Breakfast at the Coach House……[Home tour...]

Who lives here?  Brink and Alet Gardner

Type of Home? Converted Coach House dating back to the mid 18th Century.

Occupation? Brink:  Heads up a private college in London  Alet:   Writer and artist.                           

Destination? Countryside in Kent, England.

coach house

On our recent trip to England we were fortunate enough to reconnect with many dear friends.  We caught up with Alet and Brink over a delicious homemade breakfast.

PicMonkey Collage 18

As a published author Alet is a creative in every sense of the word, she writes, cooks, sews, paints, the list goes on….  So it is no surprise that wondering around their home is a feast for the eyes.  Brink might not be a self-confessed creative but when you marvel at their garden and the beauty that lies therein, all the hard work done by himself, it is clear as day that these two make the perfect creative duo.   After 46 years of marriage, these two are not only an inspiration for creativity but also a living testimony that hard work and love really pays off.  Brink and Alet run many marriage seminars.  And no, marriage seminars are not just for those facing difficult times in their marriages, but also for those wanting to invest in and perhaps learn the secrets for a successful and harmonious marriage.

coach house

The Coach House dates back to the mid 18th century, and as the name suggests was once the horses stables.

DSC_0075 coach house

As expats, born and raised in South Africa, Brink and Alet’s home has a colonial feel to it.  Though you might imagine dark wood this home is far from dark.  Alet has lightened some of their original dark wood furniture to give the kitchen a very light but yet still colonial mood.  Original artwork from South Africa throughout the home emphasizes this.  It could be described as English Country meets Africa.

the coach house 8

Exposed brickwork and antique furniture gives this kitchen charm and compliments the modern kitchen that makes for relaxed living.

PicMonkey Collage 20

PicMonkey Collage 19

These tools once belonged to Alet’s father and are now a family heirloom.  He used some of these as a young thirteen year old lad aspiring to be a carpenter in Trade School.  Aren’t they just wonderful displayed on the wall?  Creativity runs in the blood.

PicMonkey Collage 9

DSC_0088 coach house

The bust is the work of a South African artist and used to belong to Alet’s father- in- law.

The painting depicts the famous residential area in  Cape Town, South Africa, called ‘District 6′.

coach house

I love how Alet sees beauty in the simplest of things that not only represent beauty but are functional too.

coach house

Coming out here, the moss covered pot plants, stoned walls and Alet’s little flowers grown in syrup tins makes you want sit here and sip Rooibos tea all day long.

DSC_0071 coach house

PicMonkey Collage

Needless to say the breakfast was divine as was the ambiance with flowers from the garden and a bunted parasol.

PicMonkey Collage 21

The Cosmos flowers here below are a true reminder of South Africa once again.

PicMonkey Collage 16

What inspires you? Brink:  I’m always inspired by a challenge – being it a new business venture or a boat trip up the Thames. Alet:  Beauty and creativity – creating with words, lines and colours, embroidery stitches, making my very special aprons for very special ladies, and of course preparing a feast for my husband, family and friends.  We are also both inspired by the many tales of saved and happy marriages that we are privy to.

What is always in your refrigerator? A drawer full of fresh fruit and veggies, and a lovely cheese or two.

What do you love most about your home?  Alet: The heart of our home – the open plan kitchen and our beautiful garden.  Brink: A combination of a few things: the privacy and countryside around us, and with the spacious double-glazed windows… being able to enjoy nature even on the coldest days.

What book is currently on your bedside table?  Brink: True Riches by Jeff Lestz, Radical by David Platt, Bible.  Alet:  A stack of books! I’m battling through Einstein’s biography by Walter Isaacson – not willing to acknowledge that it is a bit heavy for me; Bill Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid for the humour in it, and 3 books to inspire me in my writing: Dalene Matthee’s Pieternella van die Kaap, the creatively written The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and my father-in-law’s Bannelinge oor die Oseaan (stories of POW’s of the Anglo Boer War). And of course my 25-year old “new” Bible in case I didn’t get round to some quiet time during the day.

Alet what book are you currently writing?  My book is currently at the publisher…Kospotte van Egipte en Italië, my dad’s experiences as a South African army cook in North Africa and Italy – in training in South Africa, on the ship, in the North African desert, as a POW in Benghazi and in Italy, and as an escaped POW in Italy.

House or boat?  We enjoyed our twin engine boat while we had it – Brink loving the challenges and excitement, Alet [the non-swimmer] navigating and worrying and in the end enjoying it. When we moved into our dream house, the boat was put on the “back burner” – quite literally when arsonists destroyed it six months later. We have beautiful memories though.

Best advice to married couples?  Do not take each other for granted, but keep working at it with appreciation, unconditional love and forgiveness [the small irritations, the shortcomings, the mistakes, the blunders, even the very serious stuff]

polaroid coach house

Thank you Brink and Alet for allowing us a peek into your beautiful home!

Photography by Rochelle Coote

© Danish Exchange, 2014



Her dreams were filled with wildflowers….

wildflowers and yellow

She wandered through the fields humming to herself as she picked them one by one…

the colours were calling her from afar… they were so inviting and tempting

her hand was overflowing with jewels….and as her mind wandered she suddenly realized how precious they are

she ran home catching her breath …. she took down her favourite vase

and as she filled it with water her mind started drifting again…

to fields filled with wildflowers, to sunshine, to one final day of summer…

yellow buttons, thistles and daisies

bringing her joy and happiness

Oh how she marveled at the beauty

She smiled and whispered softly…

until next summer when we meet again….


© Danish Exchange 2014

The last days of summer…..

The last days of summer....

The days are still warm but the evenings are definitely cooler

and according to the calender  Autumn  has arrived 

but here at Danish Exchange we are still enjoying evenings and picnics at the lake

the last strawberries of the season,

and Pimms chilled with ice cubes, strawberries, cucumber and mint

Perhaps I’m not ready to say goodbye to summer just yet

even though the long evenings are closing in sooner….

I am trying to treasure every summery moment for as long as I can….


© Danish Exchange 2014

Savouring Summer…..


This weekend it has been raining cats and dogs however today the sun has been out again and temperatures were up to 18 degrees Celcius.  So before the Autumn truly arrives and I bid summer farewell, I thought I would savour the final days with an easy ice cream recipe.  My mum used to make this instant easy ice cream and I still have her handwritten recipe in my recipe drawer.  Yes, I have a whole drawer devoted to torn out and handwritten recipes.  I think many South Africans might recognize this recipe or at least the taste.  Condensmilk is the hero here as it is in many South African desserts. I have halved the sugar by adding an extra tin of evaporated milk as it was far too sweet the first time round.  South Africans have a reputation for having a bit of a sweet tooth.  I had to buy a few tins of evaporated milk in England earlier this summer as I have yet to find any here in Denmark.  If you are reading this and know where I can find some, please let me know.  We just love having evaporated milk chilled and poured over our strawberries or tinned peaches.   Oh how that takes me back to my childhood.  So here’s to celebrating the final flourish of summer with some homemade ice-cream… and the best bit…. it is as easy as counting to three.  I’ve added a bashed flødebolle [a marshmellow teacake] on top, the Danish way.  Here in Denmark the locals enjoy their waffle cones with ice cream topped with cream, a dollop of strawberry jam and a bashed flødebolle to round it off.   Delicious!




  • 1 tin condensmilk [chilled]
  • 2 tins evaporated milk [chilled]
  • 1 to 2 vanilla pods


  • Whisk the evaporated milk on a high speed for about 5 to 10 minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Open the vanilla pods, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds only,  to the mixture.
  • Add the condensmilk and whisk again for a further 5 minutes.
  • Pour into a cool container and place into the freezer for approximately 4 hours.
  • Serve with strawberries, cones or as in Denmark with a flødebolle.

Tip: Place your tinned condensmilk and evaporated milk in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight to chill before using.

© Danish Exchange 2014

Potraits and Street Photography……

a view from the bridge

Last week I went in to Copenhagen one morning to catch up with my blogfriend, Melanie from Dejlige Days, over coffee. She had asked me to take her portrait and we decided to meet up at Kaffesalonen in Nørrebro. I decided to snap her informally as she is a little camera shy, so the photos are very laid back and I did more candid photography. Even though she knew I would be snapping her, the images I love most are the ones where she wasn’t posed or really expecting me to photograph her. I think they portray her just the way I know her. The lighting wasn’t great sitting outside the restaurant but I was reluctant to miss the opportunity of snapping away while we were catching up over coffee.


Just Melanie


Melanie and I walked over to Dronning Louises bridge and it was there that I got the shot of the day. She wasn’t expecting me at that moment and that is exactly what I love about it. Just Melanie.

Dr Louise's bridge

I love the black and white version of this image too.

