Grateful for 2016

Welcome 2017!

Cheers to you! Skål from Copenhagen.

Exactly one year ago January 1st, 2016 woke up with the same high hopes and gleaming fresh faced eagerness – ready to take on the new year. Much like today, the brand newness of that turn on the calendar encouraged us with possibilities and opportunity.

For many 2016 hobbled to a close last night dragging, sagging, clumsy and scarred. As a society, we have been bombarded with images, videos, news, tweets and the like that have all kicked 2016 to the curb. It was the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Or so it may seem.

But I can’t toss 2016 out of bed for eating crackers. Yes, I will concur. Sleeping with some of those crumbs from last year may not be so pleasant. But I’m afraid many are around to stay. For awhile. So instead. Today. At the beginning of this very brand new year, once again chock full of promises for opportunities and possibility, I have to look back and see what 2016 DID give us. Give me. Give our family.

You may have toasted good riddance last night, but these are the 12 things that 2016 afforded us. And for that I am grateful.

12 Reasons we are Grateful for 2016



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2016 – you were a good year. I will remember you fondly. Thank you. Tak for sidst. Thanks for the last time. Taking my gratitude and turning towards 2017 with an open heart and a shit ton of patience. To you and yours, with love from Denmark. xoxo, Erin

All about Danish Christmas porridge | Risengrød | Where to Try it in Copenhagen by Oregon Girl Around the World

Where to try Risengrød | Get Danish Christmas Porridge at Grød


When I say porridge – you say? Grød! No, no, no. Not grod. Grød. Listen.

When I say porridge – you say? Grød! At least the Danes do. Grød is porridge. To me, the word porridge conjures up visions of huge kettles of oatmeal that has been sitting out way too long at the breakfast buffet of your hotel when on a long weekend away with your son’s lacrosse team. Oh sorry. Just me? Maybe the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? I always steer clear. Of the “porridge.” Goopy. Soupy. Snotty. Oatmeal. Don’t get me wrong. I love oatmeal. But it isn’t porridge to me. It is oatmeal. And that stuff in the kettle? That is not oatmeal.

All about Danish Christmas porridge | Risengrød | Where to Try it in Copenhagen by Oregon Girl Around the World
Piping hot with butter about to melt

Here the Danes love porridge. Specifically risengrød. Rice porridge. When presented with new foods, I instinctually scroll through my mental rolodex of experiences and tastes. As you do when trying to make connections with that strange dish placed in front of you. The closest thing to risengrød that I have tried before would probably be rice pudding. In the States, it is a salad bar staple, but often gelatinous or potentially chunky. Now before you judge, not all American rice pudding is bad, but many can be. We do love the Trader Joe’s rice pudding straight from the container. Especially when served cold with cinnamon and nutmeg. Wait. Cold? Nutmeg? Did you say NUTMEG?!?! Records screeching silent. Looks of disdain. Utter shock and horror. You do NOT put nutmeg on risengrød, says my Danish friend. Oh. Ok. Duly noted. Thanks for the tip.

When we moved here two years ago, we found a tube of risengrød at the local Netto, a local market that I can only describe as a cross between Safeway, Tesco and the Dollar Store shoved inside the space of a 7-11. But Netto is an institution here. And a shopping experience it is. You either love it or you hate it. Or you grow to love it. Nothing is ever in the same place. There are boxes everywhere and there is nary a concern for presentation or atmosphere. Of any kind. But the prices are good. Very good. For Danish prices. Before arriving, I had read a little about Danish Christmas and knew that this tube at Netto was potentially a key player. It said Risengrød. That was an important Danish dish. You can see our first attempts at testing it here. Oh what we didn’t know that we didn’t even know at that time.

