Roasted Chicken and Monday (?!) Links

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This weekend I tried a one-pan dish in the name of less: less mess and less work for the dishwasher (ahem, Adam). Chicken thighs and drumsticks (bone in and skin on!) and sliced potatoes are marinated in cumin and harissa for several hours before being roasted on one big sheet pan. Halfway through cooking, top with sliced leeks that have the slightest hint of lemon zest and olive oil. Plate it all atop a bed of fresh spinach (my own interpretation–I don’t like arugula, which the recipe calls for) and drizzle with a yogurt-dill sauce. Saturday night just got a little sexier.

You can find the details for the recipe here and I’d highly encourage you to give it a try one busy weeknight, or on the weekend when you have a little more time for a chilled glass of white wine and a playlist.

How was your weekend? Besides making this delicious dinner, we bummed around Bern with friends on Saturday and stayed crazy lazy yesterday during an all-day rain fest. We watched Brooklyn (I cried, obviously), read books, and Adam made homemade tagliatelle last night for dinner. Success! I have to say, as much as I like these homebody weekends, I am looking forward to better weather and the chance to get out an explore more. We’re trying to plan a fun little excursion in May–any ideas?

I’ve had a file of links on my desktop for three weeks now so let’s go ahead and clear that out. Below are a few items of note that somewhat recently caught my eye.

This song will wake up your Monday.

I never tire of Tina Fey interviews.

A revised edition of 36 hours in Zurich.

An unlikely survivor of the New York City Macy’s renovation. (Thanks, Matt!)

What exactly is turbulence? Surprisingly, learning this really relaxed me, as I tend to be a nervous flier.

Unicorns existed! (spoiler: they looked insane)

The Times are heavily featured in this week’s round-up, so if you read just one article make it this primer on climate change. It’s informative without being sensational and makes a great case for the urgency of the situation.

This guide to email sign-offs made me laugh out loud. I will forever sign off with “All the best”

New bikini!

How to style like a Swede.

Trying the Pomodoro Technique to help me get through writing a tricky article. Must. Find. Motivation.

Matty Matheson does not make diet food and I love him for it. Watching him cook anything (in this instance, steak and potatoes) is a treat. warning: ample profanity : )

I hope you all have a great week!

Sunday Snaps

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Yesterday was the perrrfect day. It was sunny and just warm enough to shed layers on a long afternoon walk with the rest of Bern. The city is fragrant and alive–this time of year is gorgeous.

We had a very slow weekend, which was lovely: biscuits and gravy for brunch on the balcony; movie night; friends over for chicken enchiladas (a good excuse to break out the salsa we’ve been saving since we brought it back from the US at Christmas!); long walks outside along the river. I love spring! But I think I love summer even more. Bring on the warmer temperatures and picnics in the rose garden!

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Today Adam and I are celebrating our meetiversary! Six years ago we met on a blind date at an Italian restaurant in Zurich. We walked along the lake and traded travel stories and I pretended not to be impressed by the very handsome, very tall man I was on a date with. We hugged goodbye with plans to see each other again soon and I blushed an embarrassing shade of red (that was not lost on Adam). I was toast. I knew right away that Adam was someone special, and I even commented to my sister shortly after that date that I was sure I would marry him.

Adam, it’s been the best six years. Looking forward to many, many more, my love.

In the Kitchen: Recipe Fails

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For all our enthusiasm in the kitchen, it’s important, for me anyway, to acknowledge that things go wrong. Not everything can turn out so perfectly the first time. Ideas are big and ambitious! And the execution, unfortunately, can leave a lot to be desired.

Adam has been wanting to make smash burgers for a long time and we finally set aside Saturday night to make a couple of double-decker burgers and french fries. I will say at the beginning that, and I think Adam might agree, if we could find the right fatty, marbled beef, everything would have turned out so much better. As it is, Switzerland excels at extraordinarily healthy and lean grass-fed beef. And this is great in almost all circumstances besides juicy burgers. So Adam went to the butcher and had them grind a fattier cut of beef in the hopes that we might get that fattiness you want in a smash burger.

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A quick note: the beauty of this type of burger is that it is smashed onto an extremely hot pan and mostly cooks in its own fat in a very short amount of time–usually less than two minutes. You are looking for crispy (not burnt!) edges and a cooked-through burger. It’s generously seasoned with salt and pepper but otherwise undisturbed. You’ll get great beef flavor this way.

In short, what the butcher ground was fine, but not nearly fatty enough and we ended up with simultaneously charred and undercooked burgers with very little flavor. Adam tried another round on the grill (pre-smashed super thin) and they were better, but still not at all what he wanted.

