Friday, March 23, 2007

honey, there's a herring in the hot tub!

Time for another road trip.

We usually end up saving our pennies for the five-week trek to Vancouver every two years. There's not much left for extras in between. But this year we decided we really needed a break and agreed that the piggy bank was full enough to dip into without making too much of a dent.

You'll be thrilled to know that we've chosen to visit one of Europe's sexiest, most romantic, most exciting countries ever - Denmark! Whoo! Can you feel the electricity?

Why Denmark? Not sure, really, it just happened. It's close, for one thing. Rather than getting on a plane we can drive there in a few hours, thus keeping our touristy CO2 emissions to a miminum. Having the ocean nearby is another plus point. We all love the ocean, any ocean, and miss it dearly living in this landlocked area. Also, we've been to Denmark once before. We know that it is clean and cosy and very, very cute. Have you seen their cows?

As of Saturday afternoon, this yellower-than-yellow house will be our home for the next two weeks. It's only 400m away from the Baltic Sea and not far from the village of Ebeltoft in Jutland where we hope to do a bit of sightseeing and take a ton o' pictures.

Like many of the vacation homes in Denmark it has a small swimming pool, a sauna and a hot tub. Aren't we lucky?

Mr. M, who isn't doing too badly for an old guy, always gets that special look in his eyes when he hears the words "hot tub."

Mr M: Look!! It has a hot tub! Oooh, Mausi, you and I are going to be spending a LOT of time in ourselves.

Me: Uh huh. And what are we going to do with the kids while we're "enjoying ourselves". I don't think your version of hot tubbing is supposed to be a spectator sport.

Mr M: Damn. Foiled again.

Actually, besides spending countless hours immersed in a giant bucket of warm water with the man of my dreams, I also plan to do a lot of sleeping in, walking on the beach and reading all those books I haven't had time for lately.

Sadly, the one book missing from my collection is "Danish for Beginners". Much to my chagrin, I discovered that Danish is not a language you can learn two days before you leave on your trip. Ask me how I know. I got as far as "Hej!" and "Tak!" and then gave up.

Wikipedia tells us:
Modern spoken Danish is characterized by a strong tendency to reduce many sounds, making it particularly difficult for foreigners to understand or master.

Well that's a relief. It's not just me then.

Now let's move on to Danish food because the one thing I CAN do in any language is eat! Hmm, let's see, what do the Danes eat? Um...smørrebrød comes to mind - those darling little open-face sandwiches. They also have lovely dairy products. I'll probably gain ten pounds from all that wonderful cheese. I've heard that the baked goods aren't too shabby either which will mean scheduling in even more walks on the beach.

And let's not forget the pickled herring! We love pickled herring in all its variations. My mouth is watering as we speak just thinking about the delicious fishiness of it all.

The following video has nothing to do with Denmark but it does mention the words "herring" and "Norway". Close enough, right? And besides, Betty White just cracks me up.

Sooo...we'll be back just before Easter Sunday. Behave yourselves while I'm gone and don't do anything I wouldn't do.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

procrastinating - it's what I do best

Well, one of the things I do best, anyway.

I'm supposed to be packing for our trip. I hate packing. That's why I've chosen to sit here and do the Expat 54321 Meme that Blythe tagged me for.

5) Name five things you love in your new country:

(Hoo boy, this isn't going to be easy)
  • the public transportation system
  • beautiful cut flowers at reasonable prices
  • the cheese
  • my little black Twingo (I hate driving yet I love my car. Go figure.)
  • the fact that Germany is not Belgium or Switzerland

4) Name four things that you miss from your native country

  • my Vancouver family and friends
  • real nature right on my doorstep - the Coastal Mountains, the forests and the Pacific Ocean
  • good, authentic ethnic restaurants
  • the multicultural society

3) Name three things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:

  • cigarette smoke everywhere
  • poorly stocked supermarkets selling low quality food
  • the biting wind, especially combined with the horizontal, never-ending rain

2) Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you in the beginning) in your new country:

  • very homogeneous, xenophobic society
  • the mediocrity of the German school system (here and here)

1) Name one thing that you would miss terribly in your new country, if you had to leave it.

You mean except for the wonderful expat friends I have gotten to meet here? Not a thing, my dears, not a thing.

But that's just me...

Your mileage may vary.

