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By Ashlyn

When I was deciding where to study abroad, I wasn't really taking climate into consideration. It wasn't until I was preparing to leave for Denmark last December and people started asking me, "Did you pack enough layers? Did you bring an extra umbrella?" that I started to suspect I might be in for some bad weather.

Copenhagen in the winter isn't awfully cold. During the past three months the temperature usually hovered in the low 30's. But because it was fairly mild, we didn't get much snow -- just a lot of gloomy grey skies and some rain. Couple this with the sun setting at 4:30 in the afternoon and you might begin to understand why the Danes tend to hibernate until April rolls around.

But once the sun finally comes out -- oh boy. There's a dramatic difference between cold and warm weather here in Copenhagen. In the cold, people scurry from one building to the next. The only folks you see on the streets are those braves tourists bundled in about 400 layers and clutching hot cups of tea or coffee -- that, or the cyclists commuting to and from work. And at night everything closes down early, with students staying in their dorms and families huddling indoors to enjoy some hygge.

In the warm months? Completely different. People look for excuses to stay outside. No matter what day it is or what time in the morning, people are hanging out in parks, sipping beer and enjoying leisurely picnics. You thought there were a lot of cyclists in winter? In the spring and summer the parade of bike riders is endless, and at least five bikes are locked to every vertical object in the city. And you'll find folks out in about way into the evening hours, eating ice cream cones and basking in the lingering daylight. (The sun doesn't set until 8:30 pm this month!)

I often hear some of my friends complaining about the way our semester abroad panned out, weather-wise. "If we had come in the fall, we would have had better weather!" they tell me. And it's probably true -- though the weather is nice now, there are still a few bitterly cold days ahead. Denmark doesn't get warm and stay warm until around mid-May... which is when we'll be leaving. (On a different note: CAN YOU BELIEVE THERE ARE ONLY TWO WEEKS LEFT TO THE SEMESTER? I can't even think about it. Nope. Not happening.)

But, to tell the truth, I wouldn't trade my spring semester for a fall one even if I had the chance. Though it might have been nice to enjoy more sun and to see Copenhagen in summer at the end of August, the daylight would have grown shorter and the weather colder each day. I enjoyed watching the city slowly bloom -- witnessing the Danes (and my fellow American students and I) crawl out of hibernation and finally leave the house to enjoy the sun. If I've learned anything, though, it's this: winter, spring or summer, Copenhagen is beautiful in all weather.

By Ashlyn

I hate planes.

I didn't always hate planes. Well, that is to say -- I didn't always know that I hated planes. Maybe I always had it in me, though. I'm generally a pretty nervous person, and everyone knows air travel brings out the worst in people.

Before I went abroad for the spring, I had only flown maybe a handful of times. All of those flights were, for the most part, straightforward and easy -- a trip to Disney World, or to visit my grandparents, or to see my boyfriend in Chicago. No transfers. No passports. Stressful, yes, but infrequent enough that it didn't really matter. But now, after taking 11 flights over the past three months, my neutrality regarding planes has taken a nosedive (figuratively speaking) into full-blown dislike. But, since air travel is necessary at the moment, I'm learning to cope. What can you do if you're like me and you really don't like planes? Here are a few tips.

Figure out what seat works best for you. Are you a window sitter? Aisle sitter? Middle sitter (do those really even exist)? Find out which one gives you the most space (or reduces your airsickness most, or lets you lean up against the window and nap best) and try to aim for that spot every time. But, of course, you might not always get your first pick -- which leads me to my next point...

Try to be flexible. Of course, if you're nervous like I am that's a really hard thing to do. But if you're flying frequently, inevitably something will go differently than planned at some point -- whether that's something big like a flight cancellation or small like a reshuffling of seats. Try to remain as calm as possible when things get changed up at the last minute. Ask yourself, "Will this problem affect me still in an hour? How about 24 hours?" If the answer is no, then try your best to remain calm and roll with the punches.

Bring equipment/distract yourself. My tools of the trade include: minty gum, earplugs, noise canceling headphones, and a playlist of my favorite songs. If you tend to get hungry on long flights, bring a snack. If your neck gets sore, get one of those fancy neck pillow thingies. Also, it's always great to bring a distraction, especially for the longer flights -- something to keep your attention focused and away from the turbulance or that crying baby behind you. A book, crossword packet, or mobile movie will usually do.

