Friday, May 31, 2013

Foodie Penpals Reveal Day!

This month I participated in Foodie Penpals over at The Lean Green Bean. Basically, you're paired up with someone to send to and then another partner who sends to you. I sent a box to the very sweet Beth from Mangoes and Miles (check her out, she has the cutest puppy!).

My other partner, (the one who sent ME a lovely box!) was Catherine from Living the Gourmet. She was such a nice lady and really spoiled me! I told her I was a chocolate and tea lover and she definitely delivered. She sent me some amazing Polish chocolates and some mulled wine tea. Fionn and I have enjoyed devouring everything! :)




Tasty chocolates, tea, and a very sweet note...


I REALLY liked these!


These were so cute and delicate. Almost too cute too eat, but I managed.. ;)


This was such a great first time Foodie Penpal Experience that I can't wait to sign up again. Getting mail is awesome :)



If you're interested in taking part next month, click the link below! :)

The Lean Green Bean

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What we've been doing lately...

Just when we thought spring was finally here, Germany pulled a fast one on us and blessed our Memorial Day weekend with non stop rain, wind, and temperatures that got down to the 40s. Seriously, what gives?? It's nearly June!!

Fionn had to work for part of the weekend, so we didn't go anywhere, and even if we wanted to, pretty much all of Germany had similar weather so it didn't seem worth it to drive all that way for nothing. I was dreaming of a weekend in the Rhine Valley visiting vineyards, but that will have to wait!


Someday we'll go!! :)

We tried to get out of the house, but since most things close at 2pm on Saturdays in rural Bavaria, everywhere was pretty much a ghost town. We stopped at a nearby chocolate factory for some hot drinks and homemade cake, and that cheered us up (free chocolate and gummy bear samples didn't hurt either!). It was packed, so I guess that's what all the Germans do on weekends when they're not nordic walking...


People always laugh when I say that, but seriously, every single weekend the Germans come out in droves to go walking, with nordic sticks or without. Whether it's raining, freezing cold, blistering hot, the Germans always spend their weekend outside. Since where we live is so rural, there are a lot of trails to go walking, but every weekend? Don't they get tired of seeing the same trees, rocks, and stumps? I guess I have a long way to go to become truly Bavarian.

Speaking of Bavaria, this was a big weekend for our federal state since the soccer team FC Bayern-München won the Champions League against rivals, Dortmund. Since there's no World Cup or Euro Cup this year, it's a pretty huge deal for European soccer fans. Bavarians went nuts when their team won.



Of course the big cities in Bavaria were crazy with football fans, but even the little villages had parties spilling out of their little pubs that went into the early hours of the morning. When I drove by the pub in our village in my red car wearing a red coat some guys in lederhosen and Bayern-München shirts started cheering. Guess I picked the right color to wear...

Apart from that, it was a very quiet weekend. We caught up on sleep, ran some errands, and yesterday we had dinner with our friends who live in the flat below us. My friend Allie made some amazing pulled pork and I made coleslaw, and it would've been very Memorial Day-esque if not for the driving rain and freezing temps. Ah, Germany. :)

June is coming up and Fionn and I are trying to get on planning some trips since our time in Europe is running out! It's a bittersweet feeling for me-I've been on my "European adventure" for almost 5 years and it's strange to finally have an "end date" and a guaranteed return to the States. I'm excited because I do really miss home and being an expat is tiring after a while, but I'll also miss the adventure and the fun my expat life has brought me. But there's a time for everything, right? So this is just one new chapter...

BUT, that day is not here yet! So, a-traveling we go. Next stops, Edinburgh, Scotland and Lisbon, Portugal! :)





What have you been up to lately? :)

Tasty Tuesday: Curried Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

My mom used to make a variation of this when I was a kid, and for some reason this past week I was craving it like crazy. Since I didn't have her recipe and by the time I realized I wanted it it was too late to call her, I made up my own. It turned out great! :)



Ingredients

-fresh head of broccoli
-chicken breast, cooked and diced
-egg noodles
-3 Tbsp. butter
-2 Tbsp. flour
-1/2 cup milk
-1 chicken bouillon cube
-2 Tbsp. curry
-Cheddar cheese, grated
-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
-1/3 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C

I used leftover cooked chicken, but if you don't have that on hand, take chicken breasts and season with salt, pepper, and whatever else you prefer (garlic powder is a nice touch). Saute the chicken until it's cooked through and dice. Set aside.

Chop fresh broccoli and steam until crisp. Meanwhile, cook egg noodles until al dente.

Mix broccoli, chicken, and egg noodles together and put them into a greased casserole dish.

