Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

My first Thanksgiving

A perfect host

“Your only goal is to just make sure no one gets sick. You need to make sure the turkey is thoroughly cooked”

For my birthday, all I want is the bathtub full of this apple crumble

“I’m not going to be able to move tomorrow”

“That was the glaze for the cheesecake? Well, it tasted great with the turkey”

Just to give you an overall idea of how Thanksgiving went. Let’s play “guess who said that”. Ready… go

Answers: 1. friend/guest, 2. mom 3. roommate, 4. friend/guest 5. German obviously experiencing a first Thanksgiving

So Thanksgiving ended up being a huge success, much to my surprise. A month or so before, I thought it’d be a great idea since I was lucky enough to go up to Hamburg last year and participate in Thanksgiving with a bunch of other Fulbrighters. This year, I decided to host for my roommates, a few friends who have been to the US, a Canadian friend of mine, and oh my roommates film crew and cast apparently (he was finishing up filming his movie for his final project. it was quite the undertaking) So all in all I ended up hosting roughly 15-16 people. Let me preface this story with telling you that I am not a cook. Good cook, bad cook, I don’t know. I don’t usually cook (aside from pasta and vegetables with rice. not really challenging) So my impromptu decision to take on Thanksgiving for 15 people was… questionable at best. Naturally the Sunday before I start freaking out resulting in very frequent panicked calls/emails to my mother and when she wasn’t available, to my sisters demanding to know where my mom was.

Our kitchen/what I had to work with

“Hi mom, it’s me. Just bought the turkeys today. It’s Monday. I’m putting them in the fridge. Do I need to do that thing where you fill the sink with warm water and put them in there to thaw them? Because sometimes you do that. But sometimes not. I never really paid attention before. If I need to do that, please let me know. But we only have one sink. And two turkeys. And people need the sink. Maybe I could use the bathtub? How long do they have to thaw?  Do I even need to do this?! (slight panic attack) Please email me when you get home. Thanks love you bye”

Email to sister: I tried calling mom, she didn’t answer. Can you ask her where I’m supposed to stick the meat thermometer in?

Tuesday: “Hi mom, me again. I sent you an email too, just to make sure, but the recipe says I have to sew the neck cavity together and I can’t find twine anywhere. Do I really need twine? Or need to sew it? And for the stuffing, it says to use bread that has substance. What does that mean? Also, I’m roasting the turkey, right?  I read on epicurious that I should put aluminum foil under the turkey and not cook it directly in the pan- should I do that? also in terms of basting, do I just baste once at the beginning? or periodically throughout the entire time? pleaseanswermei’mfreakingoutloveyoubye”

And that’s only Tuesday. I work all day Wednesday and then wake up at 8 am Thursday because I’m so nervous I can’t sleep anymore even though I don’t have to start cooking til 11. I had to get two turkeys since our oven (that tiny white thing behind the table) was too small for the size turkey I wanted/needed, not to mention they don’t sell turkeys larger than 7.5 lbs…. anywhere in this country. I go through my first solo gutting/cleaning a bird experience which went surprisingly well. Stuffed it (btw, way less stuffing fits in those birds than they tell you. I made way too much) and brought it downstairs to put in the oven (yes, I borrowed our neighbors oven so I could start later/the two wouldn’t be done so far apart from one another) and breathed a slight sigh of relief. Slight. Prepared everything else that I could- I was in charge of the turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans, apple crumble, and cheesecake (yep, only that). My friends were in charge of the beer (which didn’t come a moment too early), mashed potatoes (Pat came over early to help/make them), a super fattening but delicious cheese/corn/bacon casserole, salad, and brownies.

my first turkey!

There was only one more  slight freak out before the guests came:

One turkey is done WAY before the other! It’s gonna go bad! Crap! Calculate 7 hour time difference. To call mom or not to call mom? It’s 7 am, she’ll be up. *call*  No answer. Try cell phone. No answer. Why do you have a cell phone if you never answer it, mother?! Too early to call the house? No answer. Where is my entire family!?!? …one hour and 20 bajillion skype-attempts later….

mom: hello?

me: Yes there is a God! thank you thank you WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!

mom: oh I went for a run this morning.

me: you told me you’d have your cell phone on if I needed you and you didn’t and then no one answered at home and then-

mom: Colleen. Deep breath. I didn’t take my cell with me. I’m on the phone now. What do you need

me: One turkey is done already and it’s only 3pm and everyone comes at like 6.30 and do I take the stuffing out right away or later? Do I leave the turkey on the pan? But I need the juices for the gravy. and I-

mom: you can cut the turkey now if you want and put it in the fridge and have people reheat it later and just put lots of gravy on it so it’s not too dry. did you cook it long enough? what temperature? that’s too much. it’s probably going to be dry. I’ve never done pan gravy so I can’t help you. At least you didn’t undercook this one. call us later and let us know how it goes. have a drink. please.

Mmmm success!