Remind yourself of the facts. One of the reasons I don't like flying is that I really don't fully understand how the plane gets into the air and how it stays up there. It feels a lot better to actually know what's going on while you're zooming up around the clouds. Understanding can take some nervousness away. Taking a look at the statistics can also soothe a worried mind. Air travel is currently safer than ever, and though it might be hard to believe, you're better off in a plane than in a train statistically speaking! Think about that the next time you're a bit jittery before takeoff.

By Ashlyn

I've been in Copenhagen so long that I had forgotten that larger, louder cities exist on this planet. Case in point: Dublin. My communications class made the trip out to Ireland two weeks ago for our long study tour. We visited a number of interesting sites -- including Europe's Google, Facebook, and Amazon headquarters -- and learned about how new media influences communities in Dublin (as opposed to Copenhagen or the United States).

If you're thinking about making a trip to Dublin, here are a few can't-miss stops. We were only in the city for a few days (and most of that time was devoted to academic visits), but I still felt like I was able to get a good feel for the city and its culture!

The Guinness Storehouse. Any visitor to Dublin must go here. Guinness is ubiquitous in Ireland, especially in Dublin where the big storehouse stands. The museum is enormous with several huge floors, multiple bars and restaurants, and interesting activities around every corner. Tickets come with a voucher for a free pint -- try learning how to pull your own pint, or head to the top floor for a beautiful bird's eye view of the city at the Gravity Bar.

Malahide Castle. This 12th Century castle is the perfect destination for a half-day trip from the city. Situated in the midst of a beautiful botanical garden, the castle is a fascinating glimpse into the world of old Ireland. Take a tour inside the castle and hear about the Talbots, who lived there until 1976 -- and the ghosts who are said to haunt the castle to this day.

Temple Bar. The best way to experience Irish culture is to go to an Irish pub -- and the best place to do just that is in Temple Bar. Temple Bar is itself a bar, but it is also the name of an area of the city famous for its Irish pubs. We visited several pubs, including the Brazen Head (the oldest pub in Dublin), and O'Donoghues, which features traditional Irish music. Be sure to order a pint and some Irish food -- I recommend mussels, bangers and mash, and Irish stew.

The Book of Kells. Now on display in Trinity College in the heart of Dublin, the Book of Kells is a beautiful illuminated manuscript that is well worth the cost to visit. The book is thought to have been created around 800 A.D. and was hand-crafted by monks. After viewing the book, you can take a walk around Trinity College's gorgeous library. Bibliophiles will not want to miss this!

By Ashlyn

Hey you. Yeah, you! You want to visit Copenhagen? You want to visit Copenhagen and skip tourist trap operations like Tivoli and the pocket-emptying experience that is Noma?

Most people prefer to go to a city's main tourist attractions when traveling. However, as great as viewing the "must-see" sights is to the eager traveler, sticking to the beaten path is not a great way to take in the full depth of a city's culture. For anyone interested in coming to Copenhagen and getting an "insider's" look at the city, the following are a few tips to point you in the right direction.

Insider Site: The Botanical Gardens

While most prefer to see the castles or visit the Little Mermaid statue at the harbor, some visitors to Copenhagen might prefer the beautiful Botanical Gardens. The garden is host to a number of different plants and funguses and serves as a "gene bank" for many different species. It is a part of Denmark's Natural History Museum. The grounds are lovely in the spring and summer; even in the winter, though, the large heated building is open during the day and shows off all manner of plants, big and small. Those with a love of nature should not miss it.

Insider Eats: Torvehallerne

Right outside of the Nørreport metro stop is Torvehallerne, nicknamed "the Glass Market." Two glass buildings feature a smorgasbord of delicious treats, from fresh-baked bread to pastries to-go, squeezed juice, gourmet chocolate and more. Personal favorites include the dulce de leche oatmeal from Grød, the pulled chicken banh mi from Lêlê, and a pack of sweet Danish flødebøller from Summerbird.

