My quota for non-fun has been reached.  It was already about full as I laid in the dentist chair for 4 1/2 hours with a blue rubber balloon stretching my lips to a new shade of white as the blood drained to my head.  I figure that could make any heart beating person come close to reaching their quota.    But then, as life has a sense of humor, my quota flowed over with  FIVE days in a house with two children with fevers and enough mucus to slime the worst enemy, a sidewalk full of snow that doesn't seem to mind needing shoveling while I tend to the sick and a husband in China.  Yep....I had reached my quota and action had to be taken....

First, open a bottle of Quota...second, build a very warm fire...third,  skip shoveling the sidewalk...fourth, call a babysitter for Saturday night...next, check to see who the band playing at the Jazz Hall is on Saturday night..and finally inform husband that jet lagged or not, we are breaking free from the Hoff hospital and dancing will be the required prescription.  (Odd ...when I told the kids that a babysitter would be tending to their sickness tomorrow night, they seemed to do a dance of their own...I guess kids have had their "quota" of moms too or maybe they want their mother to come back to the "sane-side")

Here's to acknowledging when one has reached their quota and takes action other than shoveling snow...


Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Alabama anymore

Living in a new culture and climate is a constant learning experience for me.  Just when I thought I was living more like one of the locals, I get a rude awakening.. like the cold air blowing through my body to the point I have to dodge into a store to warm up all while pretending to shop.  I mean REALLY how do all of the Germans walk around, stand on the train platform, walk home carrying their groceries, all while looking like they aren't even a tad cold.  Meanwhile, I have on four layers and still feel like a frozen Popsicle that has been forgotten in the back of the freezer.  I wish I could just hibernate during these cold months, but life goes on and I must learn how to keep up with it including standing on a cold train platform.

Another thing I learned in this weather today, Soy Sauce may not be the best choice to melt the sidewalk ice when one's bag of salt is empty.  As my neighbors walk safely on the "ice-free" sidewalk that will pose little danger to their backside, I hope they will chalk off the strong fishy smelling soy sauce mess as the crazy Alabama girl trying to cook something up...again. It is all a constant learning experience!



Organized chaos

I am good at making things chaotic...usually because I cram too much into every minute of a day. A perfect example would be the mere fact that I arrived at the gym today wearing two different running shoes but quickly shrugged it off with a good chuckle thanks to myself and then kept biking to nowhere.

I am not sure if I would really enjoy my life any other way than chaotic, because then it might be too boring or stress free. ( yes that was an attempt at humor). However, I do like my chaos to be more on the organized side which might prove that chaos and organization can live together even in a foreign country which brings up my next point.

When one lives in a foreign country where the language is not their mother tongue, the culture is often confusing and not one y'all is muttered, things are going to often be chaotic whether you like it or not. So, I choose to like it, organize it as much as possible and then when all else fails, just mutter " y'all" to myself as often as needed.

There are often tools that help organize your chaos, like my new iPhone5, that will help translate, keep my calendar, allow me to FaceTime my "homeland" friends and family without wireless AND take a panoramic picture of a bit of our " organized chaos"


The Truth....

As a surprise 45th birthday present,  Jason gave me tickets to Pink's upcoming concert in Stuttgart.  Her tour is called,"Truth about Love".  After I stopped singing her songs at the top of my lungs,  I focused on her tour name.  Added years add some "truths" to each of us whether we like it or not.   
For my birthday,  I decided to write a few of my own "truths" 

  • The Truth is... birthdays come once a year.  When I hear people complain about having another birthday,  I like to respond, "It beats the alternative." 
  • The Truth is...I will be older IF anyone looks at my passport but to quote Satchel Paige, "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter."
  • The Truth is...I often think of myself as 20 years younger, but my children can quickly bring me back to reality with their question, "why do you look older now than you do in this picture?"
  • The Truth is...I have some wrinkles but I prefer to call them smart lines.  The more I acquire, the smarter I have become thanks to my added years of learning from life.
  • The Truth is...I have many grey hairs that have magically appeared, but can also magically disappear thanks to my much loved hairdresser.
  • The Truth is...I have good days and I have bad days.  It takes experiencing both to remind me how much I prefer the good ones. 
And my "Truth about Love" is that I have a true one.  He doesn't see my wrinkles, nor my grey hair and to my knowledge he does not check my age in my passport.  But he WILL dance with me in a very packed jazz club to celebrate an added digit of my life... ignoring both the fact that I was about the only one dancing in the crowd, and that dancing with many eyes watching is low on his charts.  But he knew why I was dancing and the truth is that  he loves me an ALL of my truths of turning a tad bit older.  And like I said, "It beats the alternative." !!!!!


sawatdee kaa สวัสดี ค่ะ (goodbye Thailand)

Greeting, farewells, beginnings and endings all have a purpose and each possess it's own beauty...I suppose.

I was charmed by the Thai greetings and farewells called "wai" which consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion.  Everyone greets or says farewell with a wai. However, I couldn't get straight the rules of this bow including how high or low to make my bow, so I chickened-out from offering it back.  But the next time I go back to Thailand I will get this problem straightened out and will have my manners in Thai order. 

