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Snowed In (Banh Pate So)

January 23, 2016

Hi there!  El was sick this past week and so, not much was happening at chez moi.  I did partake in a fun little photo challenge.  Seven days, seven pics of something nature related... and since, I was stuck indoors for most of it... my photos captured the goings on outside of my windows... I could have found old, favorite images of yore... but I liked trying to find something interesting in my immediate vicinity... and, make it look interesting.  Hopefully.

It was quite cold this past week... quite cold, indeed.  So, cold that my feet were cold... even with socks on!  And, I couldn't have that!  So, I dropped all of my projects and found a seriously cozy looking pair of slippers to crochet.

Credit: Link

Don't they look warm??!  

The original pattern, 'Nola's Knitted Slippers', is from The Seamen's Church Institute.  This group, I have only just discovered, supports all seafarers away at sea during the winter months (well, year-round, actually).  One of their many programs is called 'Christmas at Sea' where they provide patterns for volunteers to knit or crochet.  Completed items are sent back to SCI who then sends them out each winter.  Hmm, sounds like something up my alley.  Remember, my quilt for Kenya?

They are super cozy and warm... Also, I made a few modifications:

* shortened the cuff by half... So, these are more like 'anklet slippers'... (and honestly, my feet couldn't wait any longer.  It was too drafty in my apartment.)
* the pattern starts out on circular needles, but I started mine on double pointed needles in the round.  When it was time to pick up stitches, only then did I switch to the circular needles.
*  I added two ridges to the tongue length
* and, some how, accidentally, I knit two rows consecutively to get the obvious separating line (or border) which makes it look more like a 'seam'.  Can you tell?  Now, it looks like more of a loafer instead of a sock.

. . .

Hmm, all this crafting makes me hungry...  My mom used to make these savory puff pastry 'hot pockets' with ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, and cellophane noodles.  So good!  Crisp and flaky on the outside and steamy and savory on the inside.

I used this recipe from The Ravenous Couple.   My only regret... I couldn't find my wood ear mushrooms.  But, I carried on, nonetheless!  (My cellophane noodles were a little unruly... You can cut them shorter than I did!)


A little bit of Thai sweet chili sauce in the end and all was right again!  This is a fun appetizer or little 'pick me up' on a late Saturday afternoon.  I'm quite sure the recipe can be changed up in many ways and still be delicious!

Sending lots of warmth to the East Coast this weekend.  I can't wait to see all the pics on social media of what you guys are cooking and getting into while snowed in!  With all of the groceries missing from the shelves, you guys must be cooking up a storm!


Cabin Fever (Soup's On!)

January 11, 2016
Did I mention cabin fever?  We are still dragging our feet before jumping straight into 2016.  Sometimes it's hard to let go, you know?  The weather is not making it easier - gray skies, rain and snow, deep bone-chilling cold temperatures.  Yuck.  Our challenge this weekend was to stay warm and active.  

We don't have to be outside to be active. Wednesday's journey inside a silver mine was quite a hit. The girls haven't stopped talking about it!  In keeping active this weekend, Saturday morning we went to the AUDIOVERSUM Science Center -  Innsbruck's Interactive Museum of Hearing. 

Credit: Link

It's a pretty cool place where we learned about the effects of hearing loss, the vibrations of things as they emit sound, the inner anatomy of the ear, and how animals hear, to name a few.  There was only another couple there at the time (yay! The museum all to ourselves!).

Credit: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

If you're looking for something to do indoors (and have kids), this is definitely a fun and educational visit.  There's a small room, inside of which you can scream to your heart's content, to see which animal you would match in volume to if you were ever in the wild.  The exhibits are very nicely done... quite high tech, too!

Wilhelm-Greil-Straße 23
A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Tel.: +43 (0)5 7788 99

. . .

On Sunday, we went to the Planetarium in Schwaz (Right next to the silver mine from Wednesday, Silbergwerk.)  I found a good, age appropriate presentation called der kleine Mondbär (The Little Moon Bear).  


We arrived a bit early and had a few snacks.  It was pretty empty -  I think about four families in total.  Where was everyone??

This was El & Lil's first time in a darkened theater... so, we weren't sure what they would make of it.  But, once the little bear appeared and the stars came out, it was all good.  I think this was a lovely, first taste of a planetarium.  The husband and I love planetariums and this brought back memories of a few date nights we had at the American Museum of Natural History's Planetarium.

Seriously, the planetarium is RIGHT ACROSS from the silver mine entrance!  (See above left pic)
I'm beginning to think this must make a great full-afternoon excursion, if you want it to be.  Both places are full of things to learn.  I think we all enjoyed our visit today.  I'm already looking forward to our next visit! 

