Kitchen update

September 28, 2011

That cooktop is no longer just for looks - it's brand new and it actually works!

Over the weekend, we finally got our stove situation worked out. Thanks to a painfully-early delivery,  I was looking forward to our first real weekend breakfast in weeks... until I realized that the vast majority of our pan collection was not compatible with an induction cooktop, save some small sauce pans and a random grill pan my husband excitedly came home with during 'American week' at Aldi some months ago. So day one with the new cooktop was French toast, but day two meant a bigger deal with eggs and bacon. Mmm, I missed this!

Finally! One of our favorites: ricotta eggs on toast, with rosemary potatoes & bacon for good measure

The first night with a stove back in our life had me craving pasta - and so spaghetti it was. Then it was onto my other favorite - rice - so I whipped up a stir-fry. It's funny how much you take a little thing like having a stove to cook on for granted until you are without one for weeks! 

Not to make the new oven feel underappreciated, I have big plans for more baking this fall - pumpkin breads, my favorite brownie recipe (which is amazing, since I don't even like brownies) and all kinds of cupcakes. Not to mention putting in some major time with my Le Creuset. Now if only the weather would finally turn to chilly autumn so I can start working on some soups...

My signature stir-fry - so easy, so delicious

Taco Tuesday is back! And with margaritas!

Due to some changes with my husband's job, I'm a little apprehensive about doing anymore big kitchen projects until we have a better idea of where he'll end up with his appointed new position with the company. Granted, no job is ever guaranteed, but all the recent changes make me wary about dumping even more money into a rented kitchen renovation. Alas, it looks like those new countertops will have to wait. I hope someday soon we'll feel confident enough in our life here that we can finish what we started, but for now, the smaller cosmetic changes will have to do. 

After several failed attempts & trips to OBI for more reinforcements for the disintegrating clay walls, our new shelf is finally up. Yay, storage!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Birthday, take two

September 27, 2011

Bailey was very excited about all the boxes - and the smells - from the states

For all my frustration and stressing about my recent shipment issues, the final installment of my mom's birthday packages has finally made it into my hot little hands. Aside from the fact I had to get up pre-dawn to have my husband drive me across town (and thank goodness I did - the box turned out to be huge) and my subsequent zombie-like state for the remainder of the morning (how in the world did I used to do this every day to commute to work??), it turned out not to be the hassle I imagined. Luckily, the entire interaction took less than two minutes and no more than my most basic German. 

Loads of customs paperwork I don't understand

I get the point that customs needs to check packages now and then to make sure there aren't illegal goings-on, and I'm fine with that. What I don't get is why I've gotten two letters in past few weeks - one Deutsche Post and one FedEx - assuming that these packages clearly marked 'GIFTS' in the customs paperwork are in fact not what they say they are, then demand receipts for said items and hefty fees to be paid. All it took for the one via Deutsche Post to be settled was for me to open one of the items of their choice from my package for them to see the contents weren't questionable and I was sent on my way. I have a feeling the FedEx customs invoice will take a little more to go away, since it will require more of a conversation, as the package is already in my possession and I know very little about customs regulations. So I'm crossing my fingers that my German is up for the likely push back I will receive.

On the plus side, I am still enjoying birthday goodies, two weeks after the fact. I've always loved getting things  in the mail (who doesn't?!) and the fact that all these friends and family are so far away makes it feel that much more special when I get a package sent to me halfway around the world. I sincerely hope the recent issues don't put everyone off from sending anything our way, as it means the world to us!

Bailey might have been even more excited about the Pop-Tarts box than I was - lots of sniffing and licking (her, not me)

Bless my mom, she even bubble wrapped the inside so they'd get to me in one piece

An Essie classic (Sugar Daddy) - so pretty!

Ahhhh... the boots I had been waiting (very impatiently) to receive. Love them!

My final haul, not too shabby :)

Easy to see this was a gift shipment, as stated for customs in the first place

Until the next holiday... here's hoping all packages make it without incident. ;)

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

A perfect Sunday

September 26, 2011

Pretty picturesque, oder?