Solution: we put it in the fridge for the second shift (thanks Pat for the help) everything turned out way better than I expected. I didn’t undercook the meat, I made gravy by myself from the turkey juices, there were NO leftovers (which was actually a disappointment. I was looking forward to turkey for a week). But I managed to feed 16 people in two shifts (thankfully. the first one was my closer friends and much more relaxed. the second was my roommates cast/crew- also fun though)

Overall, I’m so happy with not only how everything came out, but for having such great friends here to celebrate with. We even upheld one of my family’s traditions and had everyone go around the table and say something that they’re thankful for. Although I did miss certain aspects of home (being with my family and in the city, decorating gingerbread houses), this year’s Thanksgiving was definitely a huge success.

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December 13, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A little bit of Chicago in England

So, since moving over here my life has mainly consisted of teaching English and lacrosse. When I stopped playing after high school in 2006, I never imagined I would return to the sport this way to both play and coach. I’ve enjoyed it immensely; it’s brought me some of my closest friends over here and amazing opportunities to travel and meet people. That being said, I’ve started working with the European Lacrosse Federation (ELF), which does a lot of work with newer, inexperienced teams and helping them get off the ground. Since that’s basically what I’ve been doing since last year, I had the chance to assist at a camp in Mainz in August then coach my own in October in England.

SHS lacrosse 2006 (#13)

I arrived on a Wednesday in London and made my way out to Welwyn where I coached the girls team practice that night. They’re about the same level of experience, if not a little newer, than my girls here so it was great to be on the same level. The girls are all super nice and I stayed with one of them overnight (her dad coaches the boys team and her brother plays on it- quite the lacrosse family) and it’s nice to have a little home-y treatment. Sidenote: Beforehand, all the girls and family knew was that I was a coach coming from Germany. They had no idea if I was German or American or what, so they were a little nervous regarding the potential language/cultural barrier. The big concern was if I’d be okay eating cereal for breakfast and if not, what do Germans eat? (Yes, cereal was great and usually, bread with assorted cheeses, meats, jam, spreads etc)

Then I had Thursday-Saturday free before I had to coach the camp on Sunday. Among the many things I’ve learned in the past year, one of them is how to travel alone. And do it well. I no longer have any fear about traveling by myself or how to occupy my time, so I walked around the city a bit Thursday before making it to my hostel and checking out the area around there. Friday I went into the city again and had the best intentions of trying to get last minute student-rate tickets to go see a play or do something cultural, when I ran into this in Trafalgar Square:

Bear Down

Obviously, being a great Bears fan I knew the game was that weekend and had tried to get tickets beforehand but they were too expensive. So I vow to come back to Trafalgar Square later Friday night where it turns out, they’re hosting fan fest. I hop on a boat and make my way over to Greenwich (pronounced “Gren-itch” for all you non-east coasters) where yes, Greenwich Mean Time comes from and they also have a great market set up with various sellers and an array of international food. (Let’s just say Germany’s food variety is lacking and the Ethiopian food I had for lunch in Greenwich was amazing). I make it back to downtown London in time for fan fest where everyone naturally has to wait in a line to get in and be searched which takes forever. So I strike up conversation with some Bears fans I see (Chicagoans are all so friendly. Don’t believe me? Come visit. Or read the rest of this post). Once I get in, I naturally head over to get a beer (where they’re only serving Bud Light. Ahh.. America’s finest. We wouldn’t want quality European beer or anything).

New friends at the game

Now, I mentioned the fact that I’m more than okay traveling alone because most Americans are downright terrified of it and/or assume something is terribly wrong when they see someone traveling alone. Example: The group of Bears fans I was talking to before I went in see me buying a beer. One approaches me, asks me who I’m there with and is shocked when I answer with “no one.” They politely invite me to hang out with them for a bit, which I politely accept. “A bit” turns into “Friday early evening until Sunday night”. They took me under their wing and we had an amazing weekend from going out Friday night, shopping and pub-hopping on Saturday which brings us to Sunday: camp and game day. The lacrosse camp went well, a smaller turnout than I expected, but the drills I prepared went over well and it ended with an invitation to come back and do another camp sometime.

I made a last-minute decision to make the trip out to Wembley Stadium (where the Bears game was) and try to scalp a ticket (the guys I was hanging out with already had theirs) and if it worked, great, if not, I’d go to a bar nearby and watch the game. I somehow have great luck an manage to score a club-level ticket (face value, 130 pounds) for 70 pounds. The guy who sold me it even walked me to the door and waited for it to be scanned for me to give him the money. Now I was alone in the classy club area, but not for long. The guys in front of me notice my Bears shirt, turn around and ask me where I’m from. Obviously they’re from Chicago as well, we start chatting, they take care of my beers for the rest of the game and I have yet another group of new friends. Needless to say this trip was a huge success overall, and it was amazing to get some quality time with a bunch of Chicagoans- in London. Who woulda thought? It made me really appreciate coming from Chicago/the Midwest and the generosity and friendliness showed from every Bears fan I met.

December 1, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment