Expat Thanksgiving: how to make pie from pumpkins

PumpkinPie 1

There are certain laments you hear amongst American expat communities the world over. “I miss peanut butter!” “Why is there no good Mexican food here?” “Where can I find canned pumpkin?” After several years out of the country, most of us learn to adapt to these grueling hardships one way or another. There are expats who lug giant suitcases full of ranch dressing and jello back from every visit to the US. There are those who just fill the peanut-butter-cup-shaped hole in their lives with exotic local sweets (Cadbury Egg, anyone?). And then there are those of us who use such deprivation as an excuse to expand our skill sets. Which is why I know how to make pumpkin pies without using canned pumpkin. Continue reading

How to watch live American TV abroad

Given that there’s a big American TV event coming up, now seems as good a time as any to share this fun little morsel. Last Thanksgiving Julie was hoping to watch the Macy’s parade, but we were surprised at how difficult it was to find it live online. I did some poking around and came across USTVNow.com, which let us get our fix of Snoopy balloons and Kinky Boots in real time.

One has to create an account on the site, and there’s a free version and some paid options. It starts with a 45 day free trial which gives you access to all 28 channels at high resolution, some DVR capabilities and includes support for mobile devices. After that you can continue with the free plan, which gives you access to only six channels (NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, Fox and The CW) in low resolution. It’s not often that we want to watch US television live, so we will probably stick with the free plan.

USTVNOW Schedule

TV schedule

Only American citizens abroad allowed to sign up. How does the site know we’re Americans abroad? Thanks to our unique ability to tick a box promising that we are. People from other countries are completely lacking in this skill.

Christmas in Charleston

cobblestones and palm trees in Charleston

And now for something completely different.

Tiring of our glamorous European lifestyle, we decided to hop across the pond for Christmas in the Deep South. It’s possible that our decision was swayed by the generous invitation of my parents to join them there, but in the end we found Charleston to be a most pleasant place to spend a few days (lack of appropriate Christmas weather notwithstanding). Continue reading

The only jack-o-lantern on the block

Last night we decided to be true to our American roots and got creative with a pumpkin. When I first moved to Europe in the 90s, Halloween-style pumpkins were nowhere to be found, but this year we were able to pick up one at our local farmers market for only €3 (it was even labeled as a “Halloween-Kürbis”). Continue reading

Because tap water is making you fat

Found this while sorting through my photos from our recent trip to the US. Sometimes Germany feels like an absurd pit of consumer product marketing (Obama Fingers, anyone?), but the US always manages to take it a billion steps further.

It also reminds me how much I love being served tap water in US restaurants – icy, free tap water. It’s so much better for the environment than bottled, and usually healthier for you, too. Given that Germany tends to be ahead of the US on environmental matters, I’m disappointed that bottled water is still so prevalent here. Alas, in this case the US is moving to be more like Germany instead of the other way around. Perhaps the Germans are worried that tap water will make them fat?

Expat eats: in search of salsa

Maybe it’s all the Mexican food we ate on our recent trip to the US, but I’ve had enough of the crappy salsa offerings in Germany. Standard German grocery stores tend to stock one brand of salsa, usually Old El Paso. My attempts to find alternatives have not been good. I once joyfully bought up several types of salsa from a small Mexican store near Pariser Platz, only to discover at home that every single one of the jars had expired. A long time ago. (I ate them anyway.) And then this, the last straw:

Don't buy this.

Continue reading

Germans love Obama and his body parts

By now you have probably heard about Obama Fingers, the tasty new frozen chicken snack food* available in Germany. Although much ado has been made over the possible racist overtones of the convenience food’s name, personally I doubt that those behind the name intended offense. I’m guessing the only reason the fried chicken strips are named after Obama and not Bush is because no one would buy Bush Fingers.

Obama is a marketing machine over here in Germany. Notice him here pimping glasses at a optician in Munich’s Gärtnerplatz, in the most enthusiastic window display ever created by a German optician.

He does look lovely in those gray frames, doesn’t he?

* As a vegetarian, I’m going to have to sit the investigative journalism out, but other bloggers are all over it.

Celebrating the new president, expat-style

Oh happy day! While I decided against attending the Munich Inaugural Ball, I definitely felt the need to celebrate yesterday. So I threw a little party of my own, and soaked up the inauguration with some American and European friends. Obama’s swearing-in was at 6:00 pm our time, perfect for some champagne prosecco toasting.

We also enjoyed some American-themed foods, such as this patriotic cake made by Heza. Had I had access to an American party-supply store, I might have had fun going over the top with the decoration; as it was we made do with American flag napkins and toothpicks, and some patriotic balloons.

The party is over but my heart is still filled with joy at the direction my country is taking. As an American abroad, today I feel I can hold my head a little bit higher.

Partying with the Dems Abroad

Another first for me today: I took the first subway of the morning home, at around 4am. We got home in plenty of time to watch CNN call the election for Obama at 5am. I knew it was coming, but still I was surprised how emotional it made me to actually hear it.

I barely made it through McCain’s concession speech before I fell asleep. Still, this was the closest thing to an all-nighter I’ve pulled in quite a while.

It was a long evening. We arrived at the Democrats Anonymous Abroad party around 7pm to have dinner with friends. There was an, um, interesting program of live music on offer, but by around 10pm or so we were all itching to re-glue ourselves to a TV, even though we knew it would still be hours before any news came in. We moved upstairs to the bar area and found some prime seats in front of the big projection screen showing CNN. Thanks to my new toy (which I will tell you more about later) I was even able to get online and chat with friends and family back in the US, to find out what they were hearing on their end.

In the hours before the polls started closing, we entertained ourselves by watching a little Nailin Paylin and making up election night drinking games.

The crowd cheered each state as it was called for Obama, and for Democratic House and Senate members who were declared winners. It was especially satisfying to see Elizabeth Dole go down, after having seen this. Unfortunately Al Franken’s race was still too close to call.

Not everyone managed to stay up as long as we did.

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