Insider Drinks: Lidkoeb

Looking for a fun place to spend the evening sipping drinks? Lidkoeb, located in a back alley in Vesterbro, is a three-level bar with an interesting theme on each floor. Get beer on the entrance floor, cocktails at the level above, or sip whiskey on the top floor. Keep your drinks inside at the bars and comfortable tables, or head outside to the covered patio. In the colder months, heated lamps and furs keep bargoers cozy.

Insider Fun: The Meatpacking District

Anyone who goes out regularly in Copenhagen has been to the Meatpacking District. What used to be a big collection of meatpacking establishments has been turned into a hip center for bars and nightclubs. Located on this stretch in Vesterbro is Jolene, a popular nightclub and bar, as well as Mother, a popular pizza restaurant. Follow the hordes of young Danes on a Saturday night and you won't miss it.

By Ashlyn

I don't usually go home for Easter in the U.S., but I do usually spend it with my family. For the past two years, my parents have made the drive down to D.C and have taken me and my boyfriend out for Easter brunch to celebrate. This year, 4,000 miles away from home, an Easter reunion just wasn't in the cards. I had accepted the fact that I was probably going to have to spend the holiday alone.

Luckily, my host family swooped in with an offer of Easter lunch festivities. Never one to pass up a chance to learn more Danish traditions (or any offer of food), I eagerly accepted.

The traditional American Easter spread usually consists of either a glazed ham or a roasted lamb, with potatoes and spring salads on the side. Rolls are also usually present at the table, or some other sort of white bread to go along with the meal. For dessert, something light like angel food cake, vanilla custard, or a lemon tart is typically served. Americans tend to eat quickly and the meal usually lasts for only an hour or so.

The traditional Danish Easter is much different. Our lunch was a multi-course affair that lasted five hours (with many between-course breaks, but still). The first course included two types of bread (rye and sourdough), three different types of pickled herring (regular, dill, and curry), hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, crab salad, and fried fish with remoulade. For the second course, we had frikadeller (fried meatballs), hakkebøf (ground beef casserole), and stegt flæsk (roasted pork). After that, a cheese and fruit course. And then dessert: hindbærsnitter (raspberry bars) and my contribution, Easter brownies.

Oh, and beer and plenty of Danish snaps (aquavit).

Also of note: American Easter traditions include opening Easter baskets, usually filled with candy, and hunting Easter eggs hidden around the house by parents. Favorite Easter candies include jelly beans, Cadbury eggs, and Robin's Eggs.

Danish Easter traditions are a little different. Instead of Easter baskets, Danes feast on huge hollow chocolate eggs that are filled with sweet treats. Easter egg hunts do happen, but more popular is the tradition of "gækkebreve" -- you write letters to your friends and family, but leave out your name. The receiver of the letter has to guess who sent the letter. If they can't guess, they owe you a chocolate egg! Easter candy in Denmark includes Haribo gummies and the ever-popular treat of licorice.

But as different as they are, both Danish and American Easter celebrations end the same way for me: with a nice long nap on the couch!

By Ashlyn

"You don't have to swallow it," my friend Carly told me, wincing as though she could feel my pain.

"When I start something, I finish it," I replied, though I'm sure my face was full of regret. And my mouth was full of -- what else? -- salty licorice, a favorite snack of the Danes. But this was the strongest, most powerful salty licorice I have tasted in all of my days.

How did I get in this position? Let's rewind several hours and I'll explain.

I woke up early on Saturday. Carly and I had been invited by our visiting family to a lunch and birthday party that afternoon. At DIS, a visiting family is a Danish family that the school matches you up with to spend time with throughout the semester. It is for students who are not in a homestay -- a chance to get a taste of everyday life for a Danish family, to practice your language skills, and to meet new people.

Our visiting family lives about a 20 minute drive from Copenhagen in a nice house in the Danish suburbs. They have a sweet dog and a teenage son. We arrived round noon and found an incredible lunch spread laid out for us: seared duck slices; homemade rye bread; brie and fresh jam; lumpfish roe and blinis with creme fraiche; salmon and cucumber roulades; Danish meatballs with red cabbage on the side. We feasted and talked about the day's plans. A nephew was having a birthday -- he was very young. It would be a chance to see how the Danes celebrate. In Danish class we learned that there is usually singing and some sort of cake and a lot of Danish flags. I was excited to learn more.

