Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Insel Mainau/The Island of Flowers in Lake Constance

I have been wanting to make a trip back to Insel Mainau since we went with my parents about 11 years ago.
Situated in Lake Constance, it is a must see.

We took the boat from Meersburg and headed out to the island. 

 I was on a mission because the dahlias were in bloom and I LOVE dahlias.

This island is the life work of Count Lennart, the son of Prince Wilhelm of Sweden and Maria Pavlovna, Grand Duchess of Russia.  Today the fifth generation of his family manages Mainau.

The peacock made of flowers is one of my favorite sights on Mainau.

A gardener's paradise, there is truly something here for everyone.

There is a Mediterranean Terrace with amazing views.

You'll happen upon enchanting fountains

 and don't forget to visit the butterfly house.

They have fun exhibits for the children of all ages.  Here is Mac trying to figure out how they got these trees to grow upside down.  I wanted to show you so much more but the battery in my camera died.  You will just have to take it from me this place is worth a visit in any season.  Do check out their website.

Mac and Jaxson had a wonderful day.  Here they are smelling what is wafting from the tube to see if they could guess what the scent was.
I believe this one was rose.

Mac gives it two thumbs up and says to tell you, "They have fantastic playgrounds for children, but Mimi wouldn't let me on them."
Well, Mac, we didn't have any children with us...........but next time how about we bring one of the grandsons?

Monday, August 30, 2010

German Weddings/How they differ from American Weddings

Mac and I have now attended two German weddings. We thought you might like to know what a few of the differences are from our culture. The most startling difference was to discover that
a minister or priest can't legally marry a couple. There is an official service performed by a justice of the peace at the town registry office. It's attended by the bride and groom's parents and a few close friends.
Some of our friends had that ceremony 2 weeks before the actually wedding and some a few days before.

The wedding ceremony in the church differs because the minister walks in ahead of the bride and groom down the aisle and the bride and groom walk behind him.
The bride and groom walk into the church together
 My German friends explained that there is no need to "give the bride away" as in our culture because technically they are legally married before the church ceremony.
The bridesmaids do not stand up with the couple in the church but are dressed
to be "the wedding party" at the reception.

In Germany, everyone you know may attended the wedding and are served champagne, champagne and orange juice or just OJ if you don't drink. I find this a lovely  tradition because often budgets hinder who can be invited to the reception. This way all your friends and acquaintances can be part of the special day.

At this wedding a German Oompah band played for the guests as they sipped their champagne.  When they finished playing they lined up and congratulated the bride and groom. The receiving line does take longer than in America but, it's wonderful that all who want to be part of your special day and see the ceremony can do just that.

This couple gave all of their wedding guests balloons and the photographer (and me) snapped away.

Then on cue they all let them go.

I did find a site that said Latex balloons are BIODEGRADABLE, so I felt better.

Now on to my favorite subject.  The car the bride arrives in and the bride and groom leave in for the reception is very important. I LOVE the idea of fresh flowers decorating the car.

The choices are amazing.

So pretty!


Or fun!

Like I say, it's all about individual taste.
If you get invited to a German wedding, go and enjoy yourselves.
We sure did!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce

It's no secret that two of my most favorite desserts in the world are Crème Brûlée  and Panna Cotta. I do love any rich, fattening and indulgent dessert!
I am an old hand at making Crème Brûlée.  I suppose I am an old hand at eating Panna Cotta.
 Last week I was out to dinner with my friend Linda.  As we were sharing a Panna Cotta for dessert, we couldn't help wondering what exactly was in this divine concoction.
So, to that end, I decided to do some investigating.
I learned that Panna Cotta translated from Italian into English means
"Cooked Cream".
I read that a good Panna Cotta , "should wobble like a Rubenesque woman wearing 5 inch heels".  I believe this statement is attributed to Matt Preston, food journalist and restaurant critic.
Hmmmm....could I do this.....why not?
After all, I can make Crème Brûlée and that is more difficult.

Start with 4 cups of heavy cream. Pour it into a saucepan with a half of a cup of sugar.
Heat until warm and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla.

Take 4 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin and sprinkle it over 6 tablespoons of COLD
water.  Let it sit for 4 or 5 minutes.
You might actually start with this step although I didn't.