Admittedly, we're so settled into German life, it's hard to find us anywhere other than on the couch in our PJs, watching movies on a given Sunday (you know, day of rest, everything is closed, etc, etc). But between this Sunday's gorgeous weather and our awesome fieldtrip to IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung - a more in-depth post on that to come) the day before, we were inspired to get out of the apartment and really enjoy the day.

The parrots were apparently visiting from the parks at Schloss Biebrich, albeit pretty camouflaged

We ended up spending a good bit of time in Nerotal park, as the weather was that beautiful, sunny, warm-but-not-too-hot perfection that was begging to basked in. Bailey was also long overdue for some serious outdoor-frolicking activity.

Running, running, running...

The very splashy ducks had Bailey poised for action 
- she was ready to jump in after them, if we'd let her

... and she's spent!

Fall or not, Germans take every sun-bathing, bikini-weather opportunity they can get

Once the dog had run herself silly and we had soaked up enough sun to know we had to spend the rest of the day in it, we dropped Bailey off at home to crash and headed down the street to Stadtfest (yes, another fest) for a dog-free, adult afternoon. Of course, upon entering the fest, we found it filled with dogs (with much better behavior than ours is capable of) and children (who were gloriously not screaming), but we still enjoyed plenty of relaxation and alcohol.

I'm often still caught off-guard when I look up & realize the buildings that surround our daily life
A side note on one of the biggest attractions at the fest, the enormous hay bale-beings: While endearing and oh-so-autumn to most, I found them rather creepy - for more than the obvious reasons. My mother loves to tease that when I was a child and we happened by fields with hay bales all over them on a road trip, I would start screaming. Not screaming in a scared, "I think the hay bales are going to eat me" way, but more out of frustration in that "I can't believe they left those bales of hay strewn carelessly all over that field." Being a very particular and organized child, my mother assumed this is what caused such a deep-rooted reaction (stacked hay bales apparently elicited no response... boy, do I belong in orderly Germany, or what?). To this day, my mother never fails to point hay bales out with a laugh. So Mom, this one's for you.

Giant hay people, and yet I managed not to run away screaming

First things first, we grabbed a beer, a bite to eat and a place to enjoy both in the sunshine. Between the picture-perfect setting in the park and the gloriously summer-like weather, it didn't take much more than that to make our day.

Lunch of beer and the ubiquitous Flammekueche - only this time, Mediterranean style. So lecker!

After sufficiently filling our bellies, we were off to discover what this fest was made of. As we soon found out, not too much. There were a few tents of artisan goods, a few of food, a stage with some German-style music being played, but most of the attractions at this comparatively small fest were child-focused: small versions of carnival rides, hay bales to climb on (naturally, I kept my distance) and some farm animals to pet. 

Pyramid o' pumpkins

All kinds of autumn produce, including an amazing variety of potatoes

A freshly-shorn (while the children watched and giggled) sheep

One of the very massive cows - held in by a not-so-massive, make-shift fence

Wandering around half the Kurpark only took so long, after which we did the only thing left to do: find something else to eat (and drink!). Russ found a sausage bun of some kind, while I made a bee-line for the corn on the cob, whose tent also happily sold Erdbeersecco (strawberry sparkling wine), which I discovered to be delicious. We sat for a while on the grass, enjoying our fest food and the view, thankful for another weekend of beautiful weather before that inevitable chill sets in for the next eight or nine months.

We live here... *sigh*

We ended up heading home through town, which surprisingly, had even more happening than at the park. Beyond just more kiddie attractions and a whole slew of new cars on display (which frankly, after the auto show the day before, was really just a let-down), the whole town was open - shops, restaurants, everything. I remember when we first moved here and I couldn't imagine how we'd manage when life everywhere just shuts down for an entire day every week, and here I was appalled that shops had all opened up on a Sunday just for the festivities crowd. Funny how things change.  