I don’t want to take a defeatist attitude but my gut (haha) tells me that smash burgers just might not happen for us here. If you’re cooking them in the US you’ll want to buy 80-20 ground chuck–a ratio that is completely unheard of here. Here’s a good recipe to try.

Still, it’s always fun to try new things in the kitchen, even if they don’t always work out how you want them to. Any flops you’ve experienced? Or, any ambitious recipes you’re hoping to try soon? Adam mentioned this morning that he’d like to give biscuits and gravy another go… I’m game!

Tuesday Book Club: When Breath Becomes Air

I first heard of Paul Kalanithi’s fatal lung cancer diagnosis through the piece he wrote for the New York Times, titled, “How Long Have I Got Left?” As a 36-year-old surgical resident, nearing the end of his residency, he wanted to know what this harrowing diagnosis meant for his career but also for his personal life. Should he continue practicing surgery? Write the book he always wanted to write? Start a family? Yet his doctor would not give him any survival statistics, much less a life sentence.

With a little help from a successful treatment, Kalanithi decided he would pursue the writing project he had always imagined, though I’m guessing his earlier dreams were not so focused on mortality and how he would face his own young death. Still, his book is magnificent. His natural inquisitiveness and desire to learn and challenge accepted wisdom is brave and admirable. His desire to dig deep into his illness and premature death is to be marveled at. I cannot imagine taking such a brave and confident stance in the face of such diagnosis and circumstance.

When Breath Becomes Air is a meditation on mortality and our relationship with death. Like Atul Gawande, Kalanithi suggests, pleas almost, that we shouldn’t allow stigma surrounding death to persist. It will happen to all of us, sooner or later, so why aren’t we talking about it more? And why are we making it so uncomfortable, prolonged, and difficult? There are arguments for better palliative care and hospice and making decisions that will allow for a better quality of life, not just quantity of life. And I must say his arguments are compelling.

Less than two years after Kalanithi received his diagnosis he died. I knew this going into the book, and still! the book felt suspenseful. His voice was so strong and clear, I kept thinking to myself (and saying to Adam), I can’t believe he’s dead. I cannot believe his wisdom was lost to us so quickly.

Lucy wrote the epilogue to his book (which was finished posthumously) and she describes his final days and hours in great detail. I sat reading with tears streaming down my cheeks, devastated by her loss. They decided to have a child while he was feeling better , and imagining him leaving behind an eight-month-old daughter broke my heart, as did imaging Lucy now parenting solo. Her bravery, like his, is astounding and beautiful. Her emotions at losing her young husband are raw and real. A doctor herself, she understood so many of her husband’s desires to live a full life, not just a long one. I think they both can teach us so much about quality of life.

You can read Lucy’s essay here, which was published the same day as Paul’s book. And this interview with her was also so insightful. Lastly, her twin sister Joanna, the blogger behind A Cup of Jo, teamed up with interior designer Jenny Komenda to makeover Lucy’s apartment after Paul’s death. She wanted the space to feel alive and fresh, and to become a place that would help her and her young daughter begin anew while still honoring memories of Paul. The makeover is so moving.

I loved this book. Along with Being Mortal, it should be required reading for anyone who is facing a serious illness or death, or has a loved one in a similar position. I would highly recommend it.

(image of Paul Kalanithi via The New York Times // image of book via A Cup of Jo)

Easter Weekend in Copenhagen

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Over Easter weekend, Phil, Adam and I, along with our friends Paige and Bryce, went to Copenhagen for the long weekend. Phil was the only person who had been there before so it was a treat for us all to see a new city together. It was cool and modern and bustling compared to Bern. I loved the architecture, those beautiful bike lanes, and the friendly people. Also, we ate such good food while we were there!

You may remember that we went to Amsterdam over Easter weekend two years ago and were pleasantly surprised by how alive the city was during the holiday weekend. Copenhagen was a bit different, and I think we were all surprised to find how seriously they took the religious holiday: stores were closed all day Thursday, Friday, and Sunday (though that’s normal), and though we left on Sunday night, it appeared as if they would be closed on Monday as well. So! That’s all to say, if you’re planning on a religious holiday weekend there, be prepared for a lot to be closed.

IMG_3850IMG_3854IMG_5237IMG_5241IMG_5243After checking into our Airbnb, which was on the border between the Frederiksberg and Nørrebro neighborhoods, we rented bikes and cycled to the Nyhavn port. The beautiful old port house have since been renovated into touristic restaurants and shops, but it’s fun to see some of the old ships lined up. This is also a great spot to start a canal tour if that’s something you’d like to do.

We found a couple of nearby trampolines for a quick bounce before heading to Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous district in the center of the city. Here you will find commune-style living, wooded pathways, cheap beer, and a “green light” district. It’s a quirky (and popular) place to visit during the day.

