Happy Halloween 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

Happy Halloween to all of you! It's our first Halloween in the home and we are hoping for lots of kids in cute little costumes. :) Our neighbor just showed up in 'Flint Tropics' costume - awesome!

I have to say, I'm a little sad that I didn't get to carve a pumpkin this year, but I dedicated some time to this candy corn wreath:

While I'm writing this I had to run up and down the stairway about 12 times already and it's barely dark now...haha. This is going to be a work-out. Great costumes so far, lots of little Spider-men and female pirates. Some doggies with pumpkin outfits.....

The inspiration for the candy corn wreath came from Women's Magazine a while back (check it out here). I have seen it in another blog in the meantime and decided to try it out. I used a Styrofoam wreath and spray painted it black. Then I used my hot-glue gun to attach each little (good-smelling) candy corn. It's a good idea to let them dry out for a couple of days in the kitchen, so that they aren't so sticky and attract less bugs. It also gives off a wonderful candy smell all through the house in the meantime. ;) Here in Cali we are lucky not to have to deal with insects too much, so I'm not concerned. There are some craft sprays that could be used to preserve this a little longer and keep the bugs away, but I decided to flip the wreath on the inside of the door in a couple of days, so it will still be a nice fall decoration for a little while.

The neighborhood is all dressed up in the Halloween spirit. For the last four weeks or so I could see the development of more and more decorations on my daily walks. One neighbor has a motorized blow-up black cat on the roof next to a pumpkin. Very cool. While I still don't get the scary parts of this festivity for the kids, I think it's pretty cool for adults. But hey- the kids are excited about the candy. I should write down what they are picking - like a marketing study. So far they seem to be reaching for the red KitKats or orange Peanut Butter thingies. The more colorful the better in packaging. ;) Alright...they are knocking again - time to go distribute more chocolate....

Happy Halloween!

Note: I just opened the door to a kid in a Sonic costume - told him how nice his 'Sonic' costume was and he told me that only the old people recognize what it is......YEISH - GIVE ME MY CANDY BACK-KIDDO


Baby Shower Diaper Cake

Saturday, September 10, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

I attended my first baby shower today and it was a really good time. The happy occasion was celebrated at Shakespeare's Corner Shoppe in the Mission Hills area of San Diego. It was the perfect location to celebrate our mommy-to-be Sarah who was born in England. The cafe area has a nice little store attached to it with all kinds of British goodies. I couldn't resist and finally bought a 'tea-egg'. :)

We were able to choose from an assortment of different teas which was splendid for a tea lover's heart. The old-fashioned British-style teapots and cups were adorable and it was a really good time.

I was looking for a good idea for a gift and came across some diaper cakes online that can be purchased. I figured it would be a nice project for me to make one myself and this puppy is the result:

Personally I love Burt's Bee's natural cosmetics line. I couldn't be more in favor of natural ingredients in lotions and cremes and it was great to see that they have a Mama Bee and a Baby Bee line for pregnant women and babies. I included some of those products and decided to go with kind of a bee-themed color scheme.

I think it turned out real cute. It was some work, no doubt - but I definitely learned a couple of things. In order to roll the diapers I would recommend to maybe use some elastic bands. I picked two different sizes of diapers (Newborn and 1) Next time I would choose different brands in order to make it easier to distinguish which one is which size. It's better to roll two diapers at a time in order to make the cake sturdier and fuller. (I started with only one and had to re-roll most of them again) I used one 40-count Size 1 package and a bigger box of newborn diapers. In order to put the cake on a sturdy bottom to carry it I picked a foam board. Turned out I wasn't the only one with the idea - two more diaper cakes rolled in...haha.

The Corner Shoppe on India Street was a great location for the shower and I would highly recommend it. (Parking is a little tricky) The service was great and there a lots of treasures from Britain to be found in the store.

