Thursday, November 30, 2006

Look out your window, KC: It’s snowing like crazy!

Today's headline on my local newspaper's website!

Second headline: an ominous sounding "Maybe it’s time to start worrying again."


I always find it funny how much crazier Americans seem to go over a little winter weather. Granted, the weather DOES seem to, sometimes, in some places, be a little more nasty than what I'm used to from home. Where I come from, you have to sing a song ""Yay, yay, yay, the first snow", as soon as you see the first snow flakes of winter. We like our snow. We don't worry about it.

(Me, I don't like snow THAT much, really. I could spend years in a nice warm place like Florida and not miss a thing. But then, I also don't like sauerkraut much).
So, it's been snowing almost all day out there. The cat didn't seem to mind it too much at first (on the balcony), but then suddenly he was in somewhat of a hurry to come back in - "What the hell, guys?!!" - my thinking exactly. A couple of days ago, it was still in the 60s and sunny, and today it's about 15 degrees. Blah.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lawrence, KS

We went on a shopping trip to Lawrence (about 40 minutes west of Kansas City). There's a ton of arts- and- craftsy stores, pottery, hippie *scored some Japanese incense sticks there*, and foodie places (e.g. a European market featuring German Milka christmas chocolate for 5 bucks, oh hell no!).

Basically like a miniature Seattle (including the good coffee, and the druggies begging on the streets). Got some nice little Xmas gifts there, had some Greek food @ The Mad Greek, and particularly loved the Blue Heron home furnishings store - I could just move in and live there! Tord Boontje paper garland lamps, colorful paper star lanterns, asian inspired sofas, pretty candles...

Next time, we'll have to eat at Local Burger (we couldn't find the dang place yesterday!) which has things on the menu like elk or buffalo burger, quinoa-millet pilaf and "cup of love" juice. Hmmh.

Pictures taken from the car on the drive to and from Lawrence:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christmas in July *ok, November*, part II.

Yeah, I don't know either, it's one of those wacky traditions of my husband's family. Apparently, a kind of "all-aunts-and-cousins" Christmas is being celebrated after each Thanksgiving, since everyone's in town anyway for Thanksgiving.

Since W and I are "back in the home land" now, we got to participate in a wild and wacky random drawing of Xmas gifts (themed "anything you can use up within a year"). Mostly foodie gift baskets (with the exception of a much coveted, huge pack of beer and something unspeakable in South Park-Cartman shorts (it was, actually, a sack of bird seeds). With various people almost fainting from the hilariousness (and me somewhat pining for a drink), we did score Suzie's nice gift basket containing nougat chocolate and a ton of coffee, tea and hot cider implements, and something else containing a lot of suspicious looking, powdered seasoning mixes. Will try out and report!

Anyway, having turkey twice a week, but without any leftovers, left us oddly unfulfilled. Where are the leftover sandwiches with gravy? Am I going to have to cook a turkey myself now? Meh, maybe a small one.

Side dishes I made for Thanksgiving: Stuffing (the boxed kind. What can I say, that's what I like best), Maple-Ginger Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Maple Roasted Carrots, and my favourite: Orange and Ginger Cranberry Sauce:
12 oz. whole fresh cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup orange juice,
1/4 tsp each: grated ginger root and salt, 1 Tblsp Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur. Heat cranberries, sugar, water and orange juice to boiling in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Stir in ginger and salt; reduce heat. Stir until mixture thickens and berries begin to split, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in Grand Marnier. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving and Christmas in one week...

.. now that's something you don't see very often. I feel like that:

Wait, is there more pie?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Going to the dog park

We've discovered Shawnee Mission Park, a mere 10 minutes away from us. It's huge and quite diverse, containing an off-leash area and beach for dogs:

(see the cute doggy drinking fountain?), an observation tower with a nice view of the area - wow, it was windy up there:

a couple of pine trees (I never thought I'd miss pine trees, but especially in autumn, I kind of pine for the scent (Worst. Pun. Ever.). Having grown up in northern Germany, going on autumn early morning mushroom hunts in huge coniferous forests was kind of a family tradition. Here? The most you can see here in parks are usually a couple of pine trees that have obviously been planted there. The rest is brown and dry and leafy, especially around this time of year. Blah.

AND quite a sizeable lake! Wow, even with a swimming beach *closed for the season, of course.* We'll definitely return to check out the 3-mile hiking paths.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's never too early for pink and purple Christmas.

This is, of course, a shameless copy of Maize Hutton's post about her cute little tree from Target. On the other hand, I can't help it if we have a Target store just up the road. I LOOOVE this year's collection and store decoration (huge snowflakes and winter scenery cutouts hanging from the ceiling) by Tord Boontje. So we went to look at some early Christmas gifts, and so my eye fell upon this lone, little pink-and-purple tree - the last one! Somebody had put a plastic tiara on it, but I could see that he didn't really need that to shine. So now he's happily sitting on my kitchen counter next to Buddha. I hope that'll enlighten my cooking *har, har*.

We finished our first stab at Christmas shopping by stopping for the first eggnogg and gingerbread lattes of the year at Starbucks. They are selling some tempting Christmas stuff this year; a cute little advent calendar, some adorable Christmas stockings, and snow globes! Well, it was fun sitting out in the sun, sipping coffee.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Entertain me, Internet!

