July 16, 2013

Wellington Wishes

Ever since my 19th birthday, I have spent nearly every summer abroad. I was fortunate to attend a college that offered overseas programs -- I've never looked back since. Those programs opened the doors to summers in Scotland, Ukraine and England. After college, various other European outposts opened up, until I eventually ended up in Africa.

No matter where I found myself for the majority of the summer though, I usually made it to Scotland either before or after my travels. There, on the shores of Loch Lomond, friends and I converged for several weeks at a summer camp for teenagers. We worked hard. We laughed a lot. We ate pie. We drank. We sang. And more often than not, I cried when I had to say goodbye. 

Campers and staff alike refer to the place as magical. I don't believe in magic, but one night during my first summer there, several of us sat around a campfire, chatting. At some point, someone ran down the hill, and breathlessly asked us to help herd a few of the sheep back into their fenced-off area. 

We proved a sight. Arms flailing, a half dozen of us ran around a sheep field in the dark, trying to round up a few of the dumbest animals on the planet.

Later, my sophisticated and well-traveled older dorm-mate sat near me by the fire and said something poignant -- I don't remember exactly what -- but in that moment I do remember thinking, 'It's true... this place is magical.'

Year after year I returned to that sheep field. Rain, mud and midgie bites couldn't keep me away. I skipped a summer now and again when I was on board a ship, and I remember missing part of a summer because a boy I liked happened to be traveling through London in the middle of camp. 

But for the most part, I continued to spend at least a few weeks in Scotland, every summer.  

The wellies always changed, but the view never did. 

In 2009, the Sailor and I arrived from Cape Town to America to visit with my family during his study break. He returned to South Africa alone; I spent the next six weeks keeping a close eye on my mother, who had a few health issues at the time.

I had already made up my mind that I wouldn't be able to go to Scotland that summer; I figured I'd be spending the remainder of the summer with the Sailor in a wintry Southern Hemisphere. Instead, I spent the next six weeks hovering over my mother, driving her slightly crazy.  

She couldn't understand why I was so batty myself. She thought I just missed the Sailor, but in truth, we spend half of our life apart. I always miss him, but this time, I was also missing Scotland. I felt displaced.

On the night that my friends arrived in the sheep field, I toasted them from far away with a double shot of single malt, and I found myself feeling a little homesick for Scotland -- or indeed anywhere in Europe for that matter. 

It turns out it was the first summer since 1994 that I spent in America. Even when I missed camp in previous years, I was at least in Europe for the summer.

It wasn't terrible. But it was strange. I found myself looking at my cold-weather wardrobe a little wistfully. While locals lamented the rain that pelted Pennsylvania, I found it comforting. I wanted to wear my wellies, sit by a fire and listen to someone strumming a guitar. I learned to knit and the first real project I made turned out to be a sweater that I envisioned myself wearing on the sheep field. 

I made it back to Scotland in 2010, but the sweater didn't come with me. The sleeves turned out to be a little too short, and increasingly lower baggage allowances meant I left behind anything big and bulky -- except my wellies, of course.  

In 2011, I traded camping on the shores of Loch Lomond with boat camping on Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho with college friends. They had all been to Scotland at some point with me, yet despite their company, I couldn't help but feel a little nostalgic about missing the Bonnie Banks again. 

Last year, I made elaborate plans to return to Scotland. Afterwards, my itinerary included Ukraine for a writing project. When my brother took a turn for the worse, I cancelled all travel plans and wrote my regrets to friends I wouldn't be seeing again for a long, long time. Even after my brother recovered from his infection, and once he started to improve again, I was thankful I stayed. It turns out it was the last summer I'd have with him. No regrets, but I was still a little wistful about missing out on a summer in Scotland. 

I knew early on this year that I wouldn't make it to Scotland this summer. We just relocated to a completely new city. It seemed a little crazy to pack for camp in the midst of our moving melee. I told friends that the excitement of moving to a new place has slightly taken the sting out of not being in Scotland this year. The truth is though, I'm still going to miss it. 

So to all of my friends already there in that field, and to the many who have yet to arrive: Enjoy your summer... cherish the friendships you'll make and the memories you will create. Laugh (loudly) for me. I will be toasting you from across the pond, and wishing you well, in your wellies. 

July 13, 2013

Pyrex Casualty

My vintage Pyrex collection survived a 700 mile road trip (with a few extra days crammed in a moving truck, to boot). 

Tonight, I had my first casualty. I dropped a bowl. I have two more in this pattern so it wasn't a complete disaster - but I did find myself staring at the floor in a slight state of shock for a moment. 