A great afternoon with the ladies and a good time to get away from football for a bit and enjoy what the city has to offer. :)


Where the Surf meets the Turf at DEL MAR

Sunday, August 07, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

It's horse racing season in San Diego and for the first time since moving here I got a chance to go. Like I said - it's so much easier to tour around and see more of your area when family is in town. We started early and took the highway along the coast down to Del Mar. It's a great scenic ride to pass the coastal towns of Encinitas and Solana Beach. We were able to watch 8 out of 10 races before the popcorn was gone and my nephew lost his interest in horse racing all together. Saved us some money, I guess. It's nice to be able to bet as low as $2, however they have the whole system worked out, when beer costs you $9. :)) They will get you one way or another. It was a really nice and sunny day and we watched different games from high up and right at the field to mix it up. We picked horses by name, by number, by color and general appearance but no strategy really worked out. Shouldn't it be soo much easier than playing the Lotto? Oh well, it was a gorgeous and fun day with the family and we'll definitely be back. Watch out for 'horse traffic' around Del Mar these days!


Carlsbad Beach Day

Saturday, August 06, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

It's great to have family in town. Not only do we get to spend a lot of time together - but we also tour around San Diego more than we would on a usual weekend. The weather couldn't be better and enjoyed the Jazz at the Park festival after touring the beach area around Carlsbad Village yesterday. Jazz at the Park was really cool and a lot of people showed up. It's nice when you can walk to the park, bring your own drinks and run home to get a sweatshirt. We are getting a lot of sun and share quality time with the family. It's the perfect summer!


Carlsbad Beach

Thursday, July 28, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

Enjoying the beach on the weekend! Carlsbad has a lot to offer! :)

The weather couldn't be better! Lovin' SoCal more than ever!


Beef with Snow Peas

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 Anya 1 Comments

When I first saw this recipe - I knew I had to try it. It's the first time that I prepared a meal with snow peas and I really like it. I might have used them once before for stir-fry but this recipe is great! We liked it so much that we already had it twice since I discovered it and I didn't even get a chance to share it here yet.

I have been looking for a copy-cat recipe for Mongolian Beef from P.F. Changs for a while - and this one comes pretty close I thought. (Or maybe I remember it wrong? It's been a while with the braces-situation.
When I saw Sherry as an ingredient I was pretty much sold. I looove Sherry to cook with. I highly recommend to try this - it's heavenly. Check out the recipe here.

I hope that I get more change to try out a couple new recipes in the coming weeks and weekends. Things tend to be fairly busy - but I'm really looking for some kitchen time...



Super Mario Wedding Cake

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 Anya 2 Comments

My brother just got married in Germany and we are back from our vacation and my thoughts are rested enough (and I caught up with laundry) so that I can finally post a picture of this gorgeous Super Mario and Princess Wedding Cake that I ordered for the happy couple as a gift.

It's fairly difficult to order a customized cake like this in Germany. There are bakeries that decorate cakes to your liking, but most of the time they do have a book to choose from. The German traditional backing and cake decorating doesn't include the american wedding cake style and to find the perfect Nintendo cake or order it would be quiet a task back there. Most bakery owners tend to be older ladies and I doubt that they would know much about Nintendo. :) I also think people are less likely to spend outrageous amounts of money on a wedding cake - so the cake decorating business is not (yet) as big as it is in the States.

So after some searching and thinking I was able to find this mushroom style looking cake (one or multiple layers) and decided to couple it with a wonderful and hand-made cake topper that I had discovered during my search here in the US. The cake topper itself is not edible and so it will be a great memory for the bride and groom. It's hard to believe that it is hand-made and I couldn't be happier with the outcome. I found Hilda and her store on Etsy and she did a marvelous job with this cake topper. Check out her store here if you are interested in something similar.