Go ahead and do this meme - it really gets you thinking.

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    global what??

    Not around here. Our neighbours' house was covered in snow this morning

    And I may just need to knit tiny sweaters for the spring flowers.

    I wonder what the weather will be like when we head north this weekend?

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    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    FYI: Sparky is a saint

    I swear, that man deserves a medal for what he put up with on the weekend. Five gold stars for you, honey bunny. We liked your t-shirt, too.

    The participants (in alphabetical order just because I say so):

    Ann (Ann ona Moose)

    Brigit (Eurotrippen)

    Christina G (An American Expat in Germany)

    Christina W (Her blog should be going up any minute now. Working title: Of Mice and Men or What Does a Girl Have to Do to Get a Little Help around Here?)

    Claire (My Euro-American Life)

    Jessica (In Search of Dessert)

    Kim (Stepping Stones)

    Maria (Country Hopping)

    Penny (a delightful friend of Jen's who has yet to be sucked into the blogosphere)

    Tatiana (Organic Consciousness - if you only read one thing today, read her entry - THAT was what it was all about)

    Martina (American im Odenwald) was plannning on being there as well, but strep throat thought otherwise. She has started a blog, though, so I thought I'd give her a little linky love.

    Well, the first rule of the meet-up was "What goes on at girlie weekend stays at girlie weekend". But I think I can tell you a little bit about it without compromising anyone's integrity. And really, is it still a secret if 10 people know about it? Don't worry though, my lips are sealed.

    Our lovely and talented hostess procured only the most exquisite food and drink for her guests. Can you say Taco Bell? Can you say Taco Bell in Germany? Almost unheard of unless you have the right connections. The last time I had a Taco Bell burrito was back in 1985 in Oregon. Thanks for the memories, Jen. But it didn't stop at burritos. There was Sangria, there were Cosmopolitans, there were fine wines. And then there was that weird stuff that Claire brought last time she visited Jen. You don't want to be drinking that if you know what's good for you. It'll keep you up until 6 in the morning.

    On Saturday we enjoyed Jen's award-winning pasta sauce and a gorgeous Caesar salad. Other treats included Dr. Pepper, Fresca and Doritos. The Germans just don't know what they're missing in the junk food department.

    So what else did we do besides eat? Well, nothing, really, except talk. And talk. And talk. Not just small talk, BIG talk. About anything and everything. Yes, everything. I learned some new words. Once in a while someone would say, "I hope I'm not offending anyone?" and we'd all say, "Heck, no! Tell us more!".

    What a wonderful group of women. Women who understand the meaning of the phrase "I don't think I can stand this for even one more minute" and tell you in reply, "We'll help you to stand it for a minute, or a day or a year or however long it takes." This weekend changed me in a profound way.

    We all started leaving in dribs and drabs on Sunday, and when only Kim, Claire and I were left, J showed up for a short visit. This is the 5th time I've seen J and there's always something to talk about.

    Jen whizzed Claire, J and me to the train station while Sparky headed off to the Frankfurt airport with Kim. J had told me he had some time to kill and was meeting up with a friend at the train station so we found a cafe and settled in for a chat before my train left. Little did I know that J's mystery friend would be Rich. The Rich who hasn't blogged since Christmas. "I don't like typing." is NOT an excuse, OK? The first thing he said to me was "Hi Mausi, I read your blog all the time and you're better looking in person." Heh. Ain't that the truth! But hey, I take my compliments where I can get 'em. Thanks for the cup of tea, Rich - it was great meeting you.

    Sooo...I settled in for the four hour train ride home, expecting things to run smoothly. Wrong-o. Things never run smoothly with the Deutsche Bahn. On my way down to Jen's my train left Hannover an hour late but somehow managed to make up for lost time and got me there only 25 minutes after the expected arrival time. On the way back tragedy almost struck. About an hour out of Hannover the train suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere in the pitch dark and a shaky female voice informed us that some children had been seen playing on the tracks(!!!) and that the driver wasn't sure if he had hit one or not. Gulp. We'd have to stay put until they inspected the outside of the train to. I made eye contact with a few other passengers and they were obviously just as horrified as I was at the thought of a dead or maimed child lying on the train tracks. After a very tense 15 minutes, we were told that no one had been injured, thank god, and that we could continue our journey.