After a long day of cycling and walking around we had dinner at Thai Pan, a cozy restaurant right around the corner from our apartment. It has a view of the pond and I imagine it would be a great place to sit outside when it’s warm. I can say, however, that their food was excellent if you’re looking for delicious Thai.

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Friday was cool and drizzly so after a slam-dunk brunch at Mirabelle we cycled over to Den Blå Planet, Denmark’s national aquarium to escape the less-than-pleasant weather. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had this exact same idea and the aquarium was absolutely packed. I think we were the only adults there without children, and it was certainly an experience to visit the place during peak hours on a cold and rainy holiday. There were a few tanks of note (I loved watching the sea otters groom themselves), but it was really too crowded to enjoy much.

We headed back into town (note: you can take your bike onto the metro during all hours, except during rush hour, 5-7pm) and landed at Mikkeller for some tasty Danish beers. It’s a very cozy beer bar and brewery and we stayed here, mostly to enjoy an adult-only atmosphere, for a couple of rounds. Øl & Brød, the restaurant by the same group, is located next door and the menu looks fantastic if you’re looking to stay in the neighborhood for dinner.

That night we had a special dinner at RADIO. It’s a modern and relaxed restaurant located near the Forum metro stop, and three blocks from our apartment. Jesper, the head chef, once worked as a sous-chef for Noma, which was named the best restaurant in the world three years in a row. One can choose either a three- or five-course dinner, with optional wine or juice pairings. The three of us opted for five courses and loved it. I think we all agreed it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had: warm squid and celeriac “pasta”; cod with fried chicken skins, grilled romaine, and lumpfish roe; beetroot with dehydrated olives and smoked cheese; free range pork (so good it will make you weep) with grilled leeks; and carrots with camomile ice cream, caramel and meringues. The menu changes every two weeks so you’re always eating the freshest ingredients and they take such care with it all. It was a gorgeous presentation in a very comfortable restaurant and we’d highly recommend the experience.

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Our friends Paige and Bryce arrived from Geneva on Saturday at noon so we met at Torvehallerne KBH, a giant food hall located just outside the Nørreport metro stop. Inside each of the markets are dozens of food stalls carrying produce and ready-made items you can enjoy on the outdoor seating. Four of us went for Vietnamese, mostly because it’s something that is both delicious and impossible to find in Switzerland, and the bahn mis and steamed buns did not disappoint. Phil got fish and chips, which were just as delicious. We actually ended up here twice and it could easily serve as a meeting place or just a fun spot to relax and sample lots of local fare.

After lunch we walked to Stroget, a neighborhood packed with shops and boutiques. My friend Paige was specifically hoping to visit Royal Copenhagen’s flagship store and we managed to walk around inside and each pick up a matching vase. I had never heard of the gorgeous china before, but I’m happy to have a new, unique pursuit : )

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Lots more cycling ensued over the afternoon–we really earned all those treats– and we ended up at Warpigs Brewpub in the meatpacking district. The pub is a sort of sister restaurant and brewery to Mikkeller, so you’ll find a lot of the same beer flavors and vibes. What is totally unique to this place is their Kansas City barbecue! We sample some ribs and pimento cheese with hushpuppies (damn!), but they had loads of delicious-smelling barbecue on the menu and it would have been so fun to try it all. They have four different sauces–Carolina Gold, Kansas City, Alabama White, and Texas–and we were proud to discover they refill the Kansas City sauce the most. Obviously!

Dinner was just around the corner at Paté Paté and it was another big hit. They specialize in modern European dishes, served in a small-plates, tapas style. We went a little nuts and ordered a bunch of different plates for the table (smoked salmon, turbot, oysters, lamb, Danish mozzarella), yet still managed to finish it all, plus two desserts. Everything was outstanding, but we especially love the vibrant, boisterous atmosphere. It’s hard to find a place in Switzerland (at least in Bern) that has a young, hip energy, where you can be loud and a little ridiculous. It was fun to just have a big night out, which makes us sound like a bunch of old farts, but whatever ; )

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Phil flew out early Sunday morning, so the four of us went to The Standard for a fancy brunch, complete with edible flowers and a view of the canal. Technically we ate at Almanak, one of the four restaurant/bars in The Standard. It had a contemporary and cool interior and great views.

Afterward we walked through the botanical garden and geological museum. As I mentioned earlier, not much was open on Easter Sunday so there were actually quite a lot of people walking through the garden and park, which was nice. We had wanted to go to the Arken Museum of Modern Art, but didn’t budget enough time. We’ll be sure to check it out, as well as the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, on our next visit.

