Abend Brot

About 14 months ago, Brian and I were sitting in his parents’ living room, at the time almost-homeless with all of our belongings in a container ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere… I was completely unaware of what the next year would hold, but I knew one thing: our rental contract was never counter-signed by the owner. We got an email asking us to pay for the model unit designer curtains. And nope. We wouldn’t. (They were ugly–not to mention expensive!) But it turned out that the rental contract we signed (and thought was final) wasn’t final at all… because they never signed it. My mother-in-law, being the amazing person that she is, confidently proclaimed that there was some hidden blessing, some meaning, in this seemingly awful turn of event where we felt actually homeless 3 weeks before arriving in our new city.

14 months later, I would like to tell you what we already know: Mama’s always right. And yes, she was right this time, too. We received an identical contract for a unit in a different row of houses. Our backyard is shared by multiple families, making our backyard life the envy of the neighborhood with children everywhere and toys being shared, and a strip of grass behind our sheds to boot. A soccer-playing, water balloon throwing, bike riding, ice cream eating heaven.

I could end the post here–but why?! I wanted to paint the backyard picture for you because about 8 months into living here I had a sudden realization: all the other moms were sitting outside and enjoying the early evening… while I was cooking in the kitchen. Heh?! Something about their life led them to be able to sit outside, sipping sparkling water, happily refereeing any arguments and answering calls of cuts, bruises and requests for ice packs. I was aghast. And I needed to know their secret… And they were happy to oblige:

ABEND BROT.

The literal translation? Evening Bread.

The German tradition of Abend Brot is not far from what you’re imagining. Simple deli meat (or tuna), sliced cheese, herbed butter, fresh bread from your local Backerei, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, pickles, etc. A simple, cold meal. Something that takes literally 5 minutes to assemble. And I could tell! Because all of these moms are sitting outside until they literally call out “Abend Essen!” … and go in and assemble dinner.

Abend Brot

So, I converted. We’re at least 2 months into 3 nights per week of Abend Brot, and I’m totally converted. I’ve enjoyed the after school hour with my kids a lot more, feeling free to sit down and enjoy their company, or open the shed and enjoy a game. I’m also planning meals a lot less and my grocery list became much simpler.

So, I wanted to share it with you! All these German moms are sipping sparkling water and enjoying time outside during our so aptly named “Witching Hour”. I’m so thankful to be living in a new country and getting to learn different ways to do things–especially when they give back to our family culture so richly!

I hope you’re having a great week and if you don’t have a dinner plan for tomorrow–no sweat! Here’s my quick list:

  • For a sandwich, or to eat as finger foods, rolled up: Bread, meat and/or sliced cheese (Lox if you want to make your life awesome), herbed butter or cream cheese, and lettuce.
  • Pickles, Roasted red pepper, olives, etc.
  • Veggies (Cucumber and peppers are our regulars, though I love mushrooms and green beans, snow peas for a treat.)
  • Fruits (I like to buy a bit nicer since we’re not buying dinner ingredients–berries all the way! Oh, and the kids love prunes. Go figure.)

And here’s my final disclaimer: after two or three months, I will admit that it’s gotten old. We find the weekend cooked meal to be absolutely divine after so much Abend Brot… but you know? That’s ok. With Brian working longer hours, it makes the weeknights simpler and when we get to be together on the weekends, our homemade full meals are a delight and luxury–and that is a sweet thing.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have a great rest of your week! And if you try Abend Brot–please let me know how it goes! 🙂

Tschüss!

PS- good question from my friends: what do they eat for lunch? Dinner! I forgot to mention that all four of us are served hot food at lunch, which takes the pressure off of dinner… But I’m also more than happy to eat a lighter, simpler meal before we head to the horizontal position for a long night’s sleep! 🙂

Advertisements

It’s Time to Learn German (Really)

Rathaus

We’ve lived in Hamburg, Germany for 11 months. Time has not flown, but they’ve been good, full months. We’ve seen a lot and experienced much more on so many levels.

Moving internationally is kind of like joining a club. I keep meeting other people who simply know exactly what it was like to uproot and join a completely foreign culture. I had no idea what I was in for, and I’m so glad we came! We thought, discussed, prayed, and discerned our way through this year, the whole time wondering whether we’d have an additional international move in front of us instead of a happy-go-lucky-bike-riding summer with our kids. I’m so happy to say that we’ve decided to stay! There’s a lot that went into that decision, and much of it will be documented only verbally over bottle(s) of wine with family and friends… But the long and short of it is: we’re so excited to stay here!