We arrived at the birthday party, where about 30 adults and children were busily moving about a small house. It was cramped but the mood was happy. Our hosts greeted us and even though we were full from lunch we were encouraged to eat more -- this time a pork goulash with rice, a kale salad, and garlic bread. I used as much Danish as I could remember: tak (thank you), undskuld (excuse me), nej (no), plus several longer phrases. The family seemed impressed, but when they tried to ask me more complicated questions I had to switch over to English.

When dessert rolled around, we were already stuffed but we made room to sample the ice cream, meringue cake and cream puffs that were laid out on the counter. On the tables were big bowls of licorice gummies. Here is where I messed up -- I took a licorice candy and put it on Carly's plate, daring her to eat it. She refused, throwing the dare back at me. Of course I ate it.

"Ashlyn ate a licorice!" said my visiting dad, impressed. "One of the strong ones!"

"That one wasn't very strong," said my visiting mother. It was going to take more to impress her. I asked which gummy was strongest. "Hold on," she said, and disappeared into the back of the house.

A few moments later, she came back with several jars of frightening-looking licorice candies. "These are the really strong ones!" she said, while the rest of the family cheered. All eyes were on me. Was the American going to eat the strong salted licorice, or was she going to back out at the last second? Of course I was going to eat it. I couldn't get out of this now.

I began with a smaller piece of the salted. The puckery taste of the candy stuck to my teeth but wasn't too bad. It went down okay. I moved onto a larger piece that was a bit less appetizing. It was difficult to finish but I did it. The Danes encouraged me, collecting around the table as they watched the scene unfold. The final piece was a licorice candy dusted in salty licorice powder and with an extra-strong licorice core at the center. The moment I placed it in my mouth I was filled with regret. This had not been my best idea.

"You don't have to swallow it," Carly said, which brings us back full circle. But I did. I probably shouldn't have, but I did. And afterwards I had to lie down for a bit to let the nausea subside. Let me just say that nothing can prepare you for the awfulness that is salted licorice. Nothing.

My visiting dad leaned in to me. "That was very impressive! You have our respect!" Score -- it was worth it after all. Meanwhile, I watched the school-age children dip their hands into the jar eagerly, snatching up the strongest licorice they could get and eating it like it was... well, like it was candy. I suppose that's one thing I'll never understand.

By Ashlyn

I'm a bit more than halfway through my semester here in Denmark, and I feel as though I have adjusted fairly well to my home here in the city. Though I do miss my friends, family and boyfriend back in the United States, I am not hit with frequent pangs of full-on homesickness like I was at the beginning of my time abroad. There are some big differences between missing home and being homesick -- the homesick feeling is definitely much more intense and depressing. Sometimes it becomes all you can think about.

I experienced the brunt of my homesick feelings in the first quarter of my time in Copenhagen, but as time passed and I began to experience new and exciting things, those feelings faded into the background. For anyone interested in studying abroad in the future, or just being away from home for a long time, there are a few things that you can do to help cope with your homesickness.

Get out of the house. Any time you're feeling down, the urge to stay indoors and cuddle up with Netflix is usually strong. Resist the urge. The more you force yourself to go out, the more you set yourself up to have positive experiences in your new environment -- whether that means seeing a neat exhibit at a local museum, meeting a new friend in your host country, or just getting to take in some sunshine. The more positive experiences you have abroad, the better you'll begin to feel, and the less time you'll have to dwell on your homesickness.

Find some pals. Going abroad can be a very alienating experience. It moves you away from your friends and family -- and from the familiarity of your home university or hometown. But, luckily, going abroad sets up a good opportunity to make some new friends. All abroad students already have something in common with one another -- talk to people, learn more about them and where they're from, and try to form some connections. Building a good support group abroad is important.

Don't hang on your phone. Or your tablet, or your laptop, or any other electronic device. Step away. Put it down. The more you make yourself completely available at all times to your friends and family back home, the less you make yourself available to the opportunities and people who surround you while abroad. If you talk constantly to your parents, friends, or boyfriend, you won't be paying attention as well to the world around you. Also, the more you keep in frequent touch with people, the more you will miss them. It may seem counter-intutitve to what your homesick heart is telling you, but the best thing that you can do for homesickness is to spend some time away from your electronics and from the influence of the folks back home.

