American idol-Part 2

DISCLAIMER-  If you are not one of our personal friends or family member...you will probably not want to spend you time watching this video-It has nothing to do with Germany and will probably bore you to tears!

This is the last surprise I made for my "American Idol" (If you are lost at this point, scroll down and read previous blog post).  Since today is our actual wedding date and Jason is heading off to China, I wanted to give him THIS gift before he left today.  I still miss him when he goes out of town to work and dread the days I sit on the bed watching him pack.  However, I am glad I do still miss him when he is gone...must mean I still love him terribly!


My American Idol....

I painted Jason this for one of his "7 gifts"  

After reading my friend’s ‘Facebook status’ updates, I wondered, “Who is Scotty?”  I quickly learned he is this year’s American Idol winner.  After I watched all of his performances on YouTube, I understood why he took the prize. 

As good as Scotty is, I have another favorite “American Idol”.  He may not be able to sing, but he is my Idol in many ways.  He is passionate, caring, giving, smart, and most of all he loves me.  He loves my good, he loves my bad, he loves my whacky, he loves my dark, and he loves and supports the person I am-period.  This weekend, we are celebrating 7 years of marriage.  That won’t sound like very many years to many of the veterans that read this blog, but you have to understand that for me, it has been seven years of complete happiness.  For me, the move to another country and all the challenges that come with such a move, has only strengthened an already good relationship. 

We took tried to take pictures of our night

Finally a good picture thanks to a little help-great view behind us
This weekend, to celebrate our 7 years of marriage, we had a great dinner at ‘THE CUBE” here in Stuttgart.  Since I had made all of the “surprise” arrangements for our evening in my newly learned German, I was a little nervous if it would all come together.  My German must have worked because the babysitter arrived, I had all of my “seven” gifts hidden in my bag, the driver buzzed our bell and we were whisked off to our romantic dinner overlooking the city.  The views from the restaurant are breathtaking as you look at old beside new.  Not to mention the food was also as pleasing. Since the sun is shining so bright, it may surprise you to know that it was 8:30 at night in the above picture. (The sun shining so late into the night has been a nice surprise for me since it is sooo dark here in the winter!)

I am pretty sure the waitress did not realize that there was a “real life” American Idol sitting at her table, because she never asked for his autograph or a quick song.  Some things are better left a secret…..
The View from "The Cube"

"The Cube"

a sweet ending to a great night!


Missing page in German Tour books....

Some Sights and attractions are not listed in the travel books I own, I guess the pages are missing.  I found one “non-mentioned” sight a few weeks back as I was driving down a winding road over a bridge.  I happened to glance down at the river and  almost wrecked as my eyes were touring below.  Down all along the river were naked people casually walking around and sunbathing.  Not one or two…but about 30!  I couldn’t help but laugh because just when I thought I understood this whole “naked” thing here in Europe, I was surprised to see so many bright shiny butts walking around.  For all of my “European” blog followers that are shaking there heads at my naivety, I must make one thing clear- I can promise you that you will never be driving down an Alabama road, glance down at a pond and see a bunch of naked people walkin around....Just won’t happen.  Nor will you ever be running on a trail and glance up to see a naked person laying in the middle of tall flowers, feet propped on their bike and catching a few rays! And THAT is exactly the “sight” I saw today.  It was all I could do to keep Rocky from running right up to this person to say hello and I really didn’t want a closer view!  (I have blurred the picture for “protection” purposes)  Don’t get me wrong…I love the wind blowing on my skin and have been known to skinny dip often (ask my mother-in-law about our last horseback trip up to a snow lake in Oregon)   Butt (pun intended) there is something about the element of “when you least expect a naked arse”  I must say, even though these attractions aren’t listed in my books, they are becoming the most entertaining sights for me here in Germany…cause who doesn’t like a surprise!  



Three Important "German 'G's"

German Foods
German Friends

Some things here in Germany seem EXACTLY the same as in the States to me;Like when you combine good food and friends, you usually end up with a spectacular night.  These are my favorite kind of evenings both in Alabama and Germany.  Both nights this weekend were just that for the Hoff family thanks to various invitations from friends to join their ‘garten parties’. ( Happy Birthday Barbara!) 