In a small saucepan, cook butter and flour on low heat, stirring constantly until it becomes golden brown. Add chicken bouillon cube and milk and stir until it becomes a thick sauce (this will take a few minutes, keep stirring!) Once sauce has thickened, add the curry, stir, and pour over the chicken and broccoli mixture.

Mix grated cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle over the casserole.

Cook for 20-30 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Neuschwanstein and the Bavarian Alps

Fionn hasn't had a whole weekend off in a while, but to make up for it this weekend he got 3 days off! Yay! He was so sweet and really made spending time together a priority. I'm a lucky girl :)

On Saturday he suggested we go down to the Bavarian Alps and see the Neuschwanstein Castle. It was built by mad King Ludwig in the 1800s and is the inspiration for the Disney Castle. I have been dying to see it since I got to Germany, but we've been waiting for nicer weather. Well, nicer weather finally arrived, so we got in the car and headed down to the Bavarian Alps.



Bavaria is a beautiful part of Germany with its rolling hills and green pastures and quaint little villages, but once you get down into the Bavarian Alps, you really see some gorgeous stuff. Emerald green fields, fairytale castles and villages, jagged snowcapped mountains, and beautiful blue skies await you at every turn. It's breathtaking. I thought our little corner of Bavaria was great but this...this was amazing. We turned the radio off and just marveled as we drove along.


Soon Fionn slowed down and pointed to a space in the mountainside. "There it is!"

Neuschwanstein looked so small against the huge mountainside, but it was impressive nonetheless. It looked like a fairytale castle. We parked the car and battled the tourist hoards that covered the town of Hohenschwangau. The next English guided tour wasn't for a few more hours, so we decided to skip seeing the inside of the castle and just climb up to see the outside. Fionn told me it wasn't that exciting anyway (he'd already seen it), and honestly I didn't want to battle the crowds. We weren't interested in the smaller castle, Hohenschwangau (below), so we started the climb...



We walked up the trail to the castle, which took around 30 minutes. It was really pretty and had a lot of chances for nice views. The view from the top was really nice!



The castle was PACKED, but we managed to slip into the courtyard for a peek and some pictures. It was such a dramatic view with this gorgeous, soaring castle towers on one side, cliffs on the other, and then a beautiful view of the lake straight ahead. Makes sense why Ludwig built it here!




We pushed our way through the crowd and trekked up to Marienbridge, where you can get that iconic Neuschwanstein picture from far away. The only problem? The bridge was also packed. I mean, the wooden beams of the bridge (which had NOTHING under them, I might add!) were creaking and moving from the weight of so many people. It really didn't seem safe and the super high drop down to the river bed didn't make me feel any better. Fionn took a few pictures and then we asked a German guy to take our picture...he held the camera over his head and took 6 really weird, off focus pictures. We were so surprised we could only laugh. Ah well, we still look cute right? ;)


Luckily, Fionn was a better photog than that guy:


Having got our pictures (and the nice view) and being jostled in all directions by tourists from every corner of the globe (especially you, pushy Japanese lady who kept shoving me with your backpack and til I turned around and gave you the stink eye), we decided to get the heck off the bridge and return to the much quieter trails. Once away from the tourist hoards, we were rewarded with this:


That kinda made it all worth it :)


We took the long way down and (thankfully) didn't run into any more claustrophobic tourist scenarios, so we enjoyed the village and the views of the castle a little longer. It felt like Kaffee und Kuchen (cake and coffee) time to me, so we said goodbye to Neuschwanstein and started looking for a bakery. Instead we found this:



A cheese store! Not just any cheese store-they sold cheese, fresh butter, milk, cream cheese, any dairy product you can think of, plus sausages, meats, jams, preserves, chocolate, bread, cakes, strudel...everything. All very obviously homemade. It was so amazingly good, we bought a hunk of local cheese and a bottle of fresh milk. It tasted so good, and had an almost flowery aftertaste, I guess from all the spring flowers the cow had been eating. We had such a good time in the store, it was really a perfect way to end our trip.

With that it was back in the car and back on the road. We're itching to go back to the Bavarian Alps again as soon as we can!



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Breakfast Casserole

I'd never had a breakfast casserole until someone brought one to our weekly morning Bible study. It was so good and seemed so easy. When my friends came to visit last weekend I was wracking my brain trying to think up easy, fast, no fuss breakfasts so we could spend more time talking and less time slaving over hot ovens.


Enter Le Breakfast Casserole.

So so so so easy. It took around 10-15 minutes to put together, bake for 30 minutes, et voila. Breakfast.

Ingredients
-half bag Ore-Ida hashbrowns
-cooked bacon, ham, pancetta, sausage (I used bacon)
-4 eggs (more if you like it really eggy)
-1/4 cup milk
-cheddar cheese, grated
-bell pepper, diced
-onion, diced
-cumin
-garlic salt
-pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.

