Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Honesty: The Painful Kind

The other day I was walking back home from the farmer's market which is held every Friday in the neighbouring town where we used to live. I saw my ex-neighbor approaching and went tense; 'Oh no,' I thought, 'She hasn't seen me since I've gained weight. Hopefully she won't say anything.' Followed by the hopeful thought: 'Maybe I don't look as different as I feel.' She slowed down from her jog and waved, probably unaware that she was eyeing me up and down with a critical look. "Hi there," she said once she reached me. "How are you? Did you have a baby?!" 
Last January, I had decided to finally stop being crazy about dieting, and to stop taking the daily doses of diet pills I had been downing for about nine years. I knew I wanted to have a clean body as a vessel for my future baby to grow inside of. I also wanted to finally enjoy all of the food I dreamed of while eating skinless chicken breasts and grapefruits. The problem was, I quickly replaced my addiction for diet pills with an addiction for sugar. Not only that, but the miscarriage in November had me literally medicating myself with chocolate. Since last January, I have gone from 48 kilos to 68. That's a gain of 45 pounds. On a tiny frame of about 5 feet 3 inches. 

45 pounds lighter


This morning, while power walking down a rain-soaked path, feeling overwhelmed with the task of losing weight before summer, it suddenly became clear to me that I need to remodel. And I don't mean my body. I mean my entire vision of who I am. 
I started thinking about truly beautiful women. They have sparkling eyes, infectious smiles....and more important, confidence. You would never think that they look at themselves critically in the mirror; you would never imagine them sliding the cupcake away from themselves and sighing, feeling huge and ugly and deprived all at the same time. They are busy enjoying life! Busy feeling inspired, creative, enthusiastic. Busy loving their partner, being there for their friends, learning new things, enjoying what little time there is here on earth. Those are the things which make the most beautiful women.
So now I need to be painfully honest with myself about what isn't working in my life, and what I need to change. I need to remember the picture I have of my ideal, healthy, happy self, and then do everything in my power to work towards becoming her.
This was a surprisingly difficult post and I keep going back and forth in my mind about publishing it. It's harder than I thought to be this honest about my short-comings. My ego is squealing, "Nooo, don't click 'Publish Post!' This is ugly and scary! Just write something about the weather and springtime!"
That's the sound of my ego under my foot. 
Ok....I'm pressing Publish Post now......

xoxo country girl

Monday, March 29, 2010

i want to share this with you

This morning I discovered the first wild sorrel and ground elder . As I crouched there, brushing my palms over these tender plants, chewing a few leaves, savoring the sourness, smelling the fragrance on my finger tips, I realized that I would have to do some explaining before I began blogging passionately about wild edible plants. 
My love for gathering wild food began as a child on the Northern California coast. My father sometimes took me with him in our old brown Datsun out to the piney cliffs of Commonweal, where we would sift through mounds of fallen needles, looking for boletus mushrooms. The earthy smells, the sound of waves crashing against the cliffs, and the feeling of secrecy there was under the dark, low canopy of evergreens, has stayed with me all these years. It was a rare time alone with my father, and I savored those mushroom hunts even more than I did the buttery eggs and boletus he cooked in the black cast iron skillet afterwards. 
Fast forward to spring of 2009. I was taking a walk with my friend Gerit and our dogs. Green was finally taking over the forest floor, and birds were singing. Coming around a bend, she suddenly cried out, "Oh look! Waldmeister!" She bent over a bright green stalk and stroked it lovingly. I had no idea what that plant was, but her enthusiasm made me inquire. She told all about the plant waldmeister (or woodruff as it's called in english) and about how it was used in May Wine. Just hearing her talk about it made me want to try it right away. 
this woodruff plant started it all
After making my first woodruff lemon-appleaide, I knew I wanted to learn more about the wild edible plants growing around me. From then on, every walk with Gerit was like a magical field trip. What had before been random varieties of green became plants with names, uses, tastes, healing properties. I took a bag with me on every walk to fill with wild greens and herbs, and felt as though a whole new world had been opened up to me. Not only that, but Austria, which had continued to feel foreign even after living here for a few years, was becoming my own; I was learning to appreciate and even revel in it's beauty and bounty. The more I discovered, the more I grew to love this country and accept it as my home.

woodruff lemon-appleaide
Every time Gerit showed me a new species, I took a photo and looked it up in the internet; I tried old recipes, invented new recipes, and got on my husband's nerves when we took walks together, because I was constantly stopping to gather something and explaining to him what it was. 

a chart i made last spring of wild edibles
1. bellis perennis (daisy) 2. ground elder 3. chickweed 4. yarrow 5. dandelion 6. nettles 7. wild strawberry 8. lady's smock 9. sorrel 10. violet
It was a year of dandelion honey, hops asparagus scrambles, batter-fried elderflowers, and wild cherry cakes; a magical time of discovery where the surrounding woods and fields became my own secret garden.
yogurt dessert with chopped nuts, homemade dandelion honey, and a sprinkling of wild edible blossoms and leaves
Now that the gathering season has begun once again, I know I won't be able to stop myself from indulging in my passion for picking and cooking wild edibles, and subsequently blogging about them. I hope this enthusiasm is infectious; I hope I can inspire some of you to learn about the wild edible plants growing in your area, and to cook with them. Or, at least, I hope you will enjoy reading about them and seeing the pretty pictures.
What a wonderful start to the week it was to happen upon the first leaves of sorrel and elder; I am filled with anticipation, and can't wait to share all the wonders of nature's food with you.

xoxo country girl

p.s. for a look at past blog posts with wild edibles, click here .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

watching and waiting

We were waiting. Kiki and I.
Waiting for my hubby. Waiting for her papa.
"Wait here while I get the groceries," he said.
A sunny saturday morning, with billowing march clouds.
We waited on the bench and watched them go by.

Wind blew. People walked past us with their dogs. Everyone was happy because it was warm.
I was happy...

...Kiki was happy...

...even inanimate objects like this sign seemed cheerful.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Hopefully he remembered the eggs. And my chocolate bar.
There he is!

Awww, he did, he remembered everything.
My hero.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

xo country girl

Thursday, March 25, 2010

what sunshine is capable of

Can you even believe the look on Kiki's face here?
It says everything.
Sunshine, birds singing, the tender beginnings of leaves....

...pastel skies and a haze of green on the fields.

We saw butterflies, frogs laying eggs, and even scared a few wild pheasants, which in turn scared the daylights out of me...they're really loud and dramatic when startled.
The warm air and sunshine renew my being.
When spring begins, I inevitably feel taken by surprise; I think there is always a part of me who feels that this time, winter will never end.
But eventually, to my relief, it does.

Here at home I've been clearing off of the balcony and doing some major spring cleaning. I've become pretty radical when it comes to throwing things away; I used to turn things over in my hand and wonder if I should get rid of them. Now I am militant, and fill whole garbage bags with things. I have yet to throw away something and then regret it afterwards.
A big motivation for getting our home in tip top shape is that the real estate agent will be coming by once in a while with people interested in renting our apartment once we move out in October...yes, that's right, we signed the papers and will be moving this fall!
I just loved the way the kitchen and living room looked this sun-soaked morning:

fruits and flowers on the kitchen island

kiki napping in the sun by the dining table

anemones always remind me of polkadots...i love them!

We are hoping to find people who will buy our kitchen from us so we can start fresh in the new apartment. Can you imagine how excited I am to design our new home?