By Ashlyn

It's difficult to believe that I've already spent two months in Copenhagen. It seems like only a few weeks ago that I was saying goodbye to my parents at the airport. "The time is going to go by so fast," my mother told me before I left her at the security checkpoint. "Make the most of every moment." I promised I would.

Two months later, I wonder if I have truly done what I promised that I would do. Lately, I have found myself falling victim to the tyranny of routine. I don't explore as much as I used to. I prefer to run from class to class, then curl up indoors with a cup of tea instead of walking around in the cold Copenhagen air. It has been weeks since I've visited the palaces, or walked along Nyhavn harbor, or had a pastry in a cafe and people-watched out the window.

Am I becoming bored? I began to wonder. Many of my friends from back home have told me, "You can't be bored in Europe! You're abroad!" But that, of course, is not true. You can be bored anywhere. You could probably be bored at the top of Mount Everest.

But boredom is more often a side-effect of comfort. I have been guilty of staying in my comfort zone lately -- of staying in when others are going out, of going to the same tried and true places and seeing the same tried and true sights. I have slept in instead of waking up early to see the sunrise; I have stayed in to watch Netflix when I could be exploring Copenhagen's nightlife.

Now, with only two months left to go before I return home to the United States, I am realizing once more that there is too much to accomplish here to sit on my laurels and let time slip by. I need to push myself. It can be difficult, especially in a school setting, to find the energy and time to force yourself to leave the house or library and search for adventure. But with time so short, and the days going by so quickly, it is important to remember that every moment is precious. (That sounds pretty cheesy. It's true though. A lot of cheesy things are true when you're studying abroad.)

So I'm going to try to regain my sense of adventure now, halfway through my time in Copenhagen. I want to explore, to see things that I've never seen before, and to meet new people. This week I will be touring a local brewery and going to a Danish family's birthday party -- two exciting events that I am hoping will jump-start my plan of action!

For those of you planning on studying abroad in the future, don't feel guilty if you begin to get "bored" in the city that you choose. If you don't want to go out every weekend, don't. If you feel tired some nights, stay in. Just make sure you keep track of time -- the months go by quickly when you're away from home, and one morning you might wake up next to your packed suitcase and wonder why you didn't accomplish more while you had the chance!

By Ashlyn

I celebrated my first Danish holiday last week! Fastelavn, celebrated the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, is the Danish version of Carnival - or Fat Tuesday, or Pancake Day, or whatever else you're used to calling the holiday before the Lenten season begins.

Danish Fastelavn is similar in some ways to Halloween in America. Children (and adults) dress up in costumes to celebrate. One of the day's events is to hit a big barrel that is tied up in a tree. The barrel is very sturdy and wooden rods are used to hit it. Inside the barrel is a huge amount of Danish candy. Children take turns whacking it until the barrel is smashed open and all the candy flies out. Toffee, caramels, gummies, and black licorice are usually among the candies inside. (Chocolate candy is not as popular here as it is in America!)

Another tradition is fastelavnsboller - pastries that are specifically eaten on this holiday. The buns are filled with cream or custard, baked, and then drizzled with a warm chocolate topping. They can be found at bakeries around the city, but the home-baked fastelavnsboller are definitely more delicious!

The history of Fastelavn isn't quite as sweet and sugary as what's celebrated today, though. The origins of the barrel-hitting game come from an event called "hit the cat out of the barrel." A live black cat was sealed into the barrel and the barrel was struck until the cat leapt out -- then the cat was chased through town and beaten to death. Gruesome, yes, but the whole ordeal was meant to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.

Another interesting tradition is the "fastelavnsris," which is a bundle of sticks given to children before the Fastelavn celebration. The children use the sticks to "flog" their parents (gently) on the morning of Fastelavn, and are then rewarded with fastelavnsboller. This tradition is said to originate from the practice of flogging children on Good Friday to remind them of Jesus' trials before death. Today fastelavnsris are sold in grocery stores and are usually strung with candy and jingle bells and other fun treats.