The Face Transformer: upload an image of yourself, see what you'd look like as an African American, Caucasian, Old Person, Child, Anime Character...

The 30-Second Bunnies Theatre Library: Cartoon bunnies reenact movies in 30 seconds (Watch "Jaws"! HAHAHA!)

Something a little more design related:

Apartment Therapy: Shopping, decorating, design, style; I can spend hours here, imagining eclectic design between my four walls *yeah like that's gonna happen*...

and then there's Decor 8, a picture heavy site that always makes my little ol' laptop cough a little and simulate a heart attack (especially if I happen to open about 10 other browser windows at the same time, where can I get a t-shirt that says "I [heart] tabbed browsing"?). The site's main contributor, Holly, is roaming around Germany right now, so there's some beautiful pictures of Hannover, among others.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hmm.. more yummy fun with Quark


Ingredients: 100g (less than a stick) butter, 100g (bit more than 1/2cup) farina/semolina (Grieß), 500g (bit more than a pound) Quark (or Yogurt Cheese), 150g (less than 3/4cup) sugar, 3 eggs, 1 pack vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract), 400g (about 3-4) apples, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs (Semmelbrösel).

Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Bring half of the butter to room temperature and beat together with the sugar (with a mixer) until foamy. Add farina, quark, egg yolk and vanilla.

Wash and peel apples, remove cores. Cut in small slices, add immediately to the quark mix. Add lemon juice. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and add carefully until fully incorporated. Fill the mixture into a greased oven-proof dish. Distribute breadcrumbs and the rest of the butter in small pieces on the top. Bake at 200C (400F) for 35-40mins until golden yellow. Eat warm, as a main course or for dessert.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Westport impressions

The historic district of Westport (Kansas City) is great for dining and shopping during the day and drinking and partying your pants off at night. We went to one of our old favourites, the Jerusalem Cafe, for some gyros and falafel sandwiches. The shopping wasn't as good as I remembered, a bunch of stores had closed down, but hey, there was a new World Market (a food and gift store with stuff from all over the world - can you say "Pfeffernüsse"? Also, they had chocolate filled Advent calendars. Yay!)

Afterwards we went to the Brookside shopping area for some pumpkin ice cream, and on to the park to enjoy some sunshine. Nice to see Loose Park still looks like it used to 5 years ago, when we moved away from here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pretty kitty

Camera shy or camera hogging?

Friday, November 10, 2006

WARNING: Icky Picture

I baked a batch of apple cookies (after a German recipe from Marions Kochclub) which turned out quite nicely - not too sweet, nice and apple-y - but if you look at the picture, they appeared to be moldy little mushrooms. Eek!

Nevermind that, here's the super easy recipe:

Mix 1/3 cup sugar, tsp vanilla, 2 eggs and 100g (a bit less than a stick) butter. Sift 2 cups + 2 tblsp flour with 1 tsp baking powder and add. Quarter and peel 2 apples, remove core, cut in small pieces and add (I just use a mixer for all of this, don't worry about breaking down the apple pieces, they'll get mushy anyway). Using two tablespoons, drop dough on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 400F about 10 mins. Dust with powdered sugar when cool.

The mushrooms, err cookies are best when fresh. They get softer when you keep them in a container. They're not exactly pretty, but they are really quickly made and taste like little apple pies :-)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A German in America goes his way...

The Bush pilot himself reports about his job and the obstacles involved - >

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jealous yet?

(Of course, this being Kansas, I'll probably get swept away by a tornado for this. Or quite possibly, somebody's house will fall on me.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

A walk in the park

We took a nice little Sunday walk to explore the trail system that's just about a mile away. Apparently the whole thing is almost 17 miles long so I'm considering getting a couple of bicycles for us for some serious workout. The weather was mild and sunny *one point for Kansas* and we saw lots of bluejays and cardinals and robins. On the way back we saw our friend, the groundhog. As soon as I grabbed my camera, the little bugger ambled back into the forest at quite an amazing speed. I'll get you next time, hog!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Flint Hills/National Tallgrass Preserve, or "Yep, that's Kansas alright!"

We used one of the last halfway nice and sunny days to go on a little day trip! We went on the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, about two hours west from Kansas City, which stretches for about 50 miles north-south between Council Grove and Cassoday. I wanted to see some prairie and some open space, and that's exactly what I got. The area is one of the last undisturbed pieces of tallgrass prairie around. The Flint Hills aren't actually hills, though - more something like rolling bumps in an otherwise vast flatness.
Anyway, I guess the main season was over, since most of the little touristy shops, for example in quaint little Cottonwood Falls, were closed. We did manage to get a slice of the famed strawberry pie at the historic Hays House restaurant (from 1857 - the restaurant, not the pie) in Council Grove, and it was really tasty.

Other stops along the way included an impressive Renaissance style rancher's mansion (didn't get a good shot of that), a little old one-room schoolhouse with an abandoned swing set standing forlorn and somewhat creepily on a hill, and a couple of scenic overlooks. Everything was very brown and very windy. I kept saying something like "I'm sure this is REALLY nice in springtime", and hubby glared back at me. I would have liked a few more hiking trails, but I guess they want to keep people from trampling all over the place, and that's fine with me.