I am sitting here on this Sunday morning still in a blissful state from the past two nights.  Yes, it helps that I am drinking a cup of very STRONG coffee and sitting outside while the kids play nicely.  I swear, Germans can stretch a dinner into the wee hours of the night and never seem tired the next day.  But I, on the other hand, have big black circles under my eyes from the lack of sleep two nights in a row.  For me, making the transition to living abroad a happy one, it is critical to cultivate friendships.  I am very fortunate to have found such nice friends so quickly here in Germany.  Spending time with these friends helps me forget all of the “hard parts” of living abroad.(yes...it can be hard)  It only gets better when you add the fact that I did “pretty dog gone good” participating in two full nights of German conversation. 

However, there were some big differences…A ‘yard’ is a “Garten”, the flowers are different and I wasn’t sitting there with a big head of frizzy hair with sweat dripping in my eyes from the humidity.  I am discovering the outdoor world here in Germany to be full of flowers, outdoor living, nice days and cold nights.  I think I am falling in love with this spring weather, so much so, I may not complain once about the snow or freezing cold this winter.

So, as I take the last sip of my coffee and listen to the kids starting to argue, I have to wonder if the important things in life are the same no matter  in what country a person lives ……

This weekend's "gartens"

The water is colder than AL-they don't seem to mind

Hey..do you wanna play?




Care Packages.....

I received an official CARE PACKAGE from the U.S.!!! (Thanks Evelyn!!)  I always loved getting Care Packages in College from my Grandmother.  She would stuff them full of  handmade goodies that she thought perhaps I had “a hankerin” for in my dorm room.  These goodies would be nicely packed in a shoebox, and then wrapped in a brown paper bag with my address carefully written on top.  I found it funny that these boxes got a little bigger once I moved up to NYC.  It was as if she thought they didn’t have any food in that big ole “northern” city.  If she were alive, I am sure she would be sending me monthly care packages full of 'who knows what'. 

So it was a smile I couldn't wipe off my face as I received a “real” care package here in Germany.  It didn't come in a shoebox, nor was it wrapped in a brown paper bag…it was even better.  It came in the form of my German friend, Heinz, holding a very pretty gift bag his wife, Evelyn, had packed for him to bring on his visit to Germany.  She knew that I had a “hankerin” for a few “American items” that I miss from home.  Evelyn and her family have been living in Tuscaloosa Alabama as Expats from Germany since the early 90s…so she understands better than most “hankerins” and what a transition it can be at times living in a different country.  What makes this care package extra special to me; During a time in her life when the world surrounding her went into chaos from a monster tornado, and she was  dealing with all of the devastation in Tuscaloosa, she took the time to make me a care package.  That my friends, is more than “a treat” I received while living abroad as an Expat…that is a CARE PACKAGE.  (One of my treats were a few bottles of “Franks”, which I quickly had to open and try on my favorite German snack)  


"Southern Pea Salad" here in Germany????

Trip #1
I was aware of the Big “ Weiß Spargel” Rage (White Asparagus) from my various travels to Germany.  Yes, fresh white asparagus is everywhere in German and IS very tender because it hasn’t had one ounce of light, but unfortunately is only “in season” for a few months.  But, what I DID NOT KNOW… was that someone here in Germany had gotten his or her hands on my grandmother’s “Southern Pea Salad” Recipe.  O.K., so they added this yummy white asparagus and subtracted the Vidalia onions, but somehow created exactly the same taste that I would devour at Sunday dinners at my grandparent's house. 
I have heard about some people having this "problem" with other foods... like Oreos.  Once you eat one cookie, something takes over your brain and you end up eating the whole bag of chocolate and cream filled cookies.  BUT, NO Cookies for me...just little green peas.  I have found something that tastes exactly like “Ma’s” pea salad, and my brain has gone crazy the past two days. 
Yep, after I ate the first little container I brought home from the Metzgertei,  (butcher shop …and most always has the best homemade side dishes) my brain told me I must pedal very quickly back to the Metzgerei to buy more in case they sold out.  I returned home with my gaurded treasure, only to consume it within 10 minutes.  (Who knew you could get a stomachache fromasparagus and English peas.)  But obviously, my body did not learn it’s lesson…as soon as I had the chance today, I was pushing those bike pedals as fast as they would go again.  I even ate at the stand-up table in the Butcher shop because I couldn’t wait to feel those crunchy English Peas bursting open inside my mouth. (and of course I had to also add what looked a little like southern fried chicken to my plate)  I attempted to ask what was in this lip-smacking dish, but my German language inadequacies left that one as one big fat question mark. 
I have’ googled ‘trying to find this recipe, but with no luck.  Below, I am sharing my Grandmother's very own recipe.  Perhaps there are a few Germans living in the Southern states frantically searching for this “Southern Pea Recipe” after they took a bite and realized, "this tastes like the Weiss Spargel/Pea salad from Germany".  
  My grandmother is probably looking down from Heaven watching my crazy antics here in Germany while she shakes her head and says to herself “shug, if you eat that much pea salad everyday, you just won’t be able to fit in your clothes…no matter where you live!”
Ma’s Pea Salad
1 cup or more tiny frozen garden peas (she grew hers!)
1 cup finely chopped Vidalia onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
½ cup Helman’s mayo
2 tbls sugar
Salt and pepper to taste


