Saturday, June 30, 2012

{the simple things} lazy cat

I'm telling you, cats know how to live. They don't run around on errands on a Saturday afternoon, they don't even go catch mice. Instead, they relax. Hang out. Do nothing. Stretch a little, maybe.

We got new patio furniture this year. So of course who's sleeping on it? Right. Cats. As I'm writing this, the next one of them is lounging in that corner. What did I expect?

We had a busy week and since I haven't posted any cat photos in a while (more of them here, here and here). I figured I'd take a clue from my cat this week and be a bit lazy. So if you'll excuse me, I'll just go and fight for a little spot on that outdoor couch while the sun is still out...

Happy weekend,

Sunday, June 24, 2012

{the simple things} more flowers for mommy

I love wildflowers. We live in a relatively new development, and all the lots not occupied yet but not farmland anymore have turned into a gorgeous sea of wildflowers: white and yellow chamomile, blue cornflowers and bright red poppies. So simple. So pretty.

So when my boys aren't racing around on one their way too many vehicles (two bikes, one strider, one tricycle, one scooter, one small and one giant gokart. Any questions?), they're picking flowers for mommy. Again.

Don't you just love summer?

Linking up with the simple things sunday. Can't wait to see everyone's photos this week!

Happy Sunday,

Friday, June 22, 2012

Strawberry cupcakes

So. Strawberries. As you know, we went picking. Came home with about five kilograms each trip (yes, we've made multiple trips). 

We made lots of jam, froze strawberry puree for using in yogurt and I made a giant batch of strawberry syrup, using eight cups of strawberries and yielding more than 2 liters of gorgeous pink syrup (if you haven't tried it, you must. I used this recipe and the syrup is as great in icy cold milk as it is in equally cold sparkling wine).

If you know me at all, you know I also made a cake. Well, several, actually. I made one chocolate cake with a strawberry yogurt mousse, well, actually I made three of those and another one to come this weekend. Hopefully this time around I'll get some decent photos to share.

Meanwhile, grab yourself some strawberries, a blender, a large bowl and a handful of ingredients you're bound to have on hand and make this strawberry cake from a dash of sass. First recipe I ever saw using actual strawberry puree. Plus, it's got to be the world's easiest recipe: pour everything into a bowl, mix, pour into cake pans and bake. Done. I didn't even go through the hassle of straining my strawberry puree, simply because I never do. Raspberry puree, yes, but strawberry puree? Can't be bothered.

I actually ended up making two small bundt cakes plus a batch of mini cupcakes, topped with fresh whipped cream and wild strawberries or fraises de bois from our garden. Yum. 

Oh, and I did add some red food coloring to make sure these would come out nice and pink, which they did. Perfect for a little girl's birthday party. Not that I have any girls. Hmmmmm.... 


PS: I'm actually starting to shoot in manual mode. Well, aperture priority when I'm pressed for time (and we all know that never happens... right.). Love it. Exactly why didn't I try this before?!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

{the simple things} picking strawberries

Ah, strawberry season. It's always too short, but it's so sweet while it lasts. We decided to make the most of it and go strawberry picking last weekend.

Hello? Strawberries? Anyone there?

Yum! Eating as many strawberries as you possibly can is the best part about picking strawberries.

Don't they look lovely? We had a bit too much rain the week before, but they're still delicious.

The boys were pretty good actually, not stepping on the plants or berries and not picking the green ones.

This is what we came home with: 5kg (that's 11 lbs). We made strawberry cakes (yep, plural), pureed some with confectioner's sugar and froze them for eating with yogurt when the season is over, ate a lot of them and....

...made two batches of strawberry jam.

Of course I need more. I still haven't tried strawberry syrup and oh, there are so many cake recipes I want to try! Also, I need to stock up some more on jam and the frozen strawberry puree to get us through that bleak not-strawberry-season.

What's your favorite strawberry recipe?

PS: Linking up with the simple things. Thanks everyone for stopping by!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bubbles. Oh, and a sun hat.

Last weekend was nice, almost felt like summer, without being really hot. We had our little one year-old neighbor over, and to keep her from getting bored, the brothers decided to blow some bubbles.

