Hello Again

It has legitimately been way too long since I last posted. In that time, I celebrated my birthday, cooked my hall Thanksgiving dinner, received visits in Copenhagen from THREE of my best friends, did some last-minute exploring, and said goodbye to a place I thought of as a second home, as well as people that I still think of as some of my closest friends.1474472_782231615125737_1290106471_nIMG_2373

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also celebrated Christmas with my family, came back to school, and realized why I decided NOT to spend a year abroad.

I have no regrets about going abroad. In fact, I feel like the experience changed me for the better, in ways that were so subtle that I couldn’t perfectly describe them. But studying abroad takes work, in every way. It takes work to make meaningful friendships so that your experience is spent surrounded by people. It takes work to learn a city to the point where navigating feels like second nature. It takes so much work to get to the point where you feel happy and secure in a completely new place with completely new people.

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By the end of my time in Denmark, I felt so grateful. I had seen 9 different European cities, made new American and Danish friends, and had experiences that I will always cherish. I saw all the tourist sites, found some local secrets, and gained 7 happy pounds. My friends and I managed to go to every place we had on our list, and at the end of my semester, I was content. But I was ready to go home.

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After getting back to Vanderbilt, I realized even more that this is where I belong. For right now, this is where I need to be. This is where I’ve been for the past 2 years, this is where my friends are, and this is where I’ve made my most meaningful impacts as a student, a volunteer, and a worker. As much as I loved Copenhagen, and am already trying to figure out how to go back, I realized that for me personally, staying another semester would have led to the regrets I was lucky to avoid my first semester.

Kosovo: The Country That Loves America More Than Americans

For my long study tour, I had the incredible pleasure of going to a little-known country named Kosovo. Before leaving, every time I told people where I was going I would either get dumbfounded stares, or people who tried to act way more geographically aware than they were. “Oh yeahhh, Kosovo! So wait, where is that again?” When I went, I didn’t know what to expect. But I left feeling so inspired and wishing I could go back there.

We were lucky enough to have a tour guide that was our age, so we got to hang out with him and his friends, and experience Kosovar night life basically every day. And apparently Kosovar people love Americans so much because we helped them in the war against Serbia. There’s a statue of Bill Clinton in Pristina and the country also celebrates the 4th of July. Every time we said we were Americans, we received a warm reception and even free stuff. One girl received a free block of cheese from a market we passed by, and during two different dinners the owners gave us free homemade vodka. Every meal we had included a salad, followed by a main course of all kinds of meat and potatoes, and then a dessert, that was usually either baklava or ice cream. This was the most well fed I’ve been during my entire stay in Europe.

But the highlight of my time in Kosovo was going to a mountain near Peja. We took a 25 minute hike and were greeted at the end by an elderly man and his farm. This man lives there with his family and they served us so much food. We had fresh milk and cheese, homemade honey and jam, spinach pies, cornbread, and mountain pairs. We walked around the farm a bit, stuffed ourselves with fresh, amazing food, and heard this man’s story.

Although we were able to meet with the UNDP, KFOR, and a number of politicians during our time in Kosovo, nothing felt more poignant than talking to the people of Kosovo. From the youth to the elderly, everyone felt so passionate about the state of their country. Some people were dislocated during the war and came back immediately after. And some people lost their loved ones during the war. But everyone we talked to cared about Kosovo’s future and were more than eager to share their homes with us. Although I hadn’t heard of Kosovo before this trip, this little country in the Balkans inspired me in so many ways.

Foodsday Tuesday: Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Mmf pumpkins. They’re so hard to come by here, but now that I’ve gotten my hands on one, I’m making pumpkin flavored everything. Inspired by Pioneer Woman, I made my own pumpkin puree, based on this tutorial.  This week I’m thinking of making pumpkin cinnamon rolls or some pumpkin pretzels with cinnamon sugar. But this past week, I made pumpkin cheesecake bars with caramel. Normally on Thanksgiving I make an actual pumpkin cheesecake with pecan crust, but I’m a poor college student, so I had to work with the supplies I had. IMG_1567

So many things have happened since the last update! Denmark had the worst storm it’s had in 10 years. Roof tiles were flying away in 70 mph winds, people biking were blown into the street, and of course, classes were not cancelled. Most of us didn’t know that the storm was coming until the day of, and somehow I was lucky enough to miss the storm and make it home easily. Some people had to sleep at the school because all the trains were down by the time the storm quieted. IMG_1562

This past weekend, we celebrated Halloween and J-Dag. Unsurprisingly, Halloween is not huge here. I had a midterm the next day anyway, so I just popped into our kollegium bar for a hot sec. Three of my friends were dressed up as a widow, Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and a cat (with a group of other cats and a crazy cat lady). Two of my other friends and I weren’t wearing costumes, so we decided to say we were Indian Zooey Deschanel, a Dane, and a bum. Plus, one of my friend’s parents were visiting, and they brought American candy, which means my belly was full of Reeses. IMG_1564

The next day, we celebrated the Danish holiday, J-Dag, when Carlsberg releases their new Christmas beer. A truck with people dressed up as Santa and elves drove around and gave out free beer and hats to different pubs. By some stroke of luck, we ran into the truck almost immediately after we headed downtown. The “elves” emptied out of the truck and headed into a pub, and we followed. Some people stole two of our hats later in the night, but we had plenty of fun just dancing. It felt like the whole city was out for the party.

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Recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (with Caramel!)

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter softened

Set the oven to 350 and grease a 13×9 inch pan. Mix the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the cold butter until the crust is nice and crumbly. Place in pan and smooth out along bottom and sides. Set in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes.

Pumpkin Cheesecake:

1 bar (8 oz) cream cheese

1 cup white sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

Cream sugar and cream cheese until nice and fluffy. Add in pumpkin puree, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Blend until well combined. Pour mixture into crust  and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheesecake doesn’t jiggle when you move it. Refrigerate and serve chilled (obviously).

Caramel:

Adapted from Food Network (can you tell I’m a fan of Pioneer Woman?)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup milk

4 tbsp butter

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium low heat until sauce starts to bubble and thicken. Stir gently, so as not to get sugar stuck to the side of the pan. Turn off the heat, and pour into separate container.

Roman Holiday (Plus Oktoberfest!)

After my weekend in Paris, I moved on to Rome to see my best friend, Giulietta. Before this trip, I had only been to Italy once during the summer after 10th grade. But these three days made me fall in love with it. I was able to talk to people and get by in the city with my broken Italian. Attempting, and sometimes succeeding, to communicate through a foreign language  is something that I haven’t been able to attempt this semester (since I don’t know Danish at all). And OH MY WOW THE FOOD. I stuffed myself with pasta and gelato for 3 days straight. Even when I wasn’t hungry, I just kept eating because I knew I would miss it when I left.  I realized that Rome is the complete opposite of Copenhagen. The weather is sunny, instead of dark and cold. In fact, as I’m writing this, Denmark is having it’s worst storm in 10 years, with winds expected up to 70 mph. The people are much more talkative, and not as reserved as Danes.

Going to Rome was a bit jarring at first (especially while riding a crowded bus), but I felt right at home there. The culture just seemed so natural, and I’m totally into eating Italian food every day of my life. I loved it so much that I’m trying to find a way  to study there over the summer, or find a job in Italy after graduation. My three days in Rome had me wishing that I could stay longer.

And then I went to Munich for Oktoberfest. That Saturday, I woke up bright and early and met up with my friend Taylor and her friends from college. We made it to Oktoberfest at 7 A.M., and waited until 9 for the tents to open. We stayed until 3 pm, and then decided to take a power nap and come back at 7. Although I had fun in the morning, nighttime Oktoberfest was honestly my favorite. We sat at some tables outside, and met some Australians and other Americans before heading inside. To get in, half our group paid 10 euro for a sandwich, but by the time we got to the front of the line, they ran out of sandwiches. We though we were stuck, but then all of a sudden some mysterious barmaid came up to our group and took us inside for free (for a small tip, of course). It was so random, but everything worked out perfectly. I loved that we saw so many different people from different countries, all in one place for a common experience. That’s what made Oktoberfest incredible for me.

The next morning, I left for Copenhagen. Despite my love for Rome, and the fun I had with friends at Oktoberfest, I felt myself missing Copenhagen like nobody’s business. I love the cold, dark weather and the reserved people. I love the hygge and the Scandinavian diet of meat and potatoes. As my train pulled into København H after 10 long days of travel, I felt relieved to finally be home.

YOPO (My weekend in Paris)

The first weekend of my Travel break, I stayed in Paris with my friend, Rachel. This was my first time in Paris, and before this, all I had heard was that Parisians are cold, especially towards Americans. But while I was there, I found that the Parisians I met were actually quite nice, and friendly towards me (despite being an obvious tourist). In addition, I was surprised by how urban Paris is, despite still remaining very European. It is much more diverse than Copenhagen is. Sometimes I felt as though I was in New York, and then I would turn down the street and saw beautiful architecture that reminded me where I was.

