Monday, April 30, 2012

Garden Time, Fun Time

The sun is shining. The weather is cool and fresh.

We drove to our mountain garden because it is time to cut/trim the trees and the vines, and maybe, dig out roots of some favorite shrubs to plant in our backyard.

Knowing my girls, I decided to bring a picnic basket and water bottles for each of us. Arriving a few minutes later, the girls grabbed the bread. We have not even started garden works. And we just finished breakfast!!!
My husband in the background trimming the vines,  and the girls munching

Anyway, laughing out loud, my husband decided to start trimming the grape vines while I took care of the girls, and the dog.
The fairy sticks
After cutting down some tree branches, the girls found a way to get busy. By creating their very own fairy sticks and decorating them with flowers picked around the garden.
Of course, climbing trees is always a part of the program.
It is always a paradise for the girls, being outdoors, especially in the mountain garden. They could do whatever they want because the garden is well-fenced. Oh well they know most of the 'dangerous' plants and shrubs, avoid poison ivy and what looks like beehives, skip away from thorny bushes, and they do shout for help if they think they won't be able to handle something alone or together.

And I would say, our dog, Rikki; is learning from the girls, too.
Picnic time with their Barbies
My practical girls tend to bring toys when we visit the garden. For those times when they needed to take a break. This time, they brought along their Barbie dolls.
Our dog, Rikki, needs a break, too; and found a nice spot under the cherry tree.

A wonderful bunch of flowers.
Well, while the girls and Rikki used some downtime; my husband and I used the time to concentrate on tree-trimming. It is  not easy cutting those branches if those three are running all over the place!!

After tackling the grape vines (unfortunately, some of the vines are already too dry to be saved); we moved on to the cherry and apple trees. Choosing carefully what branches to cut, carefully handling the new sprouts and of course, and dragging those fallen branches to a certain area to keep the pathways clear.

It was late afternoon when we decided to stop. It was another fun time in the garden.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bratwurst Cake (German Sausage Cake)

Bratwurst Cake

Bratwurst is a German sausage usually composed of veal, pork or beef. This type of sausage are traditionally grilled or fried, but this time, we are baking our bratwurst.

250g flour
some salt
125g butter or margarine
3 eggs

a bunch of chopped chives
150 g all-purpose-cream

4 tbps grainy mustard (you could also use a mixture of plain and grainy mustard)
some flour
600g sausage
some butter or margarine (to grease the baking form)

Mix flour and salt; add butter/margarine broken in small pieces and 1 egg, then mix until smooth.

Put the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix cream and mustard; add 2 eggs, then the chives. Set aside.

Roll the dough on a surface with flour. Then place the dough evenly on the prepared greased baking form (about 26 cm in diameter).

I used a baking paper

Prick the dough several times with a fork and add the sausages on top of the dough. Pour the cream mixture evenly.

Bake 200 degrees in a preheated oven around 40 minutes until golden brown.

Bratwurst Cake is best served with green salad and a nice, cold beer. For the kids, they love it with french fries.

The main recipe I got here. Another simple sausage recipe with tomatoes is here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Happy 75th Birthday, Tatay!

Tatay and Nanay in Bohol a few years ago
Dear Tatay,

Have a great 75th birthday!

A birthday sorrounded by Nanay, your kids and your grandkids! Yes, despite the distance, we are also celebrating with you.

There's a cake we specially baked for you: Hawaiian Cheesecake (see photo).

We are sending our love every bite we make from this cake :-)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Summer Day Parade 2012

Joining the Summer's Day Parade (Sommertagszug) is a tradition to welcome summer and to say goodbye to winter.
See the snowman, representing winter, flanked by summer and fall?

There is something that tickles me this year: MC is walking with her new found love, with her new found group, 'the Volunteer Youth Fire Brigade'. We cannot wait to see her in uniform!!

It's a pity that the day we wre supposed to be welcoming summer is gray and wet. But despite that, my girls geared up for the weather and happily joined their respective groups. MC had to be excused from school because she chose to join the aforementioned youth group. IC, meanwhile, marched with her classmates; proudly carrying her summer day stick adorned with pretzel, egg and leaves on top.

The grade schoolers marching

MC meanwhile, looks so proud in her fire fighter uniform. Well, the uniform is considerably too big for her; at least they found one that would almost fit her. She would be fitted with her uniform as long as she has completed six months of attendance in most of the seminars and activities in the local volunteer youth fire group.

Ms. Fire fighter on the move :-D
The wagon which were made and painted by the youth group.
The streets were not full, because of the weather; but we all had fun watching. And the kids who joined the parade were rewarded by cheers from the small crowd.

The side streets are almost bare, but no matter, the parade was beautiful.

Look at these kindergarten kids roughing it up.

And look at that pretzel, the cold made them hungry so most of the pretzels were eaten along the way :-D

And always a part of the parade, the city's chosen wine princesses.
The end of the parade means the burning of the snowman. Some kids cry when they see the snowman burning. But when it was explained to them that it only 'melting' because of the heat of the sun; then they are pacified.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Asparagus Season and Some Tips

Asparagus head with Hollandaise Sauce

Usually, there are already plenty of roadside stalls and open air markets, selling the white asparagus between March and April. Spargelzeit (Asparagus season) officially ends on June 24, no more, no less.

This year, it is already April. Yet most sellers are saying they are lucky if they would have asparagus delivered to them at all! Of course, all restaurants would have added asparagus in their menu, this time, too.

Anyway, the first time I saw the white asparagus here in Germany, I was a bit sceptic. Then I was asked to taste it, and it tasted like... hmmm... water??? I don't know, but that's the first thing that came to mind because it is juicy.

Of course, I told my in-laws (who urged me to taste the asparagus) that it was delicious! What I would do to be loved ;-) Actually, it tasted great because I poured loads of Sauce Hollandaise.

Before that, I only ever saw the green ones, and I wasn't really a big fan of asparagus.

It has been more than ten years and I am now a convert. I love asparagus, really love it! And I love that we get to cruise the countryside whenever we buy our asparagus.

Now, you should be here in Germany during asparagus season. You would be amazed how popular the white asparagus are. The white asparagus are those that are grown under the soil, that is why they are pale; and they turn green if they grow out of the soil. You would recognize those asparagus fields because they are covered with black sheets to accumulate heat, and they have a special heaped form.

Here are my tips in buying asparagus:
- Buy the asparagus directly from the farmers, those outlying asparagus farms offer better prices (and gives discounts) than those street stalls.
- Asparagus with thicker sprouts are more expensive because they taste better. We always buy the thinner ones to save, they taste good, too.
- Most sellers provide peeling service, too. But you have to pay extra for that.
- Use a potato peeler if you want to peel the asparagus on your own but you needs a bit of practice to correctly handle it.
- To save, you can buy in bulk for a special discount. Then peel them and freeze them in portion.
- Do not throw those asparagus ends, you could use them for your soup.
- Do not throw the water where you boiled the asparagus, you could use them for asparagus soup.
- You could also buy the asparagus heads only, but usually, you need to call to reserve a pack if you need more than one kilo (we buy them because the girls prefer the head, for now).

How to cook asparagus:
- Wash and peel the asparagus. Bring water to boil in a deep pot. Put the asparagus and cook around 20 minutes. Asparagus is cooked when the end bends slightly when lifting it. Then skim off the asparagus.

We just add the ready-to-cook Hollandaise Sauce as seen from the photo above.

Our favorite side dish with Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce (or melted butter) are simple:
- Boiled Potatoes with Different Kinds of Ham
- Pancake (different kinds)
- Smoked Salmon
- Mini burger
- Scrambled Egg

There are more ways to cook asparagus, but we prefer these simple side dishes because we want to savour the taste of the asparagus :-)

Here's the recipe for Pan-Fried Green Asparagus with Noodles.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Who Cares if my Birthday is Friday the 13th?

Yesterday, I realized that IC's birthday falls on Friday the 13th. Well, for me, there is a significance when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday just because of the superstitions attached to it. You know, like, it is not going to be a good day, something like that.

Although I don't really believe those nonsense now (though there was a time when I was younger that I skip going out just because I am threatened by what it symbolizes), I decided to throw the question to my girls: 'did you know that IC's birthday falls on a Friday the 13th?'

IC's answer was, 'of course it is Friday the 13th, otherwise it won't be my birthday! And it will always be a happy day!' Ten-year-old MC simply nodded and said nothing more.

Okay, okay. That's when I realized that I was the only one aware of the other significance of Friday the 13th. After thinking about it, I decided not to tell them.

What matters is that April 13 is IC's birthdate. No matter if it falls on a Friday, it would still be her birthday. And it would always be a happy day, so there!

Happy 8th birthday, dear IC!

Let me tell you what you were these past year:

You joined the Vaulting Club with your sister the end of last year and was included in the Vaulting Tournament this year! I am so proud of the two of you.

You were able to master inline-skating last summer in just a few minutes of being guided by your Papa. And that despite the fact that our streets are sloping and with very sharp curves!

You have inherited the big bike of you sister and is proudly showing off your biking skills, yes, you have conquered those slopes and curves; even in the woods!

You love books, you love going to the public library.

You are a DSDS fan. You love shopping. And can't resist those bling-blings...

You are still my fashionista. You continue to wear unmatched pair of socks just because you want to look good. You continue to wear those ratty and torn jeans just because you want to look good. You continue to wear nice outfits during vaulting lessons just because you want to look good (even though you would go home muddy and sandy; full of horse hairs and hay; and smelling of horse dung :-D).

Look at IC, wearing her outfit for the day: unmatched pair of socks, torn pants, etc.etc.

And because of having Rikki, you have overcome your fear of dogs!!! Just look at the picture below!

For your birthday dinner you wanted schnitzel (breaded pork) with spƤtzle (German noodle) and Papa's special sauce. For your birthday cake you asked for a Strawberry Cake. Of course, there's always the surprise breakfast.

And this year, you requested that your birthday celebration with friends be at the horse stall. We are doing that in a week's time. We know, you cannot wait anymore!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

DIY: From an Old Pajama into a Dog Treats Blanket

I found this very, very old pajama in the back of our closet. I was ready to throw it in the thrash when our dog started grabbing it. That's when I got the idea of creating a dog treats blanket.

Materials needed:

an old pajama pair
a pair of scissors
sewing thread
sewing needle (or if you have one, use a sewing machine)

1. Use the pajama top as the main blanket. Simply cut the sleeves. Then make it more sturdy by sewing cross-stitches around it.

2. Cut out around around 5-8 square pieces from the pajama bottom to be used as pockets to hide the dog treats. Sew tightly the three edges of those square pieces around the blanket. To make it more challenging for the dog, sew them in different directions (do not sew them at once, create a pattern which would work for your blanket and your available pockets first). Leave the fourth edge open but not smoothly levelled, make sure that you create some wrinkles on the opening

Rikki loved this blanket. She got busy on this blanket for more than 15 minutes! We had to guide her a little the first time that she used it, afterwards, she handled it well.

I saw the link that gave me an idea here.

Some important notes:
Please do not leave your pets unsupervised during this game.
If you used pins while sewing this blanket, make sure you have removed them ALL, before giving it to your dog.
Do not expect this blanket to last a long time :-)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our Easter Sunday Photo Story

I slept a little late the night before because I wanted to finish the preparation for the Easter egg hunt and to pre-decorate the breakfast table.
The Easter Sunday breakfast table the night before
And I couldn't start doing anything until the girls are in bed, which this Saturday took a long time as they watched DSDS until 10 p.m. (DSDS is the equivalent of The American Idol in Germany). Added to that, the girls are too excited for Easter Sunday that they couldn't sleep right away!

I woke up early the next day with a long list of to do things: to feed the dog, hidethe eggs, place the gifts in the Easter nests created by the girls (we had to do the egg hunting inside the house because of the weather), prepare a light breakfast...

But this time, IC was already up, too. In fact, she asked permission to leave her room; which of course, is still verboten. (I specifically told them not to leave their rooms on that day unless I gave them a signal; you see, the Easter Bunny doesn't want to be seen!)

IC's breakfast treat specially prepared for the Easter Bunny.

In my list, the most important job this morning is to eat the Easter Bunny treat prepared by IC the night before. I also left a short thank you note from the Easter Bunny (see photo below).

The plate after the Easter Bunny ate the treats.
Afterwards, I hide the eggs. Usually, I just scatter those chocolate eggs around the house but because we now have a dog, I decided to put the sweets inside these plastic eggs.

Can you find the plastic egg?
And placed the gifts on the Easter nests.
The Easter egg nests were created by the girls using fresh hay which we got from the horse stall during their Vaulting lesson.
Then I prepared breakfast plus the last minute additions for our Easter Sunday breakfast table.