Yes, Virginia...communication is critical

It happened again....Just when I thought I was really doing good communicating with my German, I had a HUGE misunderstanding at the "Friseur".  I understood her to say it was time to go back "a little lighter".

Gotta go.....Time to study my German.
1st German cut-didn't understand "going dark" in German

5th apt...didn't understand "little lighter" in German


More than a Treasure Hunt....

We laughed that it was a little ironic that as Jason headed to out to “Hugo Boss” to do a little shopping, I headed downtown to the “Flohmarkte Karlsplatz-Stuttgart”.  That translates into Flea market.

The first time I made my stroll under the big trees in this historic square, sifting through all of the potential prizes I could purchase and take home, it wasn’t quit the same since I had my five year old son in tote.  Something about constantly looking up and having to say, “Cooper don’t touch that…Cooper be careful that will break…Cooper get out from under the table…No, it’s not time to go home yet” took some of the “hunt” out of the treasures.

However, since I didn’t have to utter one single word this past Saturday (unless it was to ask “Was Kostet das) it had all of the magic I am coming to love about this event.  The pictures don’t come close to capturing the variety of goods for sale, nor the atmosphere that I think is one of the most affordable attractions so far here in Stuttgart!  I realized the Flohmarkt was more than a treasure hunt for me…….

·      Lots of Eye Candy
·      An intense German lesson
·      An education on both antiques and junk (there is plenty of both)
·      A walk down memory lane (I had forgotten how much I loved my grandmother’s purses until I similar ones were displayed on a table for sale)
·      A trip to the Twilight Zone (There is an awful lot of “strange” mixed in with everything else-notice the manikins for sale underneath the historic statue)
·      Great people watching (I could just camp out all day in one spot…maybe on top of the rugs that are so nicely layed out on the ground for all to shop)
·      A little “fast food” (if you consider homemade German Linsen suppe ‘fast’)
·      A nice walk (and you don’t even realize you are getting exercise)

China everywhere

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Cookie cutters?



The simple things in Germany....

Sometimes it's just the simple things that give me the most anxiety here in Germany.  I mean, I can do what I consider the “hard” parts of daily living here... like speak German the majority of the day, or park my car in a spot meant for a flea.  BUT, it seems the tasks that are supposed to be simple, can send me into a cold sweat.  For example, a few weeks back, my car was in desperate need of a wash.  I was aware of the “Car Wash” rules here in Germany basically stating,” you are only allowed to wash your car in a designated place and such places must have the facility to remove oil and detergents from the water and also to recycle water” which translates to you better not even try to sneak washing in your driveway.  So, I headed off to the local car wash.  What I thought would be a breeze, turned into more like a hurricane....and I SWORE I would never do THAT again….

It went like this….

I pull up to the car wash doors, put the car in park, step out to go pay but am stopped as a man begins walking briskly towards me and speaking German just as briskly.
 (My conversation with me)
Oh-NO!....he is speaking too fast and I have no idea what he is saying.  Just smile, be strong and speak in German “Hi, I am just getting my car washed and not getting gas."  Whew-I did it without stumbling on a single word….wait, he is looking me like I’m crazy and speaking even faster to me in German.  Smile bigger this time and say you don’t understand.  Wait, I think he just said he couldn’t get his car out….OH RIIIIGHT-I understand now… he wants me to move my car so he can get his out of the car wash.  Just tell him sorry and move you car quickly.  Why are all of the other patrons looking at me while they pump gas?  Don’t worry people…I can’t speak good German but I can drive a car.  Well maybe, where am I supposed to put my car in this 2x4 gas station while I go pay?  UGH! Ok people-please stop looking at me-yes I just left my car sitting in the middle here..

Next, I went inside to pay and ask what the “code” is for the wash. 
(My conversation with me)
Oh Brother, what did the cashier just say to me.  You can do it…don’t be nervous just because a large line is forming behind you….1,2,3-in German tell him that you don’t understand what he just said…quit being scared, TALK.  Why is he handing me a plastic card?  what did he just tell me to do with this card?  I think I just heard the man behind me sigh deeply…look and see if it was him....wow! the line behind me is really long now…just grab the card and walk back to the wash.  Whew…I’m glad to be out of there, now what. 

must be good..has my maiden name. 


I head back and try to decode the big sign giving me all the instructions-in German.  I’m pretty sure I understand good enough to make it all happen and drive into the garage, all while reading the bright red German words that are flashing at me.  I close my car door, walk out of the garage, and slip my card into the machine to start this process. 
(My conversation with me)
The sun feels really nice.. this isn’t bad standing here waiting for my car.  I am really proud that I survived all that bad communication.  Oh shoot, the garage doors aren’t closing….WAS I supposed to close them myself…please just close..please, please, please.  They aren’t moving and here comes the attendant running towards me….um, not sure what he just said so very quickly.  Ok, so he thinks if he talks louder, I will understand.  Man, stop talking so loud, everyone is looking at us now.  Ok, I am never showing my face here again-who needs a clean car. Good-he gave up on me.  wait, why is he walking into the car wash with it running towards my car.  Ugh... he is handing me my car antenna he just unscrewed.  I guess that is in the list of instructions since he just pointed to the sign.  Oops. 

Danke is all I can muster up and as I look up with embarrassment, I notice the garage doors are finally closing…how did that happen?  Yep, sometimes it is the “simple” things here in Germany that can cause me the most anxiety-but I will survive.  And, even though I swore to Jason, “I WILL NEVER WASH A CAR AGAIN HERE IN GERMANY!!!”… I did just that yesterday!



I intended to write this blog post last night, but ended up doing an impression of my grandmother sitting on the couch “reading” with her eyes closed.  Seems in the Hoff House, my children acknowledge Mother’s Day everyday, or so I assume, since I hear (rather loudly) "MOMIEEEE" numerous times throughout the day.  I have been a very fortunate mother this year.  I have two children that have moved across the world and are trying very hard to acclimate to everything in their life being new. (This isn’t always easy even for us adults)  They continue to keep a positive attitude even though they miss their house and friends in Alabama.  And even when I get their wonderful compliments like the one I received this week, “Mom, your hair is so colorful…it has WHITE, Black, and RED”, I wouldn’t change a thing…well…maybe a few things like whining.

The Captain gave out roses to the Mothers

Fest and Vineyards in distance

To celebrate the day, we headed down to the Nekar River to hop on a short roundtrip cruise through the Cannstatt lock up the river.  It was nice sipping my glass of champagne watching Stuttgart’s scenery from the top deck.  I think we were all most intrigued as we rode past the “Frühlingsfest Fest” watching the roller coasters do numerous flips.  This is a large Festival that runs through May 15th and will probably be next on our list…

After our boat ride, we headed to “Stadtstrand” (a.k.a-City Beach) for a small bite to hit and some sunrays.  This outdoor grill beach brings in 120 tons of sand in the spring to start off their “beach season”.  It was funny to see the kids building sandcastles right in the middle of the city as Jason and I lounged in the comfy chairs.  

perfect Mother's Day


Danger Zones in Stuttgart

I feel very safe here in Stuttgart and find myself walking around without ever looking over my shoulder as one might in other cities.  However, I have found one 'DANGER ZONE' that scares me to death.  When I get near this zone, I can not proceed with caution, however I just can’t seem to avoid it.  You see… the diverse and delectable restaurants that surround us here in Stuttgart are numerous and can be considered dangerous if I want to stay on the 'healthy charts'.  We have lived on the dangerous side lately and wanted to share two of my favorites.

