Easy Boiled Fruit Cake

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, but this is a good one! While busy in the kitchen tonight making this fruitcake it occurred to me to share this quick and easy recipe on my blog. Although it’s called “boiled fruitcake”, it’s baked – the name comes from the fact that some of the ingredients (fruit, butter, sugar) are boiled together beforehand, giving the cake a more complex flavour. It’s a lovely, light fruitcake, perfect for tea or a snack. This recipe was passed down from my grandmother to my mother and now to me.

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There and back again – December to January

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My last real blog post was just before we went away for Christmas holidays to South Africa via Namibia, and now it’s February already! I feel like I’m always behind these days. In between travelling I am overloaded with work, trying to meet all my many deadlines before the next trip. At the moment I’m away again, at a meeting in Switzerland. It should calm down a bit in February, but let’s see. Hopefully then I’ll have time to update on the places we’ve visited in December and January. Here is a sneak preview in the meanwhile. Continue reading

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Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #30 – November ’16

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Every year I say this, but this year seems like the fastest one ever. I feel like we were celebrating Christmas not long ago and here we are already on the 1 December again. We’re into winter days already (not officially since winter starts on the 21 December) but golden autumn is definitely gone and it’s got a lot colder. Since I haven’t written a weekly small pleasures post for a while (a blog event started by Mani at A New Life Wandering), I thought I’d update on some of the highlights of November. Continue reading

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First snow: hiking in the Harz mountains

 

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This weekend a friend organized a spontaneous trip to the Harz mountains when a colleague mentioned to her that it was snowing there. Although the highest peak, the Brocken, is only 1141m, the area has an alpine character with lots of fir trees and receives much more snow than the surrounding areas. It was amazing as we drove from autumnal forests full of orange and gold up to a snow-covered winter wonderland. We visited earlier this year in January or February when the snow was deep for cross country skiing. This year we did some hiking in the hills instead, another way to enjoy the beauty of the snowy trees. I can hardly wait to visit again. Continue reading

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Canary Islands travel diaries: Lanzarote

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For those of you who missed the last post, we started our trip to the Canary islands in Fuerteventura, then caught a boat to the nearby island of Lanzarote. After bouncing over the waves for about 45 minutes due to some strong wind, the sea grew a little bit calmer, and soon we were approaching the little harbour.

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Approaching Lanzerote

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Harbour in Lanzerote

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In the background you can see a ferry headed in the opposite direction, back to Fuerteventura.

From our first arrival at the harbour we noticed that the island was distinctly different to Fuerteventura, which we didn’t expect as they were not so far apart. Later in our trip we found the island Gran Canaria completely different too, so it seems like each of the islands has its own character. Lanzerote seemed to be a hot-spot for British tourists, more so than Fuerteventura, where we’d come across a lot of Italians, for instance. Near the harbour were many restaurants offering English breakfasts and roasts. If we were staying longer I might have indulged in some English food since I don’t get that often in Germany.

From near the harbour, we took a bus to Puerto del Carmen where our accommodation was. We’d chosen this side of the island because it was near the airport, and we had to catch a plane the next morning already to Gran Canaria. From the bus there was a great view of the volcanic landscape, with lava fields and cones. Another thing I noticed is that their traffic circles are beautifully landscaped, often with statues or cacti inside. Next time I think we’d rent a car on Lanzerote to be able to drive around and explore the landscape of the island some more. The Timanfaya national park in particular looked amazing from the postcards we saw. They also have camel caravans there, which must look stunning against the volcanic landscape.

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Salt pans

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Lava fields

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Volcano cones

I could have sat on the bus all day enjoying the scenery, but eventually it arrived in Puerto del Carmen and we had to climb out into the heat. For some reason we got off literally miles before our street and had to walk a long way in the searing sun with backpacks, At first it was interesting because Puerto del Carmen is packed with restaurants with all kinds of international foods, full of tourists doing different things, and part of the route had a beautiful view of the beaches and sea, but towards the end it was too hot to enjoy it. The best times of day here are the morning and evening, in between that the sun is too intense, and walking anywhere in its searing heat is taxing. I often thought of the South African saying “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, especially since we were surrounded by British tourists. In the morning and evening, green parrots fly squawking around between the palm trees, the sea breeze sways the palm trees, doves coo. In short, I was very relieved when we finally arrived at our accommodation, especially because it was so lovely (little apartment rooms in white plastered buildings surrounding a pool). We sat in a puddle of sweat while filling in forms, and were relieved to finally get to the apartment, get rid of the backpacks and freshen up.

