Wednesday, October 30, 2013

American Halloween v. German Halloween

Halloween.  In the States, as soon as the Back to School supplies are cleared from the shelves, a jack-o-lantern from Halloween's past comes in the night and covers store aisles in a contrasting array of dark orange and stark black. Dentists all over the country rejoice at candy packed shelves over flowing with oozy, gooey, chewy rot-your-teeth out goodies. For the month of October, children everywhere have only one thing on their mind...candy, Candy, I WANT CANDY!!! It's the one day of the year where you can be anything or anyone thanks to the plastic, polyester, crammed in a clear bag costumes. The day when people bring out their humor, college girls aren't judged, and even dogs can play along. It is one of my favorite times of year.

A typical American aisle overflowing with Halloween!

Giant Bags of Candy

In Germany, Halloween is a bit harder to find. If you look closely, it is there. On the 3rd floor of a department store there is a tiny selection of costumes. At the grocery store, at the end of the aisle you can pick between two Halloween candies. Jack-o-lanterns sit on a few front porches and you can buy a witch hat at the  Euro store.  You will be hard pressed to find a pumpkin patch or haunted house.

Department Store Halloween Section in Munich, Germany

From what I have heard Halloween is more celebrated than what it used to be. The children here see Halloween in the Hollywood movies so the holiday is becoming more popular. Last year I saw a few trick or treaters out and we even had a couple ring our doorbell.

This year I have heard ads on the radio for Halloween celebrations at a few bars around town. The Ghost Buster theme song and Thriller are circulating the DJ playlists. Of course, the international groups are also celebrating with their own parties!

Halloween Display Munich, Germany

Every country has their own traditions and celebrations. Oktoberfest is a huge is part of German culture. Halloween here is like  Oktoberfest in the States. It is on a smaller scale but still fun for those who partake in the festivities. So on that note, wherever you may be in the world, have a Happy Halloween!
Halloween 2010

Make Life Bootiful,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Apple Strudel Muffins

Besides a Saturday morning grocery run, Husband and I did not leave the house all weekend. It. Was. Awesome. Doesn't everyone need a weekend like that every once in awhile?  

During the week I do not get around to much cooking. Weeknight meals are kept simple or the cooking duties are shared between Husband and I.  When the weekends roll around it is a different story.  We usually have several recipes cooked up or baked fresh.  Our kitchen has a Sunday routine; messy, clean, messy, clean, messy, clean, messy, clean...and this goes on for about four cycles.  

Bavarian Weeknight Meal

This morning when I complained about the messy kitchen (after cleaning it an hour beforehand), Husband said, "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs." Except we didn't make omelettes.  I baked Apple Strudel Muffins. They were amazing.

Remember when I talked about buying a bag of apples from Apple Guy at the Farmer's Market?  Well, this weekend we had another bag sitting on our counter.  As you probably have guessed, if you are a regular reader, I made some more Crock Pot Applesauce.  With the remaining three apples I decided to make apple muffins for breakfast.  A quick Google search lead me to the perfect Apple Strudel Muffin recipe.

The more comfortable I get with baking, the more I am using recipes as a guideline or rather a suggestion. I mean after all, it is all about the science right?  For this particular recipe, I used three apples. One apple I cut into small pieces, the second I chopped in the processor, and the third apple I grated finely. Instead of 1 cup of white sugar, I used 1/2 white and 1/2 brown sugar.  The last change I made was adding 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.  

To top it off...more sugar!

The muffins came out full of soft apple chunks and the strudel topping added the perfect amount of sweetness.  The Apple Strudel Muffins are definitely upgrading from a search on the internet to a card in my recipe box.  In all the hype that is Pumpkin Spice right now, don't forget about the apple.  As mom always said, "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away." 

See the yummy chunks of apple?

Have you done any pumpkin or apple cooking/baking this season?  Do you search recipes mainly online, out of magazines, or from your personal collection?

Mainly Mmm Mmmm Muffins,


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekend Trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

We celebrated Husband's birthday the other day. Ok, it was really more like a few months ago but I never got around to telling you the excitement of it all.