Black and White Melanie

And I simply couldn’t resist catching her starry tattoos either, they are so cute.

starry tatoes

As I was in the city I used the opportunity to also try a little street photography. I’ve been really inspired by my lovely blogfriend Heather and her whole approach to it. On my trip to London recently I really thought I would get loads of images. However, my gorgeous 3 guys were in tow and to be fair I was on holiday with them after all. I managed to capture a couple in love, be it from behind, but mostly I tried to capture the essence of London through its architecture, buses and landmarks. In Heather’s own words, ” it’s very difficult to capture a real moment as it happens, without altering it”. I found out too that boldly snapping away at a stranger takes courage. I always feel that I might be intruding on someone’s private space or bubble.

cute doggie

I manged a few and got a shot of this cutie being very curios as to what I was up to outside the restaurant. Just before Melanie and I got up to go to the bridge, he decided it was time for a cuddle from his owner and I politely asked if I could snap them. They were adorable.

doggie cuddles

I love these two guys having lunch. Perhaps business, he was after all still taking calls.

Business lunch

Just another day commuting the usual way in Copenhagen.

 Just another day commuting

And then I needed to dash off home to collect my adorable offspring from school. I got in my car and as I was about to drive away… a very beautiful, elegant lady came walking past with her dog on a leash. At first I thought, too late she has gone past, but then I couldn’t resist and I dashed out with my camera and asked if I could take her portrait. She was so friendly and lovely about it, which absolutely made my day. She didn’t have a business card on her so I gave her mine so I could send her the photos.


For a minute when she said her name, Gitte Brandt, I thought it sounded familiar, but I didn’t think much about it until that evening as I was editing my photos. I googled her and as it turns out, rather ironically, I have been an admirer of her work for quite some time. She is the amazing artist behind these paintings. Her work is so inspiring, I could decorate a whole room using one of her works as a mood board. She is such a lovely person too. Her openess and our fun, chance meeting was really special for me.

DSC_0228 elegant Gitte

I couldn’t help but snap her a few times.

DSC_0229 Gitte b&w

So I left the city happy with portraits and snaps of strangers…..or perhaps strangers no more.

© Danish Exchange 2014

Flowers bring me joy….

DSC_0193 flowers

Oh how I love flowers….  they bring me endless joy, whether I buy them from the florist or my local supermarket or whether I pick some from my garden or a nearby field… I simply cannot live without them.  My mother is the same.  She is the one that taught  me that you needn’t always buy flowers, you can use stems, weeds and so much more from the garden to adorn your home.   Those of you who follow me on Instagram would have seen these beauties already.  They were so beautiful, I simply couldn’t resist.  I’m not sure what they are actually, I’ve even asked around and no one seems to know.  Please do tell if you have an answer.  I love how they compliment my zink bucket and brighten up our outside dining area.

My eldest is out sailing this weekend and Daddy is keeping him company and they will be camping this weekend.  The youngest and I are off to soccer tomorrow, that is if I get some sleep.  He is in my bed right now…. and he is the snorer of the house.

Happy weekend to you all!  May it be filled with sunshine, laughter and flowers.

© Danish Exchange 2014







Rainy days and pancakes ……

DSC_0276 rainy days and pancakes

It sure is one hot summer, but I am not complaining.  It feels like being in Africa.  We have been sleeping with the windows wide open and only a sheet to cover us and I am loving this humidity so, so much.  Last night the thunder and lightning even scared me a little.  This morning we woke up to rain, heavy rain and it was like being home in Africa.  The smell, the clamminess of your skin, I  simply cannot get enough.  In South Africa where I grew up you make pancakes on rainy days.  I used to say that if I had to do the same when I lived in England, we would literally be eating pancakes every day.  However, today with the humidity and the rain, I could almost smell and taste cinnamon pancakes the way my mom used to make them.  Even better, it is still school holidays here and we had them for brunch with a good yogurt pineapple smoothie.  The youngest helped me make the batter, as he loves to do, and we filled some of them with vanilla sugar and a drizzle of mandarin [naartjie] and the rest traditional cinnamon sugar pancakes.  I love the first bite when the cinnamon sugar is starting to melt inside the hot pancake and you get a mouthful of soft, sweet, warm pancake. We usually use lemons instead of mandarins but there were none this morning so we just used the citrus we had and it worked really well.

Here is my recipe.

You will need:

  • 2 organic or free range eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup of milk plus a dash more a little later half way through your batter
  • 150 g flour
  • a dash of sunflower or rapeseed oil


Beat your eggs and half a cup of milk together, add your flour and mix with a balloon whisk until you have a smooth batter.  Now add the rest of the milk and a dash of oil and mix well. 

