Sunday, December 30, 2012

Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt

Our first port of call - Frankfurt..and the obligatory Christmas market trip! We touched down at 5:15pm on the 23rd of December and went straight from the airport to the market. The sudden cold, a broken toe and the masses of people couldn't even dampen our spirits... after a pretzel  wurst, pofferjes and Gluhwein, we wandered and took in all the sights and smells of our surroundings. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas shopping Asian-style!

As the engine in my car conked itself out once and for all last week, we decided to buy me a scooter. The idea of saving $50-$60 a WEEK on gas (petrol), not having to deal with vehicle registration (or associated costs) and of course the novelty of it seemed mighty appealing.

All is going well so far despite a little rain and wind and the fact that it is painfully slow...except on downhills and then its WWEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But here's something to ho ho ho about this experience Christmas shopping, grocery shopping and picking up packages from the post office...all in one trip. Lets just say I was quite the sight, especially considering that scooters are not even common here, let alone a blonde girl riding one with stuff hanging all over it :-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Department of Injustice, U.S. Virgin Islands

Many of you may or may not know about a bad experience we had with a landlord a couple of years ago. This relatively small situation (in the grand scheme of legal cases) left us to truly question the effectiveness of the justice system here in the US Virgin Islands. And we are supposed to believe that our hard-earned money is going towards people and systems that are protecting us?!
It was time to speak out publicly, and if it was up to us we would've liked the names of our thieving ex-landlords published in the VI Daily News for the world to see. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Cruzan Christmas Tree

Every year Cruzan Rum sponsors an event held at the St. George Botanical Gardens and this year I was asked to help decorate the "Cruzan Tree". Considering its been years since I've had my own big Christmas tree, and the fact that I love to decorate, of course I said yes!
With some help from my co-workers and the past 3 evenings spent tying bows around 50mL mini bottles of Cruzan Rum, our decorating team of 4 women hung up the 120 bottles of rum, keyrings, tinsel, bows and more. 

The trees will be raffled off tomorrow night in a silent and live auction with money benefiting the Botanical Gardens.

Friday, November 23, 2012

St. Croix - Sugar Mill

Sugar production in the USVI's was an important part of the economy of the territory for over 200 years. Long before the islands became part of the U.S (in 1917), the islands - in particular St. Croix was exploited by the Danish from the early 1700's and within the next 100 years, over 30,000 acres were under cultivation. 
Since 1966 with the closing of the last sugar factory on St. Croix, the industry is all but a memory. However, many of these magnificent ruins remain and are commonly used today as backdrops for weddings or as the center and starting piece when building a lavish holiday home for the wealthy.
A sunny day led me, Alpie, my camera and some active kids to one of the better preserved ones on the island. 

Looking up from the inside of the mill 

The combination of children and animals always make for such beautiful, natural photos

Alpie was having a ball

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sea to Shining Sea - A 48 Hour "Fun" (Mileage) Run pt. 2 Hawaii

AA 267 (757-2) Seat: 5F
Depart: LAX 6:20 PM
Arrive: HNL 8:39 PM

With 30 minutes to go I started to make my way to the gate only to see final boarding displayed on the screens, can’t be right I thought, but sure enough as I settled into my old brown seat I noticed that I was the last to take my seat in the front cabin. Was nice to see there were 4 soldiers up front that had all been comp upgraded by AA as there were seats free. This is the first time I've experienced first / business class to Hawaii on one of the legacy carriers and I was impressed to see the additional level of detail and service that they have on these flights to try and fight for what must be a lucrative slice of air travel pie. Menus and preflight beverages (including choice of “champagne”) were soon distributed and with an on time pushback we were on our way.

 Mains by Sam Choy

While we were climbing out of the Los Angeles basin chasing towards the rapidly setting sun the FAs were already up and about taking meal and drink orders.

I went with the Pinot Grigio as it sounded nice and would hopefully pair well with my chicken, but first I had to eat my rabbit food.