In Denmark, grød is a staple. (You’re still trying to say it correctly aren’t you? Keep trying.) You can eat grød for breakfast, lunch AND even dinner. Risengrød gets elevated status as a special dish at Christmas time. Think about it. Rice doesn’t grow here in Denmark. It was imported. You had to buy it. So if you normally made your daily grød from commonly grown grains like oats or rye or barley, rice was special. A treat. As was the exotic cinnamon which topped it. A risengrød was for Christmas. And when served at the beginning of the rich Danish Christmas dinner people filled up and it helped meter the costs of the more expensive dishes like the Duck and Roast Pork. Today, when modern Danes serve risengrød to their families, they make connections to history and those cultural roots. Those roots set in early, as most children have grown up with porridge for breakfast. It is comfort food in a bowl. And my family was eating it all wrong.

It should be served piping hot. With a “knob” of butter. And covered in cinnamon sugar. COVERED. Let the butter melt, but don’t stir it all in. Nibble like a Nisse from the edges. What’s a Nisse you ask? Those mischievous little sprites that live in the forest and help at the farm, but only if you treat them well. In December they move inside. Modern children place nissedør (doors) in their homes to allow the Nisse access. Leave them a little risengrød and they might leave a present in your boot. But forget and they might hide the toaster. Or move your shoes. They’ll play tricks to remind you. I can’t help but think that the “Elf on the Shelf” tradition has some roots with the nisse. Nisse love risengrød.

And risengrød has to be the perfect consistency. Recipes allow for any short grain rice, but Danes only use grødris. Follow a recipe. Keep stirring and stirring. Don’t walk away or the milk will burn. The rice shouldn’t be al dente, but definitely not mush. You want to feel the grains when you chew. It needs some tooth. Too much to take in? Not interested in making your own risengrød? But you are intrigued by this Danish tradition? Don’t worry. You can try it. At GRØD.

Yes. There is a restaurant that serves only porridge. In bowls. Piping hot. In fact, GRØD loves to claim that they were “the world’s first porridge bar.” You can visit the mother ship in Nørrebro on charming Jæggersborgade or in the glass market at Torvehallerne. Lucky for me, my Danish friend loves GRØD and we have one right here in our Østerbro neighborhood.

Today, we met for a bowl of the klassisk risengrød. Served just how she taught me. It’s simple. But homey. And definitely not soupy. Just right. Let the butter melt. Don’t stir it in. Warm and filling. Do I need it everyday? Probably not. But I would not say no to another bowl of porridge served hot.

All about Danish Christmas porridge | Risengrød | Where to Try it in Copenhagen by Oregon Girl Around the World
Risengrød covered in cinnamon sugar with butter starting to melt.

GRØD serves many different kinds of porridge beyond the simple and traditional risengrød. They want to elevate what they believe a classic and elegant meal in a bowl. I will admit that last time I visited I enjoyed the curried lentil porridge. Been to GRØD? It is definitely worth seeking out. What did you try? This time of year – don’t miss the risengrød. Cozy Danish Christmas in a bowl.


Torvehallerne Glass Market

Hall 2, Stade 8A, Linnésgade 17
1362 Copenhagen K
Monday – Friday: 07.30-19-00
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00 to 18:00


Jægersborggade 50, kld. TV
DK-2200 Copenhagen N
Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00


Nordre Frihavnsgade 55,
2100 Copenhagen Ø
Monday – Friday: 7:30 to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00

Additional locations in Frederiksberg and on Jutland in Aarhus.

Need a recipe? Try this one and find more Danish Christmas food classics. Glædelig Jul from Denmark! Merry Christmas from Copenhagen, Erin.

Things I am Thankful for Living In Denmark

Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Denmark. There is no time off work. The kids get no break from school. We will not be traveling anywhere. Unless you count my husband’s day trip across Denmark to a meeting in Aarhus, delivering him back home late. My eldest son was busy delivering pizzas. The youngest had studies for a spelling test today. It was a regular day here in Denmark. It was Thursday. Torsdag to the Danes.

But that is ok. Full turkeys are hard to come by. If you do find one, it may cost you a pretty penny. Or plenty of kroner. Probably both. And good luck finding a Russet or a Yukon gold. There is some crazy nut tax that makes pecan use prohibitive or down right luxurious depending on your position and wallet. Canned pumpkin is equally overpriced and only found at the “American/British” aisle in certain grocers popular with expatriates. Maybe you have an inside source at the American Embassy. Or maybe you thought ahead and smuggled back a few cans of Libby’s and the requisite evaporated milk.

Most everything else you can find for your traditional recipes that you may or may not have printed, preserved and packed over the border with you when you passed. But, I didn’t make them yesterday. It’s ok. We’ll do it tomorrow. When we have time and can tune in some American college football via the old rabbit ears of streaming internet with VPN hiders. Yep. We may even head to the nearby park and toss the pigskin around. The football. Not the futbol. The football. It’s brown. And has laces. At least ours does. At Thanksgiving.

And while it may not be traditional or specifically timely, thankful we are. Grateful that we can. We miss family and friends celebrating afar, especially on days like Thanksgiving. But we are grateful that we have had this opportunity to explore this life across borders. Over here in Denmark. These are some of the things that I’m thankful for. Things that make this our Danish life.


Colorful buildings and cobblestone streets.

Continue reading “Things I am Thankful for Living In Denmark”

Faraway Files Travel Blog Community

Faraway Files #6


Happy Thursday! In Denmark – they call it lille Fredag or little Friday. I’m ready for the weekend this week. It has been an interesting one being an American living abroad. And while the outcome of the U.S. election was not what I had hoped for, I am trying to remain positive and spread love. We are all part of #TeamHuman. And the world is watching. BIG TIME.

As a travel and culture writer, one of the things I have loved most about starting this blog is being exposed, enlightened and educated about how beautifully diverse yet similar we all are, the world over. What makes us different should not divide us. Sometimes what we don’t know or understand makes this difficult. But I am not going to spread fear. I believe in love. I’m trying hard. I will continue to try and build bridges. Between my world community. With my American community back in the States. I have lived and loved in red states AND blue states. And while I feel much pride about the results from my Oregon, I believe there is much work to be done. In many places. But that it can be done. It must be done. Let us build bridges. Together.

It may seem simple to think that a travel blog community could help. But stay with me here – I believe it can. Show us your corners. Your faraway places. Educate and inspire. Please continue to share and connect and illuminate. Bring us together, however far apart.

Continue reading “Faraway Files #6”

How manage a metropolis like Madrid | Ways to Make it Yours via Oregon Girl Around the World

Make Madrid Yours


When my family first met Madrid – the capital of Spain – we were overwhelmed. Sometimes you just don’t click on the first date. Yes, Madrid was nice enough. Attractive enough. But the chemistry just wasn’t there. Do you know what I mean? It definitely wasn’t the worst date ever and we have fond memories of foods tasted and experiences shared, but we were definitely not interested in a repeat. No second dates required. Thanks, but no gracias.

So when my husband had an opportunity to travel back to Madrid for work, at first I didn’t get very excited. Too many other places to see.  But maybe it wasn’t about Madrid. Maybe it was about me. Maybe Madrid needed a second look. A second date of sorts. I am SO GLAD I said yes. Two years later. This September.

But how to make it mine this time. How to avoid a bad first date syndrome again. Madrid is big. You have to be ready for it. I want you to make Madrid yours. It is so worth trying.

So how do you make a huge city like Madrid feel less intimidating? More like yours? I will be happy to show you how I made Madrid mine. More intimate. More accessible. More approachable.



If you read along with our travels at Oregon Girl you know that I am a big fan of apartment rentals when it comes to travel. We have five in our family and hotels rarely fit us. But even when I’m not traveling with all my not-so-littles in tow, I look to apartments to create a home base in a new town. I appreciate being able to get some essentials to keep in the fridge, have a little more space to stretch out and make some coffee in the morning. I found an amazing apartment via Airbnb that gave us access to popular Plaza Mayor. Literally overlooking this central square on the city. Somehow being part of the action, but in my own space made it mine. I could enjoy the view from my balcony, but not feel the pull and sway of the crowds and masses. It was perfection.