    We arrived in Hannover an hour late and I took the bus back to Dullsville where Mr. M picked me up at the bus stop. I was exhausted (A friend suggested to me today that perhaps I'm just too damn old to stay up so late two nights in a row! He may be right.) and pretty cranky and happier to see him than I've been in a long time. See what a weekend away will do for a girl?

    Thanks, Jen and Sparky. It was a blast. You guys are the best.

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    Friday, March 16, 2007

    I'm leavin' on a big train, don't know when I'll be back again

    Well, OK, I'll be back on Sunday night. In case you haven't been hanging on my every word, this weekend is Girlie Weekend at Jen's and I plan on having the best time ever. As soon as I get there I'm going to put on my yoga pants and not budge from the sofa. There's going to be quite a crowd attending and we'll miss those who couldn't be there this time. Next time for sure!

    This must be travelling season. If you can believe it, the very next weekend the Mausi family will be taking off for foreign soil for a couple of weeks. Something to do with herring and hot tubs. More details when I get back.

    See ya!

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    party animal

    The transition isn't easy. That's why you need...

    a Nintendo Gamecube cake,...

    lots and lots of pizza,...

    a big stick to whack your pinata with, and...

    6 rowdy little friends to help you celebrate.

    So yes, my littlest baby turned 11 yesterday and a good time was had by all.

    Normally this would mark the end of the yearly "3 Birthdays in 12 Days Bonanza", BUT none of Boy14's friends could attend the party he had planned last week, so we're postponing it until after Easter since I have Other Things to Do on the next couple of weekends coming up.

    Anyone want leftover cake?

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    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    for your baking pleasure

    So first of all here's the recipe for the chocolate cheescake. It's ridiculously easy to make and I expect you all to report in after you've tried it out on your loved ones.

    Philadelphia 3-Step Black Forest Cheesecake (from Philadelphia Cream Cheese Classic Recipes)

    2 packages (8 oz/250g each) Philadelphia cream cheese, softened*
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    2 eggs
    4 squares Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
    1 ready-to-use chocolate flavoured crumb crust (6 ounces or 9 inch)**
    1 cup thawed Cool Whip whipped Topping***
    1 1/2 cups cherry pie filling****
    chocolate curls for garnish (optional)

    Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs; mix until blended. Stir in melted chocolate.

    Pour into crust.

    Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 35 - 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Spread whipped topping over chilled cheesecake; cover with pie filling. Sprinkle with chocolate curls if desired.

    Notes if you live in Germany and want to make this:
    *Cream cheese in Germany comes in 200g packages, so make sure you do the math and don't end up using too little
    **Good luck finding a ready-made crumb crust here. You'll need to wing it and scout out some suitable chocolate cookies, bash them around a bit and use about 1 cup mixed with 2 Tbsp melted butter. Press into pie pan and bake about 10 mins at 350°F before adding cream cheese mixture.
    *** No edible oil product available? Of course you can also use real whipped cream or some of that Rama Cremefine zum Schlagen stuff.
    ****I used Kirschgrütze as a substitute.

    And since we're on the subject , here are the cakes Mr M bought himself for his birthday.

    The three little ones were just right to have a bit of variety. The big one on the left was covered in a layer of marzipan and had whipped cream, sponge cake and ground hazelnuts inside. Oof. They all come frozen and all you need to do is thaw them for a couple of hours.

    I feel he went a little overboard in the cake deparment, as usual, but in Germany you ARE supposed to supply your own birthday cake(s) and there wasn't much I could do about it...

    ...except to make even MORE cake! Yeah! I made a traditional Hannoversche Butterkuchen, a sheet cake that is typical to northern Germany and often served in the afternoon with coffee.

    It's a sweet yeast dough that's rolled out in the pan, dotted with lots of butter and sprinkled with sugar. It's customary to make indentations in the dough with the end of a wooden spoon to create little pools of butter while the cake is baking. The end result is almost like a donut - very yeasty and buttery with a delicious, delicious sugar crust. Some people also put flaked almonds on top. We like it without.

    I really wanted to eat the whole pan by myself but they wouldn't let me. Just wait until MY birthday.

