Friday, 30 November 2012

German Christmas Markets

We were hoping while in Berlin the German Christmas Markets would be open but alas they weren't quite ready.  I have been told German Christmas Markets are amazing.  Near our Hotel in East Berlin was a smaller Christmas market was starting to set up so we stopped by a couple of times hoping to see some of the stalls.  Alas only a few opened up before we had to leave.  But we did get a small glimpse into what a German Christmas market looks like.

The food stalls were the first to open and at lunch time it was starting to get a bit busy.  I tried Gluhwein which is a hot German spice wine.  I know some people love it, but I wasn't crazy about it.

By evening even though it was mostly just the food stalls and game booths open the place was packed.  I haven't seen such crowds in a long time.  This picture doesn't show the crowds of course

I thought this was interesting--chocolate with red chili peppers.    I didn't try one:0

The ginger bread cookies with royal icing were everywhere.  My husband and daughter thought they were very good.  I wanted to bring some back to hang on the tree but they were closed the day we stopped by on the way to the airport:(

At night some of the games booths opened up and we enjoyed watching this game.  Not sure of the name of it.

But it looked like Bocce on ice

Kids loved this one and Daddy bought a ticket for  6 down hill rides each, they were so thrilled with it.

I kept hoping that the stalls would open up so I could get a glimpse of some of the German Christmas ornaments but that wasn't to be so we found a Kathe Wohlfahrt store and I got my Christmas fix that way.

I think I have several pictures over the years since living overseas of the kids next to the Kathe Wohlfahrt nutcrackers
I Keep thinking about getting some nutcrackers to bring home and then I see the price and decide not too:)

I love seeing all the Christmas decor and hearing the Christmas music it gets me into the mood of the holidays

Across from the Christmas market was the Sony Center with restaurants and we watch them decorate the square one evening while having dinner.  It was fun to see them put up the decorations!

Now that I am back home I am in the mood to get my house all decorated for the Christmas season:)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Berlin, Germany

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday my family and I traveled to Berlin, Germany.  Living overseas we tend to travel over the long Holiday weekend and this year we decided we wanted to see Berlin. We still had a Thanksgiving Dinner.  Quite by accident one year we stumbled into a Hard Rock Cafe on one of our trips on Thanksgiving Day and found out they serve an American Thanksgiving Dinner at every one of their restaurants.

So we made a reservation at the Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin on Thanksgiving day.  I was the only one who opted for the full Thanksgiving dinner.  The rest of the family ordered burgers:)

Love that everywhere had pedestrian side walks and biking paths (red brinks)

Throughout the city we saw these above ground pipes usually painted pink or blue.  My husband thought they might be sewer or water lines.  I kept meaning to ask someone but forgot:(
When in a new city for a short period of time we will often take the city tour bus to kind of get the lay of the land and see where things are.  Often these bus tours will allow you to get on and off.  This is the famous Brandenburg Gate  which is the symbol for Berlin.  It is on the East side of Berlin.

Jewish memorial, I am not sure what the blocks symbolized but it was an impressive site

The kids loved running thru the cement blocks and hiding

In East Berlin there is still lots of building projects going up.  The photos of the before and after pictures of East Berlin since the wall came down were striking.  

German President's home

We got very good using the under ground system.  Public transportation is so much better in European cities.   We were even treated to a impromptu sax concert on one of our rides.

I have several posts on our trip, we went to Check point Charlie, Berlin Wall, DDR museum (museum on East Berlin) , Sachsenhausen Concentration camp and to a German Christmas market.   

Monday, 26 November 2012

A Shopping Experience in Cambridge, UK

Most people have heard of Cambridge University but don't know that the University is a series of colleges.  There is Trinity, St. Johns, Kings College and quite a few others colleges that make up the Cambridge University system.

Going into a city in England is very different than in the States.  Since living over here I find my way of shopping has changed significantly.  There are many many things I love about the European way of living...but then there are the odd times when I miss the speed and simplicity of the way it is done in the US.

Parking is very hard to find in the city and it extremely expensive so in order to go into Cambridge you must first find a park and ride station to park your car.  Luckily there are several surrounding the city so you can enter the city from any direction without difficulty.

While you don't pay to park your car at these stations you do pay to ride the bus into town.  This is not very expensive, and children under 16 ride free.

Most cities in England and Europe have a pedestrian shopping district.  Unlike the States there are many speciality stores which makes shopping a bit more fun.
The mode of transportation with in the city is bicycle and the you will find them locked up everywhere.  Another thing that is different here are that bicycles have the right of way in the city.

In Cambridge there is a city market every day of the week and the stalls change frequently so it is always fun to look around.  On weekends in different parts of the city they will also have specialty markets.

Lots of very interesting and unique things to see.  This is a modern clock that is across from Kings College Chapel.  It always has lots of visitors looking at it.

You can always find interesting and historical places tuck away in the hustle bustle of the city.  This is the oldest  church in Cambridge and dates back to the Anglo Saxon period.  It actually is one of the few buildings in England from the pre-Norman period.
Kings College, first picture is the courtyard of the college and the bottom picture is the back of the buildings facing the River Cam

The River Cam flows through the city and you will see punters taking tourist and locals for a ride (if you are really ambitious your can hire just the boat and be your own punter).   There are several bridges over the river to allow pedestrian walk ways. 

Around every corner you will see a interesting beautiful sight.

In the summer months it is not unusual to see and hear about kids jumping off the bridges to splash unsuspecting tourist in a punt boat!
Another part of the shopping experience is the many many places where you can stop to have a cup of tea and a dessert in the outdoor cafe's along the shopping area.  (this picture was taken in the summer time)  In the colder months restaurants will often have out door heaters in their court yards to help combat the cold.

So how has my shopping changed since living in the UK....

1.  Shopping is now an experience to be enjoyed.  I can't just run into a store and pick up something, it is something I need to allow several hours to do.

2.  I don't pick up unnecessary purchases along my route as I will have to carry it around until I get back to the bus and then my car.

3.  I love the sitting in an outdoor cafe and just watch the people go by and have a cup of tea and a yummy treat!

4.  I enjoy the history of the city, the scenery and the specialty shops

5.  I have learned to slow down and to really think about what I am buying and decide if I really need it.

**Note there are a few locations here where you can shop in an mall, but I find I avoid them now**

What do I sometimes miss about shopping in the states:

1.  Shopping after 6 pm,  most stores close by 5 or 5:30 

2.  Driving up to a store and parking right outside to run in and get the one thing I need is something I occasionally miss.

3.  I miss large craft and fabric stores like Michael's and Joannes.    I also miss Radio shack.  Finding things for some of our school work can be challenging, so I do a lot more on line ordering.

In less than a year we will be heading back to the states and I will miss many things about the European lifestyle and the shopping experience will be one of them!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Ice skating


Outdoor ice skating rinks are very popular in England from Nov until end of February.  My daughter's girls scout troop went ice skating at the local garden center's outdoor rink.  Forgive the quality of the pictures I left my camera at home and someone else took these pictures.  

Little man using a skating aid to help him remain upright.

Princess took several tumbles but kept going the entire time

Eventually getting her legs moving

Little Man picking up speed and venturing away from the wall
Kids had a great time and both now want to take ice skating lessons in the future!:)  

I am taking a mini break from my blog to spend some time with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your family:)!!!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Chicken Paprikash

Now that the days are getting shorter and the nights colder I find I am pulling this family favorite soup recipe.  My husband has a family member from Hungary and every time we visit them he asked them to make their Chicken Paprikash.  Once we found out we would be moving overseas,  I asked them to  teach me how to make this delicious soup and slowly over the last four years I have made it my own and according to my husband it is every bit as tasty as his family's version:)!  

This recipe requires a little vigilance at the beginning in order to get maximum flavor but then can simmer with minimum attention.
First sauté 1 onion until lightly brown -- be extremely careful not to burn the onions it will change the taste of this soup

Cut 2 red peppers into small pieces.

1/4 cup paprika

After onions are cooked add in paprika and mix 1/4 cup of chicken broth and thoroughly coat the onions with the paprika stirring constantly.

Then add 2 cans of chicken broth and 3 cans of water

Add one teaspoon of crushed garlic

This recipe calls for chicken breast on the bone and with skin or chicken legs with skin and bones.  As I try to minimize the fat I  only add 2 chicken breasts with skin and bone and the rest is boneless and skinless.  In the past I have tried to cut out the skin and bone chicken completely but we did notice the taste of the soup changed so this was a nice middle ground.  

Add chicken to the pot make sure the chicken is completely covered -- add more water if needed but just enough to cover the chicken.

Add one can of mushrooms and bring to a boil.  Once boiling lower temp to simmer and cover  and stir occasionally.  Simmer for about 60 minutes. About 10 minutes before serving in a measuring cup add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and a little milk and mix up (make sure you get lumps out) and add to soup to thicken it.
Cook a box of pasta shells 

Add shells to bowl, one piece of chicken and soup.  Optional to top with sour cream and hot sauce
Serve with a side of crusty bread.  I made homemade Focaccia bread with rosemary, onion and sea salt.

Hope you enjoy this family favorite recipe on a cold winter's night:)!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Re-enactment Market Fair

This past weekend we went on our annual trek to the the Re enactors Market Fair held near Coventry.   It is always fun to go to these things cause you can met some very interesting people:).  Since my family are re enactors I can't call them strange as we might fit into that category;)!   Anyway, every time we go we see some new and interesting things.

One of the stalls had the game of UR and since we are studying Mesopotamia we stop to ask them to show us the rules of the game. 

Princess fell in love with this puppet dragon so much so she decided to spend her allowance on it:)
Watched a man construction arm sleeves for body armour

the full size version

My husband bought a leather belt and want the buckles switched so the kids and I got to see leather work

This was a new booth this year.  The stall boosts of wines from the medieval period.  They said they used documented recipes.  We tried a sample and it tasted very much like mull wine.  We bought a bottle for the up coming holidays:)  We also bought a bottle of mead.

This was a new item for me to see which is a navigation tool used by sailors to determine direction and speed of their sailing ships.

Lots of clothing booths

Showed the kids the history of women's clothing:)

Buying fabric

Looking at patterns for how to make anglo-saxons tunics.  Because I am going to attempt to make one for my husband and son...since buying pre-made one are so expensive.

Clothing accessories of every era could be found

As well as pottery and glassware for every era

Roman era costume
It is fun to look around and see all the different things, it was nice to see my kids showing their knowledge as they looked at different booths.  If you ever get a chance to attend one of these shows I highly recommend it as it really does allow kids to see up close and handle items they may only see in a museum.