Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Waking up this morning it was weird not being able to turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I have fond memories arriving to my grandparent's house early Thanksgiving Day and laying on the floor watching the parade.  Then after awhile my aunts, uncles, and cousins would trickle in over the next few hours.  My grandparents would set a table so long it would stretch into the the living room.  Everyone had their "spot" at the table.  Lefties on the corner, highchair at the other corner, and the dog whining underneath at my grandmother's feet.  After dinner everyone would retire to the living room, every seat and floor spot taken.  We would visit or watch family film strips.  Then came time for dessert and coffee.  We would have an assortment of pies to pick from; pecan, apple, chocolate, and my all time favorite, pumpkin.  One of the cousins would "take orders" and pass out the pie pieces.  There were some great times shared around the table and in my grandparent's house.
Usually 15 or more people would sit around this table.
Sometimes card tables past their prime were brought in for the "kid's table".
Today was a lot different.  As the years are coming and going new traditions and changes are taking place.  Today my husband and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving married.  We were sad to not be with our family crowded around a big table, but did have an enjoyable experience just the two of us.  I started the baking and cooking at 1:00 p.m. with the traditional pumpkin pie.  I knew canned pumpkin was not available in Germany so I packed a can into my suitcase back in July.  When it comes to pie, I think ahead!  Grandpa would be proud.
My pumpkin pie brought all the way over the ocean.
After awhile Husband was able to come home from work.  Together we made homemade green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, veggies, and a well herbed turkey.  Initially we were concerned about being able to have an American traditional Thanksgiving meal but with some improvising everything worked out well when it came to finding the ingredients. We learned how simple it is to actually make homemade green bean casserole. Since french fried onions are not available here, we sauteed onion in oil until crispy. Cream of Mushroom soup comes in a packet in Germany so we created our own with onions, mushrooms, butter, flour, and milk.  It was good and just as easy as the common recipe.  
Just so my husband and I knew where to "sit" at our table for 2!
Both of us enjoyed talking for a few minutes to our families.  It is hard to be away from them but I know we are fortunate to have the new experiences here in Germany.  Someday we will go back to large family meals at the grandparent's house.  New additions will lay on the floor watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and I will be in the kitchen making the green bean casserole.  Today I'm thankful for family, past and present, near and far. 

Happy Thanksgiving! And Happy 80th Birthday Gpa!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homesick for...Kroger???

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I felt this was an appropriate entry with all the grocery shopping everyone has been encountering this week. 

I loved Saturday mornings in Texas.  My body would wake up way too early so I would spend time at the kitchen table creating my weekly menu, going over the grocery list, and reviewing my coupon selection.  Then in jeans and a fleece, with hair in a ponytail, I would head to my local Kroger.  This became one of my favorite parts of the week.  The roads were bare, the day fresh, and the store not yet overcrowded.

At Kroger I would get my shopping cart, carefully buckle my purse into the baby seat, and place my coupon file on top.  Then I would stop at the Starbucks coffee stand for a warm treat.  With my white chocolate mocha in hand, I would leisurely stroll the aisles crossing off my listed items using my bold felt tip pen.  This was time for me to relax and practice my mad math teacher skills.  It was like a game. "How much can I save on this item?"

My favorite part at the end of the transaction was when I would hand over my stack, hopefully, of coupons.  If I saved at least $20, I considered the grocery trip a success.  I think my mom received a few bragging calls in such occasions!  Afterwards, I would make small talk as the bag boy helped me load my car.  I enjoyed the friendly service and my visits were usually quite pleasant.

Here in Germany, grocery shopping is a bit different of an experience.  It is more like a marathon or a fight between life and death.

I get anxiety when I am due for a shopping trip.  Having only one car I shop several times a week instead of once.  It is about a 10 minute walk to the store so I take only one reusable bag.  This prevents me from buying too many items to drag home.

There are two grocery stores that I usually shop at depending on what items are on my list.  Aldi is great for affordable produce, meats, and basic pantry items.  AEZ is where I purchase name brands and milk.  Before going to Aldi sometimes I feel like I should stretch my muscles.  It is always an intense experience.

Inside Aldi the aisles are over crowded with hurried people.  You better move it or lose it.  There is not a fancy coffee stand just loud noises of the rush.  Much like a french fry grease clogged artery, the floor is packed with staff stocking shelves and carts whizzing around pushed by mad housewives.  You can hardly get through the place.

The check out lanes always contain people backed up into the produce section.  If you aren't watching, an aggressive retiree will try to sneak their way in line after not so indiscreetly picking up an avocado.  On the conveyor belt I always organize my items heaviest to lightest.  Meats first, then cheeses, followed by produce, and finally breads last.  While standing next to the conveyor belt, I get my money ready.  Pulling out your wallet and counting money takes too much time.  I always slip my ready cash into my jacket pocket for quick access.  

When it is my turn to check out, I better be ready.  At lightening fast speed the checker girl will fling my items across the scanner.  There is no time to follow the rings ups to check for errors because you better be bagging.  The girl is always done ringing my food before I can shove it all into my bag.  Then she stares at me impatiently until I hand over my money.

Hoping the change is correct, I stuff it into my pocket and quickly move out of the way.  At the door I reorganize my bag of groceries, throw it over my shoulder, and head on the walk home.  In and out as quick as a flash.


Despite the differences in customer service, we are saving a lot more money on groceries here in Germany.

Estimated Weekly Grocery Costs:
Kroger: 80 dollars
Aldi: 30 euros which is about 40 dollars

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!