Fry bacon and cook hashbrowns according to package directions. Saute onion and bell pepper until tender.

Arrange hashbrowns on the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Top with chopped bacon, onion, and bell pepper. Season with garlic salt, pepper, and cumin.

Mix eggs and milk together and pour over hashbrown mixture. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes.



And that's it! :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Friend Reunion in Bavaria!

This past weekend was GREAT because my study abroad friends from Marburg, Nathan and Chelsea, and Nate's gf Meghan came to visit!! What can be better than that? They're fellow expats (in Berlin and Prague) and it's so cool to see them after so long.

We didn't get a picture of all of us together, so here are some others to make up for it...

During our study abroad days, one of the first times we all hung out! Can you find all 3 of us?


In Berlin the summer I met Fionn (almost 2 years now!!) when we all started our crazy post grad expat adventures


We had such a great time but it went by way too fast. I felt like they got here and in the blink of an eye it was time for them to leave.

Friday night was full of snafus. We planned to meet up and head straight to the beer festival going on in Regensburg. Nate realized he'd bought the wrong tickets, so they were planning on exchanging them and coming in late. No matter. I picked up Chelsea, we had dinner and started getting ready to pick up Nate and Meghan. That's when we got a call from Meghan saying Nate had been taken in by the German police for a Czech work visa misunderstanding and she hadn't heard from him in two hours! I told her to take the train to us and we would figure it out.

When she arrived we finally heard from Nathan, who said he was in a random train station an hour away and realized he'd left his wallet in Meghan's bag. I told him not to worry, sit tight and we'll come pick you up with my car. An hour later we finally picked up poor, tired Nate-who then realized he'd forgotten his backpack on the bus from Prague in the brouhaha with the police! Poor guy! We drove to my house, fed everybody a late dinner and all went to bed, saying we'd settle it in the morning.

The next morning things seemed brighter. We found out Nathan was NOT illegal, it was just a misunderstanding on the Germans' part and that all Nate's work visa stuff was fine and dandy in Prague (where he and Meghan work as English teachers). We breathed a sigh of relief but all worried about what would happen if he got stopped again and the Germans misunderstood AGAIN...nobody wanted Nate getting deported!!

I made a big American breakfast with eggs, bacon, pancakes, and fruit salad (I love breakfast and it was so fun to get to cook for a crowd) and we had a leisurely morning before heading off to Nurnberg to get Nate's backpack. Thankfully it was safe and sound in the lost and found. With that recovered, I played tour guide and gave them a tour of the lovely Nurnberg. We stopped for Bavarian beer and Nurnberger wurstchen, the small sausages found all over the city with a side of potato salad and mustard. Gotta give them a real taste of Bavaria ;)



It was overcast but otherwise pleasant as we walked around the city. We scoped out the flea market going on and turned the ring for good luck (we needed some!) before stopping for a coffee to escape a little bit of rain.






the gang plus some missing friends in Nürnberg :)

After that we headed north towards the Frankische Schweiz to have dinner at this amazing Mexican place Fionn and I found. I'm pretty sure it's run by Americans or at least someone who's lived in America, but we all got our delicious Mexican food fill and rolled ourselves out to the car. Nate commented that it was so good he never even had that "this is good...but..." sensation you usually get when eating Mexican food in Europe. Man that place was good!

We drove back to our house where we met Fionn-poor guy had to work all weekend so we didn't see him very much, but we brought him some Mexican food to make up for it. :) We got into our dirndls and piled in the car for Regensburg Beer Fest, Take 2!


That was so much fun! We arrived kind of late but managed to get a seat at one of the tents, listened to the music and ordered our maß beers. It was really fun (and the beer was good, like Bavarian beer always is) and we had so much fun we ended up being the last ones out at closing time (err, actually the security guard told us to finish our beers and GET out haha but we had a hard time understanding his Bayerische).

I love my party animals

Everyone had to go home Sunday, so we hung out as much as we could until the afternoon when everyone boarded their respective trains. My house was so quiet and boring when I got home! It was such an awesome weekend seeing great old friends and meeting Nate's awesome girlfriend, Meghan. So so so so so fun. You all can come back anytime!! :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Back to Boleslawiec for more Polish pottery

Army wives love Polish Pottery. That is a fact I've learned in my first year as an Army wife. As most of you know, I made a trip to Poland back in October that was fun and VERY successful. One of my shopping buddies from the last trip is moving back to the US soon and we all said we had to visit Poland again before she left. However, some of my study abroad friends were coming to visit the same weekend my girls wanted to go shop, so I opted to go by myself with a base sponsored trip like the one I went on last time.