Salad with delicious ginger vinaigrette

Honestly I have to say that AA has some great salad dressings though, this ginger vinaigrette was definitely an all-time top 5 for salad dressings anywhere! They should start bottling and selling a line of signature dressings, could be a great revenue generator…

Sorry no photo of the main, the chicken was about 2/3rds gone by the time I thought about it and no one wants a photo of what was on the plate! J

A short break ensued allowing us to finish our wine from dinner before it was sundae time; hot fudge, pineapple, strawberry, whipped cream, crushed nuts…oh the choices but in the end it wasn’t hard. Hot fudge, pineapple and whipped cream. I really liked how the FAs seemed to take extra care in keeping all ingredients separate to avoid any cross contamination, especially from the nuts for me!

Mmmm...Pineapple, hot fudge!

All the dishes were nicely garnished with a purple orchid, seemed like a fresh flower each time and it felt almost like we were flying on Hawaiian Airlines instead. I wonder if they still have an orchid on each meal as they did in the good old days, seems like we’ll need to try their non-stop JFK-HNL flight when we visit family next year and find out.

By this time we were well and truly losers in our quest to chase the sun and were nearing Hawaii in complete darkness, it was great to see the soldiers having such a good time and I later learned it was not only their first time in first class but also some of their first times on a flight longer than an hour or so! Again 2 thumbs up to AA for their support of our troops, we can’t thank them enough and it’s nice to see companies be on board with that too. We landed disappointingly on runway 4R therefore missing one of the best parts of flying to Hawaii, landing on the reef runway. We were soon at the gate and after deplaning I made my way to Avis to grab a car before going to see Dad and Popo and try to enjoy the 14 hours I had in paradise.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mohnkuchen Streusel!

My very first attempt at making one of my all-time favorite cakes...Mohnkuchen (German Poppyseed Cake). My grandma in Germany thought it was somewhat of a strange request when all I asked for, for Easter this year was poppyseeds...lots of them..poppyseed in bulk is unavailable here in the Caribbean and importing would've cost upwards of $150 for one cake's worth!
So yes, these poppyseeds have been waiting to be baked for quite a while now.. and today was the day! The hot climate here made for some difficult streusel-making, as the butter needed to be kept cold at all times, but actually the streusel is what turned out the best! As you can see, the crust turned out a lot thicker than expected, but it ended up being the best part of this experiment...warm and crusty, almost like bread. 
Definately not Omi's Mohnkuchen (that will have to wait until my next trip to Australia or Germany), but still not bad for an afternoon's worth of work.
Now....time to go and watch the new James Bond! :)

Day 2 ~ Puerto Rico Roadtrip

We awoke at the Courtyard in Aquadilla, Puerto Rico and found the hotel was rather....full. Strange, considering Aquadilla is a tiny airport and there werent any major events going on this weekend. Little did we know that the Special Olympics for weightlifters were being held closeby and we found ourselves surrounded by some of the biggest (I'm talking muscle) people I have even seen in real life (yes, weightlifters look a thousand times bigger in the flesh than on TV). To my left I'm hearing Germans, to my right - some form of -stan (Paki, Khazik etc) while I'm looking at an even bigger bunch of boys that were from Luxemburg...honestly didnt think there was room in that tiny country to keep such huge people!
Not something you expect to see when you wake up on a Sunday morning in a sleepy Puerto Rican town, but hey - like I've said before, Puerto Rico is changing rapidly in leaps and bounds and nothing should really surprise us anymore.

After a quick dip in the hotel pool (they had waterslides!!!), we got some pressed sandwiches and coffee for breakfast at a little Panaderia and set off to get ourselves lost in the forest. There are so many small, narrow winding roads and although Geoff had a route marked out, we still chose to venture here and there with whatever looked interesting along the way. 

Another camp ground!! Where were you 3 years ago??

Lago dos Bocas (Lake of two mouths) in Utuado.  The lake was created in 1942 when a dam was constructed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority for a hydroelectric power plant. It also serves as one of the island's potable water reservoirs. Ferries operated by the Department of Transportation of Puerto Rico provide transportation for residents on Lago Dos Bocas as well as for tourists. Several restaurants are located on the shore of the lake, but we didnt have the time to stop into them. Plus, sampling from all the little, family-owned restaurants was much more fun and curiosity-satisfying!