Adam and I flew out that evening and arrived back in Bern around midnight–long day! But, Copenhagen, we loved you! What a fun city with so much to do. I’d love to go back in warmer weather and enjoy sitting outdoors and maybe visiting the seaside.

Have you been? What else would you recommend? It’s such an easy flight from Zurich and I can definitely imagine visiting this city again, perhaps as a part of a larger Scandinavian tour.

A couple of helpful guides:

Wishing for: Removable Wallpaper

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The other day my mom and I were talking about ways to make subtle changes to the bedroom that would better accommodate the new rug. We talked accent pillows and a darker throw across the end of the bed and she decreed that I could keep the art. Phew!

Our fantasy “feathering” soon gave way to other areas in the apartment and I lamented, once again, how much I’d like to re-do the guest room/office. I’ve mentioned before that I’m over the black and white look and would like something warmer and richer, with natural wood and a less high-contrast palette. We discussed the massive southern blank wall and what one could do with so much space.

I’d love to wallpaper it, but as a renter that’s just not feasible. Plus, the walls here are a crepe-y texture that could not handle wallpaper well. It got me thinking about what renters with good walls do when they want to paper and I remembered removable wallpaper. Genius!

hygge and west bird paper

swag paper poppy

Gingko leaves

As I was looking around for options I realized that, of course, none of these are readily available in Switzerland, but it’s fun to imagine such a high-impact change in the apartment. I think removable wallpaper can be great for a whole room, or an accent wall, like in our guest room. You can find solid colors or more graphic prints based on your design scheme, and it’s comforting to know you can take them down or move them (many are reusable) if you tire of the look.

Here are a few resources:

  • Chasing Paper: you can peel and stick each paper tile on nearly any surface: walls, refrigerators, staircases, etc. The fabric paper is made with a low-tack, non-toxic adhesive.
  • Hygge & West: removable wallpaper tiles, as well as a permanent collection, featuring designers like Rifle Paper Co., Julia Rothman (the bird print above), and Oh Joy! Somewhat limited removable tile collection, but all are really beautiful.
  • Betapet: an Etsy shop featuring dozens of designs in modern and neutral colors and designs.
  • Swag Paper: offer designer collections, as well as designs ranging from contemporary to classic.
  • Tempaper: lots of fresh, bright designs, but I especially like their floral collection.

Have you ever used removable wallpaper? It almost seems too good to be true. I’d be interested to hear how the seams hold up (since most come in a 2’x 3′ tile format) and the installation is actually as easy as many sites claim.

(image 1  // 2 // 3 // 4)

Tuesday Book Club: The Girl on the Train

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Slow mornings are my favorite part of the weekend: coffee in bed, a good book, no plans. It’s an itinerary that is new to me since getting married, but I’ve grown to love it. I used to like to wake up and get moving, thinking that staying in bed was a waste of a morning. Ah, the naïveté! Now, relaxing in bed is something I look forward to, like a proper adult. (I feel like I’m making myself out to be the World’s Laziest Person on the blog, but I swear I get stuff done!)

This past weekend I read all of The Girl on the Train, mostly in bed. It’s a very quick read, partly because the language isn’t complex and partly because of the suspense. I love a good whodunnit story, especially one that isn’t overly gory or violent–I have a weak stomach.

I read it because it’s my next book club selection, but also because curiosity finally won out. For a while I was hesitant to read it: it was always recommended in the context of a comparison (“the next Gone Girl“). I wanted to read it because it was a good book, not because it was going to remind me of something else. In fact, when I started reading it on Friday afternoon I told my friend Nicole over beers that evening that I already liked it but I wasn’t sure if that was because I actually liked it or because everyone told me I was going to love it and want to immediately devour it. It’s funny how the cultural conversation can become a big part of our entertainment experience (obviously, this isn’t limited to books; our taste and enjoyment of movies and music are also heavily influenced by society).

After zipping through the thriller in less than 48 hours, I can say that The Girl on the Train delivered exactly what I was looking for. It was fast-paced and suspenseful, with lots of twists and diversions. Here is a particularly flattering review that offers no spoilers in case you’re keen to know a bit more.

It may sound counterintuitive, but I find these books relaxing. You don’t have to work too hard to get into the plot and there isn’t a lot of subtext to keep you busy. They are straightforward and entertaining. Perfect for those lazy weekend mornings.

Have you read it? What did you think? The movie adaptation is set to release in theaters this October. Emily Blunt plays Rachel, the alcoholic amateur detective, the actual girl on the train. I think she’s a fantastic actress so I’m looking forward to her portrayal of this dark, somewhat unlikable character.

In an effort to keep myself sharp I’ve taken a complete 180-degree turn and started When Breath Becomes Air. It’s gorgeous and heartbreaking and it kept me up way too late last night. More next week!