Throughout the weekend, I saw Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, the Army Museum, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and an art museum/ performance space called 104. We scoped out boulangeries where I ate rhubarb, blackberry, and citrus tarts. l ate delicious sandwiches including the amazing I Love Lucy sandwich from Freddie’s, and that made me realize how sad I will be about bread when I go back to America. Considering I was in France, I had to get a crepe, and I ended up buying one with a chestnut filling, and one with honey, banana, and cinnamon. I wandered around Paris, and saw what a typical Sunday might be for Parisians. I was able to do all the touristy things and get lost in the city, but most importantly, I was hanging out in Europe with one of my best friends. I loved my time in Paris, but I hope that I can spend more than 3 days there in the future.

Foodsday Tuesday: Welcoming Autumn

It’s time for my favorite season.

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Gooey, gloppy goodness

It’s been getting colder and colder here for a little while, but I’ve been holding off on calling it fall (in the hopes of holding off on winter) until now. It’s odd to celebrate fall in Denmark. Back home, everyone is going crazy over the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes and trying to think up a Halloween costume. Just this past weekend, Copenhagen had it’s annual Kulturnatten, or Culture Night. Kulturnatten is so cool, in that so many different places across the city open there doors and host events for the people. The zoo, Rosenborg Castle, and the Carlsberg Factory all had events going on. DIS also took part, and held a haunted house, along with smores-making and pumpkin carving. Going there made me realize how much I miss pumpkin-themed everything and I thought about how I’ll be missing Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Since pumpkin treats are scarce (nonexistent) in Copenhagen, I’ve been trying to recreate my version of fall. And these cupcakes helped tremendously. With brown sugar, brown butter, cinnamon, and caramelized bananas, they warmed me right up. If you don’t like bananas, pecans or walnuts would also be a perfect addition. Through the stress of midterms and having my bike stolen, these cupcakes were the exact kind of comfort food that I needed.

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GET IN MAH BELLAY

Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cinnamon Glaze

Brown Sugar Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

3 cups of flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons vanilla powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1.5 sticks butter, melted

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Sift flour, and baking powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. Combine with salt in a large bowl.

3. Mix together brown sugar and eggs in a separate, large bowl.

4. Melt butter, and immediately add to the brown sugar and eggs. Mix until smooth.

5. Gradually add dry ingredients, and stir until well mixed. Batter should feel little thick.

6. Spoon into cupcakes liners until about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes about 18 cupcakes.

Brown Butter Glaze

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter

2 cups of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of vanilla powder

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 cup of milk

Procedure:

1. Melt butter in non-stick pan until it starts to brown, and then pour into a medium sized bowl.

2. Add dry ingredients and begin mixing. Add in milk to thin out the mixture. Add more than 1/2 cup if necessary.

3. Mix throughly. Can either use right away, or let cool to thicken further.

Easy Caramelized Bananas

1 banana

3 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Procedure:

1. Grease a nonstick skillet, to keep caramelized sugar from sticking to pan.

2. Chop bananas into round slices and roll around in sugar until coated.

3. Place sugar and bananas in pan, and then heat until banana becomes brown. Keep flipping to prevent banana pieces from burning.

Foodsday Tuesday: Sweet Avocados

Mmm avocados. So yummy and versatile. I could eat them for every meal.

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The past two weeks, I’ve been M.I.A. due to midterms and our travel break. But before that, my friend Karla and I got together to make some avocado banana smoothies. And oh my gosh it took everything in me not to gulp them down immediately. After a day of class and studying at the Royal Library, we walked back home, hungry and exhausted. It was so yummy and creamy, but it wasn’t overly sweet or heavy. This smoothie is just so wonderful for any time of the year. I could definitely see have it as a refreshing summer treat, or a filling (but healthy) winter dessert. It just gives me an excuse to consume avocados every day for forever.

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 My friends Jaimie, Emma, and I decided to go bikesploring one day throughout our neighborhood, Amager. We found new apartment complexes and interesting architecture, as well as a park with biking trails and horse-back riding. We got lost on our bikes and just wandered around the city for an hour, until we found our way back to the kollegium. Now that I’m reaching the half way point of my semester abroad, I’ve realized that there’s still so much more to explore in the city.

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The more time I spend here, the more I appreciate eating fresh food and spending time in the sunlight before winter comes. Avocados have become my favorite food as I try more and more recipes. First we made the milkshake, and then we decided to attempt an eggocado. And now, I’ve made avocado pasta and I’m hoping to make an avocado pie. Each day I find more around the city to discover, and more in the kitchen to create.

Recipe for Avocado Banana Smoothies:

Ingredients:

1 avocado

10 ounces of spinach (but if you want to be technical like us, just take two huge handfuls and toss them in)

1/2 cup milk

1 banana

1 tbsp agave syrup

Just throw it all in the blender and pulse until it’s nice and creamy. Taste as you go, and customize the ingredients! Garnish with spinach to look real fancy. Serves two. Or one, if you’re ambitious.