How to Make Damson Gin

Friday, 12 September 2014
It's September and in England there is a slight chill in the morning air that can only mean one thing, autumn is coming! Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. In America, it means Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Halloween festivities and Thanksgiving. In England, it means knitwear, Bonfire Night and some fantastic seasonal food. Coming into season in September are figs, beetroot, apples and damsons - to name a few.

Before moving to England, I had never tried a damson in my life. I don't think I'd even heard of one. So for those of you who don't know about damsons, they are a small fruit similar to a plum. I actually thought they were a type of plum but have since discovered they are a member of the rose family. They have a juicy texture similar to a plum but are slightly tarter. Damsons are typically not eaten raw but instead are used in chutneys, jams and a variety of desserts. However, my favourite use for damsons is in gin!

I tried damson gin for the first time last year from a batch made from Luke's aunt's damson tree and loved it. Imagine my joy when I discovered in our new house we have not one but two damson trees in the back garden. A few weeks ago we were overwhelmed with damsons from our tree, so we used the opportunity to make several bottles of damson gin. It was such fun that I decided to share the recipe, so that you too can take part in this quintessentially English tradition!

How to make Damson Gin

I'm so excited to try our homemade damson gin! It should be perfect in time for the holiday season. A small glass of damson gin goes perfect with a cheese, especially a nice mature cheddar.

Q: Have you ever made any treats using damsons? 

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Erin x

Travel Throwback #4: Brussels

Friday, 5 September 2014
Let me start this travel throwback by saying there is no doubt in my mind that Brussels, or Bruxelles in French, is the most confusing city to navigate in the whole of Europe. I can only assume that the Belgians designed their capital in the hopes that any foreigners who managed to invade their borders would not be able to escape.

"...but sometimes you are." - me

I took a day trip to Brussels in February 2009 and can safely estimate I spent 70% of that time lost. Between my travel companions and I, we had five maps and were still unable to find our hostel. We wandered the streets asking shopkeepers and passers by. The locals gave such different directions it seemed they didn't even understand their own city. A local guy confirmed this theory later when he said he had lived in Brussels his whole life and still got lost. 

After a taxi driver told us the hostel was too close and not worth the fare, I decided it was time for some official help. I found a police station and cried « Je suis perdue » (I am lost) to the countless policemen standing around and before explaining in French about our desperate attempts to find the hostel. Next thing I know the bags are loaded into the boot of the police car, we're in the back seat and being driven to our hostel. Why pay for a taxi when you have the police?

Grand Place in Brussels,Belgium
The most important tourist destination in Brussels - Grand Place
Grand Place in Brussels,Belgium
Grand-Place in Brussels,Belgium
Maison des Brasseurs in Grand-Place
Statue of Charles-Alexandre de Lorraine (Maison-des-Brasseurs) at Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium
The statue on top of Maison-des-Brasseurs looks like he is giving the bird
Museum of the City of Brussels in Grand Place
Museum of the City of Brussels
Town Hall in Grand Place - Brussels, Belgium
Town Hall

Grand Place is the central square in Brussels surrounded by guildhalls and the Town Hall. The square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and perhaps the most memorable landmark in Brussels. Unless you count Manneken Pis, a small bronze sculpture dating back to 1618 that depicts a naked boy urinating into a fountain's basin.

Manneken Pis in Brussels, Belgium
Manneken Pis in Brussels, Belgium
 Street art in Brussels, Belgium
John Lennon street art in Brussels, Belgium
Bob Dylan street art in Brussels, Belgium
The answer is blowin' in the wind - Bob Dylan

A visit to Belgium wouldn't be complete without trying one of its best street foods - waffles. There are over a dozen varieties of waffles in Belgium alone!

Waffles in Brussels, Belgium
Waffles in Brussels, Belgium

Q: Have you ever gotten lost during your travels?

Be sure to read my previous travel throwbacks to Disneyland, Windsor Castle and London.

Erin x

2 Signs You're Turning English

Wednesday, 27 August 2014
It's been four years since I first arrived in England and a lot has changed in that time. I've been married, bought a house and started a successful career. All of this while learning about the habits and the customs of the English.

The culture shock has subsided and with each passing year I find the amount of words getting lost in translation dwindling. Instead of 'eggplant' I now say 'aubergine' and u's are creeping into the spelling of words such as 'colour' and 'neighbour'. Even my accent is becoming slightly muddled.

On my commute into work this morning I found myself wondering if perhaps I am turning English. There have been two recent signs that have led me to this theory.

2 Signs You're Turning English

 Exhibit A) 

Whilst driving past a pub with my colleagues a few weeks ago I stated, "what lovely hanging baskets." My fellow passengers turned to me in surprise because I, for one, had never expressed an interest in gardening. And for another thing, the statement was such a quintessentially English phrase that I'm sure it sounded quite bizarre to be coming from me.

I don't envisage becoming an avid gardener any time soon, but obviously the English's love of gardening is starting to rub off on me.

Hanging baskets
Hanging baskets at The Windmill. Taken by Leonora Enking under a creative commons licence.

Exhibit B)

A week or so ago, one of our neighbours decided to put their rubbish bag over our garden wall, which we promptly returned to the street in front of their house. A day or so later, we found the rubbish bag back and once again promptly returned it. This carried on for several days and by Monday last, my husband and I were quite sick of it.

In a strop, I marched into the pouring rain and placed the two rubbish bags right behind the neighbours' car in a passive aggressive attempt at leaving a clear message. In the morning, the bags were back.

My husband wrote a note, asking them to please stop putting their rubbish into our garden and passed it through the letter box. That evening the rubbish was gone and the neighbour came over to speak to me. It transpires that the rubbish wasn't theirs either. It had magically appeared on the path in front of their house and they believed it to be ours. We had both been playing a game of pass the parcel with someone else's rubbish.

They agreed to stop putting the rubbish into our garden and we agreed not to put the rubbish behind their car. The quintessentially English custom of bickering with the neighbours has come to an end. Now, I can focus on the other quintessentially English custom of peering out the window in an effort to discover who put the rubbish out in the first place.

The front garden, the scene of the crime!

In conclusion, I could never be fully English but I suppose it's only natural after spending so much time in England to pick up some of the habits and customs of the English.

Q: Do you find yourself picking up habits of your host country?

Erin x
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