I hope that spring is warming your face, too, wherever you are.

xoxo country girl

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

coming home to the countryside

 What a joy to be back in the countryside! Fresh air, birds singing, a haze of green creeping over the hills and fields. So many little things to discover, like that fat, sleepy toad in the second photo. Wild garlic greens to harvest. Planks of wood used as tiny bridges over laughing creeks. I am so happy to be home!
The trip to Frankfurt to write and record a commercial jingle went well; I was working with an old friend, and we always have so many things to talk and laugh about. But my favorite part, big surprise, was when he whipped us up a delicious bowl of Frankfurter Gr├╝ne Sosse, which is a regional specialty and probably the one thing I miss about living in Frankfurt. Frankfurt Green Sauce is made from hard-boiled eggs, oil, vinegar, salt, and generous amount of seven fresh herbs, namely borage, sorrel, cress, chervil, chives, parsley, and salad burnet. In more frugal times, daisy leaves, broad plaintain leaves, and dandelion leaves were also used. Cooked complete eggs are used together with sour cream or quark as a creamy base. Some variations use buttermilk, yogurt, or cream. The sauce is served at room temperature with peeled boiled waxy potatoes and hard boiled eggs. The greens mixture, which Frankfurters are very particular about (compare it to how southerners feel about gumbo ingredients), is sold wrapped in rolls of pretty paper packaging, where it is kept moist and fresh.

Here are two photos I found so you have a better idea what it looks like:

 It has the most delicious fresh flavor and I hope to make it myself one of these spring days and then share the recipe with you!
As fun as it was to visit my friend and be in the studio again (I haven't recorded in years), I am overjoyed to be back here in my humble home, with my husband and our sweet little Kiki. 
When the plane took off from Vienna to Frankfurt on Friday, I watched the landscape go by like I always do...I love seeing the clusters of houses, the glistening lakes and ponds, and especially the stretches of forest. Eventually, about five minutes into the flight, I recognized our town...and then the hill and fields I walk on every day! I saw the little cemetary with the bordering evergreen farm, and the meadow with the birch and the oak. As we soared over them, I felt I was looking at my life from above, and almost expected to see myself and Kiki, miniscule in the expanse of land, making our way along the tawny fields. It was a strange and exhilerating feeling, and I was overcome with a deep love for my life, and for my home, and my little family. It was a true gift to see it all, so small and yet so meaningful, from way up high, as God and the angels must see it. 
Home! Wonderful home!
It's so good to be back.

xoxo country girl

Friday, March 19, 2010

up, up, and away!

photo source unknown....thank you anonymous photographer!

this little country girl, yours truly, is off into the big wide world.
taxis, airports, planes, and city lights....almost too much for this country bumpkin!
kiki is staying home with her 'papa.' those two should have a fun time mommy rules like place mats, coasters, and 'no feet or paws on the coffee table' slowing them down!
i'll miss them, and you, while i'm gone.
back on sunday.

have a great weekend!

xoxo your country girl

Thursday, March 18, 2010

you're like me, but different

Sometimes I come on here in the morning, open up the comments on my latest post, and feel my heart over-flowing with love when I read what you have to say. My whole being turns into a smile. I feel understood, heard, and appreciated....which feels amazing
This blog is something very special to me. Because of YOU.
You're like me...but different. And I absolutely love that.
For some laughs about blogging, read this post called 'you know you have a blogging problem if...' It's bound to have you nodding your head in recognition and laughing out loud. 
Now to the great news: the sun is shining here!!! I can't believe it. And I can't really describe what a difference it made to wake up to sunshine pouring through the window. My husband and I were bopping around the kitchen, laughing, feeling so GOOD. Kiki is dozing now in a stretch of sunlight on the floor, warming her little bones. We're going to walk to town now, camera around my neck, off to the arts and crafts store, and then the hair salon. Fun girlie things. I'm flying to Frankfurt tomorrow to write and record a song for a commercial. More about that later...

Love to you all...

xoxo country girl

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

tender stone fruit cake

A friend came over for lunch on her break today. I made her my potato leek soup , and for dessert, this lovely, tender, simple stone fruit cake. I used organic plums, but as the name states, any stone fruit will do.

