December 27, 2010

A Taste of Home: German Brown Sugar

In the last couple of weeks we are have received some really great 'care packages' from home. Boxes stuffed with Mac and Cheese - or Kraft Dinner according to my Canadian husband, candy corn (a craving I have had since October), Crystal Light, Reeses Pieces, gossip magazines. It's the little things that really make it feel like home over here. But it is also the little things that make me long for everything else at home.

What I wouldn't give for a Route 44 Sonic drink, a taste of Pei Wei, queso from Taco Cabana, fajitas from Taco Cabana....anything from Taco Cabana! Its pretty much like a spring Thanksgiving when we get back to Texas. We gorge on everything that we'd been missing the last 8 months. Then loosen our belts and go back for seconds.

It's not just the availability of junk and fast food that I crave, but I also miss little things that you can't find in the grocery store. Case in point (and the purpose of my post today) is brown sugar. Unless you want to pay an arm and a leg in an online store for a small box of brown sugar, you are hard pressed to find it over in Europe. Germans think they have 'brown sugar', but only disappoint you when they lead you over to the raw sugarcane. No, ich don't think so. But who can blame them, they don't know the importance of soft brown sugar in chocolate chip cookies, in sweet potato casserole, or on top of warm oatmeal.

I was tired of lugging heavy bags of brown sugar over with me in August, only to have them run dry in early September, so I took the matter into my own hands. I found a very do-able and tasty alternative recipe, changed it around so it would work with what was available in Germany, and made my own damn brown sugar. Take that! And I'll tell you what, my cookies have never tasted so good, or stayed so moist. I might just never go back to store bought brown sugar again!

So, I hope all you other North Americans in Germany and the rest of Europe will be able to once again enjoy melt-in-your-mouth homemade chocolate chip cookies. At the very least, this simple recipe will bring a bit of North America to your Küche.

How easy is this, only two ingredients. You'll need a (500g) bag of rag sugar cane, or in German "Brauner Zucker".  You will also need "Zuckerrübensirup", which is essentially carmelized turnip syrup, if I am not mistaken. It is usually found in the jam aisle of the grocery store. All recipes online originally called for Molasses, but no luck on finding that in Germany. This was the next best thing, and it works great. 

Measure one cup of the raw sugarcane sugar, and place in a small food processor. Now, if you don't have food processor, you can skip this step. But I think there is a pretty noticeable difference when you grind the sugar down into smaller bits. I think it helps it to combine with the syrup and stay moister longer. 

So, pulse the food processor a few times until the sugar is a finer consistency. And if there are larger granules left, no biggie.

Mmmm, the burnt smelling Zuckerrübensirup with its grossly thick consistency. But really, not any worse than Molasses, which I really can't stand. 

I use a soup spoon and add one spoon full to the sugar mix. Not heaping, but not sparse either. No real measuring here, because you can't really go wrong. 

Give the mixture a good stir, about one minutes worth, until it is a good 'smashed up Butterfingers'  texture. How do you like that baking analogy, I think it describes it pretty good!

You could continue stirring by hand, but I am lazy and I pop the mixture back into the food processor for a good mix.

Whoops! Mine turned out a bit dry, so I drizzled a bit more syrup in. A little heavy handed with it, but that's ok. Guess this batch will be 'dark brown sugar' now. Oh well!

A good mix, and a some pulses until the ooey goodness begins to slowly clump and no longer spin in the processor. Check out that good looking sugar!

A quick stir to make so there were no big lumps of syrup...nope, we're good. 

And the best part about this recipe is that it stores in a zip lock baggie in your pantry for as long as you need it to. 

So, it does taste and smell a bit different than normal, store bought brown sugar. But it doesn't effect any recipe one little bit. I know once you try this, you won't want to hide any more brown sugar in your luggage for the trip over any more! Hope you enjoy!

December 25, 2010

Frohe Weihnachten!!!

Merry Christmas ya'll! Man, did we have such a great Christmas this year! All of us North Americans, as well as all the family and friends in town, got together last night for an absolutely perfect Christmas Eve. We are very lucky to have such a fun and kind group of friends here. I wish all my friends and family, that are literally all around the world, a very merry Christmas!