Planetarium Schwaz
Alte Landstraße 15
A-6130 Schwaz
Tel.: +43.5242.72129

. . .

So, I think we nailed the staying active bit this weekend.  But, the objective was also to stay warm.  And, what better way than to make some soup!

Friday, I made Pasta e Fagioli.  I've never made it before (I know!? Why has it taken me this long?)  I was inspired by this recipe from Damn Delicious.  I didn't have any Italian sausage.  I used a ground beef-pork mix and a little speck (bacon or pancetta will work well, too) and things turned out just fine!  Seriously, what a fine soup.  I even had to share some with our neighbor downstairs!  The girls ate it happily (A plus, in my book!)

Pasta e Fagioli

Then, on Saturday, I attempted Malaysian Laksa.  We found this recipe over at Feasting at Home.  The photos looked so good!  I should start out by saying that I was missing a few ingredients... not surprising over in my neck of the woods.

I was able to make the laksa paste minus the galangal (which the shop keeper did not have) and minus the shrimp paste (to which I am allergic).

I didn't have the fish balls or tofu... but, no matter... I carried on with my chicken and shrimp.

I'm quite flexible in the kitchen... I'm not the follow-the-instructions-to-a-T, kind of person.  I'm sure that could come back to bite me in the arse... but, for now, I like adapting as I go... and quite honestly, I had to adapt quite quickly when I realized I didn't have any chicken stock.  Oops.  But, as a quick save, I added two tablespoons of yellow curry paste and no one was the wiser! Flavor pick me up's to the rescue!

Malaysian Curry Laksa

Ahh, what a delicious soup... Maybe it evolved into more of a regular ole Curry Noodle Soup in the end... but, I was quite happy with my first attempt at Malaysian Laksa (the dried shrimp reminded me so much of my mom's cooking.  I'm enjoying making pots of soup this winter...  A bowl of soup is like a warm hug... and the Universe knows I need plenty of those to get me through January!


Schwazer Silbergwerk (The Mother of All Mines)

January 9, 2016

Credit: Link

Last Wednesday, with the apartment suddenly empty by the departure of our Scottish friends, we decided to visit the silver mine of Schwaz (Schwazer Silbergwerk).  It was the 'mother of all mines' during the Middle Ages, supplying an upwards of 85% of the world's silver during its reign in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The dotted line above shows the approximate vicinity of the silver mine in relation to the city of Schwaz.  During its prime, Schwaz was the second largest city in the Austrian Empire after Vienna (with approximately 60,000 citizens).

Here is a view looking straight onto the mountain... inside is where all of the mining happened.

Credit: Link

Here, we are getting ready to enter the mine.  It is pretty humid inside and so, each visitor gets a rain coat and hard hat.  Temperatures are steady around twelve degrees Centigrade - so dress appropriately.

To get inside to the beginning of the silver mine tour, visitors must ride on a wagon-train for about eight minutes..  It's a perfect fit - the size of the tunnel for the train.  Hands and feet inside at all times!  Not a good tour for anyone who is claustrophobic.


Once inside, we walked through a series of tunnels... stopping here and there to learn about the history of the mine, the men who lived and worked their entire lives in these mines (The life expectancy was around 35! Can you imagine?)

The tunnel we used to get into the mines took twenty six years to carve out.   It was the main entrance and exit, the main air way, and there was already lots of silver taken out during this process.  There were an additional 200+ other entry points into the mine.  At some point in the tour, we were told we were standing in the very center of the mountain.  We only got to see a small bit of curated tunnels and rooms.  I wish I knew just how much more lay down those other forbidden tunnels!

I can't imagine working in mining conditions for my entire life.  Some of the boys started out working in the mine at age eleven.  Their job was to use their entire body weight to work the air flow equipment.

Water seeping in from the rock was a big problem.  So big, in fact, that 600 men were assigned the job of filling buckets of water and sending them out along a human chain to the outside.  And, this happened twenty four hours a day.  Rough.

Miners were very well respected during this time.  The water movers, not so much.  After complaining about their poor treatment, the response from the higher ups was to install a huge rotating water wheel, (a revolutionary and technological marvel at the time by a German engineer), and to completely terminate all six hundred jobs.

We learned that the beginnings of social welfare started here.  Each miner paid a silver coin per month, into a community pot, and when a miner fell ill (as was often when working with no sunlight, no warmth, no fresh air, and tons of burning materials), he went immediately to the Bruderhaus for treatment and recuperation at no additional charge.

The silver that was mined out of this mountain made its way to the village of Hall, where we currently live.  The silver was minted into coins and eventually, the term 'Thaler' was born... evolving into the 'Dollar' as we know it today.  The beginnings of currency and capitalism started here, also!

Check out the size of the silver coins in relation to today's US quarter:

Credit: Link

All in all, what did I learn?  That for a physically small(-ish) country it is today, Austria was once a major influential empire!  And, that I need to really sink my teeth into its far reaching contributions to history, society, culture, and food. 

Back out in the real world, we learned how the Austrian people knew to dig where they did for silver.  Legend has it that a maid was out walking her bull and the bull dug up some soil with its horns.  In this soil was traces of silver... and the rest was history!

There's even a movie about the life and times here in the silver mines.  It's called Der Silberberg.  Here's a clip that summarizes the hard knock life it must have been back in the Middle Ages.

This was definitely a good tour... the girls were a bit uncertain and a little scared in the beginning, but they made it through and even speak proudly of their adventure.  Give it a go if you're in the area and the weather is crappy.  It'll be a fun ride going back in time!

Check out the 360 deg Virtual Tour if you can't see it in person!

Silberbergwerk Schwaz
Alte Landstraße 3a
6130 Schwaz
t   +43.5242.72372
f   +43.5242.72372-4

Holiday Wrap Up

January 4, 2016

Well, it's been quite the busy holiday season here at Chez Eisenberger.  I hope that everyone has enjoyed good friends and good food.  After moving here to Austria, I have learned many things about appreciating the friends and family with whom I stay connected, about the benefits of eating whole, minimally processed foods, and about the effects of getting back to nature.

I also learned the joys of making and giving things to others.  I find such peace and stress relief when I sit down and create something with my own two hands.  Sure, it's not as perfect as a machine would make it... but the imperfections here and there make each piece more unique.  This year I made a few gifts for friends and family.  I made a few pairs of fingerless mitts using this pattern from Sew DIY.  I finally finished up a bubble stitch crocheted zip bag (adapted from this pattern from Liz Makes).

Last year, I was given a few vintage, micro quilts from Thailand.  The blocks on these guys were super small... I think someone needed a magnifying glass to make these!  Anyway, I took them all apart and kept only the main quilted panels.  I was also given a batch of Shantung silk swatches and these were perfect to do a few patch work panels on the front and back.  These turned into sweet little zip pouches can be easily thrown into a bag or used solo.

Keeping with the "handmade" theme of this holiday season,  I made a few cork stamps inspired by this tutorial from Leaf and Letter Handmade.  This was fun to do.  You don't even need an ink stamp pad.  I used some of my husband's art paint tubes and the girl's watercolour paints.  All I had to buy was a roll of white paper and the rest was easy!

Last year, my holiday currency was cookies.  This year it was sugared nuts.  I didn't care for nuts as a child... maybe because there were always more chocolatier options available.  However, this year, my tastebuds awakened to the deliciousness of freshly shelled nuts AND the light sugary coating that make these so addictive!  I adapted my sugared nuts from this recipe from Natasha's Kitchen.

Of course, Santa Claus came to visit us on Christmas Eve.  And, of course, we had to leave out cookies and milk for him.  We all had a hand in making (and eating!) these sugared cookies adapted from this recipe from Design Eat Repeat.

Phew!  Busy bees we were in this house.  While we were busy getting the house up in order, the girls were up to their usual silliness.

For New Year's Eve dinner, Weihnachtsgans (Christmas Goose) was the main attraction.  In addition, we had Serviettenknödel (Bread Dumplings in a Napkin) and Geschmortes Rotkraut (Braised Red Cabbage).  The recipes we used were a shout out to our favourite German-Austrian restaurant in Manhattan, Blaue Gans (The Blue Goose).  The chef-owner, Kurt Guntenbrunner, has a great cookbook called Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna.  It was from his cookbook that we got all of our recipes.

Mmm... It was a wonderful evening of good food, good friends, lots of wine, and lots of sweets.  The goose was delicious.  The knödel and red cabbage were perfect.  The desserts were creme caramel and meringue cookies.

Happy New Year, everyone!  We made it through another year.  I hope that next year will be more peaceful, productive, and delicious!!!  And, with that, I leave you with a new artist to start the new year... (new to me, anyway!)...  We had friends from Scotland stay with us over the holidays and they were kind enough to share this Scottish/Italian artist's music (Thanks, Gordon & Vanessa!!).  I'm a big fan of discovering new music... and an even bigger fan of boys with guitars! Enjoy!