Stone Fruit Cake

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup yogurt
2 cups chopped stone fruit, such as peaches, nectarines, or plums; stones removed, cut into little pieces
powdered sugar

In large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla.
Sift or stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; gradually stir in to butter mixture. Fold in yogurt and chopped fruit. (note: the batter will seem very thick, almost like cookie dough; this is how it is supposed to be!) Spoon batter into greased and floured baking pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30-40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. 
Once it has cooled a little, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I think you'll love it.

xoxo country girl

Sunday, March 14, 2010

praying for happiness

Once, when I was in highschool, I was so in love with a boy that I actually prayed every day that he would love me back. We dated for about three years off and on, and he treated me horribly. Still, I prayed, and prayed, and prayed: "Please God, let him love me, let us be together." 
I had a friend who liked to hold gatherings, mostly during the full moon, with only women; we would take moonlit walks to the beach, light candles, burn things, make potions and talismans, all sorts of hocus-pocus. Mostly just for fun. But at every one of these little parties, I would ask my friend to cast a love spell, in hopes that this boyfriend of mine would finally love me and belong to me. 
One day, heartbroken and exasperated, I said through tears to my friend, "I just wish he were mine!" She looked at me and said, "If he were yours, who's to say you would be happy? Maybe, instead of praying for him, you should pray for happiness."
That single remark changed the way I thought, and prayed, for a long time. And it served me very well. Any time I found myself praying for a particular thing, like a certain job, apartment, vacation, result...I would correct myself, let go of wanting that thing, and pray for happiness instead. And that practice of letting go of specific things really worked well, because I felt I was leaving the details up to God, and living in faith that God knew what was good for me much better than I ever could. 
Then, the other day, I was talking with an old friend on the phone. He has been through alot in his life, but has managed to remain a positive person. We were talking now about my miscarriage, and I told him how it had come as such a shock, and as such a stark change from the happiness we had experienced while I was pregnant. I told him I was praying that I would be happy again some day soon. 
To that he said, "But hard times are a part of life, too. People need to stop their addiction to happiness and to good times, and accept the hard times as they come. We need to be at peace with the fact that life isn't always easy or happy."
This made me re-think my prayers for happiness. I began to realize that I often spent many hours of my days thinking of the future, of all the things I hoped would happen or come, of all the happiness I hoped to experience 'some day.' And now I feared that, by always praying for happiness, I was neglecting the opportunity to live in gratitude for what IS. For all the happiness I already have. For my life exactly as it is today, in this moment. And to live in acceptance of the hard times, too. 
The more I thought about it, the more I decided that I should strive for a balance of the two....because although it's good to live with an atitude of gratitude, it's also important to dream. 

Those are the thoughts I am having today. 

My head is also swarming with ideas for my etsy shop, Kiki La Ru, for which I am so grateful! Ever since I decided to open up that little online store, I have been having one inspiration after another. So, yes, dreaming is important. Having a vision and following through is important. 

Well, that's what I think right now.....who knows, maybe that will change too, some day! I am open to learning new truths and changing my mind. And I hope that fact remains until the day I die, because a willingness to learn and change are what keep a person young.

xoxo country girl

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brown and green, the colours of March.

My seed potatoes are doing well on the window-sil.

xoxo country girl

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Washboard Tea Biscuits

Just reading the description of these in Cook's Country made my mouth water and I knew I had to try them out: "These cookies are crisp and not too sweet, with the distinct flavor and aroma of coconut." The first tray-full burned horribly, so I was extra careful with the next. These fill the kitchen with a delicious coconutty, buttery scent, and that's how they taste, too. These are meant to be the perfect addition to tea. I ate mine with a glass of milk. These washboards, named for the ridges made with a fork, are highly addictive; the mixture of coconut and nutmeg, which I never would have thought to combine, lend these tender buscuits a delicious and delicately spiced flavor. I hope you enjoy them!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Whisk together the egg and milk in a small bowl. With an electric mixer at medium-high speed (I used my kitchenaid), beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg mixture and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and coconut, and mix until just incorporated.

2. Flour your hands. Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a 15-inch log.
 Flatten the top and sides of the log so that it measures 1 inch high and 3 inches wide. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. (The dough can refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)

3. Adjust two oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange the slices 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Dip a dinner fork in flour, then make crosswise indentations in the dough slices. 

Bake until the cookies are toasty brown, 15 to 18 minutes*, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve.