Breakfast Ideas

Sunday, May 08, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

Sundays are wonderful and deserve a special breakfast treat! I love to mark recipes in my cooking books, search for new ideas online or rip whole pages out of magazines. In fact I have whole stacks of just papers with recipes that I plan to try out. It's probably already more than I could ever achieve if I started cooking day and night - but I guess I can just pick out the best ones then. One recipe that I found in my stack again lately is this recipe for Bacon, Egg and Toast Cups from Martha Stewart. If you know me, you know that I adore Martha. (If she pays her taxes! ;)) You can find the recipe here.

It was really easy since it bakes in the oven and seems to be a great idea for a brunch. I used whole-wheat burger buns which cuts out the time to cut circles of bread and makes it very easy. The bacon really only needs to go into a pan for a couple minutes, since it will bake more in the oven.

A great start into a cozy Sunday at home!


Bathroom Accessories

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

You might be wondering what's going on with me and with my life at the west coast lately. I know I have been suspiciously silent and there is a good reason for it - we finally bought our first home. With all the excitement that comes with it, there is also a lot of paperwork and just general work to handle. I did underestimate moving for sure. It's funny how you kind of forget, after it's been a couple of years. I now clearly remember swearing to stay in my first and small German apartment for the rest of my life if that would mean not having to move again. Oh, how I forgot about that.... Our home is relatively new and even though there is no major renovation necessary at this point in time, there is still a lot to do before one can actually move in. We've been taking care of a lot of things in the last couple of weeks and I wanted to update you on some of my new bathroom accessory findings that I have researched lately to brighten up our new but very empty and white bathrooms. I absolutely couldn't believe how many shower curtains are available on display at Bed Bath & Beyond. Maybe it's just this one store or maybe I have successfully ignored this all this time not looking for one. It's a paradise for anybody shopping for a shower curtain! The matching bath mats and towels are a nice touch. I didn't know that DKNY has a very nice home line which also offers many shower curtains that are both modern and tasteful and for an affordable price. 

We needed a new toilet and decided for a dual-flush model inspired by the European idea of saving water while flushing. So far we are absolutely thrilled with our pick and hopefully the water savings will speak for themselves. The rounded shower rod opens up amazing space within the shower and also looks a little more high-end than other straight models. I adore the spa-like design of mostly white patterns with some nature or shell oriented patterns. The Kohler Line for towel bars and toilet paper holders has some very nice new designs. We opted for the Alteo Models which looks very sleek in brushed nickel and what a nice design idea to open and close the paper holder rather than have a fragile bar in the middle that falls out whenever possible. I'll post more pictures of the bathroom tranformation with just a couple of simple accessories shortly when my life is 'normal' again and I don't wake up at 5:45 am to let the painters in. :))


Marina Village San Diego

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

The weather turned and it started to rain again this week. Good thing that we had such gorgeous weather this weekend. While G. went sailing with friends at Mission Bay I attended a photography workshop by Val Westover at the Marina Village / Mission Bay here in San Diego.

It's finally settling in - I'm not quiet there yet, but I understand much more after this workshop and the settings are clearer. I took my first couple of pictures in full manual which is a big step. Wanted to share some of my shots with you.

It's absolutely brutal to read the manual that came with the cam and I have read my way through the dummy book that was released for my cam. It definitely helped - but with the instructions of this workshop it all kind of came together for me. Now I just need to practice more and think about the settings harder until it hopefully clicks.....:))

Hopefully this will send some sun and spring feelings to those of you in the colder areas of the country or Europe.

I did manage to cook up some interesting new things over the last couple of days, but was too busy to take pictures. We are moving here shortly and I expect that some of the more difficult cooking plans will have to wait until after the move.

California Love......


Mount Soledad - San Diego

Thursday, January 27, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

The sun has been so good to us lately - it's been so good to us that I tend to forget that some of you are either freezing in Germany or in the Northern and Eastern parts of the US. It's hard to think of snow and cold when you are surrounded by palm trees and sunshine. Hey, I'm just here to share : D. I thought some of you might really like some sunny San Diego pictures for a change. One of these weekends we took a little trip to Mount Soledad to enjoy the sunshine and the view. It's a great place with great views all around La Jolla and Downtown on a clear day.