I baked those rabbit ears the day before.
Then it's time for the egg hunting. My husband and I also had to search for our gifts.
These are IC's loots.
My husband I got Easter love letters from the girls, too.
After breakfast, off to church.
After the mass, we were invited for the Easter breakfast prepared by the church; before the girls joined the egg hunting on the church grounds.
Then we drove to the castle grounds near our place to check out the Volunteer Youth Fire Brigade Easter Cafe and Cakes Bazaar.
And saw sheeps, rabbits and hares in the Easter lawn.
We walked to a nearby art school because MC is interested, and was pleasantly surprised that there are Easter treats for kids hanging on the front door.
Late lunch in our favorite Hotel Restaurant Watzenhof; in front of an open fireplace. Warm, comfortable and simpy delicious!
Another exciting surprise, while waiting for our lunch, three baby reindeers started running and playing in front of the restaurant lawn (Watzenhof is located near the woods).
IC enjoyed the warmth, Easter Sunday was unsually cold this year (or maybe she was not wearing the right clothes, my little fashionista chooses clothes because the outfit looks great.)
A delicious surprise, free desserts from our favorite restaurant. That's why we always come back!
Back home, it's time for the girls to play with their new toys.
I just have to add this: IC told us that Easter Sunday seems a little bit boring this time. It seems it was too short for her. Well, we reminded her; we are not in the Philippines anymore where she could spend the rest of the Easter Sunday strolling in a big mall. Plus, their grandparents (oma and opa) in Germany are both gone and their aunt and uncle are not available for a visit this time.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lent and Differing Traditions

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday. It a normal day here in Germany. In the morning we drove to the meat shop and bought beverages. Then later that day, I was with the girls and a friend of MC in the city. We have a list of things to do: arrange for a birthday table for IC in a toy store, borrow books in the public library and watch a movie.

I told the girls that in the Philippines, Maundy Thursday is already a holiday. Business establishments are closed including malls and restaurants. Television and radio stations broadcast Lenten-themed shows on limited hours and newspapers stop publishing. And most people would be out of the house because of the Visita Iglesia. Visita Iglesia  means Church Visit in Spanish. It is an ancient practice of visiting seven churches (some people visits more than seven churches); and praying the Stations of the Cross.

Good Friday is a religious holiday, in Germany and in the Philippines. In both countries, meal plans change because most people skips meat and instead goes for seafood and such.

But I miss the way the people in the Philippines passionately and religiouly commemorates this day.

There is the Penitensya (Public Penance), it is a very old ritual in the Philippines, where people inflict wounds on themselves, in a group and in public. It has become a tourist attraction in some towns.Then there's the Cenakulo (Passion Play), a stage play depicting the passion and death of Christ.

The later, is one of the highlights of my childhood. Not because I participated in the passion play; but because I have never missed any day whenever the passion play is scheduled. I look forward to those passion plays, in fact, the whole town looks forward to it. After all, it is a united effort of the whole town. It remains a tourist attraction to this day.

I didn't realize that the passion play in our town is celebrating it's 110th year! In fact, according to a research by Edgar Granada, (his father is third generation Cenakulista (member of the passion play); it was given the distinction as ‘the oldest continuing play of its sort in the Philippines’ by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

And I proudly present some Cenakulo photos courtesy of Edgar Granada:

Oh, I am proud to let you know that in 2009, my girls became a part of the passion play when they dressed up as angels during the 'Way of the Cross.' This means the town streets became the stage, and a lot of people are always present to create an organized and smooth-flowing play on the move. Audience from all over the world come to watch this.

Then there are the other 'odd' traditions which I could not resist informing my husband and the girls. I remember that my mother would always tell us to take a bath early in the day because after 3 p.m. (the supposed time of Christ's death), we are not allowed to take a bath anymore; that means we have to wait the next day. Of course, there is no more watching television nor radios; unless the program is about Lent. Sweeping on a Good Friday is a big no-no. And travelling? Of course, not! We are supposed to stay at home, athough a short church visit is ok. And on our dining table, there's ONLY fish and rice.

This Good Friday, the family took a short hike in the woods. As a tradition, we usually drive to a fishing farm to buy our dinner, but the girls requested for spinach with mashed potatoes instead. And then, we are adding more Easter eggs to our collection, therefore egg coloring time tonight!