View of the Alps from Hotel Waldegg Engelberg Switzerland | Umami Girl

Fourth of July weekend as an expat can be pretty weird. No fireworks, no block parties, none of those red, white, and blue popsicles in the shape of a rocket. It’s strange, but it’s almost like the British don’t celebrate the anniversary of America’s independe…Ohhhhhhhh. Right. Well, this year I decided to up the ante on ways to spend the 4th in Europe, and if I do say so, I totally nailed it. Wedding crasher is a strong term, but let’s just say I loudly volunteered to be my sister Allison’s date at her friend’s wedding in the tiny town of Engelberg, Switzerland. The only fireworks were metaphorical, but there were 360-degree panoramic views, gondola rides up the mountain, yodeling duets, alphorns, my new favorite food raclette, a trilingual ceremony in a thousand-year-old monastery, new friends, and — not least of all — the winning of a whole bell-shaped cheese by yours truly. Rocket pops can wait til next year.

View II of the Alps from Hotel Waldegg Engelberg Switzerland | Umami Girl

Fool that I am, I talked myself out of bringing ye olde camera to the wedding day itself. Here’s a photo that Allison took as the 70 or so guests stood waiting with the bride and groom to release balloons into the mountain mist outside Restaurant Ristis, the site of post-ceremony aperitifs. We all counted down from 10 in whatever language we liked (I heard French, German, Swiss-German, Taiwanese, English, and Frogthroat from my own Ricola-slurping self). Then all of us except the adorable three-year-old flower girl let go and watched as the balloons swirled up and eventually disappeared into the distance. The flower girl cried a little at the horrifying reality of having had 99 balloons and then suddenly not having them anymore. “Adults — friggin’ idiots,” she struggled to conceal behind her sparkling, innocent eyes. 

Bride and Balloons in Switzerland | Umami Girl

Unlike lots of people who seem to think they can use photos on the internet for free without asking, I took the high road and kindly sent my sister a personal message requesting permission to publish her photo. I tried to word it like some of the requests I’ve received in the past. She thumbsed it up, so I think we’re good.

Photo Waiver | Umami Girl

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  • I visited the itty bitty hamlet in the mountains where my family is from in Switzerland last summer, and what a town. I loved it!ReplyCancel

  • Wowza on those mountain photos! Very beautiful.
    A fun point of fact, two of the most spectacular fireworks displays I have seen were in Geneva when I was an expat there. It was quite fun to celebrate independence (aka drink and watch fireworks) with friends from Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Turkey!ReplyCancel

There have been quite a few perks associated with our three years in London, but I don’t think any of them surpass our brief glimpse of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow airport. On our pre-move visit in 2011 to look at schools and apartments, we spent a few minutes there waiting for our flight back to New Jersey. If the clubhouse had a tube stop, the train announcement would say, “Alight here for free haircuts, poolside lounge, classic cocktails and all the sushi you can eat.” We didn’t know in advance how dapper it was, so we didn’t bake in four pre-flight hours at the airport that time. That was a mistake. I haven’t really forgiven us. 

Luckily our return flight in August will give us a chance to make up for things. Although we’ll be traveling around Europe before returning to the states, I made sure our final flight would leave from Heathrow, and not early in the day like our usual layperson flights. A girl doesn’t like to be rushed when eating her weight in free sushi. I’m actually a little worried I might go all ironic goldfish and eat until I die.

Meh, I guess we’ll see.

Behavior like that is the reason I need to eat responsible breakfasts on a regular basis. And yet the same instinct to throw myself in the direction of deliciousness applies at all meals. Hence this oatmeal.

The Gratzer-Cope conglomerate should really have our faces on the canister of oats — no offense to the Quaker — and not just because half the family has Quaker blood. We’ve each got our own oat style, from raw to slapdash to double-blind, placebo-controlled tested. (My mom makes oatmeal in the microwave and has all but patented a system where it bubbles up just shy of explosion and then magically nestles back down to perfection.)  We each do oatmeal differently, but we all love it almost as much as I love free sushi, Champagne, and haircuts. This is the version I’ve been making recently. It’s no poolside lounge, but many a morning I’m happy to dive in just the same.  


 carolyn xx long 

The Pier Brighton | Umami Girl

As we’re tying up the loose ends of our life in London, it’s time to face the list of outings we’d meant to take — just assumed we’d get to — and didn’t. At the top of that list, a mere hour’s train ride from central London, is the bustling beach town of Brighton. It always seemed so easy to go, so we never actually did it. Until last weekend. Three quarters of us got there, anyway. The other spent the weekend with friends in Worcestershire. Like the sauce, except a town. Everybody wins.

