Can you speak "Alabama"?

DeFranco's Stuttgart
I KNOW I have never been asked to "speak Alabama" before tonight.  I have been asked to speak slower, faster, German, Nicer, and often more respectful (when I was younger of course).  So, when asked, I "speak".  Let's back up to the events that lead to this question tonight.
..........Babysitter arrived, Jason and I were off, first stop was to buy ski pants for the one family member (aka-me) that doesn't own any snow/ski pants. ( Seems it is a must for our upcoming ski/snow trip to Switzerland next week)  First problem...the bread and cheese here in Germany have been a little too kind to me.  Solution;Stop trying on ski pants and walk as fast as possible to a great Italian restaurant with Jason, eat very good Carpaccio, a little hearty red (to ease the pain), homemade tortellina stuffed with artichokes, a great espresso, and a very dangerous dessert that seemed pretty close to good ole' "Chess Pie".  2012 will come soon enough which includes a bit more joggin. 

good food...good view
Dangerous Dessert
At least he still finds the humor in 'me'!
As we were leaving the restaurant (in a much happier state than when we left the sporting goods store), we ended up talking to the large group sitting around the table by the door.  (Those of you that know me well can only imagine how we ended up talking to a large group of strangers as Jason rolled his eyes at me)  They asked where 'we' were from? (I should take a brief pause here to mention that one lady nodded towards Jason and asked me as we spoke German, "Why does HE speak perfect German?"  In hind sight, I should have answered, "he goes to a better German school than me"  hee-hee) The moment I answered, "We moved here from Alabama over a year ago", they didn't break out into a "Sweet Home Alabama" renedition, instead they asked me "to speak Alabama".  It takes alot to throw me off...but this one threw me into a lot of fast talking that I don't think anyone understood what I was saying including me.  I think I know how to find ski pants that fit better than I know how to speak Alabama to a large group eagerly awaiting my mumbled English. 
Time to go back to finding Ski Pants!


¡Hola from Stuttgart

¡Hola from Stuttgart! We took a little side trip to "Mexico" tonight into one of the Tex-Mex restaurants I had read about smack dab in the middle of Stuttgart. Mexican food is still one of the few things we can't seem to find quite like the numerous mouth watering options we had in Alabama. I was pretty sure after reading about this one, we weren't going to be served Doritos with our salsa.  

As we settled in, I took one look around and felt like we were home.  However, someone should mention to this lady that she should worry more about that cactus attacking her arm rather than the snow covered Christmas tree.  But who am I to judge... maybe she had had enough of the delicious Sangria not to feel the cactus needles?!?  We aren't exactly sure what happend when Jason tried to order a much craved Margarita, as the lady gave him a quick explanation in German that included the word "Beer".   Jason took it to mean their Margaritas were not good.  Funny that she returned and plopped TWO beers down in front of him.  It is good to know that even Jason, who is fluent in the language, has times he isn't clear on the communication.
I think that cactus got my eyes...

 Just like after a good Mexican meal in Alabama, our stomachs were flowing over the top of our jeans requiring some stroll time.  We strolled thru Stuttgart looking at the Christmas windows.  Yes- they are all still up and festive.  If I had to guess, it probably has something to do with the fact things were not all glitz-ed up for Christmas in October.  I find that Christmas is in December here in Germany. adiĆ³s
Breuninger all wrapped up
All the windows come alive when you lay your hand on the circle

Honey-that one doesn't "come alive"
She should lay off the Sangria


Night sledding in Germany

A few days before Christmas, the skies opened, and we found ourselves deep in snow.   Because a certain crazy mother was running around doing last minutes shopping, she was a bit late taking the kids sledding...ok about 24 hours late as the snow was turning to rain.  But my kids (once again) taught me a good lesson; don't worry about minor details so much- just have fun even if it has "rained" a little on the parade.  Another lesson; night sledding may not be a wise idea...I finally picked up on that fact t when Karina yelled from below, "mom, where are you? I can't see you because it is too dark" )


"The Day of Christmas"


'Twas the day of Christmas, when all through the house
all of our kids were very loud...just ask my spouse;

After a long nice night having friends over for dinner,
We woke up early to realize we weren’t any thinner.

