Boil a pot of water.  Add the ginger and pork and par boil for 5 min.  Remove from heat and rinse pork and pot.

2. Back on the stove, add sugar, 1 Tbsp water, and brown.  Stir constantly until a golden brown color is reached. 

3.  Add the pork.  Stir til all meat is covered with the caramelized sugar sauce.  Add fish sauce, pepper, and the minced aromatics.  Cook until everything is melded together and all aromatics softened.

4.  Pour in the liquids.  (Traditionally, one would use coconut water or soda.  I had none on hand and so used Coca-cola instead.)

5.  Cover and simmer for on low heat for 45 minutes.

6.  Add the hard-boiled eggs.  Cook for a minimum of 30 minutes... or let it simmer for an hour or until soft.  

You will notice that the pork feels 'rubbery' for a while... have patience... there will be a point when you poke at it that it is super soft and ready to serve.  Don't serve it before it reaches this point!!


Tuesday Tidbits - Mother Earth

April 21, 2015


Mother Earth 

Earth Day, 2015

+ a discovery of mysteries
in the deep

+ strongest substance in the smallest of creatures

+ the world's oldest trees

+ the world's oldest living things 

+ the evolution of feathers

+ owl love you, forever!

+ it's a hard, hawk life

+ vegetarian birds turn meat eaters

+ penguins are losing their taste buds
and becoming ninjas!

+ sea lion pups heading to the
california coast

+ true, parental love 

+ have you heard a

+ a mother's devotion 

+ a beautiful, natural birth... of a baby gorilla.

+ the chameleon's party trick

+ how to save 100 rhinos

+ portland loves their bees

+ germany loves their chicks

+ the danes love their pigs

+ dogs - our loyal companions

+ the world's deepest hole

+ next stop: blood falls, antartica

+ the birth of an island

+ amazing discoveries
are still being uncovered

+ a hole in the sea

+ what is happening to our oceans

+ there is no life without water

+ put food, not in landfills, but in the hands
of those who need it

+ energy through glass?

+ edible 'water bottles'?

+ we are one in a gazillion

+ Paris is dealing with air pollution

+ I want to shop here

+ solar energy - finally getting competitive! 

+ hooray for renewable energy!

+ Costa Rica - a renewables success story

+ witnessing our deepest, darkest mistakes

+ the unfashionable side of fashion

+ the worst place on earth

+ the new ocean ecosystem - the plasticsphere

+ get to know the Pacific Garbage Patch

+ Our garbage??? It's ending up here... 
choking the life out of other species.

 + This is how we wish to know our oceans...

+ There's always more out there to discover!

+ We can't look away and do nothing...

 Mother Earth is worth saving... WE are worth saving.

Tuesday Tidbits - California Dreamin'

April 14, 2015
The Black Blizzard, April 14, 1935 [Credit:Link]

Today, April 14th, marks the 
anniversary of the Black Blizzard of 1935.
Does anyone remember (or know of) the Dust Bowl?
If not, I think we need a (re)introduction.

A once a fertile land
turned to dust.

If we don't learn from our history,
our future looks to be even 
bleaker than the 1930's Dust Bowl.

It's called a Mega-Drought.

The land has been over used... 
sucked dry by agricultural practices...
becomes parched.

Californians are told what
but I think this applies
to everyone.

The signs are obvious.

Drop the bottled water.
That's right, drop it!

Eat less meat. Damn you, alfalfa sprout!

But, some people
don't seem to care -

Looking back farther in history,
seems California has
experienced a few
mega-droughts in the past.

However, the hidden
player in this round is 
the effect of climate-change.

But, we keep looking
forward for a solution -
Using less water in farming...

Desperate attempts
turn to the ocean for relief.

Will we ever
find a solution?

What if there isn't a solution?
What if things are already out of our hands?

 . . . 

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill -- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill -- you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." - Morpheus, The Matrix, 1999

A Walk in the Woods (Aubergine Wrapped Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce)

El & Lil at Reintalersee

This past weekend was the first warm, sunny weekend of the year.  Our village was a ghost town - no one, nada, zip - except for a few souls wandering here and there.  Where was everyone?  Why they were all NOT at home and wandering in the great outdoors!

In Norwegian, there is a word,  friluftsliv, which means "free air life'.  It's a way of life - to explore and appreciate the outdoors.  While, it's normal in the states to often find yourself glued to the tube on a Sunday (hello, that's when the sports are on!), here in Germany, it's almost sacreligious to be stuck inside on a beautiful day.  (Hey, stubenhocker! (or maybe, couch potato, as its nearest English translation?))

I think I've even caught a little of this bug... Harry offered a full day off without the girls to me on Sunday.  And at first, I thought, Cool! A full day in peace and quiet! But, it didn't take long before I changed my mind and wanted to get outside, too.  I can do anything else during the week... but I can't let a beautiful day go to waste!

So, off we went on a Sunday road trip!

This week it wasn't a long trip by car... this trip we would make mostly ON FOOT!!

Not far from our village of Hall, my husband found a lake with an easy foot path surrounding it.
It was called Reintalersee near Kramsach.  In the summer, this lake is one of the warmest lakes around, and it is covered with sunners and bathers - there's even a nude beach!


