Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: The Recipes OF Life

Today's specialty: Meatloaf - Of Kidney Stones, Vicodin And Mushrooms

I am one of the lucky ladies whose husband enjoys cooking, and is also very good at it. Each night when I came home from work my hubby presented me with a nice dinner - ok, almost every night, there were also occasional pizzas from Robin Hood around the corner or a spontaneous dinner out. Richard also likes to try out new recipes; for a while he had told me he would like to make a meat loaf, but never actually did it. Until this one day; I was 8 months pregnant with Violet when I suddenly received a call from my husband at work, telling me to come home immediately. My first thought was: "Oh my goodness, something happened to Lily" I asked him what happened and he told me he had incredible pain in his groin. I raced home (why is it that whenever you are REALLY in a hurry, you are constantly stuck behind the slowest people?), packed him and Lily in the car and raced to the VA. It turned out that his UTI was most likely at least one kidney stone. We headed home with a prescription for vicodin, a referral to the radiology in Seattle, and the order to drink, drink, drink. At home, Richard popped the first pill, and soon felt better. To put the day to good use, he decided in his haze (quote: I feel so short!!) that today was the day for meatloaf, and googled for a recipe. Armed with it, he raided the kitchen for the ingredients, and found that we only had half the ground beef needed. But since he was in a good mood (who wouldn't, he was pain free and in happy vicodin land) he decided that Italian sausage had to do. He weighed, combined, mixed, and finally put the finished masterpiece in the oven. The 2 hours following were filled with happy expectations as incredible tasty smells emerged from the kitchen. And when it was done.. Well, all I can say is that my hubby is an awesome cook, even if he's high on vicodin!!

Here's the awesome recipe:

1lb ground beef
1pack (about 1lb) mild Italian sausage
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
2 cans of mushrooms
salt, pepper, and other spices to taste

Combine ground beef, sausage, bread crumbs, eggs, mushrooms (I like them finely chopped, Richard prefers them in larger pieces right out of the can) in bowl (works best if you mix it with your fingers), add spices to taste (only use salt sparingly, since there's already salt in the sausage). Form loaf in oven-proof baking dish and bake on 350F for 2 hours.
Tastes great with pan-fried potatoes and mixed veggies or a salad. ENJOY!

PS: my dear hubby rid himself of 2 kidney stones, one shortly before Violet was born, the other one just a couple of weeks before our move...

Monday, June 14, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours...

In our family there tend to be weeks, months, or sometimes even a year with one misfortune following the other. So far this year my grandmother fell and broke her shoulder, then my grandfather had an accident; about two weeks before Violet was born my grandfather died from a brain bleed. Just this week, after having to say good-bye to a soul-part of our family (not blood-related, but just as dear to our hearts) and moving to Germany Lily became very sick with a stomach flu and my dad was taken to the emergency room with an aneurysm in his leg, where a blood clot formed. Luckily, the surgeon decided to come in from his weekend leave to check on it in person and ordered an immediate surgery that saved my dad's leg. Running back and forth between the hospital and home, where Lily lay throwing up was very stressful for our family. Our friend Cat (above-mentioned family member) fared even worse, with her grandmother dying and her cousin being diagnosed with breast cancer. I wonder, how comes things like that always happen at once. Saturday night, after Mama came to tell us of the results of the surgery, I was lying in bed wondering about this part of life. Maybe it is that we need bad times to even more appreciate the good ones. Sometimes, daily life can make us forget how blessed we are most of the times. Why comes we often need bad things to happen to realize how good our lives are most of the time, and how we allow petty arguments or worries darken these happy days. Let's take some time in our days just to remember all the good things in our lives, and forgive each other for minor issues. The events of last week just reminded me again how short live can be; I will strive to live each second, each hour, and each day to the fullest. I hope to have many, many years ahead of me, but unfortunately, we never know what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Art Of Moving - Theory vs. Reality

Recently I was asked to write a guest post for The Millennial Housewife on organizing our move to Germany. Here is the article I wrote about 2 weeks ago:


Our Lives in Boxes – Moving a family overseas

When I was asked to write this guest blog about how we are organizing our move to Germany, a lot of scenes from these past months came up in my brain. Most of them were painful, but there were also some good ones. Decluttering always makes me feel lighter, and it has been much too long since we have done a thorough sweep through all of our things. If I remember right, we’ve never done it that thoroughly in our 4 years of marriage, which included two moves.