Ma’s pound cake for our Christmas breakfast served us quite well
For the speed stockings were opened when full of sugar one could tell

As our Skype stayed busy the entire day and the computer ran hot
it just didn't seem the same as when we have them here with us on the spot

And now, as we tuck the kids in tight, with a smile upon their face,
Jason and I have both thought of all we have that is in our grace

Adjustments a many this holiday season we were to make,
But all was OK, because this Hoff family just won't break

Although change isn’t easy nor does it come quick
We are a family and together we will stick

We wish you a merry Christmas, as Jason hugs me with a bound
For we hope you have the happiness when together we’ve found.

Now dash away, dash away, dash away real “schnell”
For this bad poem is for most becoming quite stale!!!

(So here are some fun pictures from our month)


Never saw this in Alabama

"Make new friends....But keep the old"

Night sledding-NEVER did that in Alabama

Merry Christmas!


Boxing up this "Whine"

I seemed to have the song from "The Grinch who stole Christmas" stuck in my head the past two weeks......

Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you “

Not only Christmas, but also my sense of humor seems to have gotten lost.  I have so many things in life to be thankful for and therefore work really hard not to whine about the small stuff that pops up.  But the small stuff seems to be winning in my house this past month.  I have to admit that at times, living in another country can feel like running into a brick wall on a daily basis.   I feel it especially now that it is Christmas…Not only do I miss my friends/family, the kids have spent more time at home than school due to sickness, I have visited more doctor’s and school nurse’s offices than Christmas markets and I miss my husband who has been out of the country more often than home.  (do I dare mention how long it took me to make Christmas cards on a German website?)

WHINING DONE and I don’t feel any better…so why spend my energy whining? 

Funny, that I was humming this Christmas song when the doorbell buzzed this week.  I just knew it was Christmas ringing when I saw that box labeled ‘US Priority Mail’ waving from the DHL man’s arms.  I was less excited when he started speaking very fast German and wasn’t handing over my US package.  However, he did hand over official looking piece of paper, and I finally got the message;not only did my Mother-in-Law pay an outrageous amount to ship this little box of gifts, but according to the German government I had to pay Zollanmeldung (customs declaration) of about 16 Euros (20 dollars).  The next day I was on the phone with another relative asking, “how do we handle Christmas presents since there don’t’ seem to be many options?”  We have also discovered this week that Amazon.com gift cards are non-transferable to Amazon.de. 

Today it dawned on me…It is not about the “green stuff” or presents; I am sure Customs and all that official hoopla is important in the big ole world of governments.  IT IS about staying in touch with friends and family because emails and pictures don’t cost a thing. 

I am determined to get the kids well, hit some Christmas markets before they close, buy a tree, and pack up this whining and ship it off in a nice big box…duty free!  We will miss being with our friends and family this year, but I know we will create some new traditions this year in Germany that we will remember for many years to come!  (hopefully they will involve singing much happier songs because I don’t give up so easy and I WILL FIND CHRISTMAS!!!)


Made with love

Surprise Daddy! 
The kids and I pondered over what to do for Jason's birthday since he would be arriving home from China the very night.  Little did I know that the homemade gifts they suggested would require help from my friends in Germany and Alabama. 

The candles they wanted to make turned out to be fun and pretty easy.  It was just hop on a train to head down to the Christmas market.

We will help convert all the ingredients!!
Making my grandmother's Cold Oven Cake...not so easy.  I have made this cake for many of our family's special occasions as did my grandmother, Ma, however, this would be my first attempt at it here in German.  I am pretty sure my grandmother never even considered my living in Germany when she wrote her recipe for me some 20 years ago.  I am also sure she would get a good chuckle out of my having to learn the metric system in order to cook. ( which seems to be going more SLOWLY than my German)   Task list was made:

1. Convert "3 sticks of margarine" to grams of butter.  Clean up kitchen after making a thorough mess trying to measure butter. 