We have put a lot of work into settling as a family this year, and I’m so excited to see the payoff from all that work over the course of this year. We will not need to install lights, transition our children to school for the first time, watch them completely drained after a day of a completely new language, or buy a car. (No really. That last one was a pain.) It’s amazing how our weekends this spring have be dedicated to living instead of adjusting. So much goodness.

And guys: Germany. Europe.

Travel here is cheap and yes, we have a lot of vacation days. Our kids have matured into real travelers over the past year, for which we’re really grateful.

This year, we have visited the doctor at least once per month. Outside of our monthly contributions to our health insurance plan, we have paid 20.34 € on doctor’s visit. Over 11 months. 20.34 € Every prescription our children have needed has been handed to me completely free.

The grocery stores are closed on Sundays… And do you know what that’s meant for us this year? We rest. Because we can’t work. We’re home. Or we’re at the park. And it’s restorative. (Oh, and Hamburg is the first place in my marriage where I’ve successfully and regularly stayed in my food budget. Hooray, Lidl!)

We live in a row house and the kids have friends that share  backyards. We’re outside almost every night sharing life together. Grilling dinner, riding bikes, playing soccer, running in the sprinkler. It’s downright child heaven… and Brian keeps being reminded of his childhood years living on Monroe Street–which is high praise.

It’s been a long time since we’ve stuck our heels in and felt ready to stay somewhere. It feels good to peruse eBay for furniture steals and buy the bigger package of black beans… We’re here. And it feels good.

Thanks so much for reading along with us… I do hope you’ll stick around! ♥

Family

Malta!

Hi, Friends!

So, the last time I checked in here we had traveled to Italy as a family! And now, I’m coming back with the details of fun from my trip to Malta! (Reminder: Once you get to Europe, it’s relatively cheap to travel within Europe. Yes, Malta was a bit of a pricier destination… but it’s hard to beat 40 € tickets to Italy. But, I digress.)

I had the complete pleasure of joining my sister, Melanie, her husband Edmundo, and their son on their European adventure. We shared an Airbnb, hosted by a wonderful friend, and the whole trip felt like a literal soaking of beauty. Saturation was the perfect word. By the 3rd morning, I left the house WITHOUT my camera… because I just couldn’t handle that every angle was so photogenic. (For me, this is saying something!)

So, I embarked on my husband’s birthday! Yes. You read that right. My awesome husband sent me away on his birthday to spend time with my family on an island… while he held down the fort with the kiddos. God love him.

Highlights from the trip were flying without kids (all the reading!), the beautiful view from the apartment we stayed in, the gorgeous Maltese balconies throughout the island, a trip to Gozo (another island) to enjoy more and more beauty, seeing the oldest human-made structure in the world, the beautiful vegetation (so many huge succulents!), and last (but definitely not least!) amazing hosts who showed us all around their beautiful island home.

On the last morning, I attended church, assuming that the service would be in English… but it wasn’t! I enjoyed the rhythm of (again) a familiar, but non-English Mass, and I’ll tell you what. When the cantor got up and sang the Psalm in Maltese, it was so very beautiful. I was moved to tears… and I didn’t even know what he was saying! And yes, the icing on the cake was watching the priest process out of Mass, and having the older gentleman processing out about two paces behind him, wearing his blue tinted sunglasses to boot.

Please enjoy the photos!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

A Trip to Italy

We decided the dates and we let Ryanair decide the location… Brian did a search for cheapest tickets in Europe for the dates we had… and for 175 € total, we had four tickets to Lamezia Terme, Italy. Tack on an AirBnB for 225 € and we were ready to pack our bags!

The weather was warm, but not swimming weather. It was supposed to rain, but it didn’t! The house had no internet, so we played games! The restaurant didn’t serve pizza until after the kids’ bedtimes… but the paninis were amazing. But here’s the real thing: We. Went. Away. We left the house, the dusting and vacuuming, the work emails and discussions, the scramble of backpacks to get to the Kita, and even the rainy Hamburg weather behind… And it was glorious. Tonight, Rowan succinctly summed up our trip by saying, “We flew on a plane… to throw rocks in the water!” Yup. It was a simple trip. And her highlight? It was throwing rocks in the water.