Next pour your very warm cream and sugar mixture into the gelatin and water mixture.
Stir until gelatin is dissolved.

Use a light oil to oil the cups and
 pour the mixture into tea cups and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.

When you are ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of your tea cup. Shake it gently loose from the cup.
Make a raspberry sauce with raspberries and sugar. Sieve the seeds out and pour over your
Panna Cotta.
Yes folks, it really IS this easy
and utterly delicious.

Mac give it two thumbs up and says to tell you,
"This dessert was superb."
Now he wants me to make a lemon Panna Cotta with limoncello.
I can do that Mac, but next week!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flowers in Germany

One of my friends asked me the other day," What makes the German culture different from the American culture?"
I suppose because we have so many German friends and we have now lived in Germany a total of 5 years (4 years in the late 90's and now a year) I don't often think about that question anymore.
There are many things that make it different.
 I think for me personally, I would say it's honesty of the people. Don't ask them a question unless you really want an honest opinion. It takes many Americans by surprise. If you were to ask a German if they think your new jacket is nice, don't be surprised to hear, "No, I find it quite ugly."
In a way, our culture tries to make the truth a little more palatable by answering that question with,
"It suits you, but I don't think it's my style."
 In general, Germans are a rules oriented society. Give them a rule and they will follow it.
So what's all this talk got to do with honesty?
Let me give you an example.

Here in Baden-Württemberg farmers plant flowers in some of their empty fields.
The rule: Pick your flowers and pay for them.
We love going to get the fresh flowers at this time of year.
Typically, you'll find sunflowers, gladioluses and

dahlias. This field is about a mile from our house.

Notice the clippers and knives on the cement at the base of the sign.
No farmer or farmer's wife to be seen!

Mac grabs the clippers and sets to work to cut some glads for me.

They are a lovely sight as you drive through the countryside.

Now you place your flowers on the handmade counter while you pay for your flowers. The sign tells you how much each of the flowers cost.  You drop your money in the white "honesty" box under the sign.
Would this work in the states?  In England?
I really don't know.
It works here because of their culture, honest and rules oriented.
Having said that.....don't even get me started on what a difficult time German's have standing in a line or "queue" as they say in England. I have been poked in the bottom, elbowed in the sides and thumped with handbags many times when a sale was on in a store, although they are better about it than they used to be in the 90's.
Maybe a bit of our culture is rubbing off on them!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

German Flammkuchen

We happily accepted an invitation this weekend to overnight with old friends.
Mac golfed with Torsten and when they came home we got a lesson in how to make German Flammkuchen.
We especially wanted to learn how to make this speciality as we had purchased a Flammkuchen oven.

Torsten stacks the wood under the oven for later.

Flammkuchen was started in the Alsace region of France back in the 1800s.  Known as Tarte Flambee in the Alsace, they say it was a farmer's midday meal.  When the farmer's wife had finished with her bread baking, she'd take the last of the dough and press it flat. She'd top it with onions, cream and bacon and pop it in her hot bread oven. 

Torsten lit the fire and as the temperature heated up to 300 C,

he made the sauce for the flammkuchen. He used  two small sour cream containers, and added cream until the consistency was correct. He then added salt and pepper.

Typically, over here Germans can buy the very thin crust. We'll probably have to make our own dough when we move back to Maine.

Next you spread the sauce on the crust.

Top with red onion slices and lardons (I would use slab bacon in America and cut it into pieces myself)
but cubed prosciutto would work too.
 A sprinkle of cheese (any kind you want) and

now it's ready for the oven.

Torsten places it in the oven and takes it out after 1 minute.  He turns it and places it back in the oven for one more minute.

Voila!  Delicious Flammkuchen.

It doesn't last long!
Once we had our fill, it was on to the dessert Flammkuchen.

Here is one with the sour cream sauce and raspberries.

Here is another with sour cream sauce, apple, brown sugar and cinnamon. We have also had this variation with calvados poured over the top. You light it on fire at the table and the alcohol burns away.
Impressive for your guests.
We had a marvelous time learning how to make this treat.
We are thinking when we get back to Maine that a booth at the Celtic festival would be a great idea so you can try this too.

As with any good German party, no matter how small, there will be singing and there will be

Mac says, "Here's three thumbs up to good friends, good fun and really good Flammkuchen."