Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Very Beefy Birthday Cake

This may be one of the least attractive posts I'll ever show you here, picture-wise, but I had to do it. I apologize in advance to all vegetarians.

Micha is not a huge fan of baked goods (which irks me to no end some days when I just want someone else to bake and eat cookies with!), so every year for his birthday, I hum and haw over what to make him. Because I really like making ridiculously large layered cakes for people's birthdays (to varying degrees of success and aesthetic pleasantry). But luckily, a few years ago, I found the perfect solution in the form of meat cupcakes, inspired by my friend, Jessica.

This year, I decided a repeat performance was in order, but this time only a larger, personal-sized layer cake would do. Luckily for me, Micha was away in Munich the last couple days before we left for Rügen on his birthday weekend, so I had plenty of time to prepare these while keeping them a surprise (I stuck them in the refrigerator and presented them to him when we returned home on Sunday, his actual birthday).

I used this recipe for meatloaf - because it looked yummy and easy - and then whipped up some mashed potatoes for the "frosting." It took all my willpower not to just devour the mashed potatoes on the spot. They're the one food I would bring with me to a desert island to happily subsist on for the rest of time.

I cooked the meatloaf in a springform cake pan (which was somewhat yucky, I'll admit) and then, after it cooled, cut three large circles out of it using a Maß beer glass. They were the perfect size! And when in Germany...

Then it was all about layering and frosting - first a "crumb layer" and then, after waiting about 15 minutes, another layer of mashed potatoes to make it nice and smooth. You could make the mashed potatoes super creamy and skin-free, but that's not how I roll. I don't peel potatoes ever (our mom never did so that's my excuse) and I like my mashed potatoes with a little bit of crunchiness, which sounds gross but tastes fantastic.

And tada! A wee manly man cake!

I highly recommend making one for the carnivore in your life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Micha's Snowy Birthday Weekend in Pictures

We took a trip to Rügen this year for Micha's birthday, as we tend to do, to play his usual game of escaping any birthday hoopla (he's very silly like that) and to get our annual dose of winter beach time, which we love so much. You can take your mountains and ski poles, I'll stick to my snow-covered beaches and Fischbrötchen for a short winter getaway every time.

The view from our hotel

We had this entire house - hilariously called the "Villa Honey" - all to ourselves!

Super creepy The Shining-style topiary | Micha put some random outdoor workout gear to use

My typical, ridiculous stance in below-freezing temperatures

Icicle alert!

I was in awe at the seagulls' ability to stay warm while chillin' (ha!) in the snow or icy waters

I swear this was Germany and not the Arctic...

Enjoying our mansion for two! (Not falling. Really!) | Blue champagne for the birthday boys

We relaxed for most of the weekend, which including walking along the beach and marveling at the crazy ice structures that had accumulated everywhere; laughing at the seagulls who were either merrily napping or frantically chasing each other away from their respective territories; testing out each of the seven different saunas, as well as the pool and whirlpool, in the wellness area; and catching up on our beer intake following alcohol-free January (we end on Micha's birthday, or in this case, right before) accompanied by Fischbrötchen and the amazing fish soup at the shop near the beach. 

Randomly enough, when we headed to the Hanseatic bar for some pre-birthday drinkies on Saturday night, the only other couple there was an adorable little British couple (ok fine, my age ;) with a gigantic (and so sweet) dog who were, naturally, celebrating the dude's birthday too! It made for a lovely night of joking and exchanging stories of what it's like to get to know the Germans and their ways when moving here (he was in the army and she'd just recently moved to Niedersachsen to live with him there). When the entranced (by so much English) bartender happily offered up glasses of a blue champagne cocktail upon hearing there were two birthday boys in the house, he earned himself a little happy face next to his name in my book. Well, played, guy. 

How was your weekend? Can you believe it's almost February already?? Eeek!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Year of Improvement and Adventure

It's taken a lot of thought and consideration but I've finally decided on my theme for 2013. I like the idea of calling it a theme, like Anne does, instead of a goal like I did last year, so that it feels less formal and restrictive and instead more motivating. Though I couldn't settle on just one theme so my year has two: improvement and adventure.

The first half of my year will be all about self-improvement. I started things off by signing up for my first two Skillshare courses and purchasing a Photo 101 book that I've so far been loving. I'm also on the hunt for a Spanish course at the Volkshochschule that fits my schedule. It's been a while since I learned a new language, so I'm itching to get back at it. I have other plans in mind, too, to improve and simplify some other aspects of life, so there's definitely more to come.

Once the second half of the year rolls around, it's going to be all about adventure - taking risks and trying new things.

This year is going to be a great one, don't you think?

(p.s. I changed the header up a little bit to make it less chunky, but mostly because I was sick of the fonts. One day, I may make over things more drastically, but for now this satisfies my virtual redecorating whim quite nicely. Hope you like it!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Favorite Moments of 2012 {Part 2}

To finish up my roundup of favorite moments in 2012 (started yesterday), here are the final 11. Man, it was a mighty good year...

2012 highlights

12. Watching Jan join in on the water gun fight between the wee ones - Aron and Mia - and trying not to crack up when little Aron went flying dramatically through the air, slow-mo movie style, when Jan shot him in the back with a water gun (only his pride was hurt) at one of Matze & Anja's fabulous summer pool parties.

13. Getting to experience just how good Die Ärzte really are in concert on a rare painfully/awesomely hot summer day at the Waldbühne.

14. Realizing we beat last year's tomato harvesting record and ended up with a whopping 387 delicious morsels from our balcony garden this year.

15. Squealing like a happy schoolkid as we walked into Disneyland Paris for the first time (best birthday present ever!).