She loved it. Although she would have preferred to blow some bubbles herself.

Also, I made little brother's sunhat. Actually, I made this weeks ago, using this pattern. Since it's meant for a toddler, I did increase it a bit. And ended up with a hat I can wear. Oops. Apparently I should have measured my seam allowance a little more precisely. Oh well. I just made another one. And then two more. Now the whole family has sun hats. The kids got a fish appliqué on the one side, the inside is lined with bright stripes matching about every color tee they own.

Little brother has been wearing it on vacation, too. I'd like to make a few more of them - once you get the hang of sewing something straight onto something round, it's actually not that hard. That, and using about a million pins. Anyhow.

This is my favorite photo.

You can see the hat's striped lining here. It's a reversible hat though, and big brother sometimes wears the bright side out.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Home again

Yeah, we're back home. We had the most wonderful vacation, but it was also good to be home again. Well, after spending nearly eight hours in the car with two kids under the age of six, we would have been glad to arrive anywhere. But arriving back home was sweet. The weather had turned ugly the night before we left and by the time we got home it was really, really raining hard here, too.

I don't know about you, but the last years, coming home has usually meant some sort of chaos. Bags and stuff everywhere, in various stages of unpacking and just lots of stuff that needs to be put back. This time, it was different. I have no idea what it is, but when I walked in the door after just ten short days away, everything seemed so nice. Clean. Crisp. Filled with light. Uncluttered. Spacious. Unpacking was a breeze, too: Dump 99% of clothing into laundry baskets, sort and start laundry in the basement and put the other stuff back to where it belongs. My box of kitchen stuff and food I took with me (you know, spices, some flour and sugar, coffee, pasta and an emergency jar of tomato sauce, the great apple juice and the other lovely things we bought along the way) was unpacked in five minutes flat, while making a pot of tea.

Not quite sure if this is due to living in fairly cramped quarters with my three boys for those ten days or the fact that this lovely Bavarian apartment was just so different from my normal surroundings (while being the most charming place ever, I have to say). Or maybe the sense of projects still to do and things still to declutter and finish I have living here everyday simply means I completely fail seeing what we did already accomplish and declutter?

In any event, it's a good thing, because a day after being back I was right in the middle of making multiple to do lists, phone calls, running errands, doing paperwork and trying to get all sorts of things done before starting work again next week and before summer is over again and big brother starts school (gasp. Big brother will start school this year. Someone pinch me!). I wouldn't really have the time for any house projects right now anyway. So I guess I better try and preserve that I-like-my-home-the-way-it-is attitude!

Ah, my lists. One of the best things about vacation was to really and truly let go of to do lists. The only times I ever opened my to do app was to check off my recurring tasks that kept popping up. I didn't realize I had that many. Ugh. Maybe it's time to delete them from my list and focus on the things I really have to or want to do? It sure was nice to have the decision where to go for dinner as the only to do of the day. Sigh.

It was really nice to slow down. Even though days were full, they seemed longer. A week seemed like a week again. And now? We've been back since last Monday and it feels like yesterday, and not like a week as passed. I have no idea where the time went. Yes, we did get a lot of things done and we did a lot of fun things, too, but I can feel the days go by faster again. Maybe it's about being in the moment more or focusing on just one thing at a time, or focusing on nothing at all, just staring at the lake and the mountains.

I think I need to take a day off. Every week. One day without anything to do. Now, how do I fit that in my schedule? Actually, I have no idea. But I'll be trying to make Sundays free again, and slow down. At least that one day. Any advice?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

{the simple things} elderflowers

Early summer is one of my favorite seasons, especially those couple of weeks from mid May to early June. The weather is often better than later in June or even July, there are no pesky insects out yet that want to eat your cupcake on the porch or drown in your lemonade. Summer still feels new, you're still surprised the trees are all nice and green all of a sudden and the garden, oh the garden. There are blossoms everywhere. My favorite geraniums (the real geranium, not the pelargonium) and white catnip blossom.

But the best part? Early summer harvests! Strawberries. Asparagus. And elderflowers.

