Monday, November 29, 2010

I Feel Like Schnitzel Tonight!

Although my cooking utensils are limited, I have been enjoying going to the grocery store and figuring out what to make each night for dinner. After all, one can only have so much Duner before they turn into one! The other night, I cooked Frankfurts and tonight, I’m going for Schnitzel!

I had conveniently forgotten that Schnitzel just happens to be a popular dish here in Germany. Coincidentally, it’s a very popular dish in Israel, only they don’t use pork but chicken. During my confirmation visit to Israel, we had had so much of the stuff, we all started calling it sh*tzel. Well, that was at the age of 15 and although I won’t give you a number, that was quite a long time ago and I feel I am now ready to venture down the Schnitzel path again. Only this time, sin of all sins… I’m going pork. GASP! I am Jewish, but I’m not kosher.

The main reason that I try to cook new things every once in a while is to be able to get out of the apartment. There aren’t many child-friendly places to go in downtown Landstuhl. The only children that I’ve seen around town are older. Weird… For some reason I do see people at the grocery store with little ones. After all, parents gotta eat sometime right? I also don’t have my drivers license yet. And here’s why:

  • I have to wait to get my license until I can put Samuel in childcare to go to the orientation and take the test.
  • I can’t register him for child care until I update him on all of his immunizations.
  • I can’t update him on his immunizations until we are able to set and go to our appointment at the hospital.
  • To do that our sponsor has to make the appointment. Right now, we are a little bit glued up with other priorities.

Honestly, I should have updated his immunizations Stateside… bad mommy! bad mommy! That is a bit of a complicated story as well. Our insurance in California for some reason really SUCKED! I have a bunch of choice words for our insurance company and the administration in most of these pediatricians’ offices but I will leave that for another (private) time.

I’m sure most readers out there are just skimming the blog entry wondering when I will get back to what I was cooking. In real life, I have diarrhea of the mouth. I absolutely love to talk to anyone that will listen. I will then most likely ramble off as I go and before I know it, I’ve forgotten what I set out to say in the first place . I wasn’t this talkative before I had kids and I’m sure it has to do with my excitement over an opportunity to talk to a grown audience. I suppose my little idiocies carry on into my writings.

I'll start again from here. I walk to the grocery store with Sam to get out of the apartment mainly. Today it’s been snowing just about nonstop. I imagine that in Germany this is just a part of life. Time is not halted because of white flakes and icy roads. As I’ve heard some Germans say, “It’s November after all.” Because I’m a newbie to all of this snow business, I decided to still tough it out and walk to the store on the slippery icy side walk. I learned very fast that I need a set of good snow boots. Samuel was in my Beco carrier (if you are expecting, please buy one. They are fabulous. Like the Ergo but better looking and made in the USA) in the front and I was navigating the icy sidewalk. Slipping and sliding the whole way to the store. It was alright though. I’m sure that it worked my core and was a nice little calorie burner. What I conveniently didn’t think about is that snow melts wherever it lands making your hair… wet. Duh. Samuel should have had his hat on and I should have had my hood on. Next time I will remember this.

At the store, I (of course )got the car cart for Samuel (If I knew where we were going to be living, Santa would definitely be dropping off a Power Wheels. He is OBSESSED with driving cars). I had to dry off and warm up so we took it slow going down the aisles. I walked down the gravy mix/spice aisle and saw a package of Schnitzel and that’s when the idea popped into my head. It’s looks easy enough and it’s German. Since I’m going to be making Brisket and potato latkes tomorrow night for Hanukkah, I wanted something easy tonight. The package is Yellow and Red. The brand is Maggi, which is a Nestle brand… the package strangely looks like a cross between package for Lipton soup mix and Knolls Spinach dip. I’m sure it’s the same concept. With the help of babel fish, I think I know what I need to do to make this happen.

I’ve become a little braver. From specifying what color candles I need on our advent ("rot, lila, lila, lila") wreath to the florist all the way down to deciphering cooking instructions.

I haven’t done it yet but it seems fairly simple. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Burg Nanstein

Somehow I forgot to write about last weekend's hike to Burg Nanstein (Nanstein Castle). After a full week of rain, we woke up on Sunday morning, 14 Nov, with blue skies and downright balmy weather here in Landstuhl. Sam had been a while without a nap, so Nicki kicked Joshua and me out of the apartment around noon so she could put Sam down to rest in peace and quiet. Josh and I decided to take a walk towards the castle, Nanstein Castle, that is perched over this fine city.

We started through town and made our way towards a residential area before finding the trail head leading towards the castle. The hike wasn't so bad - gravel and dirt marked the trail nicely and the ascent was gradual. After a half hour or less, we made it to the castle grounds, paid our fare, and walked throughout. Some pictures from our journey:

In our quest to find fun signs from
around the world, I present this one, entitled
"If you bring your dog, tell him to hold it in"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Temper tantrums & First Food Impressions

During the last several days it’s been cold. Luckily it hasn’t rained. Although I suspect that if it rained at night it would snow. Of course I could be totally wrong but, that’s how cold it is to me. The high today I read was 46F.

At any rate, it’s given me an opportunity to type something up about the food I’ve been eating. There are a couple of links to things here so, enjoy.

Thankfully during my town explorations here I’ve been able to find the local grocery store. The shopping carts are a little different here on and of base/post. To get a cart one must deposit 1 euro or, on base a quarter to free up a cart. Placing a coin in the designated spot (usually the handle) of the cart will unlock the “key”. To get the coin back, one must return the cart, insert the “key” and that will release the coin. It’s a shame that they have to resort to this to get people to return their carts but, I’d say in more urban areas of the US it might be helpful. (Considering our neighborhood always had a rogue cart hanging out.) The great thing about the German grocery store that I went to is that they have the little car carts (the cart with the car in front). I can’t go to the store with Samuel and not expect to use that cart. Edeka is located about a 5 minute walk away from our hotel.

There I can find just about anything that I might need. Some things are more expensive but other things are about right on par when it comes to what I was paying in California. There are a few differences though. There’s a small area in front with a machine that I think is for recycling glass bottles. I’m not sure yet. There are definitely more pickles (and pickled things), yogurt, sausages & cured meat, and chocolate. I need to emphasize the amount of chocolate. There are aisles and aisles of chocolate. I have been buying Ritter chocolate bars and have not come home with the same flavor yet. One even had cornflakes in it. They do have kinder eggs here, which are chocolate hollow eggs. Inside is a small toy/puzzle for kids.

If I’m going to buy produce, like a bell pepper, I need to go over to the scale, type in the veggie code (which is the number that is next to the price), and place the pepper on the scale. A bar code label will then print out of the scale. I then need to stick the label on to the pepper. This lets the cashier know the price/what to ring it up as.

Eiscafe or, the Ice Cream parlor needs a section all it’s own. From what I understand, Eiscafe’s are popular. They also serve coffee, tea, and crepes. Sometimes they serve sandwiches as well. The Ice cream that is served is really really yummy. Not as smooth as a gelato but the flavors are very similar. They even serve something called spaghetti eis which I believe is ice cream that’s been pressed through a sieve and made to look like spaghetti. There is even one served that truly does look like a plate of spaghetti. For the kids they have several ice cream treats that are made to look like things. Joshua got a bumble bee the other night two scoops of ice cream, M & M treats for the eyes and wafer cookies for the wings. The stripes were drizzles of chocolate syrup. Just a scoop of ice cream on a cone is about 79 euro (about $1). Not too bad?

The pizza is good although when we’ve gotten take out, they don’t slice the pizza for us… so we’ve been left sawing at it when we get home. Most places that serve pizza also serve middle eastern type food. I say this loosely because if it is categorized as this, I’m not sure what area of the middle east it’s from. It’s really popular with the 3AM crowd. The hottest item seems to be Duner (I believe it’s pronounced Doo-ner). It consists of Pita bread, thinly sliced meat, veggies and a creamy dressing. Most times also with a slice of white mild cheese. The pita bread is almost like a thin foccacia, the veggies are red cabbage, tomato, carrots, and lettuce, the white cheese looks similar to a slice of feta but is very mild, and the meat... is anyone's guess! Actually it’s probably chicken or turkey (I’m assuming most of these establishments don’t serve pork). In Israel, I had Shwarma which was similar to this. I’m sure that different countries have different variations. It’s really out of this world good. Joshua had one all to himself and pretty much finished it. Mike and I shared one. It was so good we had it two nights in a row. This definition I found might be worthless as like everything it's on Wiki! Turns out it's Turkish.

One might ask if I’ve had any German food yet? Well, I’ve had danishes… does that count? Actually the closest thing that I’ve had that’s German is probably the Frankfurts that I cooked last night with onion and potatoes. According to the package they were “The Original Franfurt!”

To explain we haven’t gone out for Beer and Brauts, I might have to admit to some blame. Sam is very very difficult to take out to eat. Most Germans are understanding of little ones, but really, I’m unsure how understanding they can be. Samuel is the type of kid someone might drop off with their 16 year old sister so she could have a little lesson on birth control. He is the temper tantrum king. I was in a store the other day looking for a hat to get for him. There were balloons throughout the store and he wanted one. I wasn’t sure if they were for the kids, so I didn’t give him one. He started screaming so high and loud, he probably beached some whales down in the Mediterranean with his sonar capabilities. Old German women were coming up to him to try and calm him down and he started screaming “NO! NO! NO!” at them and stomping his feet. They quickly ran off. I paid as quickly as I could and scooped him up only to find out in the end that the balloons were for the kids. I was so embarrassed. It’s one thing for my kids to throw a temper tantrum in American surroundings. I kind of know what to expect in that environment. If some preachy know it all wants to tell me how annoying my child is I can quickly tell them where to stick it… however, when it’s now a foreign country, it adds a whole new level of shame and embarrassment. Like it or not, I’m a representative of America. If my child acts that way it’s not only a reflection of me and my child but also a reflection of all of American mothers and their children. This could just mean I’m a nervous nelly and have no real confidence in my mothering capabilities... GUILTY! Aren’t we all? I mean, I don’t think that I’ve met a mother, or parent for that matter, who has smugly stated they are completely confident in how they are raising their children (unless of course they are a first time parent to a really good kid… I think I fell under this one with Joshua, but I didn’t know it at the time) or a pregnant woman who hasn’t had her child and doesn’t know any better. I really am so nervous about taking out my little volcano of a toddler that I avoid certain places… like restaurants... for everyone’s sake. I don’t want to have to hover over my kid wondering when he’s going to erupt. I can’t enjoy my meal that way. More importantly, I’m sure that the young twenty year olds with no kids out on a date want to hear my precious screaming mimi. Honestly, I’ll just save everyone the trouble. My only saving grace during this shopping trip was that I couldn’t understand what they were saying in German about me or my kid. Beer and brauts have been around forever… they’ll still be here when my kid becomes more palatable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just Starting Out

So here we are starting off our second week in Germany. This entry may be a long one but I hope it’s an informative one for any civilians out there contemplating a tour in Germany.

Sometimes it seems as though we’ve gotten nothing done. Being able to stop and take a glance back at the last few days has helped me that we actually have accomplished a lot. There are some small hurdles to overcome. Saturdays and Sundays are pretty much "lay back and relax" days. As one blogger so eloquently stated, ’for my capitalist mind this is a very difficult concept to grasp’ - such is the case for me as well. For those that are settled, it’s a nice feeling to just sit back and have fun during the weekend. For newcomers it can be frustrating.