I write this blog for my family and friends back home who want to know what we get up to, but since I started writing I noticed I get a lot of other readers who come here for travel tips and things like that (hence why i stopped using Fionn's real name). My most popular post BY FAR is the one I wrote on Polish pottery a few months ago. It gets read at least once a week. So when I went on this trip again, I tried to keep PP loving readers in mind. If it gets a little technical for my family and friends, you can scroll through and look at the pictures. The fruits of my labor are at the bottom! :)

We left at 2 am on Saturday and I awoke about 6 hours later to green, rolling hills and signs in Polish. Poland is very pretty this time of year, and I wished I had more time to roam around and take pictures. Maybe Fionn and I will have to visit sometime?

Our group was much bigger this time around, so we made fewer stops. The stops were good, but we weren't able to see some of the amazing stores we visited last time. An excuse to go back, right?

Since I'm now a Polish pottery veteran, I scoped out all of the stores around our stop before making any purchases. It also helped that I'd made myself a list BEFORE I got there so I could avoid the temporary shopping insanity that overtakes many women when they walk into a Polish pottery store.





Our first stop was a large pottery factory called Ceramika Artystyczna that's surrounded by outlets stores. Next door to the factory is a shop with a large sign above it saying "Styl", which is their factory store. You can visit their website here. They're located at ul. Kościuszki 23
59-700 Bolesławiec, and are open M-F 9-5 and Saturday 8-2. They had absolutely AMAZING pieces. Most of them were one of a kinds with really unique patterns-birds, windmills, people, flowers, and even seashells. Their prices were a little high since the pieces were so unique, but it was worth it.







They are a few outlet stores opposite Styl that had some nice pieces and good prices like Firmowy and Centrum Ceramika and are worth checking out.

I didn't buy anything at our next stop because I was holding out for my favorite stores. They did have some cool pictures from the town's Polish Pottery Festival, where people paint themselves with the designs, and some really pretty pieces (including the cheese ladies!)






Finally, we made our last stop, which just happened to be near my favorite stores. As we got off the bus I saw a huge crowd of women heading for my favorite store with the amazing 50% room and my heart sunk, expecting them to mob the store and get to the deals before I could. But much to my delight they all took a right towards a restaurant for some lunch and I was the only one going left into the deserted store. YAY!




This store is called Manufaktura Outlet Store (Zgorzelecka Street 22B, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., phone: +48757326902). They are well known among Polish pottery lovers as having amazing deals and amazing pieces. The pieces are mixed together so you have to sift through them to check out the categories, but the prices can't be beat. Check out their website here.

I got to spend 15 minutes in the store all by myself, during which the very nice saleslady brought me a shopping basket and helped me find matching pieces for my butter dish. She doesn't speak very much English, but she is great! The store is amazing too. Their 50% room is packed floor to ceiling with beautiful dishes with (mostly) barely noticeable flaws. Next door is another packed room where everything is 30% off. Amazing!!




Around the time I was finishing up I ran into two friends who exclaimed over the amount of stuff in my basket. "Your husband is going to flip! How much are you getting?" I explained to them about the 50% room (where most of my stuff had come from) and they crowded around the register to see how much it would all end of being.

Grand total for 17 pieces??

55 euros.

YEP! :D



This place is amazing. It's near the Carrefour and across the street from a restaurant called Elric's (which serves amazing pierogies) and is, in my opinion, a must see if you're in Boleslawiec. I mean, i got dinner plates for around 3 euros a piece when a similar plate sold in another store was 8-12 euros. I got six plates, by the way ;)

I deposited my haul (plates, bowls, mugs, butter dish, mother's day presents) and met up with some girls I know for lunch at the Pyramid Restaurant. Why is it called the Pyramid?

We had a tasty lunch, visited with some other ladies, and finally hit up Henry's, a giant store where I always seem to find something cute. Henry's is located around the corner from Manufaktura Outlet at ul. Masarska 1, 59- 700 Bolesławiec. I think they're open 9-5 M-Sa. They have a 2 story building and are good about dividing the pottery into pattern in style. So all the casserole dishes are in one room, the plates on one set of shelves, bowls on the next, etc. Very organized. They also have beautiful wicker baskets!





Henry's is a pretty big store and has some really cool stuff but I was determined to stick to my list and not go overboard (I only have so much cabinet space). I picked up a few small things, but here are some lovely pictures to inspire you to visit ASAP:





With that, we got back on the bus and headed home. I was disappointed we didn't get to visit Andy's, a pottery store in Boleslawiec that is famous among pottery loving wives, but I think I'd done enough damage for one day ;) You can find their website here.

So, want to see the final count?





Want to read more about Polish pottery? Tips for Polish Pottery Shopping and First Trip to Boleslawiec