Friday, December 26, 2008

The Chef

In German, the word "chef" is often used to refer to the "boss" or "head" of a department. Fi is happy to let Zev be the boss in the kitchen- check out the wonderful results!!

Fancy. schmancy

Our Christmas dinner menu

Has this guy worked in a French kitchen before?

Making the Beef Consumme

The joys of American appliances

As most of our kitchen and electrical appliances are from the US, they are 120V and therefore do not work here in Germany unless we use a transformer. We own a total of one transformer (they are heavy things too!) so our one transformer gets lugged around between the kitchen and the living room regularly, to power up the coffee maker and the stereo. Since we were playing Christmas carols in the background, Zev temporarily put the Christmas carols on pause while he mixed the carrots and potatoes in the bowl- in the living room. Gotta be resourceful, right!?

Christmas tree Au Naturelle

The movers lost our Christmas Tree decorations. Not sure how they managed to do that but we were sad that they did, because we had accumulated some rather nice Christmas Tree decorations from family and friends in all the places we have lived. Thankfully, Zev's mother sent us some decorations as part of out Christmas gifts this year. Time to start collecting again! German Christmas Markets HERE WE COME!

Timing is everything

And Zev got his timing down- producing a scrumptious 6 course Christmas dinner for two!

Zev's Cooking Slippers

He clicks his heels together and magic happens in the kitchen...

Pate and Sweet Gelee Toasts and Wild Mushroom Parcels

He had me at hello-these appetizers tasted as good as they looked!

Beef consumme with pastry top

"I think something or someone is trying to escape from out of my Remikin dish!!"

Celery and Green Apple Granite

To cleanse the palate in between meals- but of course ;-)

Duck Breast with Orange and Red Wine Reduction

Our main course was Duck with Orange and Red Wine Reduction on a bed of pureed carrots and potatoes. The reduction sauce was out of this world- it went so well with the duck breast. Zev also roasted the rest of the duck and shredded the meat to accompany the duck breast. The shredded roasted duck meat was a good contrast to the duck breast. I know, I'm a very lucky girl to be married to a great cook!

Poached Pears with Creme Fraiche

The perfect end to a wonderful meal.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our Stadt, Esslingen

These are scenes from the place we call home (for the next 3 years at least!) We pray that you are all doing well and not getting stressed out by the holiday madness! Remember, Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Give thanks for the year and all that God provides. Hey, if you are reading this post then you have plenty to be thankful about right, such as your eyesight, the fact that you have access to a computer and internet, and of course the ability to read and write English (especially a premium in non-English speaking countries!) Zev and I are so thankful for the big things, like the chance to live in Europe, and the little things, like watching rental movies together at night. We give total glory to God of course, and thank Him every day. So I hope you are blessed this coming year also. And I hope that you enjoy these pics. I took the pictures in between class last Tuesday. I just walked through the Mittelaltermarkt and the Weihnachtsmarkt during the day, to try and capture the essence of Esslingen by day. What a great town, right!? Frohe Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tradition and culture

We learn something new every day. Living in Europe is an incredibly interesting, different and eye-opening cultural experience. Tonight was the official end of the Esslingen Middle Ages Market and Christmas Market. Our neighbors told us last night that the way the locals mark the end of the market, is to walk in a procession from the Alt Stadt (Old Town), up the stairs to the castle (which is about a 10 minute walk from our house). They all carry fire-lit torches and watch in a circle on the castle grounds, the people from the Middle Ages market dance to traditional music, while swinging their torches. Quite a sight. We took some videos of the event so we could share the experience with you!

Sharing the Christmas Spirit

We invited both sets of neighbors over for dinner last night, and really enjoyed sharing some good ol, typical American food with them, including roasted Turkey, mashed potatoes, yams with marshmellows, pumpkin pie and corn bread. Fi was Zev's little "sous" chef and we had a great time cooking in the kitchen preparing our meal. Our neighbors were so lovely- Heinz and Magda who live to the left of us have been married 52 years and Magda remembers meeting American soldiers who stayed in Esslingen during part of World War II. Jorg and Ingebrot (you may remember from earlier blog posts that they are also our landlords and that Zev called Jorg "Mr. Table" in German when we first moved in) have also lived in Esslingen all their lives. Magda used to babysit Jorg in the house he lives in, when he was a boy. It really was such an amazing experience to hear the stories of life in Germany back in the 40s, 50s and so on, and getting to know our neighbors a little better. They brought us these delicious typical German Christmas cookies and a wonderful bunch of flowers, arranged typical German style. And, they even went back for seconds! We practiced our German with them and they practiced their English (with the help of a German/ English dictionary here and there). What a wonderful treat to get to know people from around the world....

"Typical" foods

Fi's German Conversational Class had its Christmas Party last Tuesday. Everyone had to bring a "typical" food from their country. Fi brought Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies, Adele (from France) brought Croissants and our German teacher brought these typical German/ Swabish cookies- soooooo yummy, especially with coffee!

Kristen's Visit and Trip to Esslingen Mittelaltermarkt

We really enjoyed having Kristen come visit us last weekend, and being able to catch up on each other's lives. Most of Fi's family in Australia knows Kristen (Fi and Kristen travelled around South America in 2001), and we can report that Kristen is doing well working as an attorney in Paris. She has also recently branched out into journalism, focusing on writing articles about a topic close to her heart- Africa. Fi and Kristen visited the Ludwigsburg Schloss (or Castle) which is also fondly referred to as the "German Versailles." It really is such an amazing Baroque- era building and the 1.5 hour tour gave a lot of interesting insight into life of German nobles back in the day. (This tour is a must do when you come to Germany!) We also took Kristen to the Esslingen Mittelaltermarkt and Weichnachtsmarkt (Middle Ages and Christmas Markets) along with our friends Hans and Gena (Zev works with Hans). The hot Gluwein kept our hands warm!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

White Christmas

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas as I look out my window and see the snow gently fall to the ground. It really is so pretty to look at- that is until you have to shovel snow off the driveway or until your ears go numb from being outside in the cold. But pretty nonetheless. I am praying for a bunch of people this morning, especially some friends in Shreveport, Louisiana. Can you tell I am thinking about you? Hope you are all doing well. Miss you. Enjoy the "White Christmas" blog background. Immer nur laecheln! Keep on smiling! Fiona ;-)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ludwigsburg Field Trip

Learning the German language isn't so bad after all. My Tuesday Morning Conversational Class went on a field trip to the baroque city of Ludwigsburg, about 15 minutes north of Stuttgart. We were to speak only German on the trip, which wasn't too bad because we were distracted by the beauty of the castles and the wonder of the Christmas markets. As soon as I got home, I showed Zev the picture of the (protected!) deer on the castle grounds. Needless to say, he asked whether: a) We can hunt the deer, and b) Suggested that we visit the area with Kristen this weekend- great idea! There are three castles on the grounds- the largest one is modelled after France's Versailles. I will take plenty of pictures when we take Kristen there this weekend. In the picture below, I am standing with Adele and Julien, two fellow students from France, and our lovely lecturer, Mona, in front of the smaller castle. Being a language learner these past few months has helped me come to the following conclusions: a) Learning a new language takes lots of patience and a sense of humor; b) It's ok to make mistakes- you just need to get out there and practice the language with the locals (the local bus driver has been asking me little questions in German to test how much I've learnt when I catch the bus to school every day); c) Understanding the difficulties and frustrations of learning a new language will help me be a better teacher of English to foreign speakers (I've applied for jobs teaching English and I think this will be an excited way to get out and earn some money while improving my language skills!)