From Sacramento, we came from a department that was not DOD (Department of Defense). Because of this, it’s taking a little longer to transfer all of our information into the system. It’s also difficult for some personnel in DOD to understand. We are a bit of an unusual case. So getting our official non-guest passes has taken a while. The positive end of this is that it’s forced us to get out into town to find necessities. Also another fortunate was that our sponsor took us to the BX and commissary to get other things. Although from an objective perspective, it may not have been necessary, being able to buy things from the Commissary (sandwich bread, milk, eggs, veggies, cold cuts, meat, etc.) takes the stress away just a little. Food things that were convenient for our family to have immediately:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Bacon
  • Cereal
  • Cold cuts
  • Sandwich bread
  • Mayo
  • Mustard
  • Peanut butter (OK yes, SO AMERICAN but truly needed in our family!)
  • Jelly/Jam
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chicken Broth
  • Orange Juice
  • Macaroni and Cheese

Some things that I should have thought of:

  • Tupperware
  • Zip-loc bags
  • Brown paper bags (for lunches and ripening things like avocados)

At the BX I bought some things that really came in handy. Like a swiffer vacuum sweeper thingy. With the laminate and tile floors in our hotel, it is coming in real handy. I should have bought more cleaning pads to go on it though as the vacuum starter kit only comes with 2. I bought some corningware so that I could use the oven. That night I was able to cook a home cooked meal. This was something that was truly missed in our family. Nothing fancy just roasted chicken with potatoes, onions, garlic, and carrots but boy it was good. One thing I should have bought was baking pans.

The hotel that we are renting is out in town. We did not get base lodging this time. The hotel qualifies more as an apartment. I’d say it’s between 500-800 square feet. It has one bedroom and one bathroom. The bathroom has a shower, washer and dryer. A small victory for me was learning how to operate the washer and dryer. Here are the translations I came up for most of the commands on the washer:


1-Mit Vorwasche- with pre wash

4-ohneVorwasche- with out pre wash


A-Spulen + Schleudern – Heat + Spinning

Pflegeleicht- Wash and wear

2-Mit Vorwasche- with pre wash

4-OhneVorwasche without pre wash




3-Mit Vorwasche-with pre wash

8-ohneVorwasche-with out prewash



C-Abpumpen- Evacuate

Intensiv- Intensively



D-Stopp-DUH! Stop

I selected “2” and then pushed start. It went to 2 skipped over 3,4,5,6 stopped at 7 and filled up with water moved to 8 and spun then moved to 10 and spun. I also found out that if I push a button marked ‘Intensiv Spulen’ the machine would spin the wet clothing much faster to take more moisture out of it. Leaving it to dry just a little faster in the dryer.

The rest of the apartment consisted of a living room with a couch, fold out futon, two chairs, bookshelf, coffee table and TV. We were thankful to have our portable DVD player as the apartment did not come with a DVD player. The TV had cable that had several English language channels. Joshua really got a kick out of watching Spongebob Squarepants in German. We were also thankful that there were attachments to plug in several of our electronics. It’s very important to check the electric current requirement on the device before plugging it in. Our laptop was OK but Joshua’s Nintendo DS was not. We had to purchase a new charger plug for that.

From the living room, there was a small inlet where a full size bed was. We put Joshua in this bed. Samuel is in the Pack n’ Play at the foot of Joshua’s bed. Away from the inlet was the kitchen. This is where the table for eating is. The kitchen had a microwave, oven, stove top, refrigerator but no freezer, and of course a coffee maker (This is Germany after all!). There was a good amount of storage, dishes, silverware, glasses and cooking utensils.

The heat is supplied by radiators through out the apartment. We are unable to control the heat. I imagine the landlord had many a guests who would jack it up way too high, sending his power bill in exactly the same direction! The windows let in a lot of light which is nice during the cold days when it seems so dreary. There are pull down shutters that resemble the storm shutters that we had in Japan. It’s nice because it keeps out the light well. I understand that this is important during the Summer months when the sun stays out very long. There is no central air of any kind so it’s important to leave a window cracked. The window handle can be turned so that a window can open as a door or, be cracked open from the top.

Also supplied was an iron and ironing board. I really wish there would have been a hair dryer supplied. That was a tough one for me and just about our first purchase out in town!

Hope that this was helpful to anyone facing an upcoming move to Germany and also helps our family paint a more vivid picture of what we’ve been doing the past several days.

Monday, November 8, 2010


We thought the day would never come... heck even our cat was here before us. And, even though it was hard to say goodbye, we are now in Landstuhl.