*I don't know if my oven is really hot, or if it is because I baked these one sheet at a time, but mine were done within 10-12 minutes. So keep a close eye on them!

I want to thank you all for the support and enthusiasm regarding my etsy shop Kiki La Ru! It was great to hear some feedback. I've been very busy sewing these past couple days. It's such a great form of meditation. I'm getting more and more relaxed about it all. Have been exploring other etsy shops, comparing prices, examining other shop designs and policies. Waiting on my business cards, vintage fabrics, and packaging material. I've also ordered a few things over etsy to see how other artists package their items. Some are very intricate and detailed, others very plain, with basically just the product. It's going to be a bit of a challenge to find the middle road, as I want to package my items beautifully, but not to the point where I have to charge more because the decor is expensive. So many things to think about!
We woke up to snow this morning; it's still sifting down, covering tree boughs and roof tops. Confusing us thoroughly. As my husband says, "This weather is getting awkward." Will we ever be able to fold away our sweaters? When will I get a break from mopping up the muddy hallway? Only nature knows.

xoxo country girl

Monday, March 8, 2010

Introducing Kiki La Ru!

Hello friends!
It's been a few days. Time away from my blog always feels like ages have gone by, I'm so used to checking in daily. I haven't forgot you all of course! I've been busy getting something started. Something exciting: my very own etsy shope! Kiki La Ru (one guess who it's named after :)). It will be a while until it's really up and running; right now I'm still attending to the details, like logo, business cards, packaging, finding out prices and shipping rates....and I've promised myself I won't open up shop until I have at least ten products. 
I've been turning the etsy shop idea over and over in my head for quite some time now, and I finally decided to quit worrying and wondering and just take action. I am aiming to open up Kiki La Ru some time in May. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I'm giving myself time to make sure I have everything the way I want it, and a nice stack of lovely handmade items that I am proud to offer to the world. 
This process has me wondering if other people in my position have the same cocktail of excitement and worry churning around inside of them: excitement at the thought of making and selling things you love, and worry that no one is going to buy them!
If anything, this will all be an interesting experience. 
I'll be back tomorrow with a delicious old-fashioned cookie recipe! 

xoxo country girl

Friday, March 5, 2010

wild garlic!

As soon as the snow melts and the sun has shone for a few days, I go to a particular hillside in our village in the hope that the first wild garlic has sprouted from the thawing earth. And today was the lucky day! That picture above is my first fistfull of the year, picked this morning.

Wild garlic, which also goes by the names ramsons, wood garlic, and buckrams, is actually in the onion family. We call it wild garlic because of it's strong garlicky fragrance and mild pungent flavour. 
In the beginning it sprouts in patches here and there, and does not yet give off a scent. By this time of year, we are all hungry for things green and fresh. The first tender leaves of wild garlic are very precious to me!

Chop it up and use it in salads, scrambles, sandwiches, quiche, pesto, in creamy dips, or as a soup garnish.

When I see the first wild garlic shoots, I am overcome with a sense of relief. I know that winter is fading, and spring is braving her way up through the soil. I actually get pretty giddy when I can finally crouch down on the forest floor and harvest the first wild food of the year!

After a time, the wild garlic forms a thick carpet on the woodland floor. Here are a couple of pictures from years past when the wild garlic was thriving:

:: look how little kiki is here! just one year old ::

The world will be blanketed in green once again very, very soon. In about a month the fruit trees will be blossoming, and I am sure any day now I'll discover the first frog and toad eggs. This time of year always makes me feel like a survivor, isn't that funny?

Today I experienced something interesting that I want to talk with you about tomorrow. And by the way, I loved hearing what you all had to say about friendship. It would seem that being generous with forgiveness and compassion is what makes friendship work. Thank you for always giving me something to contemplate, and for sharing your thoughts here!

Now I'm going to go spread a nice slice of crusty country bread with cream cheese and sprinkle it with chopped wild garlic; real forager food. :)

xoxo  your country girl

*just to clarify, this plant is not actually garlic. it is from the allium family, and you eat the leaves, not the bulbs. Read all about it here . Find recipes here . 


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