Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


Spiced apricot couscous salad

Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet

Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so here’s what I had for tea last night. This tastes best if you use fresh apricots, but if you plan on making it any time soon you’ll need to use dried ones or tinned ones (if you’re lucky enough to be able to find the type that are in juice instead of syrup!).

This amount serves around 2-4 people, depending on appetites and what you serve with it (probably 2 if you just have the salad by itself, 3 or maybe 4 if you have something substantial on the side).

It’s really more of a dish for summer, when fresh apricots are around, but it was still pretty tasty with the dried kind.

Spiced Apricot Couscous Salad


180g couscous
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground ginger
80g apricots
1 small red onion
15g fresh mint
Approx. 15g fresh ginger
Handful of cashew nuts
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cook the couscous in accordance with the packet instructions. Add the spices, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then fluff slightly with a fork and set it to one side to cool. Either place the pan lid on or cover with cling film while cooling.

    Spiced couscous

    Spiced couscous

  2. While the couscous is cooling, chop the onion, mint, fresh ginger and apricots and juice the limes.

    Chopped ingredients

    Chopped ingredients

  3. Add all the chopped ingredients plus a handful of cashew buts to the couscous. (I chopped the cashews in half, but you can leave them whole).

    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous...

    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous…

  4. Stir everything in well, then add the lime juice and stir that in as well. Taste test the couscous and add extra salt/pepper/spices to taste.

Tada – done! So quick and easy. I served mine with smoked salmon fillet, but it also goes well with grilled salmon or other types of fish. Chicken would probably be good with it as well, although I’ve never done that. And obviously whatever vegetarian/vegan alternative suits you.

For variations, you could add sultanas as well as the apricots (this is really nice – I just didn’t have any last night), replace the cashews with pine nuts or even add in pine nuts as well as the cashews. It’s really quite a versatile dish :-)


Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival 2015

I’m aware I haven’t actually finished telling you about our holiday in England yet, but today I want to skip to what we did this weekend because the festival isn’t over yet and there might be people in the area who feel like going.

Each year, the castle in Ludwigsburg hosts a huge pumpkin festival in its gardens. A few bloggers went last year and it looked amazing, but sadly I wasn’t able to go then, so when Meredith wrote a blog post about this year’s event I was determined to make it there this time. From Karlsruhe, it would have been fairly easy to get to. This year we were further away, meaning the journey took us around 3 hours (changing trains twice), but we decided that was just about doable. Since we had to change trains in Karlsruhe, I asked whether any of my friends there would like to join us and two of them did.

Tiny pumpkinsEach year, there is a theme for the sculptures at the festival to fit into and this year’s was Fliegen, which mines flight. However, there were some interesting interpretations of the word, for instance one sculpture was of a grand piano, which is der Flügel in German… and Flügel is also the German word for wing (as in what birds have, not the wing of a house), giving it a (slightly contrived) connection to flight. Here are some of my favourite photos that I took of the sculptures. The smaller carved pumpkins aren’t part of the “main” exhibition and therefore don’t have to follow the flight theme (hence cows and snakes).

I managed to take my camera along without it’s memory card because I’m a moron ;-) Luckily I can actually take some photos with the camera’s own memory, but it meant I had to ration myself. Luckily my friend K took lots of photos, which she very kindly shared with me, so the next gallery is all her work.

As well as the sculptures, there were various culinary offerings involving pumpkin. We had roast pumpkin seeds – I bought ones with chilli and sugar while K chose sugar and cinnamon, pumpkin popcorn (boring – it was just ordinary sweet popcorn with crushed pumpkin seeds sprinkled on, and taste of just… popcorn), pumpkin burgers (amazing! Would eat again!), pumpkin chips/fries (also amazing! I plan to try and make my own), pumpkin Schorle (juice mixed with fizzy water) and pumpkin prosecco (“Kürbissecco”), and also sampled some of the items that were available to buy for taking home – including pumpkin seed pesto, pumpkin ketchup and pumpkin chutney. All were delicious!

As well as the sculptures, the entire place is decorated with pumpkins and the winners of the German and European giant pumpkin contests were also in display. Here are a few general impressions of the pumpkins, the park and the gorgeous autumn colours. First gallery contains my photos:

And the following photos are by K:

Sorry about the photo overload – I couldn’t narrow it down any further!

If anyone is in the Stuttgart/Ludwigsburg/Heidelberg area and wants to see the pumpkins for themselves, the festival is on until Saturday 8th November. The exhibition area is not lit, so I recommend going during the day/before dark. Entrance to the garden is €8.50 – and make sure you do ask for a ticket to just the garden, unless you actually want to go into the castle! Apart from the pumpkins, the garden itself has a lot to offer, including a huge walk in aviary (which we sadly didn’t have time to go into this time, but Jan and I have been before and it’s amazing!) and a fairytale forest.

Phew! That was a long post, so congratulations if you’ve made it to the end!
I’m linking this up for Monday Escapes with Packing my Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. Click the button for more information.

Packing my Suitcase


Foodie Penpals October 2015 reveal

I can’t believe another round of Foodie Penpals has been and gone already! The next one is the final one for 2015, as Carol Anne is understandably taking a break for December (I’m sure people will have plenty of treats to enjoy then anyway!).

My package actually arrived not long after I got back from my holiday, but in keeping with the rules I waited until closer to the end of the month to write my reveal post. This time I got to send my package to Germany, which was a bit more of a challenge as I wanted to try and find products that aren’t in every single supermarket there (a lot of brands are the same). In return, I got a lovely package from England. Abbie told me it was her first time taking part, but if she hadn’t mentioned that I would never have known. The package she put together was amazing! I had mentioned that we like spicy food, such as Thai, and asked her to put in some healthy snacks (I’m desperately trying to get those pounds that have crept back on since we moved to Switzerland!).

Here’s my box of treats waiting to be unpacked:

Foodie October 2015As you can see, I did take out the postcard so you could see the food.

Now for a closer look:

Foodie October 2015Two more Graze tubs. The one Charlotte sent me last month was delicious, so I was pleased to see these ones in my latest package. These ones have both been devoured already, and they were both very tasty indeed.

Foodie October 2015Energy-giving treats. These were both delicious, but I especially liked the coconut and macadamia energy ball. I ate these for my mid-morning snack on two days so Jan didn’t even get a look in ;-)

Foodie October 2015Some sweet treats. All were tasty, but the macaroon was my favourite. It’s a good job she only included one because I’m not sure I could have stopped myself eating two in a row (and then feeling sick!).

Foodie October 2015Thai (sweet) chilli snacks. The crackers have been demolished, and most delicious they were too. The chickpeas are waiting for the next time we sit down to watch a film – they look intriguing so I thought I’d be nice and actually share with Jan ;-)

Foodie October 2015Finally, a drink. This is actually still sitting in my fridge untried but I will definitely be drinking it soon. It sounds absolutely delicious (and very healthy). Many thanks Abbie Lee for an amazing box!

Once again, I was sending to a non-blogger so I’ll show you myself what I bought her:

Foodie October 2015Zürcher Geschnetzeltes sauce – you can probably get that in Germany, but oh well, it’s Swiss at least. Branche chocolate bars (these are delicious!). Basler Läckerli – a kind of gingerbread. A hazelnut biscuit called “bird’s nest”. Swiss herb salt (it’s literally salt mixed with various herbs) and a barley soup from Graubünden (anything with “Bündner” in the name comes from the canton of Graubünden/Grisons).

If you want to take part in Foodie Penpals, you can read the rules and sign up here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.). Matches go out on the 5th of each month, so if you want to take part in November go and sign up right now! The deadline for sending packages is the 20th of the month. It’s a lot of fun and if you do decide to sign up I promise you won’t regret it!


Foodie Penpals September 2015 Reveal

My foodie penpals package for September is heeere!
I was excited to receive it this month (even more so than usual I mean) because the person sending to me is someone I know pretty well from blogging and even met once – the lovely Charlotte. This month’s parcel was a giant envelope, so on opening it I tipped it all out on the floor:

FoodCheck out those noms! Here’s a more detailed look at what my parcel contained:

Fruit bearsA strawberry bear and a raspberry bear. I’m not 100% sure what these are but I can’t wait to find out!

ChocolateBritish chocolatey goodness <3

GrazeThis is really cool! Chocolate pieces, raisins, dried cranberries and cherries in a little pack. Immediately after I finished taking the photos I ripped this open and devoured it. It was delicious – and it counts as one of my five a day!

Food mixesThe savoury stuff. A sausage casserole mixture and some Jamie Oliver stuffing mix that sounds amazing!

Skittles“The dark side of Skittles”. I’m very intrigued by these.

Green tea Finally, some fruity green tea that says it’s good for my immune system. Charlotte said she included this so I wouldn’t catch another bad cold – how thoughtful is that?

She also sent me this cute pasta postcard (the rules say you must include something written with the food – it is supposed to be “penpals” after all!).

Pasta postcardI’ve been totally spoiled with this months package. So many treats! Thank you Charlotte :-)

As for me, I was again sending to somebody without a blog. Alice, from England, told me she’s gluten intolerant, which ruled out a lot of the traditional Swiss things I usually send. This is what I ended up putting together for her:

Swiss parcelAmazingly, I managed to squidge all of that into one rather small box. Check it out:

Food parcel

If you want to take part in Foodie Penpals, you can read the rules and sign up here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.). Matches go out on the 5th of each month and the deadline for sending packages is the 20th. It’s a lot of fun and if you do decide to sign up I promise you won’t regret it!


Foodie penpals: August 2015 reveal

The time has come again to reveal what I received in my latest foodie penpals package.

August ended up being a little different – I was originally matches to two people in England, but then the person who was supposed to send to me failed to contact the person who was supposed to send a package to her. Under the rules of Foofie Penpals, if you fail to contact one of your partners by the 13th of the month, you’re taken out of the running for that month and your two partners are rematched to each other.

Coincidentally, I was rematched to somebody I already know from the blogosphere. Alie is originally from Britain and now lives in Germany. She blogs about expat life in Germany and travel at Starting Over in Stuttgart. Go visit her :-)

Alie sent my package a little later than the deadline (with my agreement) as she had a trip to England planned and made the offer to also put some British goodies into my package. As it happens, I only had one request so most of the contents were German, but we’ll get to that.

My package arrived this morning and I immediately opened it up. Please try to ignore the fact that my photos were taken on the floor (again!) and my rug desperately needs hoovering…

I swear my penpal packages get better every month! I just hope I’m doing as good a job with the ones I send out! Here’s what Alie sent me in detail:


Tea bags! I can’t wait to try them, especially the Caramel Apple Pie ones. They sound perfect for autumn!

Apple chips

Apple chips. But not just any apple chips – Swabian ones ;-) A nice healthy snack for me to munch on.


Dessert items. Two Angel Delight type things that I just need to add milk to and a pack for making lemon-flavoured frosting. Yum! I think I need to do some baking soon…


Sweeties. A Double Decker, which was my one request from the UK (for some reason I really fancied one – and yes, I ripped it open as soon as I was finished photographing my goodies!)and Grün-Schnabel (Green beak) gummi sweets. I’ve never tried these, but I love Katja’s pig sweets so these are bound to be yum.


An Indian spice mix and a herbes de provence spread. Jan and I both enjoy Indian food and I can’t wait to give this spice mix a try! And I bet the spread will be good on toast or crackers.

Just how amazing is that package? I am a very lucky foodie indeed!

Alie also sent me a card, and even drew her own little stamp on the envelope. Love it!

Again, the person I was sending to doesn’t have a blog, but I took a quick photo before placing her goodies in the envelope. Here’s what I sent (this time I actually took the photo on the table, like a normal person!)

Swiss food

The new matches go out on Saturday, so you may be too late to sign up for September, but you can give it a try anyway. If it doesn’t work this time you’ll automatically be added to October’s list. To read the rules and sign up go here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.)


Foodie penpals July reveal

I am a terrible blogger and forgot to get my foodie penpals post ready for the big reveal on the last day of July. Oops. In my defence, I received my parcel relatively late in the month and I had a wedding to attend. In the UK. Those are my excuses and I’m sticking to them! Anyway, my foodie penpals this month were both in UK. I sent a parcel to the lovely Selina and received one from Kate (I would provide links if they had blogs…). Here’s what I got from Kate:

Foodie package

What? You can’t see everything? Here – I took the items out of the box for you!

Foodie parcel

I have to confess, I very cheekily requested the beef Hula Hoops. I love beef Hula Hoops! (Also Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch, Skips, Bacon Fries, Mini Cheddars and Wotsits, just in case anyone was thinking of sending me a care package ;-) ).

This month I actually managed to restrain myself for long enough to take individual photos of some of the items, so here’s what I received in detail:

Foodie penpals

Baking stuff, specifically mini loaf cases, chocolate honeycomb decoratey type stuff and cardamom pods. I’ve never used a cardamom pod for anything in my life! Research shall have to be done…

Foodie penpals

Yummy sweet treats! Fruit crumble sweeties, treacle tart flavour chocolate and raspberry flavoured pieces of dried coconut. SO TASTY!

Foodie penpals

Beefy stuffs! The aforementioned Hula Hoops and some sweet/sour/spicy flavoured beef jerky. Kate is a vegetarian but she sent me meat. How nice is that?! The beef jerky was yummy.

Foodie penpals

Smoked chilli flavoured mayonnaise. I haven’t tried this yet – it’s sitting in my fridge waiting for an opportunity. What does one serve spicy mayonnaise with?

And that was this month’s package. Yes, I took my photos on the floor. So what?

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, here’s what I sent to Selina:

Foodie penpalsSwitzerland in an envelope, so to speak.

The matches for August came out today, so if you haven’t already I’m afraid you’re too late to sign up for this month, but you can sign up right now to take part in September. To read the rules and sign up go here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.)


A Wedding in Wokingham

Bearwood College

My cousin got married this weekend at Bearwood College in Wokingham, so I had a (literally) flying visit back to England: flew out on Friday morning, attended the wedding on Saturday and flew back yesterday afternoon. It was worth it though – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many members of my mum’s side of the family in one place! In fact, the last time I saw some of my cousins some of the other cousins weren’t even born! (That includes the bride, who I hadn’t seen in at least 12 years and unfortunately didn’t really see at the wedding either, other than to say congratulations as we left the room the ceremony was held in. She had a baby a few weeks ago and by the time I went looking for her she’d already taken him home).

I can’t post any pictures of people because I don’t like to do that without permission, but I can show you few of the venue and the decorations. The location was amazing! We even saw a deer when we first arrived and were waiting outside for things to start happening! Unfortunately my camera ended up on a wrong setting and most of my photos turned out blurry or too dark, but a few are vaguely okay.

Here’s Bambi, plus a shot of the hall (yes, there are people on that one but I think they’re far enough for it to be okay).

The groom’s mum  made the cake! I was amazed – it looked so professional. And she also made the chocolate lollies that each person had at their place at the table.

Wedding cake

Instead of a number, each of the tables had the name of a place that holds some significance for the bride and groom. Ours was Bruges, which I presume is just somewhere they’ve been on holiday. The most important tables were Slough, which is where they met, and Windsor Great Park, where the groom proposed.

The food was delicious! Pork belly with Bramley apple sauce and chorizo to start, followed by steak with hand-cut chips and then Tart au Citron for dessert. The vegetarian’s obviously got something different, but I don’t remember what that was.

We continued partying until around 11:30, took a taxi back, then headed to the bar at the hotel for a night cap as it was my mum’s birthday the next day and she wanted to stay up until midnight. It was a really nice wedding, the bride looked beautiful (I’m sure I won’t look anywhere near that amazing less than 2 months after giving birth!) and it was amazing to see so many members of my family. It had been four years since the last big family gathering. Hopefully this time it won’t be as long before I see them all again!


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