This trip felt like a serious shift. I couldn’t help but recall schlepping through airports last summer (FIVE FLIGHTS in FIVE WEEKS!) with two massive car seats on rollers, countless luggage, etc, etc, etc. (See more about that phase of life here.) Sure, we gave in and rode taxis without car seats both to and from the airport in Italy… going 110 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone… Thanks, Mr. Italy… But we arrived safely with both kids giggling with delight at the feeling of what I would prefer to call a roller coaster ride rather than a taxi ride. These kids, though. Nevermind the whining–we walked to the Terminals. All of us. One child peed in the toilet for the first time (that I’m aware of at least!) and the other is daytime trained. It was amazing. We’re like an entirely different family travel wise than we were last summer. It’s very freeing.

We also were able to pack so lightly. I pulled up a packing list from last summer to double check if I was forgetting anything… Baby monitor. No need. Stroller. No thanks. Ergo Baby Carrier? Nah. Go back even farther and you can leave at home the nursing cover, the baby bottles, spit up blankets, diaper cream… goodness me. The kids wore their own backpacks! I could get used to this.

So, without further ado, here are some highlights of what we saw. So grateful for sunshine, weather in the 70s, speed scrabble, rummy 500, salami, wine, and the good ol’ espresso. Oh, and sleep. And naps. And more sleep. Ok. And a little bourbon.

Italy 1Italy 2Italy 3Italy 4Italy 5Italy 6Italy 7

Arrivederci!

Home Tour

Hello, Friends!

Believe me, I would *love* to have all of you visit, but let’s face it… I live far away from a lot of you. So, I promised this in the first month we lived here, and here it is! Our home tour.etc.

Just in case you’re wondering, preparing your entire home for a video tour is… nearly impossible. So please, ignore the closed closet doors, empty walls, the drying dishes, etc. etc. etc. I did baby-wipe preparation of the bathrooms and filmed the second floor on a completely different day… because one contiguous video of our home was simply not happening. Too many meals to serve and oh. We have two kids under 5.

BUT! Without further ado excuses, I give you our home! It’s important that we love it because the winter and germs have hit us hard and we’ve spent a lot of quality time here. And it. is. beautiful. I’m so grateful for this more-than-the-bare-minimum shelter of ours and the space it creates for us.

10 points if you make it through all five minutes… You’re a true rockstar!

Tschüss!

Our German Home

It’s officially been one month and one week since I’ve given any update on our German life. Sprinkled in there were Christmas and New Year’s, and upcoming are two birthdays and our anniversary. Life is full, and thankfully, starting to feel more normal.

I drove to church today, and *almost* didn’t need Google Maps. I absolutely know where all of my groceries come from, and what stores I prefer. I have purchased my first items of clothing and got a haircut. So? We’re settling. (Our health hasn’t improved much, but I won’t whine about that here. Cough. Sniffle. Wipe up the messes.)

Hamburg

I went down to Hamburg proper this weekend for yes–a massage–but also coffee, because we buy from our favorite roaster in Hafencity. I giggled to myself as I drove to our familiar parking deck, felt comfortable driving in traffic, and knew where I was going. The 22 year old me would have no clue I would end up being this comfortable in cities–alone (and driving stick). Sure, I’ve always loved “The City” (New York City, Obviously. hah.), but that’s different than tackling the logistics yourself. I found myself smiling at a group of people downtown that was clearly a group of Americans. I thought to myself, “For all they know, I’m German. And that’s kind of funny. But I do feel comfortable here.” What a difference 6 months make.

Because, to be honest, I don’t see it anymore. I don’t see the funny traffic signs, I don’t notice the oversized scarves, I’m starting to love shelf-life milk (not the taste, just the practicality!), I don’t hear the funny English sentence structure, or the “Dank sei Gott” at church as foreign language anymore. Our children are speaking–even singing!–German. And I guess this is all good. Right? Right! But it does make life a bit less “Blog Worthy”. Travel blogs make a bit more sense in that they keep going to new places. We’re home. It’s our home. And yes, it’s still Deutschland, which means it’s foreign, but it’s home.

Dezember

Hallo! You know, we’ve been here for 5 months, now, and I don’t even have a guess as to how long it will take to adjust back to the American “Hello!” Hallo is the new norm, even for our children. So I say… Hallo!