We seem to find our four-legged friends wherever we go :)

All in all a beautiful day exploring some new areas of the interior of Puerto Rico that we havent seen before. What we werent aware of, was that the local elections were just a couple of days off and that 99.9% of the Puerto Rican population was dressed up, parading, driving in cars and waving flags, playing music, blocking the roads or a combination of all of the above. This really affected our timing when we came closer to San Juan, where the highways were moving at a snails pace with the amount of people just hanging out there - or hanging out of moving cars. Unfortunately no Costco trip for us this weekend, but I think what we saw and did this weekend very much outweighed any experience Costco could've given us!

P.S As an afternote, Puerto Rican voters this week backed a ballot measure thatYet, Tuesday's vote may be an illustration of a people who remain divided over the island's status rather than united around one option. Based on the first question of a two-part ballot, just more than half (54 percent) voted to change the island's status. In the second question, 61 percent said they favored statehood, while 33 percent voted for sovereign free association (more autonomy from the U.S.) and 5 percent backed independence. may be an illustration of a people whoYet, Tuesday's vote may be an illustration of a people who remain divided over the island's status rather than united around one option. Based on the first question of a two-part ballot, just more than half (54 percent) voted to change the island's status. In the second question, 61 percent said they favored statehood, while 33 percent voted for sovereign free association (more autonomy from the U.S.) and 5 percent backed independence.rather than united around one option. Based on the first question of a two-part ballot, just more than half (54 percent) voted to change the island's status. In the second question, 61 percent said they favored statehood, while 33 percent voted for sovereign free association (more autonomy from the U.S.) and 5 percent backed independence.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Papas Curly, Iceskating and one hell of a Sunset (Day 1 of PR roadtrip)

An immigration appointment brought us to Puerto Rico on Friday, and the zest for exploring kept us there.
Friday night, after our plane was delayed over an hour and I had well and truly missed my appointment with Immigration (while no-one in the office was answering the phone!), we arrived at San Juan International Airport aroud 8pm. I raced over to the office (located in the airport) and luckily was still allowed to be seen for a quick interview and fingerprints.

Being that it was so late, we made a beeline for a restaurant in Old San Juan we still had vouchers too and after dealing with parking, tourists etc. we finished off our dinner around 11pm. 
Marriott hotels had a deal that Geoff picked up on which we took advantage of this weekend - stay at a Marriott hotel for one night, get one night free (at a different Marriott hotel) Sweet! Even more of an excuse to explore the untapped areas of our former home a little more. 

After a rather comfortable sleep at the Courtyard in Miramar, we jumped into our little rental car and headed West, towards Aguadilla, Rincon and Mayaguez. (Our second night was booked at the Courtyard in Aguadilla). Not before breakfast at our favorite breakfast spot though - Kasalta...home of the gigantic pressed sandwiches and super strong espresso. This time instead of my usual hamon, huevo y queso (ham, cheese and egg), I went for traditional Puerto-Rican Style "Avena" (oatmeal). This type of oatmeal made with condensed milk, cream and cinnamon is the ultimate comfort food and blows typical American-style oatmeal out of the water!

Our bellies full and we hit the road. At the turnoff to Dorado (just 15 miles/24 km west of San Juan), we came across a very local's looking beach among all the highrises and golf courses. Wanting to stretch our legs a little before starting the longer drive out west, we came across an abandoned, yet beautiful campground with an even more beautiful cliffs lining it. Why didnt we know about this when we lived here? 

Look, even the tiling is Spanish style!

Can you spot the iguana?

With lots of little stops here and there along the way, we finally reached Aquadilla around sunset. Geoff and his Dad went to play golf at a course directly next to this beach (pictures below), which provided one of the most spectacular sunsets ever.

Old ruins made for some beautiful photos at this deserted beach

After a full day of driving, sightseeing and snacking, nothing seemed more appealing than......iceskating! Yes, the Caribbeans' only ice rink was located here in Aguadilla. Luckily we both had long pants and long sleeves with us (thanks to the locals knowledge we have of St. Croix loving to freeze out their patrons at the airport), all that was needed was a quick stop at K-mart for some socks and then it was off for an hour on the rink! Geoff tried to teach me to skate backwards but I ended up with my butt on the ice more times than I actually made an inch on the ice, so I decided the pro skating can be left to him...which is absolutely awesome at.

A hearty, steaming bowl of Caldo Gallego (Spanish soup made with Chorizo, white beans and wilted greens) warmed us up after being on the ice for an hour!

Part 2 (Sunday) to come soon...