Nothing beats Christmas time when you are a kid. My family has always held our big holiday celebration on the 24th. The whole clan, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., would gather on Christmas Eve at my grandparents house. We would start out the evening with a big ham and tamale dinner. Yep, you read right. It just isn't Christmas in South Texas without tamales. Family tradition! 

Then, my grandmother would take the kids out to the back porch and tell all 14 of us cousins the Christmas story. And, if she needed to stall a bit longer until the presents were laid out and the stockings filled, she would get us to all sing every Christmas song imaginable. Fourteen kids, and absolutely no vocal poor grandma. It wasn't long until you heard the sleigh bells ringing in the other room, and we all knew that Santa had bumped them on his way out of the house. We'd run into the living room just in time to see the front porch screen door slam shut. Once again, we had "just missed seeing Santa!".

Our family traditions made for great childhood memories. And it got me thinking about other countries' Christmas tradition.

For instance, I know in Germany that they don't have a traditional Santa that comes on Christmas Eve. But they do have the legend of St. Nikolaus who visits children on the night of December the 5th (or morning of the 6th). Deutsche Kinder leave their boots outside in hopes that St. Nik will bring them some goodies. If the children was generally well behaved throughout the year, then they receive small gifts of nuts, fruit and candy. But, if the child has been a little too naughty, then he or she receives a switch for punishment.

Oh, but that isn't even the worst part. In an act to get these bad kids to straighten up, St. Nikolaus' side kick, Knecht Ruprecht, steps in to scare the living day lights out of these poor children. You see Knecht Ruprecht, or Servant Ruprecht, plays the roll of the bad cop in this myth. He frightens the naughty boys and girls by threatening to punish the bad children if they don't clean up their act before Christmas. According to Wikipedia, it even says that some believe "he threatens to put badly behaved children in a sack and bring them away to the dark forest. In other accounts he throws the sack into the river, drowning the naughty children." If that doesn't scare the bejesus out of a little kid, than I don't know what does!

Is someone maybe a little envious of all the attention St. Nikolaus gets??!
CC of srogan on Flickr

Similar to Knecht Ruprecht, or even the same creature in some places, is the very frightening and evil-looking Krampus. He is an absolutely terrifying version of St. Nikolaus. A Christmas legend in the Alpine region, young men, usually drunk out of their mind, dress up as Krampus during the first part of Advent. These Krampus role players are particularly present on the night of December 5th, where they roam the streets frightening children, and looking to beat the naughty people with switches. I am not sure how prevalent this tradition is (I for one have never seen Krampus, at least not outside my worst nightmares), but multiple online sources seem to say that Krampus is still a big part of Christmas in the Alpine region. So yeah, how creep-eee! Sounds a bit like Mardi Gras...on acid.

WTF Austria, are you for real with this?!
CC of salendron on Flickr

But really, I guess that everyone's traditions sound 'weird' if they are different than your own. I can only imagine how strange Santa Claus might sound to someone unfamiliar with his whole story. Oh sure, everything about Santa is perfectly normal. First, he watches your every move throughout the year. He sees you when you are sleeping, and he knows when you're awake. He has these tiny little men that are forced to work night and day for him, with no pay. Then on Christmas Eve, he climbs on your roof and slides down the chimney. I mean, what is more heart-warming than an overweight, old, stranger breaking into your house when everyone is asleep? 

Just kidding Santa, love you!
 CC of Vanessa Pike-Russell on Flickr

December 22, 2010

Texas Culture Shock

If there is one thing that all hockey wives and girlfriends know all too well, it is boredom. Doesn't matter where your husband or boyfriend plays, there is a time in the season (or whole seasons at times) where boredom overcomes your whole being and you're sucked into its abyss head over heels. There is only one thing that makes a hockey year feel longer than complete and utter boredom; a losing season. Last year, we were oh-so-fortunate to have both.
Boredom in Germany can be sooo frustrating!

BUT this year, I was determined to fill my time. I found a great job teaching English at a local language school and I am loving every minute of it. Between the job, the winning season, this blog, and everything else that fills the day, I am almost feeling, dare I say it, busy!

I really do feel lucky to have started teaching English this year. Not only does this job have an excellent corporate structure, they give you the tools to be your own boss. Or wait, that is another company (anyone?!?). But seriously, everyday is fun and motivating; what more could you ask for in a part time job? I am teaching such a great group of adults who are going above and beyond to master the tricky English language. I am so grateful to my own German teacher, whom without her help I really couldn't be doing everything I am doing here in Germany. So, I can only hope that my students are learning at least half as much as I learned from her.

I have one lady in particular that I just started tutoring. She requested an American English language instructor because she is moving to America in July. I was lucky enough to get the class, seeing as I am the only American at the company. And wouldn't ya know it, she is moving to Texas! I think I am about 100 times more excited than she is about her moving to there. But hey, like I keep saying, if it isn't home, it just won't feel like home.

No matter how much I think the Lone Star State is the bees knees, it isn't where she comes from. And as much as I believe the people of Texas will welcome her with open arms, I can only imagine that she is in for a bit of a culture shock. Every lesson I try to add helpful tidbits about how Texas will be different than Germany.

Here are a few "Moving to Texas" tips I have come up with so far. I just feel like there are so many! And if you have any good ones, suggestions are more than welcomed!
Yep, pretty much sums up my Texas

1. If you order 'tea' at a restaurant, don't expect to get a nice hot, steaming cup of herbal tea. You are going to be brought an oversized mug, jammed full of ice and  freshly brewed iced tea. And if the restaurant really knows what they are doing, the tea will be so sweet that sugar crystals will float undissolved at the bottom of the cup. And on another note, if you want to keep your dignity, stay away from Texas Tea. That stuff will take you to another level!

2. Sundays in Germany are for rest and family time. No seriously, the whole country turns into a ghost town. Sundays in Texas are all about getting all that shit done that you were too lazy to have finished the rest of the week. I always get all my best errands done on the 7th day.

3. Every kind of soft drink is referred to as 'Coke'. When you are asked what kind of coke you want, they aren't asking if you want diet or regular, they want to know what kind of soda you would like. This one was hard to explain, a little confusing. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that I totally went overboard in explaining my love of a 'coke' that she had never heard of: Dr Pepper.

4. Bring a jacket with you everywhere. Not because the weather might turn chilly. No, no freakin' way of that happening outside of January and Feburary. But because everywhere has the A.C. cranked up as high as it will go. While you could fry an egg outside, your nips will be cutting glass inside.

5. Why is Texas, or America for that matter, the land of the plenty?? Two words: Free Refills

6. Contrary to popular belief, cowboy hats and chaps are not a required everyday outfit. But, we do tend to wear flip flops all year long.

7. Be careful when ordering a Pepperoni Pizza in Texas (or the US). In Germany, a Pepperoni Pizza is not topped with pepperoni or salami, but rather with spicy peppers. Its weird!

8. I know Target is not native to Texas, but I already told her how great it was. And if there is an H-E-B in her town, she better be doing her grocery shopping there.

9. I haven't even touched on crawfish, don't want to scare her too badly. But I might have to bring in a detailed outline of how to properly open and eat a crawdad, and also the importance of having 500 napkins at your disposal. (Ok Louisiana, I know this one was originally yours, but thanks for letting us Texans share in this delicious late spring treat!)

10. McDonald's, Burger King, or any other fast food joint don't even hold to the deliciousness of Whataburger (IMHO). It's just not a true Texas burger if it's not loaded with plain, old yellow mustard and diced onions.

11. German 'spicy' and Texas 'spicy' are two totally different worlds. When in doubt, order the mild.

Bonus: (I shouldn't even get into this one with anyone moving to Texas from a foreign country. But it is so true, I couldn't not share it) 
12. Most people choose a brand of Mexican salsa with the same care that another might use to select a bottle of fine wine. It is so true, I can't tell you the endless amounts of time I have spent in the salsa aisle trying to choose one independent brand over another. You just feel like such a failure when you get it wrong! lol

December 21, 2010


I am indulging my lazy side this evening. Last night was the team Christmas party, and I am a bit 'tired' today. It was such a fun time and, I might add, well worth the sluggishness today. I haven't laughed that hard or much in a long while!

So, I thought for today's entry, that it might be interesting to share some Deutsch news tidbits with you. These are stories that most likely get little to no press coverage in North America and will hopefully be somewhat entertaining at the very least. It is just a glimpse of the news coverage over here in the Fatherland. Plus, it means I don't have to write as much, lol.

Just like the American Mid-West right now (and, well, Canada 364.5 days of the year), much of Europe and the UK has come to a standstill after an unseemly amount of snow engulfed the continent this past week. It hasn't hit us too bad where we are this year. The Bodensee - or Lake Constance - keeps the weather a bit more stable...or at least has done that so far. In fact, we even had temps in the low 40s last night, and I was estatic! Wow, I need to get out more often.
And this was only the beginning! 
Triple the amount in this picture, and you have an idea of the snow chaos in Europe

Here is a piece for my fellow North Americans abroad. Germany just announced "Wurbürger" as the word of the year. Now what exactly does that mean? "Enraged Citizen", and it defines so many of us at those especially trying times living in a foreign country. I think it can sum up some of my German experiences in 2010 in, well, one word. 

It's ok, there are times when I too feel like I am taking crazy pills over here

This article actually made the homepage of Yahoo! news (must be a slow news day so far). It is about a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog in Germany that had seventeen puppies, seventeen! Poor momma! And this is her second litter. The first was a measly eight puppies. Take that Octomom (outdated reference anyone?!)

Hey, you have it easy, dog. 
CC of robin.elaine on Flickr

Any one who has spent anytime in Germany knows that dogs pretty much run the show over here. They are welcomed in restaurants, hotels, departments stores, coffee shops, and just about anywhere else you can think of. Regulations do at least draw the line at grocery stores and some bakeries. But still, it is a little ridiculous. It's not that I don't love dogs, because i certainly am an animal lover (check out two posts previous and you will see that that is quite obvious). I think that it is just that I am not used to seeing dogs shed wads hair in the middle of a restaurant as I try not to imagine the fluff drifting over into my salad. Yuck!

Actually, it doesn't mention in the article where the puppies were born. But if I had to guess, I would say it was probably in the middle of fancy, 5-Star restaurant. NBD.

December 20, 2010

The Funny Things...

I hate to admit it, but I think Germany is turning into our 'home'. I guess I shouldn't say it like that. It comes across negative, but I don't mean it in a bad way really. We are really thankful to have the opportunity to play and live over here. There are significantly less games a season, you are given a car and apartment, most of the time you're treated as a human being and not a commodity, and of course the security that comes with the contracts is really comforting. No wild trades, or loans. The team you sign to play for is the team you get. Oh yeah, and I guess another advantage is that whole 'exploring Europe' thing :)

It is just that anyplace you live in that isn't your home, well, just will never completely feel like home. But that being said, the more time we spend over here, the more normal and homey it feels.

I think after making a foreign place your home, you tend to turn a blind eye to things that originally seemed strange and different. For example, when we go back home to North America for the summer, I tend to freak out the grocery store bag boy when I run to the end of the checkout stand to pack up my own groceries. It has become second nature, it is something that you always do yourself over here. And quickly, I might add. You are likely to get your groceries run over by the items from the person behind you. It is somewhat nerve racking when the store is busy and it is your turn to bag up the groceries. I always get nervous coming up to the end of a checkout line. Feel like I need to do some stretches, lunges, warm up somehow!
Outcha way, bagger boy. I got this!

CC of deb roby on flickr

I had forgotten how funny some of the signs in German can be. Of course there is the aforementioned "Ausfahrt" for exit. Doesn't take a genius to see how those of us with a 3rd Grade sense of humor think that one is funny.

But when my parents came to visit, they brought fresh eyes, and also a sick sense of humor. I was able to see things in a whole new, and completely inappropriate light.

First, there is "Sparkasse", one of the biggest savings bank in Germany. Again, doesn't take much to see why this one is funny. I could make some crude, although hilarious, references to what this term could refer to in English...but I will just steer clear. 

Talk about lighting a fire under your butt!
Another one we found humorous is a sign often found in book stores. It is "Preishits", which literally means "Price Hits" and is used to advertise the best or newly discounted prices in a store. I thought it would be more appropriate if was an adjective, a word describing the feeling you have before you eat Mexican food. I'm awful.
CC Image courtesy of

But the best of the best we have seen so far. And if you have a higher intellect sense of humor, you might just want to stop right here. Still here? Good. Now giggle again at 'Ausfahrt' haha, Ok, we can move on. My husband had a bit of a cough the other day, and he was annoying the heck out of me at night I wanted to get him something that would soothe his scratchy throat. 
Perfect for kids or scratchy throat hockey players
We are never sure what players are allowed to take medicine wise, and since many of the cough medicines contain Codine - over the counter Codine - I thought that a children's herbal cough syrup would not only be delicious (oh yeah right, yum) but also be enough to do the trick. Little did I know I was setting my husband up.
Sorry hon, I didn't mean to feed you it, but I know your throat feels much better now, haha!
Yes, I know it means Thick Extract...but still funny :)

December 19, 2010

I'm Obsessed

There comes a time in every couples' relationship when they start to think, "What's next for us?" When maybe they begin to realize that the two of them just isn't enough. I have to admit, that some of these emotions have really been toying with my mind the last few months. The longing, the wanting, the dreaming of names and making future plans...

You seriously don't think I am talking about having kids, do you?!?! Yeah right!!! At least not now, too many other things to do and worry about. I am having such a great life with my husband right now, and I plan to enjoy our 'alone' time as long as possible. We will never have this opportunity again, the days just to ourselves. And I am sure that we will eventually catch the seemingly contagious baby bug, but for now, I don't have 'baby fever' I have 'pet fever'. And I have it bad!

Oh its almost sickening to think about. I can't help myself! I see people walking their dogs on the street and I want to pet and cuddle them. I talk to them in the strangest 'puppy' voice. "Ohhhh, yous a guuuuuud dougie, aren't you!?!". Yeah, like the Germans don't think I am crazy enough already. I chase down all the farm cats that live in our area when I go running. I feel obligated to feed treats to the goaties in our front yard (yes, they live right in our front yard). I am sure our landlords really love that.
Even they didn't like celery!

I have even 'adopted' a little European Robin that stops by our porch for breakfast every morning. I feel guilty if I sleep in late and can't feed him his daily smooshed up cracker.

But he is just so cute!

And the kitty, how I love the kitty. He hates me, or maybe just all humans. But that doesn't mean that I didn't construct a warm box for him to sleep in (which he has never used, but I still have hope), or that I don't throw left over meat at him. Yes, throw it at him, or rather to him. He won't come close enough to feed, so I must chuck it past the goat pen and into the open field - much to be chagrin of the goaties.
The elusive kitty stalking his field mouse prey

I have always been a sucker for animals. But as much as we both would love a pet right now, I just can't bring myself to ship it back and forth between Germany, Texas and Canada yearly. Call me inhumane, but I would have no problem doing that to a kid. Well, probably because kids don't ride in the cargo hold below the plane...although I am sure some mom's wouldn't mind that from time to time. And you can explain to a child why you are traveling back and forth between countries. I think a dog or a cat would be helpless to understand and to cope with all the change and travel that comes with the hockey life.

How can you say 'no' to that?

So, all my 'adopted' pets here in Germany are my kind of pet birth control. I think they will calm my urge to take in every stray animal I see. Until we are settled in a permanent place...if that will really ever happen.... I will continue to feed Ritz crackers, leftover turkey, and stale frosted corn flakes to my babies. "Whooose a good buddy?!?"
And just for the record, I am not the only one with the 'pet fever'
Thanks for the kisses Wilbur

December 18, 2010

Back Again

About dang time, dontcha think? :) Two years later, our third season in Germany, I think it is fair to say that things have changed since that non-German speaking girl started up this blog. My intention was never to broadcast to the world my every waking action. It was more so an outlet to send a kind of 'virtual postcard' to family and friends. A way to include them in my adventures abroad.

Two seasons in one city was long enough for us. Oh, and not to mention that we didn't even get all of our paycheck last year. Yeah, that might have had something to do with us wanting to get the heck outta Dodge. Sadly, that team doesn't exist anymore. Corruption and poor money management left some great hockey players and fans stranded in a town without a team.
So, this season, clean slate. New team, new city, new friends and experiences. New apartment, new rink, and new attitude. The perpetual smile on my face is proof that we are having a great time this year.
Really, the goatie that lives in our front yard wanted to make his online debut!

Why did I come back to my beloved, albeit somewhat abandoned TexaGermaNadian? Why now, when I actually have a work schedule and things to do for a change? I am not really the kind of person to display my entire private life online. Not one of those people who think that the facebook crowd is dying to know what they did all day. Everyone has at least one friend who is a 'status-slut'. Without talking to this person for 5 years, you know their details of how long they were stuck in traffic, what wrong order they got at Starbucks, how much they are in love with their boyfriend, their intricate dinner preparation and clean-up. Don't get me wrong, when bored online, I love those people. New News feed is never bad feed!

But this isn't about facebook. Although, the number of times I check it a day, I think I could write a rather informative blog about it alone. But rather, I came across a few things the other day. Some things that really made me mad. Like sick to my stomach uneasy. I stumbled on a few articles written by fellow people in the hockey world. Their complaining and ill-natured references to teams, owners, coaches, living situations, and fellow hockey friends blew my mind and really left me fuming. People will read those articles; they will get this image in their head about the hockey world. They will associate those experiences and attitude with MY situation. And I didn't feel like I could just let that happen. Believe you me, I totally think anyone and everyone is free to write whatever they want to write. I get ranting and raving about issues that truly need a voice (political or health issues, things that will bring prosperity to others).

But really, what I wanted to do was to show a different side of the story. And also, to say that I don't think it is alright or even normal to pick on hockey associates publicly. Maybe these people have forgotten what it is like to come to a new team, to not know anyone, and put yourself in a potentially vulnerable situation. Maybe they forgot that not everyday is a perfect day, regardless if you are living in Europe with your hockey playing husband, or lead a 'normal' 9-5 job in your hometown.

Contrary to what some might lead you to believe, not all hockey wives and girlfriends are backbiting and immature. In fact, I have met some of the most amazing people while living the hockey life. In North America and in Europe, you feel so lucky to run into these amazing women. Families that you would have never known existed had you not been so blessed to be on the same team. And you get to share a very intimate part of your life with them. While living the hockey life, you have a lot of time to yourself and to your family. More so than you would ever have in the 'normal' daily world. This time allows you to grow relationships and friendship deeper and stronger than you could imagine. An old, ridiculously corny, but oh so true in this light, sorority quote comes to mind:
"From the outside looking in, you can't understand it; From the inside looking out, you can't explain it..."
Shout out!

Anyone who has gone through a growth or change in their life will understand this. It doesn't matter where you are from, or what you do in life, I think the idea behind this is true. I'll end it with that I don't think I am a saint, nor am I trying to preach. I'm jumping off my soap box, and don't plan on stepping back up there anytime soon. I said my peace, now onto other things.

What, you really think I am going to detail you in on my day to day German activities?!?! As bored as you might be, seeing that you are already here to read my blog :), I don't think regaling my technique for making my own brown sugar in a country that has no brown sugar for sale is really going to keep you interested. (Actually, scratch that, my homemade brown sugar makes the softest and most delicious cookies. Definitely an upcoming entry for all the fellow North Americans in Europe).
Unfortunately, not an every day experience over here :(

So, what am I going to write about then? If I can actually manage to keep this thing somewhat current, I would love to share my daily funny and sometimes weird European experiences. While my daily life is definitely not interesting, I think some of the things that me and my husband run into are quite amusing. Sure, there will be stories about our 'hockey life' from time to time. But really, if I take out the word hockey, they aren't any different than anyone else's daily experiences.

If you decide to follow, I hope you enjoy. And I hope I can bring some humor to the not always easy or funny task of living in a foreign country. I mean, there are only so many wienerschnitzel jokes I can make! :)
Haha, "Exit" is Ass Fart! Wait...maybe we are immature :)
CC Image courtesy of 'wyzik' on Flickr