Friday, April 29, 2011

Crepes with Nutella and Strawberries

Thank you Betty Crocker! One of my new favorite breakfasts is made easy with one of Betty Crocker's recipes!! Since we've moved to Italy I've been trying to branch out and improve on my cooking skills. After all, my mom is an excellent cook and I have some HUGE shoes to fill! Some of the receipes are just good ole' Betty Crocker recipes, but most of the new one's I've tried are from a regional Italian cookbook that Josh bought back in the states. So far, everything has been amazing! I'll post more on those later...

But for now, here is the receipe for some easy, amazingly tasty crepes:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baker powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
butter or shortening
strawberries and nutella (syrup optional)

1. mix dry ingredients in medium bowl, add eggs, vanilla, milk and mix together with a wisk or hand mixer. When everything is mixed together, mix in melted butter until the batter is smooth.

2. in a small skillet (6-8 in) melt a very small amount of butter over medium heat (just enough to keep the batter from sticking)

3. pour 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet and immediately rotate to cover the entire skillet with a thin layer of batter. Cook until light brown, run a spatulla around the edges to loosen the crepe, then flip and cook the other side until light brown. Repeat with more batter, use butter sparingly as needed on the skillet.

4. stack crepes, placing waxed paper between each and keep covered. (This is Betty's recommendation)

Once cooked, spread nutella and strawberries all over the crepe, roll and enjoy!! The recipe yields about 14 crepes. You can also use jams, or other fruit as filling. Just strawberries with maple syrup is also delicious!

*one personal note- if making breakfast for two or more people, use two skillets if possible. I've found that the first crepe takes a while to cook, and the second, third and so on are a bit quicker. But they do take about 5 minutes each, so if you can have two skillets going, then you and your family can all eat together :)

Mmmm.... So good when it touches your lips!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Festa Della Liberazione- Liberation Day

So, it’s a beautiful Monday afternoon and a holiday in Italy. Since I had nothing to do I thought I would take a nice walk from our apartment to the city center and enjoy the afternoon at the Duomo. Since it was a holiday and none of the shops were open, I figured it would be a pretty peaceful walk downtown and back. Once I got down to Porto Venezia (a large intersection about halfway to downtown) there was a lot of foot traffic and local police officers directing traffic. This is definitely not normal, so I was curious what was going on. A couple blocks closer to the city center, the street was completely blocked off to street traffic and it looked like there were some street vendors selling t-shirts and food. I was thinking that it could be some sort of celebration or street fair? Talk about a bad day to leave the camera at home…

After walking a few more blocks there were more people, and demonstrations happening, peace flags, and red flags with the hammer and sickle. As I looked around I noticed quite a diverse crowd of people. I felt like I was back in Northern California and all of the hippies had come out of hiding!! If you ever wondered if hippies existed in Milan… well they do!! Seeing the communist flag being flown made me very uneasy… but it seemed like a peaceful demonstration, so I kept walking. A few more blocks down and the sidewalks were completely packed, the street was
full of demonstrators, and all of a sudden there were about 20 Carabinieri lining the street decked out in SWAT gear. It looked like they were ready for a riot to break out, carrying shields, wearing masks and everything else that applies! That completely freaked me out, so I took a side street back to the park and made my way home. I did not want to be in a place with so many people if riots were expected!! No thank you.

After getting home and doing a little research, I learned that the reason today is a holiday is because it commemorates the end of WWII in Italy. On April 25th, 1945, the Mussolini regime was overthrown, and the German-Fascist control of Italy ended. I found a great quote on
April the 25th “commemorates the liberation of Italy by Allied troops in the Second World War. The holiday is meant to honor all those who died during the war, from soldiers fighting overseas to civilian victims of Allied bombings and atrocities committed during Nazi Germany’s bitter retreat from its former ally’s territory. The lives of those who served as partisans in the Italian Resistance are especially honored.”

The reason people were demonstrating was a celebration! It was a celebration of the end of the Nazi’s occupying Italy. After doing more research I feel better about the meaning of the holiday, but not about that crowd that was moving towards downtown. I’m guessing the Carabinieri were only there as a precaution since so many people were expected. All in all, I learned a little more about Italian culture today. I’m just upset I forgot my camera!! Seriously great people watching today J

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Internet! My Friend! It's so great to have you home!