16. Explaining the rules of baseball with sister to our two Germans and one Italian at a Red Sox game in Boston in the midst of a weekend of fun in our old college town.

17. Sitting down with the girls for the first time in our inflatable bar on the lake in New Hampshire and realizing that I could very happily stay right there forever...

18. Spreading my love of Halloween to little Aron/Keule while carving pumpkins with him during our Fall Day of Fun.

19. Sitting down to our Thanksgiving table once again, surrounded by great friends, amazing food, and my favorite decorating scheme of all time (to pat myself on the back a little there...).

20. Merrily imbibing eight glasses of wine during a post-wedding wine tasting and realizing that all weddings could benefit from an insanely long wine tasting after the ceremony.

21. Watching the boys haphazardly decorate the bajillion cookies we'd baked - which amounted to them dunking them in icing and getting sprinkles all over the floor - after their first attempt at beer brewing on a chilly, gluttonous weekend.

22. And while the one thing that was missing from my year was a visit with the fam in LA, videochatting with with sister and mother, accompanied by multiple cats on screen, on Christmas Eve in reindeer antlers gave me a good fix to get me through the holidays.

All right, 2013. I think I'm finally ready for you...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Favorite Moments of 2012 {Part 1}

Before I look forwards towards 2013 and the things I want to accomplish, I thought I'd take a brief look back at my favorite moments from the past year, to help me remember just how fabulous it truly was. Here's part 1.

2012 highlights

1) Finding surprise birthday (for Micha) champagne waiting for us in the hotel room when we arrived for our very wintery beach visit to our favorite German island with two of our favorite people.

2) Winning a kickass bar cart on ebay for 1.50€ and taking a day trip to Quedlinburg with (a rather hesitant) Micha to pick it up.

3) Stepping into the resort and seeing our island-paradise bungalow in Siquijor and its perfect ocean view for the first time on our Philippines vacation.

4) Meeting and cuddling some new wee friends, Charlie and Hanna.

5) Getting laughed at by Liz, Kai, Micha, and Kerstin as I adamantly insisted all night at a pub that Liz's favorite color is sparkles during her Easter visit.

6) Getting soaked by the rain on top of the mountain behind the Glengoyne distillery in Glasgow with new friends, old friends, and a flask of whisky.

7) Meeting some super fun bloggers and twitter friends in real life at The Hive in Kreuzberg.

8) Seeing lots of happy tears when we surprised Kerstin with an activity- and gossip-filled baby shower.

9) Celebrating five years of awesome with my favorite dude.

10) Laughing my ass of with Micha, Sara, and Christoph when we were woken up in our tents on a camping trip by raindrops falling on our heads.

11) Getting to see lots of pictures that make me happy all at once each time I look at the colorful, oh-so-me gallery wall in our spare room.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Our Christmas in Pictures

The holidays definitely snuck up on me this time around, despite a weekend of cookie-baking madness and twice weekly visits to the Christmas markets (as I'd aimed for!). We did manage to get our tree up and decorated nice and early this year, since it was my turn to decorate.

Side note on that: We switch off years choosing decorations for the tree because you never know what a big role your cultural background plays in decorating a Christmas tree until you see someone else doing it wrong. Germans like Micha like white lights on their tree - preferably the big ones that look like candles but the usual small ones will do too - and they like to pick a color scheme or ornaments and stick to it entirely for that year. I - being what I consider typically American but feel free to call me out on this - like colorful light strands and lots of colorful ornaments, but the usual balls and special ones that have been collected over the years. This sharp contrast in decorating schemes led us to agree to switch off years with decorating the tree, saving us each a few gray hairs in the process (if only it were that easy when coming to choosing a coffee table...)

Some of my favorite ornaments, mostly courtesy of Nat or Emily

In addition to our lovely, bushy tree, I also had an advent calendar from Liz to look forward to every morning (oh boy did it live up to my expectations!) and goodies from Sister to stash under the tree...

...but somehow, the whole holiday spirit didn't really hit me until Christmas Eve itself when I donned my jingly reindeer ears and light-up earrings and headed with Micha and a car full of presents, cookies, and homemade eggnog to his mom's house in the 'burbs. And then I promptly managed a nice, leisurely holiday videochat with Natalie (in Florida) and Mom (in California) to make my day complete. Sweet valley high, sometimes I really could just kiss technology as a whole for giving me moments like that.

Enthralled in a serious discussion of jinglebell antlers or the Royal Baby or something to that effect

On Christmas Eve we ate würstchen and potato salad, as tradition dictates, drank our fair share of eggnog, conducted the annual viewing of Christmas Vacation (Kai and his mother know the movie verbatim), opened the presents (Germans always do on Christmas Eve), and rounded things out with a lively, albeit at first rather reluctant from the German contingent, game of Cranium (which really is just as awesome in German, except that I totally suck at the trivia and am not quite the whiz at the spelling-backwards challenges that I am in English).

Christmas Day was much lazier. After breakfast and mimosas, we spent a fair share of our time reading our new books on the couch while their Grandma did some puzzles or watched cheesy tv shows. 

Then came the big meal - goose and rabbit with sides of Klöse, potatoes (for me, Klöse aren't my fave), buttery green beans, and Rotkohl - and by then I was ready to return home to our own Christmas tree, call the rest of my family at Gramma's house to wish them a merry Christmas, and end the night cozy and full and happy that a week of vacation was just beginning.

The fact that it's a new year is still sinking in and I'm taking my time digesting it, reflecting back on the last one, and planning for this one (which I know with an almost certainty will be fantabulous).