Christmas Tree Farm

It took us two full weeks, but last weekend we finally made it to the big Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in Hamburg. Right in front of the most beautiful Rathaus. It was as crowded on Sunday at lunchtime as you might expect, making our double stroller feel like a 12-passenger van trying to fit through alleyways. But, I could kiss that small carriage for having buckles and keeping our whiney wonderful child tucked nicely in. Outings are always fun, but sometimes photographs keep us from remembering the really tough and oh-so-audible moments.

Weihnachtsmarkt

I cannot stop eating the bratwurst here. There are other fun things to eat, but I’ll be honest: the extra-long German bratwurst always call my name. And you know what? I can always leave the roll that comes with it. They don’t have what we call “hotdog buns” or the even bigger ones we use for brats… It looks like a sourdough roll. But I can always leave it. This is quite un-German of me. So, we ate bratwurst, we drank hot chocolate (heiße schokolade) (ok, with peppermint liquor in it) and Brian drank the mulled wine (glühwein), which is totally different (and much improved) from any mulled wine I’ve had before. We walked away with our Hamburg Weihnachtsmarkt mugs, and our eyes full of fun trinkets, ornaments, foods, etc from the lovely trip.

And for a double win, the kids were both asleep in the car within 1.5 stoplights of our ride home. Thanks Florence for braving the fun with us! It’s a treat to enjoy the fun with friends.

We’re inching toward the finish line of our first semester, and we’ll enjoy a bit more than a full week at home for Christmas and New Year’s. With our home cozy with a tree, a beautiful kitchen for making cookies, and our newly-purchased DVD player (for all of my Christmas DVDs), I think we’re set to go. While I’m not really holding out for a white Christmas, we have enjoyed a few welcome flurries already. And yes, my heart was singing:

Snow

I have always said that a grey winter day is always improved with a freshly fallen white snow. It simply makes all things new. Oh how I love it. It makes the weather quite quiet as we prepare for Christmas morning, preparing our hearts.

So, I hope you’re also enjoying the fun, and even some quiet in front of a tree… Tschüss!

German Health Care

I thought I’d pick a light topic for this week—HAH! But you know me… I’ll keep it light.

doctor-2568476

We’ve had far too many reasons (for my liking) to end up at the doctor, here. But, daycare (Kita) life welcomed us with open arms… and plenty of germs to go with it. So, we did the usual–we asked around work for recommendations from our native German friends and then I simply picked one. And made no appointment.

None.

They have open hours when anyone can visit, and I walked in with my sick toddler. I walked into a bright white office with two receptionists and no one else around. Three empty chairs lined the wall. Thankfully, one receptionist knew English.  I apologetically gave her a printed letter because my insurance card hadn’t arrived, yet. (We wasted no time in getting sick and needing a doctor.) Thankfully, I had everything I needed and she checked me in. (Our track record at this point would’ve landed me back in the car, going home, and hoping for a doctor’s appointment the following week. Thankfully, it was an unusual day in Germany… and everything worked out.)

She pointed to the waiting room. It was a closed door. We went in, and it was a quiet room with chairs around the room. In one corner, there was a kids’ table with colored pencils and a large stuffed bear. And of course, like every where else in Germany: a coat rack. And like no other waiting room I’d ever been in: No. Television. No music. Just quiet.

And then, like civilized human beings, everyone in the room said, “Moin!” and “Guten Morgen!” I responded cheerily while my toddler gave nasty looks at all the strangers (I’m working on this!). We all coexisted in a quiet room without any receptionist phones ringing or television talking to us, and about every 5 minutes or so, “Frau _____, Raum Zwei!” or some such message came over the loud speaker. And like competent adults, we all went when we were called, going to the room number announced. (Well, except for me, because on my first visit, they opened the door and took me to my room. And I was so grateful for their mercy on the non-German patient.)

With sick kids, at this particular office (more of a clinic), no doctor has taken a temperature, or hardly touched my child. They get my side of the health story, and then, without any trouble, I get a prescription and a sick note for work. Then, we walk downstairs to the Apotheke (Pharmacy) and give me free medication. From what I understand, any medication (including Infant Tylenol) comes completely free. (Thank you, German government and 40% tax rates.) Also, that sick note must be honored by your place of employment. If and when you reach your max (30 days?) of sick leave in a year, your health insurance simply pays you for a cut (75%?) of your daily wage. A really respectful approach to health, if you ask me. I do worry about working Moms going to work overtired and fighting a cold so that they don’t lose vacation days (you know–the 10-20 they get per year). But, I digress…

We’ve yet to get an actual physical/immunization visit for either child since we arrived and it’s on my list. But, I’ll say that I arrived very intimidated and generally speaking, I haven’t had a lot of trouble. I’ve had funny moments like stumbling through German with a new doctor, to have his first words to me be impeccably perfect English. Also, I’ve already posted this statue that I found on one of my visits:

Doctor's Office

I found this statue to be a much-needed chuckle when I was feeling downright miserable.