What I did have straight were my sunrises and sunsets that greeted us each day.  As the sun rose bright and warm, it was a natural alarm clock of all we had to look forward to as we explored and played.  In the evenings, as the sun set it reminded me of the Thai wai because it bowed and dipped so low on the ocean horizon, I couldn't help but smile as I relaxed in the same warmth.   As we woke up a bit jet lagged to a cold rainy day here in Germany,  Karina asked if I could go ahead and take her beach braids out and then Cooper greeted me with a big smile and said, "It is so good to be home!"  Another lesson from a child....I guess beginnings, middles and ends are all beautiful even when it comes to vacations.

Thai Food

My fantasy job would be to do  'food tasting'  as a living.  I can't imagine that it would get much better than let your all of your senses drool most of the time AND get paid for it at the same time.  But for now I'll just keep keep drooling and tasting without the do-ray-me.

One of the things that is most stimulating for me when we travel is exploring foods.  Some foods I don't even recognize, taste anyway and then AFTER the taste, do a little research to figure out exactly what it was that I sent floating down to my stomach.  My odd looking plates that often look intimidating don't faze Jason and the kids anymore.  In Thailand, they also got a little adventurous...Karina  loved the spicy, Jason tolerated the spicy and Cooper even drank  green smoothies...with zero spicy.

Four fundamentals
As I had learned in my Thai cooking class before our trip, Thai food is known for its balance of four fundamental taste senses in each dish: sour, sweet, salty, and hot as in spicy.  If one is too strong, you balance it with the opposite. 

soup bar at breakfast
After devouring my first couple of Thai breakfasts , I learned that many popular dishes eaten in Thailand were originally Chinese dishes which were introduced to Thailand like chok (rice porridge),  and khao kha mu (stewed pork with rice).  I most also note that I learned  that chopsticks are only used to push food into my shiny white ceramic spoon while eating my fresh made morning soup.  Yes, soup for breakfast made to order! 

fresh watermelon juice
Besides our filling breakfasts, we ate lots of Thai curry which often has coconut milk, fresh turmeric, and lime juice, the best Pad Thai dishes, and rice cooked in every way possible.  Dishes were fresh and different than any I had ever in the Thai restaurants I had frequented in the states.  Lots of fresh mint, Thai basil, fresh Thai ginger, chilies, lemongrass, fresh squeezed juices/smoothies,  dragon-fruit, and coconuts. With all meals, condiments were always available ... fish sauce, lime juice, chopped chilies and fried pieces of garlic, dried chili flakes, sweet chili sauce, spicy chili sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, spicy chili paste, fresh cilantro,  and crispy-fried basil.

However, the one thing I DID NOT have the nerve to try was the "hundred-year old eggs" that were nicely presented at breakfast. Yep, I decided to just stick to my regular ole' eggs with a 'best-by date'.  Just wasn't feeling adventurous over eggs that are made by preserving them in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of preserving.  I guess that goes to show why I may not be so good at "food tasting for a living"...even I have my limits of what goes floating down.
breakfast rice and condiments

Pad Thai
Seaweed snack

Fresh coconuts from street vendors

roasted butter beans

Pork bun

smoothies with ginger, mint and fresh fruit

many tropical fruits
Dragon fruit

Our best Thai dinners were at this little beach hut down from our hotel.  Fresh food and always offered the smiles that people from Thailand are known for! 

Not much to see here....


Cooper's Hermit crab castle
 According to the online encyclopedia, Hermit crabs are tropical cold-blooded animals and they must have a warm environment to live.  I suppose we can be sure we were in the tropics just by the number of hermit crabs alone of all shapes, shells and sizes that we shared the beach with during our vacation in Khao Lak, not to mention all of the tropical frogs, and Geckos that our son managed to catch. And yes, we even shared our room with a few Geckos that would come out at night...supposedly that is also a normal part of tropical Thailand. 
I named him 'hermie'

Many glowing eyes...
If the sand hadn't been under my feet and the sun on my face, I may have (for a moment) thought I was in "Ed's Pet World" back home in Birmingham.  I just hope Cooper didn't succeed at his plan to bring anything home! 

"Why do I have to put him down?"

"Is he poisonous?"
"Cooper, I don't want to catch any more hermits!" 


Thai massage

My body is one big bowl of pad thai noodles. Not an ounce of stress popping out of a single muscle...ok, so maybe there is a little stress when trying to find available beach chairs that seem to be full before I even crawl out of bed. Otherwise, I can thank my noodle state to the fun I'm having with my husband (and children) AND the Thai massages I get down at one of the many beach huts for only 300 Thai Bahts, which is the currency here in Thailand. (no you don't pronounce that like "butt" as Cooper likes to do) That 300 calculates to about 10 dollars for the best Thai massages all while listening to the waves crashing on the beach and the salt air blowing in my ear. Of course, I had to learn all I could about Thai massages since they seem to work so well for me and here is a great link if you want to ever try one out in your area....I just doubt it will only cost 300 baht...


Thai massage huts

Ringing it in....

 As most of our family and friends were ringing in the new year at the stroke of midnight in the U.S., we were well into 2013 adjusting to a ringing in our ears from a very loud and fun celebration on the beach which the whole Hoff family was able to stay awake for this year!
I love surprises...well, the good ones that is, so it was like icing on the cake when the hotel informed us that the New Years extravaganza was included in our stay! We all four had a festive night watching the bands including the special performance from Thailand's well known "Apaporn". Our kids couldn't decide what was more fun...the special area for crafts and movies or the ice cream sundae station. Hopefully, this was the start of a year full of good surprises. Happy New Year!

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.