Honky Tonk Brighton | Umami Girl

As committed, if recently absent, members of the Jersey shore community (New Jersey, that is, which I used to think was obvious), we felt a little like we knew Brighton before we got there. Home of rowdy hen and stag parties, carnival rides on the pier, chilly Atlantic water — this is the beach language we speak. I swear that’s the same horse’s ass that rides by on the carousels across the Garden State. As Cope noticed, though, this one rides clockwise. That’s England for ya. Just when you think it’s the same, it’s different.

Before we left London for the weekend, I asked an English friend whether they use the term “honky-tonk” to describe the kind of environment we’d expect to find in Brighton. She said, “No, we don’t,” and then five slow seconds of dead silence elapsed. So I guess they don’t. And I guess I’m kind of an idiot. All I know is we use that term in the states — or at least my mom and I do — and we’re right about Brighton. Along the beach, it’s as honky-tonk as it gets. Except you can also sit on the rocky shore and look out across the English Channel hoping to catch a glimpse of France. That’s not something we offer at the Jersey shore. And that’s England for ya, too. Just when you think it’s tacky, it’s still like a thousand years old and totally, stunningly elegant.

Looking for France from Brighton | Umami Girl

Brighton is also known for having a thriving vegetarian and vegan food scene, and it didn’t disappoint. On the short walk from the train station to the beach at lunchtime, we stumbled upon the tail end of a street food festival with tons of vegetarian and some good-looking vegan food. I wanted to take a photo, but I was too hungry. And I wanted to link to it, but I can’t find any evidence of it online. There’s some chance it was a mirage, but I don’t think so.  View full post »

  • I love Brighton. Don’t get there more than once a year or so at the moment, as I’m in Thailand and only get back to the UK rarely but I always head there when I am. Awesome town with, surprisingly, a lot to do.ReplyCancel

 Carolyn Cope on Instagram | Umami Girl

There’s big news to share today. After three lovely and odd little years in London, we will be moving back to our native New Jersey later this summer. We’re very happy about the move, but there’s a lot we’ll miss in London. There’s the beautiful city itself, the friends we’ve made, the proximity to the rest of Europe (and the cheap-ass flights that take you there). There’s the teachers, the choir, the  yoga studio, the…. I’d initially envisioned writing a longer and more thoughtful piece about this major event, and someday, somewhere, I hope to. But given the pace and the scattered vibe we’ve got happening here at the moment, I’ve decided to show my London love in a little photo project instead.

This short period — three weeks until we leave our home here for a month-long jaunt around Europe, and a little less than two months until we arrive on American soil — it’s whirring by already, and I don’t want it to disappear without my noticing. So instead I’m walking through my normal life with my iPhone in a white-knuckle grip, and I’m snapping Instagrams of the sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange fixtures of our daily life. I have to say, looking at those gems all lined up together in a grid makes it obvious how much more of this place was worth sharing all along. I wish I’d done it sooner, but hey, how about now? If you’d like to follow along on Instagram, I’d be honored to have you. You can follow the whole umamigirl feed or just the hashtag #londonpeeks.

In mid-July we’ll be heading to Amsterdam, Paris, Alicante, and Málaga, and I’ll continue posting along the way. And in the meantime, there are a few new recipe posts and stories of travels we’ve already taken (Finland! Estonia! Brighton!) headed to the blog in the midst of it all.

Wish us luck. I’ll see you soon.

Carolyn xx


24 Hours in Brighton, England

How to spend 24 hours in Brighton, England — a thriving and quirky seaside town just an hour’s train rideView full post »

Week Links: London Bound? Eat Here Now.

Coming to London for the Olympics or a holiday from the heat? Well, you’ll need to eat, won’t you. WhileView full post »

When it’s right, you just know.

Remember at the beginning of World Vegan Month when I said I’m a ninety percenter? Well, here’s somethingView full post »


PB&J Smoothie | Umami Girl

Here’s my latest on Serious Eats. It’s like a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk all in one. And despite what our friend Ben would have said about PB&J being a Lunch Food Only, it makes a mighty fine breakfast. It sticks to your ribs without weighing you down. Get the story and the recipe here on Serious Eats.