It was decided in the early part of 2013 that Husband wanted to bring in his last 20's birthday in the town of Rothenberg ob der Tauber. Rothenberg is an original medieval walled city with fantastic historical sites. It is a popular American and Asian tourist destination and after 5 minutes on the old city streets it is pretty easy to see why. We both immediately regretted not making it to Rothenberg on our first trip to Germany back in  2011.

On the outskirts of the city wall looking towards the city center.

We made the two hour drive north of Munich and enjoyed seeing sections of the Romantic Road. (another Ludwig specialty) After finding a fantastic deal on a castle hotel, via the internet, we made an overnight trip. It was cheaper to drive 8k into the Franconia countryside than to book a hotel room in Rothenberg. Can you believe that?! Castle stays will always trump hotel rooms.

We highly recommend Burg Colmberg Castle Hotel.
Our bed!

Here are our Rothenburg ob der Tauber Highlights:

One of the gates into the city Rothenburg.

City wall tower and charming streets.
This photo is from wikipedia.

St. James' Lutheran Church
This area is predominantly protestant.

Standing on the medieval city wall.

To continue celebrating Husband's birthday, every hour on the 29th minute (his age) he had to open a small gift.  I saw the idea on Thirty Handmade Days and it was one of my very first Pinterest pins a couple of years ago.  It was so much fun hunting for little, not too expensive gifts for Husband.  He thought it was pretty cool.  How many people can say they have opened a birthday gift driving on the autobahn?

Here is what was inside: coffee syrup, coffee beans, truffle salt, trail mix, German cook book, German video game, book light, Dr. Pepper,  highlighters, framed Aggie football schedule, rubik cube, and chocolate truffles. 

The Birthday Boy and Black Forest Cake!

If you are coming to visit Germany, please do yourself a favor and make a day or two in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  Take a walking tour on the ancient walls, see the medieval dungeons, and spend some time taking in all the historic architectural quirky details. It is one of my favorite towns in southern Germany.  Husband and I are already planning a second trip to Rothenburg's Christmas market. 

Next birthday up is the BIG 3-0!!!  Is it too soon to start planning?  Do you have any fun ideas for turning 30?

Forever Young,

Monday, October 21, 2013

Crock Pot Applesauce

You can tell which weeks I have been reading a book because I don't blog. Husband says he is the reader in the family and I am the writer. I guess this must be true since I am unable to write a blog and read a book in the same week. Last week I was engrossed in yet another Nicholas Sparks' book, At First Sight.  His books suck me in every time and then I always fall for yet another tear jerker when I least expect it.  So please forgive me for the lack of October entries. 

Well anyways, Saturday morning after brunch, Husband and I went to our local farmer's market. (Brunch + Farmer's Market = Married Life) Our favorite stand is Apple Guy. Apples are the best in October so we bought a big o' bag of Elstars and 1.5 liters of pure apple cider for only 4€!  If Apple Guy is ever out of the apple cider it is a sad, sad day. 

With all the apples sitting on my kitchen counter, I decided to make Crock Pot Applesauce.  I made it last fall using a recipe off of Pinterest but this year I decided to throw caution to the wind, play it by ear, and go by the seat of my pants.  I experimented with my own recipe more like threw a bunch of random amounts of goodness into the crock pot. Seriously, you don't even have to follow my recipe this is too easy. I think you would have a hard time messing up Crock Pot Applesauce.

BUT if you must is what I did!

8-10 medium sized apples
1/3 cup orange juice or water
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

To start wash and slice 8 to 10 apples.  I used Elstar apples but any type will do.  The apples you choose depends on how sweet you want your applesauce.  I also recommend Red Delicious and Fuji apples.

Dump the apples into the Crock Pot.  Pour over the top 1/3 cup of orange juice or water, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.

Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.  Stir the crock pot occasionally, although this is not necessary but just so you can get a whiff of the goodness.  

After 8 hours you can mash up the apple slices to your desired consistency.  I like my applesauce a bit on the chunky side.  Serve warm or cold.  Freeze or refrigerate in an air tight container.

I'm not even kidding, it is so easy to make this homemade applesauce.  I doubt I will ever buy premade applesauce again.  Plus, you will love how great the apple cinnamon makes your house smell!

Monday Greetings,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Living Frugally in Fall

Husband and I have a big accomplishment to celebrate. A shout-it-from-the-rooftops type of news. We are officially rid of all credit card debt! After months of eating out only once a week (sometimes not even that), minimal shopping (last clothing purchase was in July), and careful spending we were able to focus on our debt. Getting married, a two week honeymoon, and moving internationally all within the same summer put us in the hole a bit.  Tightening up our spending habits and budget living has been a challenge but a great learning experience.

 Even though we are credit card debt free, Husband and I are continuing to live in this style.  In fact, this month we started again (third times the charm right?) to track our expenses using a spreadsheet.  In the past we have tried this method, been "too" busy lazy, and/or inconsistent with recording our spending.  For us, it will be good to see where the bulk of our expenses end up each month (Groceries most likely!) to help us achieve our next goal.
This past Saturday, Husband was so generous to take me shopping at TKMaxx.  This is the same company as TJMaxx for all you American readers.  The store is a bit of a drive outside of Munich and I still have not learned to drive a standard. (It has been 9 months since I was last behind the wheel!) Ironically, Husband and I talked about our budget nearly the whole drive there. Girls, don't ever budget talk right before you shop!

So of course to add to the irony, while shopping I found two pairs of fall and winter boots.  If anyone knows me, you know I only shop frugally. Most of the time, if I can't buy good quality then I won't buy at all.  Husband usually doesn't worry when I say I am out shopping because he knows I look but rarely buy.  Remember above when I said my last clothing purchase was in July?  In fact, I had not bought new boots since before I met Husband so I was way overdue. With the purpose of buying jeans, it was a complete accident I found two pairs of boots in one shopping trip.  One pair of boots is black leather and the other pair is tan with thick wool lining. The second pair is basically UGG knockoffs but a nice knockoff.  Today when wearing them for the first time someone even asked me if I bought new UGGs. 

I'm not saying that Husband and I live 100% strictly to our budget, we are just careful spenders.  Being frugal is fun to me.  It is like a game and I enjoy the hunt for the best bargain I can find. 

Wednesday night I went to look at the Yankee candles in Karstadt. (a department store) I had been wanting a pumpkin candle to bring a bit a fall smell into our home. There were not any pumpkin candles but I did find that the Vanilla Chai scent was nice.  Then, I looked at the price... I couldn't justify spending 22 Euros on the medium jar! I know the Yankee candles are imported and scented candles are hard to find in Germany, but that comes to around $30... for a candle! So Saturday when I found a pumpkin candle at TKMaxx for only 8 Euros, I couldn't resist! And yes, it smells great!

One thing is certain, our spending habits have changed since moving to Germany.  Once in awhile we do take a weekend trip or occasionally I might buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte but Husband and I are now more mindful of where our money goes.  Wish us luck as we try the spreadsheet method once again!

Make Life Affordable,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

You've Got Mail

Happy 274th Day of the Year! Better known as October 1st. Today should be recognized as the start to one of the greatest months of the year. No, it is not my birth month....but the month responsible for pumpkin flavors, colorful gourds, and enough candy to rot your teeth out. Yippee, fall is here!

How come April 1st is celebrated by fools all around and October 1st is most often just another day at the office? Well, a quick Google search showed me what all October 1st has to celebrate. Today is the International Day of the Elderly, World Vegetarian's Day (let the animals rejoice), and my personal favorite Postcard Day!

Grandmother's are always the best at mailing cards for birthdays, anniversaries, and sending holiday cheer. This got me thinking, we all need to send more snail mail to our family and friends.  In the modern day of lightening speed technology, snail mail could become a thing of the past. Greeting cards are so much more personal than a passing email because someone took the time to think of you.  

Just yesterday, I dropped two cards into the mail at the post office. I have to admit it had been at least 6 months since my last visit. I was so excited to leave work with the purpose of mailing cards.  Am I the only one who likes picking out the stamps?  

If mailing cards and letters makes our loved ones happy, why has it become just another Christmas ritual to send greetings? Why not send some love all year round?  It sure beats a mailbox full of bills!

So this afternoon, in honor of October 1st being the official day of Postcards, I am dropping two in the mail for our mamas.

Has mailing cards become a thing of the past?  How often do you send cheer to your family and friends?

October Greetings,