Internet!! It’s so great to see you again!! It’s been a long two months without you in the house… It’s great to have you home!
So... having the internet installed reminded me of move in day all over again. Two Italian guys here to install everything, one barely speaks English, the other knows maybe two words. With my horrible Italian I’m able to determine that they came to install the telephone and internet. Huh?? The contract was for cable and internet, no phone. So… I call our relocation company that has been assisting us and the nice woman speaks with one of the technicians. Turns out they were not prepared for installing cable, so that may not happen. But at the very least, we have internet! We have to reschedule another appointment for them to come back for the cable. To be continued…
As they were installing the wireless router they had to drill holes in the walls, and super glue (yes… super glue) wires to the door frame so they weren’t noticeable. In the process, I think they took out a chunk of our wall and didn’t fix it. I'm a little nervous what our landlord is going to say about that when we move out...  The technicians also asked for coffee (which being the good host, I made a pot for them), a garbage bag (which are surprisingly expensive in Milan and they left it full of trash when they were finished!!) and he also needed our vacuum to clean up the mess (didn’t they come prepared?). They were very nice and did a great job, but what happened to technicians bringing a shop vac, especially when they expect to drill holes with the drill they brought for the job? Ok, just a rant… but it was definitely an interesting day!!  On the bright side- internet!!! Yay! Now I can do research for my schoolwork without having to go to an internet cafe J

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's the "wurst" that could happen?

Right around the time when Josh and I found out about our move to Italy, one of my best friends applied for a job in Munich, Germany. As it turns out, she got the job! She moved over to Munich about the same time that Josh and I moved to Milan. Last weekend we took a road trip to visit her and see what her new life is like in Munich. It was so great to see a friendly face!! I forget how much I miss having friends to hang out with in Milan. Since I haven’t been able to work yet (that’s another story…) and don’t really speak the language yet, it’s been difficult to meet people. There just aren’t those great girlfriends that you can call on a weeknight to get together to drink some wine, eat pizza and watch a movie. Seeing Laura was amazing! She hasn’t set up a blog yet mainly because she hasn’t figured out what the title should be. All weekend we were coming up with different quotes for her and laughing the entire time!! She also introduced us to her new group of friends in Munich and there are some amazing ex-pats that she has connected with. Two of them in particular, Brandon and Monica, were some of the funniest people I’ve ever met! We came up with all sorts of titles for Laura’s blog including “get to ‘gnome’ me!”, “whats the wϋrst that could happen?” and many others. Only time will tell if she uses them for her blogJ
While we were in Munich we visited the Paulaner Brewery on Friday night and on Saturday we went to a monastery outside of the city that doubles as a brewery. We sat in the beer garden at the monastery for lunch and a few drinks on Saturday. What a beautiful location! It’s not far from the Alps and typically you can see them off in the distance. The weather that day was gorgeous, but hazy so we couldn’t see the mountains. After lunch, we took a little road trip and drove down to Austria through the Fϋssen area. What an amazing drive!! In the distance we could see Neuschwanstein Castle, and Hohenschwangau Castle. There were glacial fed lakes the color of turquoise and mountains as far as the eye could see. It seemed like we were in one of Disney’s fairytales. We ended up in a town on the Austrian side of the boarder around dinner time; the town wasn’t far from Fϋssen. Unfortunately, the sights were closed by this time so we were unable to tour the fun castles in that town. Instead, we decided to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It’s funny how we drive down to Austria for Chinese food, haha.

Once we arrived back in Munich that night, we went out to a place called Mocca Bar. It was a fun bar where you can smoke hookah pipes and sit in an intimate setting with little puffs, couches and short tables. I have to admit, I had never smoke hookah before so I was excited about trying it. My friend Holly always raved about how fun it was, and turns out she was right! The pipes come with different flavors and it was surprisingly tasty. We ended up leaving the bar a little earlier than we anticipated due to some unwanted company that was being rude and actually got our group kicked out of the bar. One person in particular was knocking chairs over, and being straight up rude to everyone in our group. He kept going on about how everyone hates Americans and was completely bashing our political system and education (which he knew absolutely nothing about). I’m surprised he didn’t get decked by either Josh or Brandon when we left the bar… but all ended well. Thankfully, we don’t ever have to see him again!

The Chinese tower at the English Gardens- there was a polka band and biergarten
 On Sunday before heading out, we stopped at the English Gardens which is more or less a large park in Munich. The location is great! There are running trails, horse trails, people picnicking on blankets, beer gardens with polka bands, and just a serene escape from the city. Although, I was surprised at how clean and quiet Munich was!! There really isn’t a need to get an escape from the city. Laura lives in the city on a residential street, and it is silent!! I was a little jealous because our house in Milan is in a residential area as well, but there is a lot of street noise.

My favorite parts of the weekend: seeing one of my best friends! And also all of the fun we had with her friends Brandon and Monica. Shake your molecules!! (another one of the quotes we came up with that weekend…) and the autobon!!! I forgot to mention that I drove on it!! The only downfall was that our little Fiat didn't go more than 145 km/hr.
Next time: Hofbrahaus!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Goodbye London, hello Luton Hoo Hotel!

After spending some time in downtown London visiting the Tower of London, the National Gallery (which houses works from Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Monet, and many others), the national Museum (the Rosetta Stone is kept there, along with an amazing collection of Ancient Egypt artifacts), Buckingham Palace, the Parliament Buildings, and Westminster Abbey, we were ready to head to the country. There are so many people in London and so many things to do, that it is exhausting!! But it was really fun and I look forward to our next visit!
Front of the Luton Hoo Hotel

I met Josh at the Luton Hoo Hotel and Spa, a hotel that has appeared in many famous movies including Vanity Fair, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The World is Not Enough, Eyes Wide Shut, and others. It is located near a town called Luton, about an hour train ride north of London. The hotel was previously a home for an aristocratic family, but was turned into a hotel. The family “Hoo” was the original land owner and started living on the property back in the 1100’s. They owned the estate for about 400 years and then it changed ownership multiple times until the Earl of Bute purchased it in the late 1700’s and completely remodeled the property. There is about 1200 acres of property that include a couple of lakes and a river. In the early 1900’s the property was purchased by a diamond miner and completely remodeled. When the family members passed away, it was sold in the 1990’s, and turned into a hotel in the early 2000’s.

The walled gardens (there was also a natural garden to the right)

The mansion has a walled garden, rolling hills, croquet areas roped off, a grass tennis court, spa and golf course. It is an extremely romantic spot that I would recommend as a honeymoon destination or Valentines Day weekend spot. Walking the grounds is something that you could easily do all day! The property is so vast that I wish there were horses that you could rent for the day to tour around. The restaurant is pricey... but that should be expected at a five start resort. The food was excellent though! The scallops we ate were some of the best I've ever had! We only stayed one night at the Luton Hoo and I wish we could have stayed longer. Some activities that the hotel guest can enjoy include fishing in the river or ponds, shooting clay pigeons, relaxing remedies from the spa, golf, croquet and of course just meandering through the grounds. After staying there for one day, I felt all of my stress from the city melt away. Talk about a great get away! Not to mention, there is no noise in the country. I love it!
Main stairway that was used in "The World is not Enough"
The tea room where I had lunch on the day I arrived (a £12 chicken salad sandwich... about a $20 sandwich! Luckily it was really good!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court- another palace for Henry VIII that I visited while we were in London. The palace was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey, but the Cardinal later gave to Henry VIII after Henry became jealous of the wealth of the Cardinal. The palace is located about 13 miles southwest of downtown London, right on the Thames. It was a favorite summer palace of Henry’s in his later life, and lived there with Anne Boleyn and his wives after her. He was even married to two of them at the palace. After he executed Anne Boleyn, he had all of the symbols of their relationship (H and A intertwined) removed from the castle. One was missed in the great hall though; you can still see it today. Other memoirs of his wives are still in the palace including pomegranates carved into the stone entryway to the great hall signifying his first marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Walking the halls you can also see many famous portraits of the Tutor family, including the large painting of Henry with his son, his wife Jane Seymour after her death and Elizabeth standing off to the far right side of the painting showing how much he loathed her and how far she was from inheriting the crown. Little did Henry know that his most successful heir to the thrown would be his despised daughter Elizabeth.

The kitchens of the palace were also open for touring and they were enormous! There was a bakery area (that was bigger than my house), a fisherman’s alleyway with lots of rooms for the fisherman to clean and filet the fish, a butchers area, and a place to make stew. The entire kitchen area was over an acre in size between the serving area, cooking areas, and the places where the produce was carted in for purchase. When cooking for 600+ people… I can imagine why they would need so much space for the kitchens!

Meat roasting fireplace

Fishermans Alley

Many years after Elizabeth I’s reign, the palace was renovated to accommodate King William III and Mary II. The newer part of the castle was completed in more of a French style that was popular at the time, instead of a Tutor style. The newer part of the castle overlooks the incredible gardens and vast grounds of the property. The king’s apartments overlooked the best of them all, the royal gardens which are absolutely meticulous. In the royal garden is an amazing archway that runs the length of the garden, the trellis of the archway is covered in grapevines and the grapes are sold on the property in the fall. In William III’s apartments there were three throne rooms to walk through before getting to the withdrawing room, and the king’s bedchambers (yes… he had two bedchambers!). He definitely felt it necessary to show he was king!

Under William III’s apartments were the rooms where the heads of state completed the business of the realm. One of the guards at the palace was nice enough to inform me that during William III’s reign, women were not allowed in this part of the castle. Only the queen was allowed to enter those state rooms, but she could only address the king when he was not working. There was very strict protocol in that part of the castle. I’m guessing it was to keep the men from the distractions of their wives.

The guard also informed me that in those times teeth were a big thing… A woman marrying a wealthy man was expected to have all of her natural teeth pulled, and fake teeth put in. Essentially, everyone in those days wore an early form of dentures. Since sweets were such a big part of their life in that era, by the time they were in their mid-twenties their teeth were completely rotted out! Showing your original teeth at court was a complete embarrassment in those times which is why you had to have the early form of “dentures”. If you were a commoner with nice teeth, you could sell them to the aristocracy for a lot of money! Can you imagine wearing someone else’s teeth? Yuck!

The gardens at Hampton Court palace are amazing! There is a large greenway where it would be amazing to ride through, the royal gardens, a rose garden (that used to be an herb garden for the kitchens), the tiltyard where jousting tournaments were held, and also a royal tennis court. This palace is definitely worth the 40 minute train ride from downtown London. You could easily spend an entire day touring the palace and gardens. The audio tour is free, but it is VERY cheesy. It seems like it was created mainly for school tours, but it does have some good information. Overall, this was a great experience!! I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in learning more about life in the Tutor court.

My favorite parts of Hampton Court: Anne Boleyn’s gate (pictured above- the ceiling of the archway leading into the great hall), seeing what life was like in the Tutor court, the gardens and the sheer size of the palace.

You beefeater!!

So, as most of those around me already know, I am very interested in European history. More specifically, English history during the 15th and 16th centuries. It all started when I read a biography about Catherine Di Medici, an Italian noblewoman that married the Dauphin of France and became Queen. She was a devout Catholic and ruthless against the Protestants!! When I learned that she ruled at the same time as Elizabeth I and also helped to raise Mary, Queen of Scot’s, I wanted to learn more about Elizabeth and Mary as well. So, I picked up a book written by Rosalind Miles called I, Elizabeth, then another about Elizabeth and Mary’s relationship as cousins. I would highly recommend Rosalind Miles’ books if you want to learn more about these two historical figures. After reading more from Rosalind Miles I also started reading Phillippa Gregory books after they were recommended to me. Learning more about these characters from history and their reigns fascinated me! And I’ve been reading about them ever since. In London I picked up a book from Allison Weir and hope to read more from her too- she is supposed to be a great author of that time period as well.

About a week and a half ago we traveled to London. It should be no surprise that the first landmark that I wanted to see was the Tower of London. Our hotel the first night was only a couple of blocks away, so it was perfect! Our first day in London we toured the Tower and it was amazing! We really lucked out with the weather as well- it was about 50 degrees and sunny the entire time we were there! I was so excited to see The Tower because it is so wrought with history starting as a royal palace for the King and his favorite members of court, turned prison for traitors including Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Elizabeth I. Three queens were executed there, and two princes are rumored to be murdered there but their actual fate is unknown. What is known is that the two little princes definitely disappeared after they entered the Tower, never to be heard from again. It’s no surprise that when we finally entered the Tower I was feeling very uneasy. I’m not sure if it was because of all of the history that happened there, but I suddenly felt similar to how I felt when we visited Dachau Concentration Camp years ago. Josh was shocked that I wasn’t more excited to be there, but the place was very creepy (although beautiful).

We toured the outer ring of the castle, then the inner section where the queens were executed, Anne Boleyn’s memorial, the crown jewels, and the White Tower itself. They also showed us the famous Traitors Gate. If you were charged with treason, you entered the Tower by water through this gate. If you entered through this gate, you didn’t leave (except for Elizabeth I). She was the sole person to leave the tower with her life after entering through that gate. The Tower is still a royal palace carrying the royal standard of the monarchy, but they do not live in the palace anymore. Instead, there are guards living in the palace called Yeomen that give tours and guard the palace. They are known as “Beefeaters”… just like the gin. The name comes from a time when they were not paid much for guarding the palace, so the king would send beef to them. Beef in those times was VERY expensive and the general public couldn’t afford it. When the townspeople saw the Yeomen out about town in their famous yellow and red uniforms (just like they are pictured on the Beefeaters Gin bottle), they called them “beefeaters”. It was a derogatory term, similar to what people say back home about people from Edina- those “cake eaters”!

Outside of the Tower was the Tower Bridge- another beautiful sight! Our first day in London consisted of a lot of history and walking around the city. It was a little surreal to be in a place where so much had happened! Especially after reading about all the characters that entered the Tower and never came out, Anne Boleyn’s execution by a French swordsman and seeing the place where all of it actually happened. I had chills. So many people died in that place that it was a sharp reminder of how lucky we are today to live in a free society without fear of dying for our religious beliefs or even just saying the wrong thing to the king.