I never need a reason to check out a thrift store... the hunt for unexpected objects is a thrill itself. But I suppose now I can add 'find replacement bowl' to the shopping list. 

July 10, 2013

Sauerbraten Success

Late last night, the Sailor and I feasted on the marinated sauerbraten, salted boiled potatoes and red cabbage.

Here's the basic recipe, adapted from my thrifted copy of The Art of German Cooking, by Betty Wason. (More on this fascinating lady later. First the food.) 

I marinated my two-pound chunk of meat in a beer mixture for the Bavarian style of sauerbraten (apparently there are several ways to make this dish -- the main thrust is that the meat needs to marinate in a vinegar type mixture, including wine or even buttermilk). In addition to a few cups of Belgium dark beer, I added water, a bay leaf, lemon, tomato, onion, and several whole cloves and whole peppercorn and let it sit in the fridge for two days, turning the meat several times. 

After two days, I strained the marinade, dredged the beef in flour, and then browned it on the stove top in butter.

Next, I added one cup of the strained marinade, a sliced lemon, a little sugar and some salt and then simmered the roast for two hours, turning the meat halfway through cooking. (Next time, I'll add more of the strained marinade -- I didn't think there was enough liquid in the pot while it was cooking.

Of course if your roast is larger, it will probably take longer to cook. I think my own sauerbraten could have simmered even longer, even though the meat was already falling apart.

For gravy, I skimmed the juice and mixed it in with a little sour cream... just in case the rest of the sauer / sour ingredients aren't enough for you!

The recipe called for potato dumplings and red cabbage to go with the sauerbraten... and while I'm ambitious and wanted to have as authentic a German meal as possible, I simply didn't have the energy to make dumplings.

I made salted potatoes instead. 

The potatoes were nothing fancy... but the red cabbage was probably the hit of the meal. I'll post that recipe later, but here's a sneak peak: 

While the Sailor and I agreed that our usual standard roast with chutney was slightly better, the sauerbraten got accolades all around. I knew it was definitely better than average when we both reached for seconds of everything.

I suspect my high school German teacher would have been proud of the sauerbraten success. (Probably more so had I actually translated the recipe from German... Ja?)

July 7, 2013

Menu Planning

About a week ago, after I'd cooked probably five different dishes in the span of two days, the Sailor looked at me and said he was surprised I wasn't cooking up a storm in the new spacious kitchen. 

Apparently he missed the whirlwind going on behind him (the kitchen island is strategically located near enough to the TV that I can still watch whatever is on, even when I'm cooking, but the Sailor can't see me.) 

So this weekend, I decided to cook up another storm, but first I needed to plan the menu. Every so often, I go through my countless cookbooks to figure out what I can either make with the ingredients on hand, or to make a shopping list for the future menu.

This week, roasts were buy one get one free at our local grocery store. My go-to recipe involves Mrs Ball's Chutney, which is particularly hard to find in this hemisphere. It might be a while until we can find a store that stocks it, so I knew I needed to find another roast recipe in the meantime. 

I perused a used copy of The Art of German Cooking that I picked up at a thrift store a while back. German food is something the Sailor gets excited over, so I figured I might find something worth cooking in this 1967 volume. 

The cookbook didn't disappoint. I found a recipe for Bavarian Sauerbraten -- a giant rump of beef marinated in beer, lemon, tomato, onion, cloves, peppercorns and a bay leaf. 

Say no more. I knew this had potential to be the recipe. 

It needs to marinade for 2-3 days, but in the meantime, I'm salivating. 
I'll let you know how it turns out. I'm hoping this won't end up as Kitchen Disasters III.

Fingers crossed.

July 4, 2013

Red (Rug), White, and Blue

The local Fourth of July fireworks seem to have been postponed here, and downpours all day put a stop to any sort of barbeque or picnic plan. That's okay though, because I managed to finish the red rug for the bathroom, while the Sailor and I spent the day watching old movies. 

I'm not normally in the habit of taking photos of my bathroom, much less posting them, but this rug is too fun to keep a secret. 

While the pattern is only available from the July/August 2010 back issue of Crochet Today, you can view the original rug here on Ravelry. The rug is a basic spiral, crocheted in the round. It's worked in two layers -- a base layer and then a layer of pom-pom yarn.

Besides untangling the Citron Shawl, this rug is the first project I've started and completed in our new home. Before we moved, I found a few skeins of Spark-a-Doodle yarn for only 99 cents each, and I scooped them up, knowing I had to make this rug for our new bathroom. I made mine a few rounds smaller than the original pattern, but it's still super soft and plush.  

Since my rug is only one patriotic color, I'll leave you with a few random photos to make up for the lack of white and blue yarn -- the blinds and our globe. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!