I love elderflowers. Every year when we're back from vacation, we run to pick some elderflowers. Well, baskets of them, actually. They grow everywhere along the fields, but you have to catch an at least somewhat sunny day to make sure the flowers are all the way open and there is this fine, yellowish dust on them. That's the best part.

We then gently shake them off to remove insects and soak them with sugar, water and lemons for a few days to make elderflower cordial. My mom has her own recipe, and this year I'm trying out this one in direct comparison (there's an English version, too, if you scroll down). She makes a simple syrup first and lets the flowers and lemons soak in the cooled syrup before straining it and briefly heating it, while my mom's recipes add the sugar as is - either during the infusing part or later when heating. Anyway.

The elderflower syrup is perfect for flavoring drinks or, in this case, a lemon cake (recipe from here).

Yum! Now I hope the season lasts long enough to make a few more batches and also elderflower jelly and oh, lots of strawberry jam of course. What's your favorite early summer treat?

Have a great weekend,

PS: Will be linking up with the simple things sunday later. Have a safe trip back, Rebecca!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Visiting yesterday's Bavaria

By now we're back home, but I still have plenty of photos to share. Well, once I get them all off my camera, sorted and edited, that is. Here's the first batch.

We went to the Open Air Museum Glentleiten, and I have to say it's one of the best museums I've seen, with a lovely attention to detail and set in a simply gorgeous landscape.

This is one of my favorite photos - a simple, potted geranium (technically it's a pelargonium, because a geranium is a different type of plant and one of my favorites, and it sort of drives me crazy that everyone is calling this a geranium, but I guess I'm guilty, too now). I love that this is timeless - it could have been sitting in front of that old farmhouse a hundred years ago and you still see these plants on balconies across Bavaria these days.

This is the view from the museum. Gorgeous, isn't it? We had funny weather that day, ranging from sunshine to a thunderstorm that we could watch coming near and going across the mountains. It's amazing how much closer you are to nature in the mountains, isn't it?

So we went off exploring the many farmhouses on display. There are over 60 historic buildings that have been taken down in their original locations and rebuild on the museum grounds. 

This is what my favorite house looked like inside. It's from 1597 and this is one of the bedrooms. The house was lived in until 1981, and it never got connected to electricity. Can you imagine?

There are not only farmhouses, but a few pre-industrial buildings, too, like this mill.

Any water coming yet?

Where did the fish go?

I love these flowers. Ah, the flowers in Bavaria... I have almost more flower photos than of mountain views.

This is what life 100 years ago looked like.

This is my favorite kitchen, from a farmhouse somewhat bigger.

This is the best shot I could get of a little heart-shaped cutout in the wooden walls and the view of the sunny flowers outside. Apparently I do need to learn more about photography!

Time for something sweet and some homemade elderflower lemonade before heading back.

We really had a great time and the kids had so much fun running around and exploring.

It's been back to preschool, errand running and laundry mountain conquering for us this week, but I'll try to share some more photos over the next week or so.

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, June 2, 2012

{the simple things} lakeside picnic lunch

One of the best things about Bavaria (after the gorgeous landscape and the beer, as the Mr. would point out) is the food.

Oh my.

You don't even have to visit a restaurant for that (although I highly recommend doing so daily. That's what vacations are for, right?). One of my favorite simple things this week was a enjoying a simple lakeside picnic lunch, consisting of fresh strawberries, soft pretzels (Brezn) and the best yogurt around.

I'm picky about my yogurt. We usually make our own, and my kids eat it plain with homemade jam or fruit. I never buy strawberry yogurt, because let's face it, there simply isn't much strawberry in a strawberry yogurt. Well, that's different here. We found one tiny local store that carries a local brand of yogurt that is simply yogurt, nothing added other than some strawberries and a little bit of sugar. Yum.

And really, what else do you need with a view like this?

It was even warm enough for bare feet in the lake. That and all of their shoes and pants had gotten wet already. Sigh. What is it with boys and water? They can't stay dry for two minutes once they're within sight of the tiniest puddle.

We had a little visitor trying to get her share of lunch, too.

I'm missing picnics at the lake already, although I do hope we might be able to have a last one tomorrow. Linking up with Rebecca's simple things sunday.

Happy Sunday!