One of Six Lakes Surrounding Kramsach

The Foot Path Takes About an Hour (without kids)

The Fischerstube, A Nice Pitstop

A Sisterly Chat

Throwing Rocks - Watch Out, Mr. Ducky!!

Leader of the Pack

Interesting Mushrooms

Signs of Damage from Last Week's Major Storm

Tall Lakeside Grass

By the time we made it back full circle to the car, the girls and Coco were pooped.  We spent a good five hours outside enjoying the fresh air, the mountains, and a yummy lunch.

Back home, I got to work getting dinner ready... and although the recipe calls for an overnight stay in the fridge, I like to live dangerously and skipped this step. Instead, I added some bread crumbs to get the mixture ready for action.  Dinner was an hour away, and I had to move fast!

And, did I mention it's hard for me to find ricotta cheese in my neck of the woods?  So, I made a quick cup from scratch with some milk and cream I had in the fridge.

I toasted about 50 grams of pine nuts (30 grams for the mix and 20 grams to toss on the top).

Then, I got started!

This dish is great on so many levels - it's rich and cheesy, soft and pillowy inside, wrapped in roasted eggplant (Did I tell you I'm a fan?), and drenched in crispy sage, pine nuts, and melted butter???  Ottolengthi - you are a genius!

And, it looks like it took a lot of work - but I got it ready in less than 1 1/2 hours!  (Yes, I cheated, I didn't let it set in the fridge overnight... but honestly, I've cheated twice... and it was delicious both times!)

Buon Appetito!

Aubergine-Wrapped Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
Adapted from The Ottolenghi Cookbook, pg. 28
Printable Version

2 small aubergine (eggplant)
4 Tbsp olive oil
20g unsalted butter, melted
15g Parmesan cheese, grated

For the Gnocchi:
30g pine nuts, toasted
250g ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
35g plain flour
40g Parmesan cheese, grated
1Tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 tsp nutmet, grated
salt and pepper

For the Sage Butter Sauce:
90g unsalted butter, melted
20 sage leaves
pinch salt

1. Dry roast the pine nuts til golden brown.
2. Transfer to large bowl and add ricotta, egg yolks, flour, Parmesan, herbs, nutmeg, and salt/pepper.  Stir well and cover.
3. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. 
4. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 4-5mm thick slices.  Roast for 20min til tender and golden.
5. Prepare to shape the gnocchi mix - add a few spoons of bread crumbs.  Use your eye to gauge when it's too wet to hold shape in the boiling water and when it's getting too dry.  You want it just dry enough to hold its shape.
6.  Make quenelle shapes with two spoons.
7.  Drop each into a pot of salted gently boiling water. (Rapid boiling can destroy your freshly made gnocchi!)
8.  They are done when they float to the surface.  Remove with a slotted spoon or equivalent.  Place onto plate lined with paper towel to drain excess water.  Brush with some melted butter.
9.  Eggplant should be ready.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Wrap each around the buttered gnocchi.  Place seam side down in a buttered oven proof dish.
10.  Make the sage butter - melt butter into a pan over medium heat.  Simmer for a few minutes til butter is light golden brown.  Remove from heat and add sage and salt.  Return the pan to heat, giving it a few seconds to heat up uniformly.
11.  Drizzle the sage butter on top of the wrapped gnocchi.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until you hear everything is sizzling.
12.  Toss the remaining pine nuts on top... a few dashes of grated parmesan cheese... and serve!

Tuesday Tidbits | People Are People

April 7, 2015
James Rizzi (1996) [Credit:Link]

Hmm, so this week
it's all about the people.

What people?
You ask.

You know, THOSE people.

People who need a reminder
that the good stuff is
NOT stuck in the camera ...
it's all around you.

People who want to fall in love
It's all about risk taking.
Or asking the right questions.
There are 36, to be exact.

People who respect
the dying... and see death

People who have
lost trust in their doctors...

People who still fight sexism
- in the internet age.

People who know we are all made of star-stuff.

People who are truly loved -
by their pets.

People who are born to roam.

People  who need to quit.

People who are getting older...
and living alone.

People who like sleeping in a pack. 

People who think their children 
are like wild animals

People in charge of recording 
the 'End of an Era'.

People who put their family
as their highest priority.

People who have fun with
food and geography. 

People who fight 
to save those who can not. 

People who  survive nightmares. 

People who know life is short

People who bring forgotten 
fairy tales back to life. 

People who are "accidental news junkies".

People who feel they need approval from others. 

People are beautiful  all over the world. 

People who fight for animals left behind.

People who smoke while pregnant.

People who drop out of Harvard.

People who don't burn bridges. 

People who quit their day jobs - 
to walk in the woods. 

People who come back from space 
a year older and younger. 

People who don't "trickle down".

People who put their money down 
for experiences first.

People who see that happiness
 changes as you get older.

People ready to get out of their closets.

People who go it alone.

People who make sucky toys

People who need a roomate -
in the nursing home.

People just looking 
for their identity.

Heads up!
People. They're just like us!


. . .

People are people so why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully
So we're different colours
And we're different creeds
And different people have different needs
It's obvious you hate me
Though I've done nothing wrong
I never even met you
So what could I have done
I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand. 
- Depeche Mode

"People Are People" - Depeche Mode