So, that’s the very-non-serious-down-low regarding our health insurance life here. There’s probably much more that I’ll learn and need to know as we continue moving forward, but at least I know how to get a prescription if I need one. #Winning

Hope you’ve had a happy November–Tschüss!

A trip!

Brian and I have discovered that travel is really wonderful for us. That and date nights… or the both of them together, if we can make it happen! So, we’ve taken a few day trips to stunning places since we arrived to Hamburg, but we were ready to take advantage of the European adventure we’re on in a bigger way… so we went to København!

It was a 3 day weekend–Friday morning we drove away and Sunday afternoon we headed back. It was a 4.5 hour drive and the kids were mostly behaved on the drive… You know, with gummy bear bribes.

We stayed at the most beautiful AirBnB. It was spacious and had all the toys–which was clutch when we arrived and the rain was… ever-present. So, a beautiful home, beautiful places to walk, and nothing especially important for us to get to. It was divine. But you know, we did have two kids under 4, so it looked like early mornings with early demands for breakfast (eggs!), home for nap time, and the evening closed by 7. We fit in all we could, but made sure to relax. And yes… I kind of like the nap-reliant schedule… Mostly because I love naps.

One of my favorite moments was Brian ordering “Take Away” — a very foodie, small portion type meal with a large loaf of artisan bread… enjoyed by two adults in love with two toddlers dead asleep. The quiet and the rain and good food… and… When can I go back? Hopefully soon!

Here’s a little peak into our fun weekend… I hope you enjoy!

Over the border in Denmark

Outside our window

Copenhagen at Night

Statue

Copenhagen

G vs Bird

R

Statue 2

Roses

The trip was great. I would go back in a heartbeat and there would be so much more to see that we didn’t get to.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Tschüss!

13 Weeks!

Schwerin

We’ve lived in Germany for 13 weeks! Whew. That span of time can sound like a lifetime or like a quick blip in time. Honestly, it has sounded and felt like both to me over the past 13 weeks.  Last week, I went to the grocery store for my oh-so-European midweek grocery shopping trip and saw TWO families I knew. Who even am I??!! Running into people I know by name at the grocery store?! Unreal.

Side note: we all shop mid-week here because we can’t fit 7 days of food in our European fridges. Eggs come in packages of 10 here… not 12. Because 12 eggs in a row won’t fit in the fridge. It’s true. Our fridge is exactly 10 eggs deep. And the freezer? Barely fits ice cream. But I digress.

In other news, I bought my first black beans. The only black beans I’ve found in grocery stores are canned and with spices. And I like our black beans the way we cook them. Well, apparently Germans prefer lentils… because lentils are everywhere, but not black beans. I finally ordered schwartze Bohnen — 6 bags of them. And tomorrow night? It’s going to taste like home in our home. (Bohnen is capitalized because in German, all nouns are capitalized. Say what?!)

Also, I bought succulents. Plants. Plants make me happy. I like watering, inspecting, pruning, the whole bit. But, I don’t go as far as naming… I’m crazy… but I’m not crazy.

Date Night

Oh, and date night. Houston, we have a baby-sitter. At least, I hope she hasn’t quit, yet. In any case… that felt like an amazing milestone to hit… Getting out. Alone. We barely knew how to express our joy clearly enough in not toting two lolly-gagging toddlers to the car… We just… walked. At a normal pace. Crazy. (I also didn’t worry about ordering fries directly upon sitting down to keep our little squirrels happy… but don’t worry. I ordered (truffle) fries. Because that’s what keeps this squirrel happy.)

So, we’re getting there, and I’m taking solace in the 1 year to transition after a move reality/goal. Because we still have art to put up and furniture to buy and oh, I have an entire language to learn. BUT, we’re beginning to schedule fun and travel in because we refuse to be sick for 80% of our future here… (Yes, 80% of our time so far has looked like sitting around at home with more than a few Paw Patrols on tap.) We’re determined to travel and enjoy Europe and the adventure that we’ve jumped into. So stay tuned!

Tschüss!