The flight went fairly smooth. In the almost 8 hours we were in the air, I actually had time to get a little shut eye and, believe it or not, so did my 2 year old. I even got complements on how well he behaved on the flight... REALLY. The boy who cried the whole flight from Japan to California has possibly turned over a new leaf. At least for a little while.

Our sponsor and one of Mike's military coworkers picked us up at the airport in a maxi van. I have to say, here in Germany the "maxi" van is about double the size of a "maxi" van in Japan. It was great, though, and exactly what we needed for the 4 carry-ons and 7 check-in pieces of luggage that we had. That's right... 11 pieces of luggage.

The closest airport to us is in Frankfurt. From Frankfurt, it's about an hour and 30 minute drive to downtown Landstuhl. We were unable to get an apartment/temporary lodging on base so we are staying at Cafe Sander's in downtown Landstuhl. I was very apprehensive about this before arriving. I equated a hotel out on the economy as a small hotel room, and for an extended stay with children, that is a struggle. But I was very pleasantly surprised. The apartments are very nice. Similar to a large one bedroom apartment: there's a living room, kitchen, dining area, patio, bathroom with clothes washing machine, and master bedroom. The patio opens up to give a view of downtown and of Nanstein Castle.

Our sponsor was great and understanding of Sam. After the drive from the airport to our lodging, he took us to "breakfast" on the ground floor of Cafe Sander's. We were worn out and so after breakfast, our sponsor left us to settle in and get some shuteye. He returned in the afternoon to take Mike to the Ramstein Commissary, to get a few necessities for our stay. And that was it for our first day in Germany. Once Mike returned from the Commissary, we stayed in and rested.

The remainder of the week has been mostly getting settled into our new little town of Landstuhl, finding the local convenience stores, grocery stores, and specialty stores. Mike has been doing all the necessary in-processing paperwork and orientation meetings needed to get the ball rolling in his new duties. And we're slowly adjusting to the new time zone.

Joshua on our Apartment Balcony

View of Nanstein Castle from Landstuhl

Rooftops in Landstuhl

We saw this house during a walk through town

The boys near a local restaurant

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Passport Saga

Just when we thought that every little thing would be alright, our passports dealt us a low blow... by not showing up during the 4-6 week period that was initially told to us. We were scheduled to move to Germany on Oct 26, but when our passports didn't arrive by Oct 21, I had to push back our flight to Nov 1. The good news is that we got to spend Halloween with family and we got to see my good buddy's '80s cover band perform, a couple unexpected bits of fun before the flight. The bad news, I was stuck between employers... officially still on the books at my old job (but physically located 3,000 miles away in Virginia), and unable to get to my new job without the official passports in hand. My vacation time dried up altogether during our stay in Virginia, and I was destined to use "Leave Without Pay" in order to avoid a gap in my civil service, which creates all kinds of logistical problems.

Pumpkin Pickin' at the Patch

All Dressed Up for Halloween

Nicki and me cheering on "The Reflex"

By the way, if you live near the DC area, you should check out "The Reflex", a great '80s cover band who are not only fun to watch, but are very musically talented. Anyway, now back to my story...

After pushing back my flight to Nov 1, I requested the contact info for the folks at the State Department, who process the official passports required for overseas government employees. They alerted me that the passport processing period was not 4-6 weeks, but more accurately is 6-8 weeks. Had I known that initially, we would have made drastic changes to our travel plans to prevent being stuck in limbo. After learning this info, I contacted my new command in Germany, who was able to contact some VIPs in Washington, DC.

Long story short, our passports were found in the passport machine and were eventually fully processed and redirected for my urgent pick-up in person in Arlington, VA. However, I had to reschedule (yet again) our flight during the passport search and rescue mission. New flight date... Nov 6... if the passports could be in my hand by Nov 3.

So early this morning after waking, I threw on some clothes, hopped in my dad's pickup, and drove the nearly 2 hour commute to Arlington - after first stopping at a nearby 7-Eleven for a much needed coffee and banana nut muffin. With passports in hand (and fully reviewed for any errors), I headed back to my parents' house a happy man.

Destination: Germany
Target departure date: Nov 6, 2010