Heat a non stick frying pan and brush with some sunflower oil.  Make sure your pan is hot before pouring in some batter.

As soon as you can see the sides starting to move away from the pan you can loosen and turn your pancake over or, if you’re my mum flip them.  Once you get about half way through your batter, it might have thickened to which you can add a dash of milk or water and stir through before pouring some more batter in your pan.

Once flipped it should take about 30 seconds and your pancake is done. 

Place on a plate, sprinkle with some sugar and cinnamon, roll and tuck in.  Or sprinkle with vanilla sugar, squeeze lemon juice or other citrus over and roll. 

My pan is rather large so I usually slice mine  in two.

Serves about 7 to 8 large pancakes.  You can easily double this recipe.

DSC_0273 pancakes and rainy days

© Danish Exchange 2014

P.S. Naartjie is the South African name for Mandarin.



Through London eyes….

London eye in colour..

Our London trip was amazing and even though I have a million things I want to tell you…

DSC_0346 looking through london eyes

I’ll let the pictures paint a story….

of fish and chips

DSC_0166 union jack table

People and places

DSC_0458 black and white

Aquariums and spaces

Black and White

Bridges and towers

DSC_0481Tower of London

Couples in love kissing….

DSC_0542 kissing couple

Of a single bird flying in front of my lens…

 looking up

and Nimrud’s lion that made us stare in awe….

DSC_0178 in awe of Nimrud's lion

Red, bright London buses that came zooming past

DSC_0165 London Bus

Looking at a Dinosaur skeleton from above

DSC_0344 Natural History Musuem

The colossal red columns at Black-friars that will forever remain…

DSC_0511 red pillars 2

Seeing it all with London eyes….

 inside the capsule

DSC_0377 big ben

Walking to Waterloo to catch the train…

DSC_0624 waterloo station

and tired feet that catch a lift on Daddy’s shoulders….

DSC_0634 daddy I'm tired

© Danish Exchange 2014

P.S.  I wrote about my most special gift ever on my friend Sarita’s blog, The Orange Gift Bag.  Have a peek and see what it is….

Wildflower Posies and Danish Design….

pick of the month

It has been a wonderful trip to England, seeing wonderful friends, eating great British treats such as scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam and we even got to see the mummies in the British Musuem, but that’s a whole other post for another day.

Today I want to share my pick of the month with you. It is indeed very special as the vase I am using was a precious gift from my English Bestie. She found it in a charity shop and immediately thought of me. The funny thing is that even though at first glance you would think it was made in Denmark it’s actually made in England. It bears ‘Mason’s Ironstone made in England’ underneath and is called ‘Denmark’. I have bought some ‘Fluted’ or in Danish ‘Musselmalet’ china from a fleamarket that was actually made in Germany. I have since researched this and it seems that fluted china painted in floral motifs were inspired by Chinese porcelain and appeared in the 1740’s. Later in 1880 Danish designer Arnold Krog started introducing lace sides for Royal Copenhagen and today, even though many countries produce this design, it is known as typically Danish. Hence my Bestie said it should be taken to it’s ‘real’ home Denmark. Well, I am pleased and honored to have this antique milk jug in my dwelling. Inside today is a wildflower posy with flowers from my garden and nearby fields. I love the colours of pink, yellow and purple brightening up my home. What do you think?

pic of the month87

Hope you are enjoying the summer as much as I am. Swimming in the sea is a must at the moment. I’ll be back soon with some English inspiration.

pic of the month.70

© Danish Exchange 2014

I’ll be back before the summer ends….

mon5Soon I will be riding on big red London busses
Catching up with dear friends
Seeing Big Ben
Eating Beef Ale pie and having afternoon tea…
Strawberries, scones and clotted cream..mmm
but for now I leave you with a glimpse of what I leave behind….mon2

mon1A little cottage we visited last year
No, not the island we stayed on in Sweden…
Darling Danish friends hired this for a week
and invited us around….mon8

møn14We ate bread and salads
cooked and laughed….
waited for the sun to set… which took a very long time….mon7
cycled to Møn and saw the most breathtaking white cliffs…mon6

mon12Soon I’ll see the white cliffs of Dover
Beautiful friends I cannot wait to hug again….
I’ll drink Earl Grey tea and eat Victoria Spongesmon9

mon10but don’t be sad Denmark…
I’ll be back before the summer ends
because your summers are simply too beautiful to miss….mon4

© Danish Exchange 2014