We enjoyed a quiet dinner this week at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants that serves the most surprising Mediterranean meals.  As I finished my Zucchini Carpaccio topped with warm cheese and olive oil, the waitress came to suggest desserts.  After Jason ordered the homemade Anise-Orange Tiramisu, she turned and asked me what I would like.  As I looked up at her and responded (in my very good German...wink-wink) “Ich möchte nur einen Tisch zu essen” I noticed she was wearing a look of astonishment on her face. I thought to myself; maybe ordering an extra spoon to share a dessert is not kosher.  As I looked at Jason and saw him chuckling, I realized I had not ordered an extra spoon but instead had responded, “I only want the table to eat”.  Hmmm…I am glad I am continuing German classes-it brings humor to all.

Ambiente Africa http://www.africarestaurant.de/            

traditional dining room
A few weeks ago, I joined a group of women for dinner at this popular Stuttgart African restaurant.  I have wanted to try this restaurant since I first heard about it shortly after moving to Stuttgart and after I read it’s outstanding review in ‘Prinz’ Magazine I knew I must go.  I was delighted when my friend called and suggested we all go here for dinner.

It was an extra perk to meet the owner and chief, Daniel Yaccob, as he greeted us upon entering.  I could understand why my neighbor spoke so highly of him as I watched him continuously check on each of his guests throughout the meal.  His passion for the food and atmosphere shines brightly in the cozy dim restaurant area.  The family is originally from Eritrea on the Red Sea and learning their history made my meal all the more intriguing. I was  surprised when my friend told me he had originally trained as a French chief. 

After glancing at the menu, I became a little skeptical of this tummy’s ability to taste some of their entrees ---“Ostrich, Crockodile, Zebra, or Antelope”  Since my neighbor and her family have been eating here since it’s beginning, over 12 years ago, us newcomers let her order our meal.  I held my breath as I listened to her ordering the various selections for us to share and slowly exhaled when my ears didn’t hear “Zebra”.  I understood enough to know we would be eating some Crocodile but I figured that was pretty similar to the Alligator I had tried and liked in New Orleans.  As our large bowl was placed in the middle of the table, the descriptions began and my taste buds watered.  First lesson-we will eat with our fingers.  As my friends showed the “newbie” how to first pinch off a little piece of the ingera (soft millet flat bread), and use it like a personal tong to pick up the spicy mix of dishes, I began to wonder if I should let my belt buckle out a notch.  My favorite was the Gari (mashed cassava root), rice and sweet potatoes.  And yes, I tried the exotic meat and it was also good…as long as I didn’t think about what I was eating.  Our meal was complete as we finished with their traditional African coffee ceremony.   

the smell was like breathing caffeine

This whole meal was such a great learning experience for my taste buds and me.  I STRONGLY recommend trying this educational charm, but make reservations a few weeks in advance. I can guarantee I will continue to venture into these 'Danger Zones'....but sometimes living dangerously is fun!

My favorites from our dinner

Kudu (East African savannah antelope)
Grilled Kudufilet Dzama flamed with rum (specialty from Madagascar), fresh vegetables and sweet potatoes

Shikor Patata Sga
Sweet potatoes with lamb, chicken in tomato sauce with eggplant, carrots, peppers, fresh tomato, chilli, garlic and sweet banana

Red and yellow lentils, spinach, okra and Alicha

Shikor Patata
Sweet potatoes in tomato sauce with eggplant,
Carrots, peppers, fresh tomatoes,
garlic and sweet banana

About Me

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Stuttgart, Germany, Germany
We are living as non-military expats for a second time in Stuttgart Germany. The first time, we moved from Alabama to Stuttgart, Germany in December 2010 for three years and now are back after six years.. This is a great adventure for our whole family that we enjoy sharing.