Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Journal Entry: Camping

Over Independence Day, my parents and I went camping. My dad grew up a couple hours north of Minneapolis, in a tiny little town called Duquette. We still own some land up there and have a trailer set up where we hunt and camp as often as we can.

We sometimes find wild raspberries or

I keep a journal, and somehow being up there in the woods always brings out my poetic side. One morning before breakfast I wrote this in my journal. I've never shared a part of my personal journal before, so this is a little scary. But I loved this when I re-read it later, so I hope you enjoy it too.

Context: campfire donuts are deep fried bread dough
covered in cinnamon sugar. One of my favorite things
we make!

I was too tired to write last night. I hardly got any reading done even, I started a new book and I just haven't gotten far enough into it for it to hold my attention while I'm tired.

I don't know what time it is. Probably earlier than I normally get up when I don't have to get up for anything. It's still cool enough that the fire is pleasant to sit by, we're trying to prepare the fire to cook oil for campfire donuts. Patience.

Pale sun is just peeking through the clouds and trees, casting the shadow of my hand on the page. It also starts to warm me, though barely. There is a constant cool breeze moving the air, although I would hardly notice it if not for the sound in the trees and the plume of smoke. Occasionally the wind strengthens, and I am warned by a roaring from afar which slowly comes near, until I am surrounded by swaying and rustling, noise and movement. It's like I'm on a ship, only the waves are above.

It smells clean. It smells of moist dirt, wood, a pure morning breeze. It smells of fire, of comforting warmth, of rich, woody smoke.

I see a ball, each tree dressed to dance to the music of the wind. The slender birch and popple in their grey and white, especially eager at any hint of a note. They join the wind, giving it the movement and sound that I love.

My stomach is growling, waiting for the oil to get hot!

The oaks and maples, and other trees I don't know, are calmer and steadier. They don't sway so much nor move their branches and leaves so much. But when the strong waves of music come, rustling in the distance warning us of their approach, they dance at their arrival.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Banoffee Pie Recipe

One food that I discovered in Ireland was Banoffee pie. It's pretty simple - a graham cracker crust (or if we were actually in Ireland, a crust made with digestive biscuits), toffee, bananas, and whipped cream. I've been wanting to make something from my time abroad and this seemed like it would be simple enough! (As it turned out I made quite a large mistake, which you'll see in a bit...)

I used this recipe, with just a couple adjustments. As I said, digestive biscuits aren't very readily available here, so I just substituted it with a graham cracker crust. The rest of the ingredients are very easy to get here, but since it's a UK recipe the measurements may look a little unfamiliar. I'll rewrite the ingredients list here:

1 graham cracker crust

100g (about 1 stick) butter
100g (about 1/2 cup) brown sugar
397g (one can) condensed milk (not sweetened!)

4 small bananas
whipped cream
grated chocolate (I didn't actually include this)

You can get more detailed instructions at the link above, so I'm just going to share my process through pictures. I might not have taken a picture of every single step, sometimes its hard to remember to do that while you're cooking and trying not to burn anything!

These are the ingredients I used for the graham cracker crust. It's much easier with a box of prepared crumbs instead of having to crush them yourself, and the box has a recipe right on it for the crust. All you need is the crumbs, sugar, and butter.

Here's the assembled crust. Since the pie isn't baked after the toffee is put in, I baked the crust a few minutes by itself (again, the crust recipe should tell you how to do this).

Next comes the toffee making process. It starts by melting butter in a pan. 

Now, here comes the big mistake that I made. The recipe calls for "Carnation condensed milk". In my mind, that translated to sweetened condensed milk, which made sense to me for making a toffee (plus most other recipes for banoffee pie do call for sweetened condensed milk). But, the recipe actually just called for condensed milk. The toffee ended up much sweeter and thicker than it was supposed to be. So, here's a warning for you: don't use sweetened condensed milk! We still ate the whole pie, but I'll definitely be trying it again and following the recipe a bit more closely.

(Note: my dad liked this really sweet version, but he was outvoted by the rest of the family!)

The toffee boils for a couple minutes on the stove to caramelize and thicken.

After the toffee is finished, it goes right into the baked crust to cool off. The pie is meant to be eaten cold. We decided not to put the bananas on right away, because they tend to get brown when they sit in the fridge like that.

Before eating, add sliced bananas and plenty of whipped cream!

Monday, July 6, 2015


I promise I have big plans for this blog. I have so many posts that I want to write, many of which are already in progress, but somehow other things have just seemed more exciting than writing blog posts lately. I just wanted to let you know, I haven't been neglecting the blog as much as it might appear! It's amazing how much less time I have on my hands now that I'm working full time.

Yes, I have a full time job! I just started my fourth week as an intern at Emergent Networks in Edina, MN. It is an IT company, which is actually a bit out of my comfort zone. As a computer science major, thus far I have focused mostly on software development and programming. That may be nonsense to some people, but just take my word for it that there is a big difference between solving a IT problem (like why somebody isn't receiving emails) and writing code (like creating a game or developing a website). It has been a good experience, although the schedule was a bit difficult to adjust to at first. Going from 0 hours of work to 8-5 every day is a big change.

I've been home from Ireland for well over a month at this point. I already updated you about my first few weeks, lots of sleeping and doing nothing, and also organizing my room. Since I've been back, I have continued to think about my experiences abroad and what's different now that I'm home. In the process I have been realizing a few things about myself, about the way I function and the feelings I have about Ireland.

I have been realizing since coming home that I need time alone. I'm getting more used to my new schedule and living arrangements, but it was hard right after I got home and it became even harder when I started working full time. I made great friends in Ireland, but I just didn't know as many people there as I do here. I shared an apartment, but my roommate wasn't around a lot of the time. I spent a lot of time in my room, which was completely my own space where I could expect for the most part to be totally undisturbed. In Dublin when I ran errands and went grocery shopping and stuff, I was usually alone. I hung out with my new friends while I was abroad, but I just got used to going out and doing things alone. I'm getting better at not getting frustrated when I don't have time to myself, but I still greatly cherish the time that I do have.

I've also been noticing that I am missing Ireland more and more as time passes. I don't want to say I'm "homesick" for Ireland, because I think I'll always consider Minneapolis home. But I keep going places and leaving a part of my heart behind, and the best way I can think to describe the feeling is homesickness. Ireland is one of those places. I don't regret going in any way, but there is a new ache in my heart that I never felt before. It will get duller as time passes, but I know it will never leave. And I don't want it to, because this feeling means that I found a place that is truly special. I think I'm musing on this so much now because one of my best friends in the world is currently spending a few weeks in Ireland. I was already there for five months, so I have no logical reason to be jealous of her. But I am jealous. I can't wait to talk to her and see her pictures, but I know it will also be painful to see them from somebody else's point of view as I sit here at home.

I have realized that I miss the simplicity I had in Ireland: I just didn't have as many possessions there. I always had enough food in the kitchen, but I usually bought it in small quantities and had specific plans for all of it. I really enjoyed making a menu, buying the food for those specific meals, and then using all of it. While it's nice to have a much larger variety of food and snacks and main pantry staples (like spices!) at home, I do miss the simplicity of having a plan for everything. With other things, like clothes and books, I just can't believe how much I own. That doesn't necessarily mean I want to get rid of things that I have here, but it does make me more mindful. I am very proud that, for the first time in a long time, I have gone through all my stuff packed away in boxes and everything has a place in my room. I actually have access to all of it! I'll have to do some more crafts and things this summer, since I actually have access to all of my craft supplies which have been packed away at home. Just this past weekend I got out an old embroidery project that I had started a while ago (probably a few years ago by now), and I have really been enjoying working on that.

I'm realizing that it's getting easier for me to casually talk about Ireland. That might sound strange, but at first being home just seemed so overwhelmingly  familiar that I didn't talk about Ireland much. It seemed so hard to explain this huge experience that I had, five months of my life. It was easier simply not to try; there was just too much to say, so sometimes I said nothing at all. But please, ask me about it! I do like talking about it, especially when you ask something specific that I can talk about.

I am learning new things about myself even now from the time that I spent away. I suppose this is part of why we travel and seek new experiences: to give ourselves new challenges and learn from them. It's hard and painful at times; getting used to new surroundings is hard for me. But I am becoming increasingly convinced that it is important to travel, to try new things and to make ourselves uncomfortable sometimes. Total comfort and complacency isn't the way to grow, even though it's, well, comfortable. Okay, I'll stop rambling now, but I hope these thoughts encourage you to try something new that scares you a little bit. What's the worst that can happen?