Want to celebrate Fastelavn at home? The following is the recipe for fastelavnsboller. These sweet treats take a bit of time to prepare, but the results are worth it!


For the Dough:

  • 25 g yeast
  • 1.25 dl whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 175 g soft butter
  • 450 g flour
  • A pinch of cardamom

 For the Custard:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 dl whole milk


Whip the yolks, sugar, vanilla or vanilla sugar, and corn starch in a bowl to begin the custard. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it boils and then pour the heated milk into the bowl, whipping all the while. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and allow it to boil for one to two minutes, beating continuously. Allow the custard to cool completely.

To begin the dough, warm the milk until room temperature. Dissolve the yeast into the milk. Add the egg, sugar, salt, butter, flower, and cardamom. Mix the ingredients and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is 1 centimeter thick. Slice the dough into squares 3 by 3 inches large, then put a small spoonful of cooled custard in the center of each. Fold the corners in like a dumpling and press the dough together with your fingers to seal it. Flip the buns over and place them on a lined baking sheet, giving enough room for them to expand.

Bake the buns in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, glaze with melted chocolate and then enjoy.

By Ashlyn

DIS (my study abroad program) offers several different types of housing, including "Living-Learning Communities." These communities place students who are interested in learning a particular skill in the same housing facility. I was placed in the "Culinary House," an LLC dedicated to teaching its inhabitants about Danish food culture through hands-on lessons, visits, and tastings.

As a member of the Culinary House for the past month and a half, I have cooked (and eaten) quite a lot of Danish food. Though I feel like I have only scratched the surface of Danish cuisine, I already have picked out a few favorites among those dishes that I have eaten. The following is a list of my five favorite Danish foods… at the moment. (Subject to change.)

  1. Smørrebrød

These open-faced sandwiches are possibly the most popular food in Denmark and are typically eaten for lunch. Start with a piece of nutty, grainy rugbrød, which is a special dark rye bread. Next, and a slew of ingredients and condiments. Each type of smørrebrød has a particular list of ingredients that it must include. My favorite smørrebrød types are prawn - made with mayonnaise, small prawns, hard-boiled eggs, and lemon - and tartare - seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with raw onion, egg, and horseradish.

  1. Wienerbrød

Wienerbrød is what Americans would typically call a Danish pastry, but in Denmark the name literally translates to "Viennese bread." This is because the recipe for a Danish pastry comes from an adaptation of the Viennese treat Plundergebäck. The Danish version of this pastry comes in many different shapes, sizes, and flavors. My favorite version is known as overskåret and is flat with stripes of white frosting, warm yellow custard, and melted chocolate.

  1. Fransk Hotdog

Hot dog carts are as common on the streets of Copenhagen as they are on the streets of New York. However, instead of your average frankfurters, the hot dog carts here in Denmark sell long, meaty sausages called pølse. One of the more popular ways to eat pølse on the go is in the form of a Fransk Hotdog ("French hot dog"). A hollowed-out baguette (closed on one side) is filled with creamy French dressing and then a sausage is inserted from the top. The salty, grilled hot dog goes very well with the crisp baguette and the rich dressing.  The Danes call it hangover food - whatever it is, it's definitely a guilty pleasure.

  1. Brunsviger

This Danish cake is sometimes served for birthdays, though it can also be served as a coffee cake. It tastes like a cinnamon bun, and is made of delicious, fluffy dough topped with a thick layer of caramelized butter and brown sugar. It should be eaten warm, but in my opinion, it can be eaten cold, or lukewarm, or half warm and half cold, or upside down, or with sunglasses on. This cake is dangerous, dangerous stuff.

  1. Flødebøller

Ah, flødebøller. In the past few weeks I’ve gotten to know this little Danish treat very well. The average flødebøller is a simple mixture of marshmallowy meringue, piped onto a wafer and dipped in tempered chocolate. But it is so much more than that. I have eaten approximately 200 flødebøller (give or take a hundred and fifty) since I’ve been in Copenhagen and I expect to eat at least 200 more before I leave to return home. It doesn’t matter whether they are simple or fancy – some chocolate shops make them with marzipan, or put dried raspberries in the meringue, or use white chocolate on the exterior – they are all delicious. They are also not too rich or too filling. They are the perfect after-dinner treat!