Why is this move different? We’re organizing it ourselves. And it is not a move a few streets further, or even to another state; no, it is to another continent. We made this decision while on vacation in Germany a little over a year ago; the ultimate timeframe was set sometime last December, after finding out we were expecting another baby and taking a few months to evaluate all of our options. Since the GI Bill has let us down once again, we decided to move shortly after our daughter’s birth in spring, giving us a few weeks to get all necessary travel documents and enough time for me to recover.

We really started getting into the moving-groove a few weeks before Violet was born, when I urged Richard to finally decimate his library. Over the years, my husband has accumulated several hundreds of books, sometimes dropping a whole paycheck at Barnes & Noble (pre-me of course). Our plan was to reduce all of our belongings to about 10 – 15 boxes, that we would send to a friend who is currently stationed in Germany (APO-addresses be praised!). This, along with selling our car this last week, was probably the most painful task for him in this move. I went through several shoe boxes of letters, postcards, and other nick-nacks, and reduced them to one box of things I really couldn’t do without. Over the weeks we started sending boxes out, so far only with things that we wouldn’t really miss. The books that didn’t make the cut were sold and donated to the library (which should soon be hard pressed to at least name a wing after Richard).

What followed this fairly informal first step was “The List”, with all the tasks we had to complete before the move, and time limits where necessary. Many of these tasks were new to us, since last time we took our own cars when we moved from Kansas up to Washington State, and the Army managed the move of all of our belongings, packing and all. So far I’ve managed to:
- Call the power and cable/phone/internet companies and inform them about the move and cut-off date
- Hand in the termination of lease notice to the apartment manager
- Go to the bank and consolidate all accounts into one checking account
- Close the credit card
- Book tickets
- Book a hotel for the night before the flight
- Book a rental car big enough to take all of our stuff to Vancouver, Canada
- Check that all travel documents are in order
- Hand in the change-of-address form at the post office

The next step was Craig’s List, the place of choice to sell all of our more valuable odds and ends, such as our cars. Luckily, most of our furniture will find new homes with our friends, which somehow makes it easier for us to part with, since we know that their new owners will appreciate them.

Right now, I am sitting in a seemingly cluttered apartment, with two packed boxes on the coffee table. When I look around it does not look as if we were moving in less than a week (apart from the boxes of course). I know that it will be different come Friday and all the furniture is gone and the last few boxes sent on their way to Germany. The most important task at this point is to make sure that all the things we will need for the journey and the first months in Germany, such as
- Passports
- Birth Certificates for the girls (important to be able to apply for “Kindergeld” und Elterngeld” in Germany)
- Marriage Certificate for Richard’s Visa
- All educational certificates and records for the job search
- Richard’s military records
Despite all the chaos, there is not much more left to do but deep-clean the apartment once it’s empty, pack our suitcases, and maybe make another trip to Goodwill to get rid of some odds and ends that have escaped us so far. Seeing all this makes me mostly sad, because all the belongings we have accumulated during our 4 years of marriage are gone (or will be gone soon). But all that is just things that can easily be replaced. And, as Richard is saying on occasion: at least, all the clutter is gone and we’ll be able to start on a clean slate. The girl in me is already looking forward to spending weekends browsing through IKEA and crafts shops to find the perfect things to decorate the girls’ rooms, and to negate all the decluttering of the past months.

(this article was posted on June 8th)

Fast forward to today. We've arrived in Germany on June 9th in a haze, that has only partially lifted by now. The last few days of organizing were an ordeal as well. One may not believe how much clutter can hide in the most unlikely places. When all of our furniture was gone on June 4th, the apartment floor was hidden under loads and loads of things. The post office rejected to send some of our boxes for excess weight, and 3-4 boxes turned into 7. The plan was to have the final walk-through at 12pm on June 6th; we ended up not leaving until 5pm.

What went wrong? Here's the list:

1. Ask a friend! Even though we had a well thought-through plan on how to organize everything, and managed to stick to our list mostly, the last days just were too stressful. With two little kids around, the packing and cleaning took much longer than I've planned. Having an extra hand or two would have been the solution. However, in our strive to not be a burden to anyone, we just took on way too much. At this point, asking for help, and if it's only for babysitting would have been the way to go.

2. Don't procrastinate! Yes, I admit, we're guilty of the crime of procrastination. Some cleaning tasks such as cleaning the windows or clearing out one or two closets could have been done several days in advance. This would have prevented me from entering into a cleaning marathon that lasted until 4am and started again at 6. Especially time-consuming tasks such as cleaning behind the stove or fridge could have been accomplished as much as a couple of weeks in advance and saved me much time and even more nerves in the end.

3. Talk to your apartment manager! Just talking to Kelly could have saved me hours in cleaning time. Why did diligently wipe down all the blinds if they will end up being deep-cleaned by professionals anyways? Make sure you know if the management intends to replace any fixtures, cabinets, or carpets after you move out so you don't spend hours cleaning for naught.

4. No matter what: get at least 6 hours of sleep! This will help you keep your sanity and stay calm in stressful situations and prevents you from standing in the bathroom crying along with your baby.

Well, hindsight is always clearer, I guess. I only deeply regret the hours we missed spending with our friends for a last supper on US ground. I'd rather sat around with Cat, Charlie and Tom, eating lasagna and faux black forest cake than running around like a mad chicken in our littered apartment.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Introducing: Recipes Of Life

This new category is a love child of my friend Cat and me. I have posted recipes in some of my blog posts before, and planned on having a monthly column sharing more of my favorite recipes. While still in the earliest stage of development (say: it had crossed my mind once or twice), Cat suggested to add a column featuring favorite recipes and their stories. And here it is: Recipes of Life. Enjoy!

Banana Pudding:
I have no idea while I crave it on occasion, I don't even like bananas. This recipe developed from a simple tiramisu recipe that I used to make when Richard and I were first married. Over time, ingredients were added and ingredients were dropped, and my banana pudding recipe emerged, that has not much in common with its tiramisu parent any more. Over the years this banana pudding has been a welcome dessert at D&D night or quick afternoon snack if I didn't feel like going out an buying muffins or wasn't able to wait until the chocolate cake is done baking. I remember one time I signed up to bring banana pudding to the parent group brunch, just to find said morning that Lily had eaten all the bananas the day before. I ended up making a banana-less banana pudding, which was still popular at the brunch. I will definitely keep this recipe close to my heart, and the ingredients readily available in my kitchen!

3-5 bananas (depending on the size of the dish), thinly sliced
1 box of vanilla wafers
1 pack of vanilla or banana pudding
2c milk
1c coffee
whipped topping or whipped cream & chocolate powder and raspberries/blackberries for garnish

Prepare vanilla or banana pudding according to directions (usually 2c of milk). Spread vanilla wafers on bottom of casserole or pie dish, pour half of coffee over it and wait until liquid is soaked up. Put one layer of banana slices on top of the wafers and cover with half of the pudding. Repeat layers. Top with whipped topping/cream and garnish with chocolate powder and raspberries or blackberries, if desired.

This recipe also tastes really good with blackberries or other berries instead of the bananas, as the participants of the parent group brunch could find out.

If you have any ideas to improve or change the recipe, please feel free to share!