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Celebrating another year

September 16, 2011

Sometimes, it's hard to believe I'm as old as I am. Time seems to pass more quickly with each year. At the same time, when I think about the things I have done - jobs I've held, places I've traveled, people I've met - I feel pretty good about all I've experienced in my *gulp* 32 years. And things keep getting better.

Being this far away from family and old friends, it often leaves birthdays and holidays twinged with a bit of sadness. This is especially true because my mother, even 30 years later, still goes all out and makes me feel like the most special person in the world. My husband made sure I felt the same way this year, half a world away. He took the day off and dealt with the stove repairman, so I wouldn't have to. I awoke to presents and a lazy morning (waiting for said repairman) enjoying some of our favorite shows. He drove us into Frankfurt for burgers and an autumn carnival. Friends joined us for dinner at a lovely new place back in town and we all celebrated with Sekt and cupcakes well into the night (ahem, morning).

Between the presents, the friend and all the treats, I felt truly spoiled. Though I still miss my family and friends back in the states greatly, I wasn't left feeling like my day was totally incomplete. Abundant Facebook, Twitter and phone messages filled my heart. A huge thank you to everyone who made me feel so loved on my birthday- both here and in the US!

So here's a bit from my birthday, in pictures:

Piles of presents - all for me!

Candy inside the new handbag. 
Does my husband know me, or what?

Perfect presents to wear on my birthday

September birthday = sapphire nails

My husband scouted out a place in Frankfurt with good burgers
(a highly-covetable thing here in Germany!)

Wearing all my goodies and enjoying an afternoon of absolutely perfect weather in Frankfurt

Swanky Thai-mango soup at my birthday dinner

Delicious ricotta ravioli

I haven't gotten birthday balloons in years - so special!

Even with a very new newborn, my friend somehow managed to make my very favorite cake

Spoiled with gifts. Here, the most perfect autumn scent - ever.

A plethora of amazing products

Two beautiful necklaces from two very dear friends 
on opposite sides of the world

Even the German retailers thought of me. Guess this means I get to go pick out yet another birthday treat... ;)

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

It's about time!

September 13, 2011

I guess we have started to become locals, because in the grand tradition of taking one's city for granted, there are still major things in our own town we haven't done yet - have dinner at the Kurhaus (ok, my husband had a business dinner there, but we have yet to go together), done the couple's trip to Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme bath (I've been, but have yet to get up the courage to go on anything other than 'women's day') and most notably, we'd never ridden the Nerobergbahn funicular railway to the top of Wiesbaden - until now. 

A few weeks ago, we ended up with a free afternoon in the company of some friends and decided that it was a good time to take advantage of such a cool attraction right in our neighborhood. With only the slightest hint of drizzle and mostly sun pushing its way into the day, we headed out for a new adventure.

The Nerobergbahn is a sort of hillside tram that operates two cars at a time - one going up and one coming down. The one at the top is pumped full of water to make it heavier and thus more able to pull the secondary tram all the way up the hill. Like seemingly everything is Europe, it's been in operation since the late 1800s (aside from a brief shutdown during WWII and confiscation by those lousy Americans). Getting on at the bottom begins with waiting for the tram to dump all its water to lighten its load for the trip up. Then begins the leisurely ride up overlooking the Nerotal park and the surrounding area.

At the top, we meandered to the lookout spot for the view over all of Wiesbaden. Not a bad view, if I say so myself.

We decided that as late as it was, we might as well eat dinner in the restaurant at the Opelbad, the swanky swimming pool at the top of the hill. Dinner was surprisingly good and not nearly as expensive as expected, considering the setting. That evening I encountered yet another first - my first Aperol spritz. The ubiquitous Wiesbaden summertime drink, most notable for its nearly neon hue, is made with the bitter orange-tasting Aperol, Prosecco, a dash of seltzer and - can you believe it? - ice. Can't believe I waited so long - delish! 

Unfortunately, we had lingered too long over dinner and the glorious view that we just missed the last ride down the hill on the Nerobergbahn, so we had to take the trail down. While it was a little bit mucky from the summer rains, it was a lovely little hike that reminded me how lucky we are to live with such beautiful places within walking distance. 

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische