Schnee Tag

November 29, 2010

The trees of Nerotal Park

Snow has finally come! It has fallen all day, first in huge, blustery flakes and hours later, in softer, slower drifts. However it falls, I'm a fan! I hope it continues for at least the next month and a half...
This morning, as the flakes really began to fall...

Slowly starting to build up in our garden by midday...

By late afternoon, everything was covered in fluffy whiteness!

I've been waiting for this unofficial kick-off to the German holiday season with much anticipation. Between the snow and the Christmas markets, there is a sense of the season that never really happened living in California. 

Part of it is the weather (I remember one Christmas day biking with my family on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific - in little more than a sweatshirt, pants and a beanie!), but there has become this increasing pressure of political correctness that has made it not okay to outwardly celebrate any one religion's winter holiday, for fear of offending all the other people who celebrate something else. 

Frankly, it also seemed ridiculous listening to Christmas oldies talking about frightful weather and sleigh bells, when we never experienced any of it.

Even nature knows it's holiday time!

Here, the tradition of Weihnachtsmärkte is older than America itself (by hundreds of years) and ensures Christmas is larger than life for a whole a month long. These markets are packed on a nightly basis and one often ends up sharing a standing table with strangers while enjoying a steaming mug of Glühwein and Wurst mit Brötchen. Other than with closest friends and family, I can't think of any holiday experience I had that came anywhere close to this. Just another reason I love where we live - we came to the right place!

The Wiesbaden Sternschnuppenmarkt 
(our Christmas market - named for the beautiful stars that decorate the booths and light up the sky)

Luckly, our first houseguests of season were able to make it to the markt on their very last day in Germany; I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it. Warm, spiced wine, sticky-sweet Schokokuss and great new friends - how could anyone not? 

Obviously catching on that this is the time of year to visit, we are welcoming another guest next week, a friend I have not seen since college and reconnected with through all the gloriously easy social networking that allows me to stay connected with everyone, even half a world away. Can't wait to show her the German holiday season!

In other news, the countdown until my parents' stay - and first trip to Europe - continues: 19 more days... :)

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

An American Thanksgiving in Germany

November 27, 2010

It all started with a Turkey...

Ahh, Thanksgiving... the turkey, the traditions, the family. But when you're an expat, holidays often mean family is half a world away and a big part of tradition is lost - and I wasn't even certain I could get a turkey. I'd been waiting all year to make up for our shoddy first holiday here (Christmas - no furniture, no tree, no presents - quite sad, to say the least) and our first Thanksgiving married (which was spent with us on separate continents). So you see why my expectations were set pretty high.

Wanted to make sure every last detail felt special, including the take-home placecards

In addition to never hosting my own Thanksgiving, let alone roasting any kind of entire animal, I had never cooked for more than about 6 or 7 seven people at a time. Realizing our guest list had grown to nearly a dozen, I fell into a mild panic. Half of our guests would be American. Would my Thanksgiving menu hold up to their beloved traditions? Could I successfully juggle one giant bird and five side dishes, with the end results making it to the table not only moist, but also still nice and warm? Needless to say, I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring all our wonderful new friends a welcoming, tasty and traditional Thanksgiving feast. 

Felt like paparazzi. (I think they were impressed...)

When it all came down to it, I had the help (and patience!) of all my friends - and of course, my wonderful husband - and everything made it to the table hot and delicious! All my fears that we would run out of food were completely unfounded. We still have a huge container of turkey in our fridge (almost a week later!). 

Sure sign of success - 
the vegetarian piling on the meat gravy!

Even better than the food for Thanksgiving was the company. We are amazingly lucky to have found such a wonderful group of people here in Germany. Like most European expats, most will likely continue to move around, or even head back to the United States, but I hope we will get the chance to spend at least a few more holidays with them all. A huge thank-you to them for making holidays without family not feel like such.

But then this arrives today, and I can't help but miss my family...

thanks Mom!

Three more weeks till my family arrives to celebrate Christmas the proper way with the Germans - the Weihnachtsmarkt, Christmas trees and sparkling lights everywhere you look, strangers sharing a table with their Glühwein! The countdown has begun...

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische
**Turkey basting photo courtesy of Y. Ormen

The Pumpkin Project

November 20, 2010

With our first German, er, 'American' Thanksgiving fast approaching, I realized I had taken for granted all the ingredients that make up the traditional indulgent feast. Here, a turkey must be ordered from a butcher (not just picked up at any grocery), cranberries and sweet potatoes are few and far between, and most notably, pumpkin does not come in a can - it comes, well, in a pumpkin.

Hokkaido Kürbis - not just for jack-o-lanterns

When I came to the realization that I would not be able to order the ubiquitous canned pumpkin I was so used to in the states in time for our Thanksgiving festivities, I got into a bit of a panic. I thought: "Pumpkin from scratch?! Who has time for that?" With a bit of courage, I discovered if you have time to open a can, you have time to cook pumpkin. Sliced in half, dropped on a baking sheet, these babies will just fall out of their shells as the mush you're looking for in about an hour. 

Fresh cooked pumpkin

I will admit that there is something nice to the consistent consistency one gets from the canned stuff - my first was smooth and took only 50 minutes, my second was stringier and took nearly an hour and a half - and many pumpkin recipes have noted as much of a preference. But in the absence of convenience, the real deal works. And there's something nice about getting something that comes as it is - no additives, fancy packaging or outrageous health claims - and using it to cook up whatever you can while it's still in season.  

Which then becomes Pumpkin Curry Soup!

And the next morning - Pumpkin Spice Pancakes!

And so I forge on with hosting my first-ever Thanksgiving, basking in the glow of from-scratch recipes. My stuffing will be made from fresh-baked bread from my local Bäckerei, my sweet potato casserole will not use yams from a can (no wonder I always hated them!), and of course, my pumpkin custard tart (with red-wine caramel sauce - yum!) will be made from one of the gleaming orange pumpkins I see at every fruit and vegetable stand I pass. After all, isn't Thanksgiving about celebrating the autumnal harvest? All hail seasonal cooking!

* Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Happy Autumn!

November 03, 2010

October proved to be a busier month than expected. Between meeting new friends, birthday celebrations, and yet another wine festival (I know, right?!), I've fallen behind on blogging once again. So while I organize the rest of our Spain photos - and between more wine outings - please enjoy some shots of our lovely city from the very beautiful first day of November. 

Hope you are having a beautiful autumn, wherever you may be!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische