English Scone History

Does the idea of the Brexit have you stone cold? No need to worry and be scone cold. Gather you wits about you and have a scone and a cup of tea.

Britain voted out of the EU which means who knows what. Many people are in shock about the decision as I, but we simply have to wait and see what happens. Brexit. Regregexit. What’s nexit? Many will go about as usual. Many people will simply have a scone and cup of tea which sounds like a brilliant idea!

English scones, jam, and clotted cream
English scones, jam, and clotted cream

What exactly are scones?

Scones are a Scottish quick bread which apparently got its name from the Stone of Destiny (or Scone), the place where Scottish kings were once crowned. Scones were originally made with oats and baked on a griddle (girdle, in Scots), but today’s version is made with flour and oven-baked.

The word “scone” according to the Oxford dictionary comes from Middle Dutch schoon(broot) which means beautiful bread. If you’ve ever had a bad scone it is not even close to beautiful, just hard, stone hard if not baked correctly or eaten while fresh.

A tab bit of scone history

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788–1861) is credited with making scones a fashionable ritual. One late afternoon she ordered the servants to bring some tea and sweet bread including scones. It tickled her fancy so much that she ordered it every afternoon and the daily event became an English tradition known as “Afternoon Tea Time” (precisely at 4:00 p.m.).

Constructing a Scone

Cream before jam or jam before cream? There’s much debate about which goes first, a dispute which apparently divides Cornwall and Devon. The code of behavior according to some etiquette experts is to spread jam on your scone before adding a dollop of cream on top, so when in Cornwall does as the Cornish.

In Cornwall it’s jam first, then cream and in Devon they prefer cream first, then jam.  If you are using a thick cream which won’t easily slip off the jam surface, the Cornish method may work best for you. I’m going to try both methods and if I’ve upset any cream tea experts I wholeheartedly apologize to you in advance.

Update: I prefer the Cornish method of spreading jam and then cream!

Gotta for now, it’s almost tea time. Cheerio my friends and check out my scone recipe coming soon.




Doing the Stanford Dish Trail

A great hike to tighten the gluts and see fantastic views of San Francisco and Stanford University.

The Stanford Dish or the ‘Dish’ as the locals call it is an old ranch turned hiking/jogging trail. Located between Junipero Serra Boulevard and I-280, the land is owned by Stanford University and is open to the public every day.

I decided to walk the loop one Saturday morning around 9:00 which I thought was early until I noticed that the parking spots were full. I drove down the road and discovered a middle school but had to drive around a couple of times to wait for a free spot.

Stanford Dish

What is the Dish?

The Dish is a radio telescope locate in the Stanford foothills. It’s pretty massive with a 46 meter (150-foot diameter). Built in 1961 by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and funded by the US Air Force, the Dish was originally used to study the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Later is was used to communicate with spacecraft and satellites and even transmitted signals to NASA’s Voyager aircraft.

How do I get to the Dish?

You can enter the main entrance from Stanford Avenue but keep in mind, U-turns are prohibited, so you have to slow down and reverse-angle park, if you are lucky enough to find a spot. Alternatively, you can drive down Stanford Avenue to the Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School (1711 Stanford Avenue) and park there outside of school hours unless you want your vehicle to be towed.

From the middle school, the walk to The Dish is about five minutes past some nice Stanford homes tucked away in the lush greens.

Stanford Dish Hiking Trail Tree

The Main Loop Trail

The main loop trail is about 3.5 miles and takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to walk. I thought it would take me longer because after the main entrance the trail had a steep incline, I would have estimated the percentage, but I was breathing heavily and feeling embarrassing unfit. Apparently it’s a 15% incline but gradually levels off thank goodness.
Along the way, you pass by a few reservoirs to a ridgeline and finally the Dish. Yes! You have arrived at your destination.

Along the trail, you’ll pass by cows, some curious squirrels, maybe even some deer, wildflowers, as well as hawks, woodpeckers, and bluebirds. The paved trail is wide and there’s plenty of room for strollers, walkers, and runners to share the road.

Stanford Dish Hiking Trail Cows
As you cruise back to your starting point, in my case the main gate, don’t forget to say thanks and good-bye to the gate guard.
On a clear day you can see the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, the San Francisco Bay, and Stanford University.

Stanford Dish Hiking Trail

If you are ready to ‘Do the Dish’, go early, really early, bring plenty of water and remember the Dish is open only during daylight hours.




A Deprived Expat’s Fish Taco Recipe

It’s not easy being an expat, especially when you’re deprived of fish tacos.

This post is mainly for any of my readers deprived of your favorite home foods, especially since you are living the ‘good life’ across the pond somewhere. Therefore, today’s post is about fish tacos. Why? Because it’s Cinco de Mayo of course. And because fish tacos rock!

We don’t have access to fish tacos around these parts and when I first heard about them, the idea sort of turned me off. Yes, I like fish. In fact, I eat fish at least twice a week, but fish and tacos just didn’t seem a likely combination. But then on a recent trip to California, I decided to try them. I was hooked from the first bite and took every chance I could to eat them.

Fish Taco Recipe

As I was looking for recipes for our Cinco de Mayo celebration, the idea of a plate of fish tacos made my tongue jump for joy (again).

 

So, What is a Fish Taco?

It’s simple math really. Fish + taco = Fish taco. Hee-hee, let’s break it down even further.

Fish tacos were reborn in Baja, the second earth’s second-longest peninsula off the Northwest coast of Mexico, but have been extremely popular in Southern California for many years.

Let’s step back a bit and give credit where credit is due. Anthropological evidence shows that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Praise for fish tacos, now onto the recipe. 🙂

A Simple Fish Taco Recipe

You can make fish tacos (Tacos de Pescado) with a hearty white fish such as, salmon, cod, tilapia, or even with shrimp (Tacos de camarones). The taco filling generally consists of shredded cabbage, a sour cream or Greek yogurt-based dressing, and fresh cilantro. Interpret your own fish taco recipe as I have below.

Ingredients (Makes 4 medium-sized tacos)

  • 1 pound (450 grams) salmon fillets (cod, tilapia, or shrimp)
  • Flour
  • Creole seasoning
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Sunflower oil
  • Cooked corn kernels (roasted adds an intense flavor)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 lime
  • Mexican oregano
  • Chipotle (optional)
  • Soft shell tacos
  • 1/2 red or yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • Arugula

Fish Taco Yogurt Salsa

In a medium bowl, mix together Greek yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground Mexican oregano and fresh lime juice until the consistency is not too runny. Add sea salt and chipotle to taste.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Heat a heavy pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Season fish on meat side with Creole seasoning or salt and pepper.
  3. Lightly dust the fish with flour and shake off the excess.
  4. Add a tablespoon of sunflower oil to the pan.
  5. Cook fish pieces until lightly golden brown, break into chunks, and set on a paper towel.
  6. Remove excess oil from pan and lightly fry the tortillas, they should still be soft to handle.

To serve, place fried fish pieces in a tortilla, add the healthy colorful toppings of your choice such as roasted corn, red pepper slices, fresh cilantro, fresh basil, yogurt sauce, and arugula. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo by cooking some healthy fish tacos served with a glass of refreshing Aguas Frescas.

¡Buen provecho!

 




Five Reasons to Visit Dordogne France

There are hundreds of reasons to visit Dordogne France, but five that top our list.

Known by its older name, Perigord, Dordogne is France’s third largest region located in southwestern France about a 5 hour drive south of Paris between Lyon and Bordeaux. The Perigord region is full of medieval towns, gorgeous châteaux, prehistoric caves, elite gardens, awesome food and all in and around the spectacular countryside. So don’t delay, visit Dordogne France this year!

There are four major towns are Périgueux, Bergerac, and Sarlat, but don’t stop at visiting those towns and experiencing all that the Dordogne has to offer. When you visit Dordogne France, you’ll pass by many honey-colored stone houses and rich green meadows. Along the way you’ll be reminded why the Dordogne, the rural south-west of France is so loved by residents and tourists.

Here are five reasons to visit Dordogne, France.

  1. Le Châteaux – The Dordogne region has around 1000 castles and exquisite châteaux. Some of the most visited châteaux include the 15th century Chateau des Milandes which was restored by the legendary jazz and singer and actress Josephine Baker.

    Châteaux des Milandes in Dordogne, France.
    Châteaux des Milandes in Dordogne, France. Photo by Manfred Heyde.

    Also, worth a visit is the fortified 12th century Châteaux de Beynac. Set 200 meters high on a cliff that juts out onto the Dordogne River, it was temporarily occupied by Richard Lion Heart. The history alone is a reason to visit as well as the fantastic views of the countryside.

  2. Gorgeous Gardens – When you visit Dordogne France, you’ll see it has its share of châteaux as well as astonishing gardens to match.
    The most famous being Les Jardins de Marqueyssac with numerous perfectly manicured boxed hedges. The gardens overlook the chalky cliffs of the Dordogne offering an amazing panoramic view of Perigord.  Even more amazing than a day trip to the gardens is visiting the magically illuminated gardens during the summer evenings.

    The Gardens of Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France
    The Gardens of Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France. Photo by Lemoussu
  3. Quintessentially French towns – There are three major towns in Dordogne, Bergerac in the south-west, Perigueux further north, and Sarlat in the south-east, but don’t stop at those three. One never tires of visiting any of the towns especially those classified as ‘les Plux Beaux Detours‘ in France, so just look for the label Most beautiful detour in France and you’re on the right track. One city on the detour is Brantôme, also known as the known as the Venice of the Dordogne. A stop at the Benedictine Abbey on the river’s edge and the old stone bridge are well worth the visit. Each village has its own charm so make time to thoroughly enjoy as many as possible.

    Abbey of Brantôme and its bell tower, Dordogne, France
    Abbey of Brantôme, Dordogne, France, Photo by Monster1000
  4. Brilliant Caves – France is peppered with hundreds of caves full of prehistoric art and extraordinary rock formations hidden deep beneath a sea of caverns. At Grotte de Rouffignac, the electric train descends you to complete darkness where you’ll see nearly 100 line drawings and engravings of mammoths, horses, and bison as well as the ‘Great Ceiling’ decorated with 65 animal figures.When visiting Gouffre de Padirac you’ll see nature’s beauty in an underground gorge. After the 99 meter descent (elevator or stairs), you take to a gondola ride to enjoy the beauty of the limestone caves.

    Photo by cave painter
    Photo by cave painter
  5. A Gourmand Experience – I had to save the best for last as without a doubt, Dordogne is a foodie region. It’s the food and wine which draw many people to Dordogne. After all, the region is France’s capital of foie gras, duck, and truffle. Vegetarians, don’t fret, the daily markets in the towns and villages are full of seasonal produce such as walnuts, strawberries, mushrooms, goat cheese (cabécou), and French breads of course.And what better way to enjoy Dordogne’s bounty than with one of the region’s Bergerac wines. The region is one of the few in France that produce nearly as many white wines as red (around 48% versus 52%). The area contains 13 Appellations Contrôlées where Bergerac red wine, Côtes de Bergerac red wine, Bergerac dry white wine, Bergerac rosé wine and Côtes de Bergerac sweet white wines, are grown in the Bergerac vineyards.

    Bergerac white wine, Dordogne, France
    Photo by JPS68

Need another reason to visit Dordogne France? Stay-tuned as we update you on more great things to see and do in Dordogne France.




The Great Traveling Fabric Fairs

Get your craft on at one of Europe’s traveling fabric fairs.

I’m a born-again sewist. I began sewing and crafting when I was 8 years old and never stopped until I moved to Germany 14 years ago. Why did I stop sewing? Mainly because I couldn’t find affordable fabrics and notions. And the second reason? I couldn’t find parts for my beloved Kenmore sewing machine. Fast forward a few years and I have a new Bernina sewing machine. But I need fabric and buttons and zips too. Well, I finally discovered there are traveling fabric fairs from Holland that stop in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France several times a year.

Stoffenmarkt Holland Fabric Fair

I don’t know the history of these traveling fabric fairs, but they are reminiscent of America’s traveling salesmen. The men would ride through your homestead on horseback, wagon, or buggy selling the small things needed in the household. You know, needles and thread, buttons, collar stays, and wicks for kerosene lamps. But where did the ladies get their fabric? Gonna have to watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie to figure that one out.

What I do know is that instead of having to fly back to the US to purchase fabric, I can visit one of Europe’s traveling fabric fairs and see about 50 vendors and in one location. Sorry JoAnn Fabrics, but a sewist hast to do what a sewist has to do–find great fabrics and save money too.

Stoffmarkt Holland vs. Stoffenspektal

So far, I’ve attended several of the Stoffmarkt Holland traveling fabric fairs held in large and small German cities throughout the year. Stoffmarkt Holland holds nearly 40 spring events (~Feb – June) and an multiple autumn events leading up to Christmas. Most of their traveling fabric fairs are held outside in an empty parking lot and have awnings to cover the fabrics and slightly shield you from the elements, but I wear a hat or carry an umbrella just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.

At the Stoffmarkt Holland traveling fair you can find a large assortment of cottons, silks, wool, knits, and leather fabrics for sewing, crafting and quilting. There are also lots of designer fabrics too. There’s quite an assortment to choose from, so you just need to look around and find which fabric suits your needs. No pun intended! 🙂

If it’s notions you are looking for, I find the assortment quite overwhelming and so do the other sewists. It gets really, really crowded at the notions tent where you need to nudge you way in to get a chance to view the pretty buttons, clasps, and ribbons.

I recently discovered a second traveling fabric fair called Stoffenspektal. I learned about this one while buying fabric in Holland where the fabric shop owner said the prices are good as well as the selection. The Stoffenspektal event in France I attended had around 40 vendors and the selection of fabrics were different than the ones from Stoffmakt Holland, so I now I have an alternative fabric fair to visit. Stoffenspektal caters to sewists located in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, but from, my home in Germany can reach those borders in a little over an hour–which makes for a perfect day trip.

Both the Stoffmarkt Holland and the Stoffenspektal offer a good selection of fabrics for the average and advanced sewists. If I ever get into making ball gowns again, I’d probably travel to Holland or Belgium to visit one of the designer fabric shops. For now any of the traveling fabric fairs will do since I’m just making skirts, dresses, bags, and some pretty table cloths.

Bernina sewing machine

They speak your language

Don’t worry too much about the language barrier, because the Stoffmarkt Holland vendors are mainly from Holland and Belgium and speak good German, English, and French. Other vendors include Bernina, who is a sponsor of many fabric fairs, so a local rep is on hand to demo and/or sell you a machine.

Not everyone in the family may like sorting through bolts of fabrics and button bins like you do, so they can take a snack break while you fabric shop. If you brought along the kids or your significant other, there’s always a food stand selling beer, brats, and ice cream to keep the non-sewists busy for a bit.

Things to know before going to a traveling fabric fair

  • Go really early to avoid the crowds.
  • Wear sturdy comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking on hard surfaces.
  • The vendors accept EURO, and a few accept credit cards (mainly MasterCard or Visa).
  • Bring a shopping stroller; you’d be surprised how heavy fabric can be.
  • Metric Measurement Conversions
    • 1 inch  =  2.54 centimeters (cm)
    • 45 inches = 1.15 meters (115 cm)
    • 60 inches = 1.52 meters (150 cm)
    • 1 yard = 0.91 meters
    • 9 inch zipper = 22 cm (22.86 cm)

Happy sewing, crafting, and quilting.