Kitties at our accommodation complex

Kitties at our accommodation complex

Feeling revived, we then headed back out along the same way we’d walked to the accommodation, which was even lovelier when we viewed it without heavy backpacks. We thought it would be too hot to sit on the beach so first we sat in the shade for a while having lunch, then took a slow walk along the coast, with its many palm trees and white, flat-roofed buildings. It was perhaps more touristy than Fuerteventura, but also lovely. It’s interesting how many of the British tourists there were tattooed, with blue swirls on their arms or backs. I never noticed before that the British like tattoos, but normally I’ve only seen them in the UK when it’s colder and they’re covered up. Doing a little research, I read that 29% of 16-44 year olds are now tattooed. Interestingly, I read that the English have actually being tattooing themselves for over 1000 years.

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It being so hot, we stopped often to rest in the shade of palm trees or enormous succulents/cacti.

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Strelitzia – this South African plant has made itself at home far and wide

After our walk we went back to the apartment to change into our swimming costumes, then went for a swim at a nearby beach. It was in the opposite direction to the one in the main touristy area and was emptier, which was nice. By the time we left the beach the heat had started to reduce a little, and suddenly we saw a lot of green parrots flying from palm to palm, squawking to each other. Our friend, who had been staying on Fuerteventura, had also arrived in Lanzerote by now. He would be staying on for a while, while we were flying to Gran Canaria the next morning, so he invited us to meet him and some others for dinner at 10pm, which seemed very late, but why not. We changed at the apartment, then took an evening walk along the beachfront, stopping for cocktails to fill the time before dinner.

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At 10pm we met the others for dinner at an Italian place, expecting the restaurant would be quiet by that time, but to our surprise the place was packed and we had to wait for a table to free up. It remained packed up till the time we left – the food was delicious, so it was worth the wait in the end. It was quite late by the time we walked along the beachfront back to our apartment, so not too much sleep because we had to get up relatively early to take a taxi to the airport. Luckily the airport was only 15 minutes away and not big, so we didn’t have to be there too much in advance. it’s easy to wake up when the mornings are so fresh and beautiful. After packing we sat for a while watching the green birds flying between palm trees, until finally it was time to go. Next stop, Gran Canaria!

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Favourite things of the day:

Me: lava fields and green birds

Husband: fuzzy cactus

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Canary Islands travel diaries: first stop, Fuerteventura

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In August we took a last-minute trip to the Canary islands, as a friend of ours was working there for a while as a digital nomad, and he invited us to join him there for some exploring. The volcanic landscape of the islands is amazing, and there are also lots of beaches for swimming and watersports. We visited Fuerteventura, Lanzerote and Gran Canaria, all of which had very different atmospheres. I’ll start with some travel notes from our first stop, Fuerteventura. Continue reading

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The complications of a multi-national wedding

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When people get married in the movies, there’s never any mention of all the paperwork, and so I naïvely thought that on the day of the wedding you go to the church or government office, sign some papers and that’s it. Unfortunately that’s not the case, especially when it’s a marriage between two people of different nationalities, as in our case!

Someone in my German class told me he and his wife (both Italian) got married in the US, and all they needed were passports. The European version of a Las Vegas style wedding is apparently to go to Denmark as less administration is required there, but even for a wedding in Denmark you do need more paperwork than just passports, so a little bit of advance planning is required. My advice to anyone going into a multi-national marriage is not to set a wedding date until you have your paperwork in order. However this is also tricky, as venues need to be booked in advance and some papers expire (for example, a letter of no impediments is only valid for 6 months).

Our case is more complicated than most, as four countries are involved. I am South African but also have British citizenship, as my mother is British. My fiancé is Czech. We are living in Germany at the moment and we will get married in Czech Republic. As a result, we started with the administrative process for getting married in January, and are still not finished, in August, two weeks before the wedding. Continue reading

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Middle Europe Weekly Small Pleasures #23 – 2 in 1

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We’re now in the good part of summer where it’s warm enough to wear a skirt or shorts almost every day. It feels like summer is just beginning as time goes so quickly, so I was a bit disconcerted to realize that we’re heading into our last month of summer now that it’s almost August. We’ve had a lot of unsettling news lately, what with Brexit, various terror attacks across the world, and the attempted coup in Turkey. Crazy times. However, here are some of the good moments from the last two weeks for the Weekly Small Pleasures blog event. From small pleasures from far away in New Zealand, you can also check out Thistles and Kiwis! Continue reading

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