2. Convert 8 oz of cream cheese also to grams...then deciding who needs to measure-throw the whole block into the bowl.
3.  Find an alternative for Vanilla extract.  After my German friend spent a day hunting it down and found it at the Apotheke at a cute cost of 16 Euros at the Apotheke!  (Thank goodness for my sweet friend who found an even better Alternative...she bought me a bottle on the military base)
4.  Spend a few hours googling 'Swans Down', hunting for the German version with no luck, then trying to understand what all the numbers mean on the shelves lined with flour in the German market.  
5.  Call my best friend in Alabama to figure out what exactly had to be done to the #405 flour I purchased to make it a good substitute for Swan's Down
6.  Begin sifting the flour and start questioning myself as to why we needed to make this cake?

The cake didn't look so pretty, but tasted pretty good according to Jason and the kids.  If I was a betting person, then I would put my money on "he liked the birthday steak dinner better the next night at Pier 51" which required no converting, flour, or phone calls. However, sometimes it is those gifts made with love that mean the most.  So, WITH LOVE, I share Ma's cake recipe and hope it doesn't require any conversion!  

Ma’s Cream Cheese Cold Oven Cake
8 oz cream cheese-softened
3 sticks margarine
3 cups of sugar
3 cups of Swans Down
6 eggs
2 tsp of vanilla extract
Cream the cheese and margarine until smooth
Add sugar slowly until well combined
Add eggs one at a time
Add vanilla
Add Swans Down flour
Put in cold oven, turn oven to 300 degrees-bake for 1 hour 25 minutes.  (Start checking it with a toothpick at about an hour and keep checking until done.  Simple after you make it one time!


Let us go..let us go...let us GO!!!

Yes Sir..."Let us go..let us go...let us GO!!!" was exactly what I was singing yesterday as I picked the kids up at school.   Amazing how the sky opened up dropping the winter's first snow right at dismissal and more amazing; the sound of 100+ children yelling as they realized it is pouring snow.  Yep, instead of 'visions of sugar plums floating' in this girls head, I was having flashbacks of all the times I got stuck last year as I learned to drive in the snow.  (When I was growing up the rule in our house was; If there is snow or even a few snowflakes...PARK IT!)
The fact that Jason is on another part of the globe did not ease my anxiety as the big white drops fell,  nor did it help that during the drive home Cooper kept asking, "Are you going to cry again this year when you drive in the snow?  Thanks to both the fact that I was a quick learner last year and the snow seemed to melt as it hit the road, we arrived home without even a slight tire spin. 
Once I was safely parked, I took a deep breath, followed the kids advice and turned my face up to the sky to catch the flakes and realized, "I AM DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS"

Can we go home..I'm cold!!!

Guess what he is up too....
here comes the first snowball of the season!!!


American sounds of Christmas

Imagine... Songs in English, a hearty HO-HO-HO from Santa (not St. Nicholas) and the cooking of Pizza Hut pizza.....those were the things we heard tonight that helped ease my "Holiday homesickness". 

I really do love Christmas in Germany with all the creative Christmas windows, smells of chestnuts roasting, Gluhwein as it warms your body, fresh Gingerbread cookies on every corner and all of the festive Christmas markets.  But a special feeling came over me tonight as we walked around the U.S. military installation listening to the music and enjoying all of the games and it wasn't because it was MY FIRST EVER VISIT TO A MILITARY BASE!!  (nor was it the Pizza Hut pizza since I have now become addicted to 'real Italian pizza')
Cooper thought this tank was from "Star Wars"

Friends invited us to join them for all of the Festivities surrounding the lighting of the Christmas tree on Base which seemed like a much better idea than spending another evening refereeing 2 kids that are grumpy because their dad is out of town.  Little did I know that I would feel like I stepped into America for a few hours.  I guess the kids sensed something was a little different too because at one point, Karina turned to me and said, "everyone here is speaking English!"  And as with most days here in Germany, I learned something;  Some places in Germany take only good ole American dollars....it just would have helped if I had any on hand.

As I went up to preform the 'motherly check' which involves turning the radiator up and pulling the covers over the kids, I noticed Cooper sleeping with his Santa hat on and a peaceful face.  I couldn't help but to think that I was not the only one that these few hours in "America" helped ease a little bit of those holiday homesick blues...

On your mark...get set....

I guess it is time for us to go skiing...

"All is Calm"

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.