It's been our first time around here, which is crazy considering that I have been living here for years now. It's such a big city that i still find new things to discover. A great place to check out the views and relax. Little did we know that there was this ongoing controversy of the cross symbol being unconstitutional. Mount Soledad is a memorial for those who fought for the US during the wars and the wall around the cross features a beautiful individual plaque for each soldier with a picture printed on it. It's hard to imagine that such a wonderful and peaceful place is reason for this huge controversy but hey - we are just up here to enjoy the views and the sun.

I was able to take out my new photography bag for the first time. I will have to tell you about that bag later, because it's really sweet. Thank you H. for the gift! :)

I love cacti especially in the wild. How great are they? That is so different from anything that just grows in a German landscape which is probably why I'm so obsessed with them. I love to look at them, take pictures of them or paint them. 

What's the weather like where you are? Hey, send me your pictures - I like snow pictures too ;)


Spicy Tuscan Soup

Sunday, January 23, 2011 Anya 1 Comments

The rainy weeks of late December inspired me to go through my available soup recipes or look for new ones that I'd like to try out. I am constantly ripping out recipes from magazines or print them out from the internet. I have a magazine stack that almost reaches the ceiling now. Somehow during my last trip to Europe I fell back reading them and now they just beat me. I give up - Magazines 1 - Anja 0. I am constantly trying to catch up, but I guess I subscribed to so many magazines that it's impossible to get back on track. At least I get a lot of inspiration for the kitchen. :) I picked this soup recipe for Spicy Tuscan Soup that you can find here and just changed it up a little bit to cut down on calories. I am very much into healthy cooking!

This is my modified ingredient version:

•1 pound Spicy Turkey Sausage (Love the one from Henry's!! if you are in Cali)
•1 whole Medium Red Onion, Diced

•2 slices Turkey Bacon, Diced (or Centercut!)
•3 cloves Garlic, Minced
•3 whole Medium Potatoes (Yukon Gold)
•1 quart Chicken Broth (Organic!)
•¼ bunches Kale, Roughly Chopped

•½ cups Half-And-Half
•Salt And Pepper, to taste

Preparation Instructions:

Crumble sausage into big soup pot and heat over medium-high heat until cooked through. Drain and set the sausage aside.

Chop onions and dice bacon; add to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook until onions are clear. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices. Add chicken broth and potatoes to the pot and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are almost done.
Add remaining ingredients as well as the sausage and simmer for 5 more minutes.

It's really easy to make and due to the sausage and the bacon you'll get this wonderful flavor. I am a huge fan of brothy soups and I would still count this into the brothy category even if it has some Half-And-Half in there. As a huge fan of Kale I was happy to add it to the mix. I haven't cooked with Kale before but I loved it in Germany. (Gruenkohl with sausage!!) Kale holds up wonderfully in the soup and I'll probably try to prepare some very german Gruenkohl here shortly now that I have some on hand. Next time I'll use some more with the soup.
I have to admit - I don't trust the american sausage. :)) I have found that a lot of Americans don't trust the American Sausage either and that makes it even less trustworthy. Our local Henry's farmers market makes some great sausages and it's about the only sausage that is not "Made in Germany" that seems trustworthy to me. 
I am in love with Henry's. So glad that I can get my organic and local fruits and veggies so close by.
Aaah, it's great comfort food. One of my favorite soups is French Onion Soup. I am not afraid to admit that I had French Onion Soup as an appetizer almost every day when we took our honeymoon cruise. :))
What is your favorite soup? Please share your best soup recipes....I'm in the mood.


Non-toxic Make-Up

Saturday, January 15, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

I wanted to post about a book that I just finished reading and that I believe is very educational and a must-read if you care about your health like I do. If you know me, you know that I'm a health-nut and I love Make-Up, so when I heard about this book I was very interested. I hadn't spent much time thinking about the chemicals in the Make-Up, Shampoos and plain old soaps that we are using which is interesting since I spent so much time reading ingredient labels on groceries and care highly about organic and healthy food. I must have assumed that the several health agencies and government officials will make sure that no company can sell me hygiene products of any kind that could seriously harm me or mess with my health. As a European I'm used to regulation and supervision of harmful ingredients in food and hygiene products and didn't have a clue that there could be more harmful stuff in products sold in the States. This is not to say that you don't have to be careful what you buy in Germany for example, there is still stuff that messes with your hormones for example but overall there are a lot of chemicals and ingredients that have long been banned in the EU and even in Japan that are still sold to us here.

I learned from the book that there is not much of any regulation about ingredients that can or cannot be contained in make-up, especially in scents/perfume.

The book is called "No More Dirty Looks" and it's 10 Dollars you will never regret to have spent. It really is a shame that our elected officials don't make sure that we can't be harmed by the products that are sold to us, but if necessary - hey - I'll learn about chemicals. I want to know what I put on my skin - as the book so nicely explains - it matters - if chemicals wouldn't be absorbed by the skin like a sponge and transported into your blood then why would the nicotine free patch work? Granted, this new information doesn't make me happy - I'm deeply in love with my favorite make-up products. Needless to say that I checked each and every product that I'm currently using online for harmful ingredients. The first products that I changed were tooth paste, mouth wash, shampoo and deodorant. Stuff that is directly absorbed by the body.

If you would like to check your products, I highly recommend this link:

If you are in Germany and would like to check your products, this works:

I was happy to learn that my Aloe Face Wash from the BodyShop is clean and not harmful whatsoever. About some other discoveries I was less than amused and I still have to find new blush apparently. Turns out paying more for a product doesn't necessarily make it non-toxic. ;)

Ladies, if you use a lot of products and you don't yet know what's in it and what each ingredient means for your body - you need to read this!

Big Thank you to Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt for publishing this and for the tips and product recommendations to detox my regimen. Highly appreciated!


German Goodies!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 Anya 0 Comments

First of all - Happy New Year! I know - I know...I have been lagging with my posts lately but the holiday season was very busy around here. We were happy to have my friend Maike from Germany around just up to the holidays. She had a pretty hard time to get back to Germany with the weather chaos but made it back home for Christmas Eve. I had all these grand plans of baking cookies for not just us but the whole family. I wanted to pack everything neatly and send it out before Christmas - needless to say none of this actually happened. Instead I have been stressed with college, getting ready for multiple visitors at our home before and during Christmas and house hunting for a good deal whenever we got a chance in between. I actually managed to send out all the presents to Germany on time and also sent out Christmas cards. They weren't designed by me like planned and didn't include pictures, but that's one of the goals for next year I suppose.

Things are slowing down after the holidays and I started to get back in my flow and start cooking up a storm again. Aaahh, it feels good to be back in the kitchen and spend some time with new recipes. It actually relaxes me, it's something that I can fully concentrate on and it's like a time-out almost. I can't say the same about the mountains of dishes afterwards, but that comes with the joy of cooking I guess. I'm thankful for this dishwasher for sure!

I am so excited about todays delivery that I wanted to post about. I got a piece of Germany on my table today with the delivery from GermanDeli, an importer for german goods. I had a giftcard and couldn't wait to pick some of my favorites from the store.

The packaging is absolutely adorable! Seeing this I couldn't wait to get my hands on all the German goodies I miss so dearly. Among them and most importantly Thomy Mayonnaise which is produced close to my German hometown and stinks up the whole city. This is the best and therefore the only mayonnaise that gets my seal of approval. I recommend trying this stuff, even if you don't think you like Mayonnaise. It's just the best!!

If you haven't tried Backerbsen yet, you are seriously missing out on something. They are little baked pea-shaped snacks that you drop into your soup and they take eating broth-based soup to a whole new level - trust me! Aahhh - I'm a happy camper today and I think my parents are sending more this way - my little piece of home!