Madrid | Spain Tips to make this Metropolis yours from Oregon Girl Around the World
Staying on one of Madrid’s main squares makes it more personal

Plaza Mayor


When first in a city, it nice to know what the local landscape offers in edible options. A market – or mercado in Spanish – is a perfect way to assess and sample. When in Madrid – don’t miss the wonderful Mercado San Miguel. Tapas and tastes from the many vendors here is a great place to start your taste tour of Madrid. Grab a glass and pick a plate. Pointing and gesturing welcomed and allowed here.

Mercado San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel, 28005 Madrid, Spain

Madrid | Spain Tips to make this Metropolis yours from Oregon Girl Around the World


What better way to immerse yourself in a place as major as Madrid than share your breakfast shoulder to shoulder with Madrileños. Make your way to La Mallorquina. Meet the pretty pink señora of pastries waiting for you at the corner of Puerta del Sol. Ogle the baked goods and peruse the wares from the windows. Then step inside. It is bustling and busy and charming in here. Somehow standing downstairs at the counter made me feel connected. Entrenched. Part of it. Something about La Mallorquina feels sacred and delicious. So different from the pushy buskers in the Puerta next door.

La Mallorquina
Calle Mayor 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain


Madrid is made for museum lovers. And if you love art – then you are in luck. But don’t get overwhelmed when it comes to the options. For true lovers of art – the grand Museo Nacional del Prado is king. But for many, its massive halls can make minds numb to masters. It may have my kids.

Are you a fan of Picasso? Then the Reina Sofia is for you. Just to wind through and see Guernica alone. It’s impressive in size. But so are the masses that march through to see it. May I recommend an alternative. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is an accessible tour through well known art history. With just one of each master, each room offers something for everyone.

Museo Thyssen Bornemisza
Paseo del Prado 8, 28014 Madrid, Spain


While Madrid may be walkable, knowing where you are headed helps this metropolis become manageable. Making an effort to move just a little way past the main tourist drags gives many options for menus that can prove memorable. We found delicious and authentic meals in tiny tapas tidbits as we moved from stop to stop. Here’s where I recommend for trying some tapas.

La Latina:
Truck your toes towards Calle Cava Baja and Calle de la Cava Alta. So many options up and down these quaint little streets. We tried a wine bar called Temperanillo with excellent and affordable wine by the glass and tasty simple tapas.

El Temperanillo
Calle Cava Baja 38, 28005 Madrid, Spain


Just through Retiro Park, up past the Puerta de Alcalá you will find another neighborhood street of tapas bars to treasure. All along Calle Dr. Castelo are tasty stops to tempt you. Try a cold Mahou with any of their house plates. Try one at each stop. Try your Spanish. Or not. There are few tourists here.

Taberna El Capricho
Calle Dr. Castelo 14, 28009 Madrid, Spain

Atlántico Casa de Petiscos
Av. de Menéndez Pelayo 11, 28009 Madrid, Spain


No time to meander so far from the center? Don’t worry – the Huertas neighborhood will be perfect for you. Cruise cozy Calle de la Huertas to Plaza Santa Ana. Here there are several tabernas to try. Find one that suits you and pick a spot on the square. I can highly recommend Zahara. Try the tuna tartare and the crispy shrimp cake.



Madrid is made for people watching. Roll through Retiro. Pick a bench or a café. Listen to live music. Watch the performers perform. Enjoy the parade. Drop a coin in the box. See what happens. Connect with the people. Make it yours.

How do you make a place feel manageable? Especially in a town as magical and major as Madrid? I’d love to hear.

Pin it for later:Ways to Make Madrid Yours | Oregon Girl Around the WorldMake Madrid Yours - Ways to Manage this Metropolis | Oregon Girl Around the World

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