    Hannoversche Butterkuchen - Hannover Butter Cake (from Dr. Oetker's Die Besten Rezepte aus deutschen Landen - yes, that's really the title although the German seems weird)

    1 package dry yeast
    75 g sugar
    1 package vanilla sugar
    pinch of salt
    250 ml lukewarm milk
    75 g melted butter
    500 g flour

    Topping: 100-125 g butter
    100 g sugar
    75 g blanched, flaked almonds, optional

    If making in bread machine, like I did: milk, butter, sugar, salt, vanilla sugar in bottom of bread machine pan, flour on top and yeast sprinkled on top of that. Set machine to dough cycle and remove when risen.

    If mixing and kneading by hand: Mix ingredients the regular way, knead and let dough rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled. Punch down and proceed with recipe.

    Roll out dough to fit into greased shallow 30 x 40 cm (about 12 x 16 inches) pan. With end of wooden spoon, make indentations in dough at regular intervals and fill with small blobs of butter. Sprinkle sugar and flaked almonds (if using) over all and let rise again until doubled. Bake at about 200°C(400°F) for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool and cut into squares.

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    Sunday, March 04, 2007

    birthday suit

    Mr. Mausi celebrates his 45th birthday today. He's also celebrating being with the same company for the past 19 years. Isn't that just so very German of him?

    One fine day long, long ago a little boy, not even five years old yet, said to himself, "Hmm, I really dig wearing this shirt and tie. I like it so much, in fact, that when I grow up I want to be head of my department so I can wear a shirt and tie to work every single day. Yeah, that's it!"

    "So be it!", proclaimed the good fairy waving her magic wand, "When the time is right, you shall become a department head."

    I think she meant a department head with a necktie fetish.

    be careful what you wish for

    Happy Birthday, Mr. M! You haven't changed a bit.


    Friday, March 02, 2007

    when good cheesecake goes bad, or: I blame Mercury

    Well, well, well, this has been an interesting week. Nothing earth-shattering, just general crankiness and a few more annoyances than usual, starting with the breakdown of our dishwasher and ending with a cheescake disaster with a couple of really good fights in between. I enjoy a good argument now and then, don't you?

    I'm blaming it all on Mercury Retrograde. If you're astrologically inclined, you'll know what I'm talking about.

    When we got the new kitchen we kept the the old dishwasher because it still worked perfectly well. Or so we thought. On Monday night we went to run it and noticed that it wasn't filling with water. We did all the usual stuff like checking the pump and cleaning the filter, but nothing helped. Thinking it might have been a blocked water hose, Mr. M poked around a bit and finally got it going again. Fine.

    No, not fine. On Monday night at about 11 p.m. I turned it on and, oh no, no water. Mr M took another look, checked the internet and decided something was seriously wrong, something not really worth fixing since the machine was pretty old anyway. So there's me taking all the yucky, gunky dishes out of the machine again and washing them by hand at 11:30 p.m. when I had actually been thinking about going to bed fairly early for a change. And that machine was FULL. I know lots of people don't even have a dishwasher and I don't mind washing dishes all that much, but I do like to have fair warning. Good thing Jay Leno was on on CNBC Europe so I could laugh while I was up to my elbows in suds. We got a new machine on Tuesday and all is well.

    Wednesday came along, Boy14's birthday. He had asked me to make him a cheesecake and we chose a chocolate swirl version. No problem, I thought. I had a hair appointment at noon on Wednesday and wanted to get the cake done before that. About half an hour into the preparations things started going horribly, awfully wrong and I knew the cheesecake was going to fail miserably. "Hey", I thought, "I splurged on the best cream cheese money can buy [you know the one - starts with Phil and ends with adelphia] but this is looking soupy, way too soupy, and just plain weird. And why isn't the chocolate mixing in properly, it's all lumpy. And what's with the colour anyway? This isn't working at all." I baked it nevertheless, cooled it a bit and popped it into the fridge just seconds before I had to leave to get my hair done.

    Luckily my hair stylist didn't transform me into a puffed-up debutante this time so I could safely venture into the supermarket after my appointment and pick up a few packages of cheap-o cream cheese to see if that would work better. I decided to try out a different recipe and the planets must have been correctly aligned this time because it worked out perfectly.

    Behold! Black Forest Cherry Cheesecake!!

    So that's one Pisces birthday down, two more to go - Mr. M celebrates this Sunday and Boy10 has his special day exactly a week later. Lots more baking to do...

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