Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Kangaroos and Lederhosen - Rebooted

After years of sitting in cyber space I am now re-activating this blog: Kangaroos and Lederhosen. We have been living in Frankfurt the last 3.5 years and are now off to new adventures.

Firstly we are heading south to Australia. We will be based in Sydney from December for 7 months. In January we have big plans to travel to Tasmania and discover a new part of our wonderful world. We hope this blog will allow us to take you with us and share some of our adventures.

And before I go today, a few selfies before we start the next part in "Hamedl Adventures Around the World"....well mainly Europe and Australia if I am to be absolutely correct.

Now off to arrange some leaving parties and pack some boxes.....come back soon!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cooking without Self-Raising Flour

You would not imagine that cooking in different modern industrialised countries should cause any headaches. But having lived in 5 different European countries I feel that can say the safest way to go is to cook and eat like the locals. You then get the freshest produce at reasonable prices. Although some of the local Hungarian stuff was really not to my fancy….there is only so many pickled things one can eat at any sitting!

Of course we all need some home comforts - in which a trip to the "speciality, over-priced" shop is necessary. Just take the credit card with you and go ONLY after eating a rather large lunch! 

One of the biggest challenges was becoming accustomed to not having plain AND self-raiaing flour as options. Most cake/biscuit recipies from Australia and England call for this. In fact its not that difficult to make but I do find some slight inconsistancies with the strength of baking powder. I am now using a very "strong" baking powder, so can go easy on the measurements. But there have been times when the baking powder has not done its job. And "Cream of Tartar" can only be purchased in chemists here in Germany - so have avoided any recipe using it.

The flour issue continues. Does one buy the 450 or the 550 or the more expensive 1150 type? What is bread making flour for the 00 flour equivilant? After much research, I just use 450 and found it works fine for bread, cakes etc. I buy a more expensive brand of flour which I feel had a better taste in the cooking - especially for bread.

Sugar is also a tricky one. The majority of sugar found in Europe (not the UK) is made from sugar beet not sugar cane. So the sugar beet version is slightly denser and less fine. The icing sugar from sugar beet certainly gives a slightly gritty taste to butter cream icings. And brown sugar in Germany is not as we know it. Its more like raw sugar. The brown sugar I know and love is white sugar whipped up with some molasses. I "import" my brown sugar, having not found an truely adequate substitute here in Germany.

The milk in France and Switzerland I found to be over-pasturised and predominantly the long life version which has a taste I am not fond of. We just use organic milk at home and this is usually quite good and has an OK taste and has been successful in cooking. Although I find my white sauce takes longer to thicken up - maybe its more my method than the milk!

Butter is also slightly different. Butter in Australia has a little salt in it as a default. I guess this is a longitivity issue. Here it is all unsalted with shorter shelf life. But I have frozen it successfully and then used it.

Much of the supermarket cheese here is pre-sliced. A true convience but once opened the packet needs to be used quickly or starts to dry out - even sealed up. But there is a fantastic selection of delicious cheeses in many places to make a French man swoon.

I am sure everyone has their own cooking challenges and adapting to what one can buy. Although in Australian and UK you can just about purchase all fruit and veg 365 days of the year. Something which has made me appreciate the strong seasonal element in Europe. We are almost at the end of asparagus season, strawberries are just everywhere, cherries are starting and many berries. And last week in France there were apricots, peaches and cherries - such a feast. So its really the best time of year to go to the supermarket here.

But apart from recipe disasters there have been many successes. I just need to get better at food photography :-|

Yours in Food

Steaming Alaskan Bread - a winter favourite in our house.

We have managed to make this for 2 Birthdays - my patented "Hello Kitty" cake

Oven baked donuts - what does not taste good with cinamon and sugar??

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Setting up Shop

I am now running a Tea Room near Frankfurt. There are no excuses for not blogging on a more regular basis but this is my excuse anyway.

One of the window displays - with the help of Ruth we make it look good both from inside and out.

The journey of my Tea Room started towards the end of last year. I wanted to go back to work and started applying for jobs. For some I was not a 100% fit with the background requirement, for others I was over qualified. I did not get a single interview before Christmas and was feeling down about the whole thing. I had managed to easily find jobs in the past where ever we lived, so this was a shock. I figured being three years out of the workforce and turning 40 put potential employers off. Not one company got back with any feedback or even a time scale of the employment process.

As I refined my resume and application letters I wondered if I needed to get more qualified. But discounted this as I am so bad at even doing any German homework. There were some resources about changing career path, so I investigated. Basically you need to write down what you would love to do all day even day. I did that. I wrote down that I would like to bake and be with people. I need social interaction - something that became very clear in my last role which was a home/office set up. For me cooking is mostly fun and I enjoy it. But wondered how I could do this without my family being tired of the daily cakes and getting fat. Four people can not eat that much cake!

Towards the end of last year, we did a parents evening in a wine bar. We chatted with the owner, Sabine and her husband that evening and they gave us plenty of tips about places to go and see in Frankfurt and beyond. We also learned that she was ex-corporate and started the wine bar 3 years previously after leaving banking.

Somehow my brain fused together these 2 separate things, and in February I went to the wine bar and proposed the concept of running the wine bar as a cafe during the day. She said yes! Well at least it was a starting point for writing a business plan and really thinking through the whole concept.

This was the opening day spread: Carrot cake, vanilla cupcakes and scones.

So I had a venue and an idea. I then spent the next weeks refining the idea and decided that a Tea Room was the way to go. We met almost every Wednesday to talk through ideas and concepts. I talked with friends and received great tips and ideas. It was coming together very quickly. I was also frantically reading business set up resources, downloaded the 100 dollar set up, searching for anything written about how to run a cafe. It was consuming my waking and sleeping hours. It was exciting and scary. My mind was also filled with negative thoughts: What if it failed?, Can I really do this?, I am not even a trained cook. But I kept going down the rabbit hole and on April 2nd I started my first day of business.

One of the unique sellling points - freshly baked scones in 10mins from ordering - with real clotted cream .

It was an opportunity too good to miss. If ever I was going to test the gastronomy industry - this was it. I had a venue that was established with all the equipment and an owner who frankly told me the good and the bad and shared her experinces openly. Can you believe people steal toilet paper from the toilets?

ANZAC Day provided a great opportunity to offer an "Australian" testing plate with ANZAC biscuits and lamingtons - the Germans took to it with gusto! So much so that ANZAC's will feature as one of the favourite biscuits.

The Tea Room is located in Bad Vilbel, which is about 6 km from Frankfurt downtown or an 8-10min drive from our house. I am open 3 afternoons a week and word is getting around that we are there. But that is the next hurdle - getting a solid customer base. The marketing challenge begins.

The solar waving queen was a present from the owner of Weinliebe - people stop to look at it in the window and even take photos. She is a crowd pleaser!


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Random Stuff

When you are waiting for a big thing to happen to "blog" about it. Months go by and there are no big things, just life. So here's to getting back to blogging from time to time about stuff. Everyday stuff with friends and family - which is special enough.

Halloween in Geneva was fun - OK I was very tame on the facial make up. In fact Miss M was my makeup artist, so blame her. Never the less, we scared half the Geneva population in Grand Saconnex that evening!

You are never too young to experiement with the current craze of "selfies" and see how many chins you can create. Almost as many as your age?

There were some proud moments when our Ginergerbread house did not completely cave in - the power of melted sugar. The most important part being that about the same number of smarties that made it onto the roof also made it into the mouths of the decorators.

My local walks were so enjoyable at the end of last year. I can not decide if I like autumn or spring better. Will wait and see what spring brings in our new city.

Bright red bushes and a dog. Now its all dull and grey, but there are signs that spring it on its way.

Sometimes sisters are best friends, sometimes.

A dog for a day. Whilst walking in the Jura we were adpoted by a dog. He was really friendly and in the end we really had to scare him away to stop him following us on the train home. The only issue was that he would go bounding up to other people he saw with great enthusiasm. Then they got angry at us thinking it was our dog.

Local forest walk with in-laws and crazy kids. A fun afternoon ending in hot chocolate. One benefit of living in a cold climate is that hot chocolate tastes so much better when your hands are numb.

Thanks for reading - until something big happens or some stuff!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Frankfurt Book Fair 2013 - a family adventure

Its the biggest book fair in the world and it is in the city we live. So we could not pass by the opportunity to go and check it out.

The tickets included public transport and it was all on my phone. I love technology when it works like this. It was 3 degrees but we got going early to try to avoid the main crowds. And there were crowds.

They found the Gruffalo!
We love reading - any time, any place!
Checking out the new releases.
I had quickly noted down some of the children's attractions, so we had a vague plan of action. Initially bumping into the Gruffalo we meandered way through many of the children's book publishers before making our way to the Kids Bubble. It was the first event that I thought might interest the kids - the launch of the Griaffe-Affe audio book. The Giraffe-Affe is an imaginary animal that is part monkey and part giraffe. Our littlest one was lucky enough to catch one as they were thrown into the audience. We were then treated to a musical performance. The songs sung in the audio version of the book. They were sung by a guy who was a previous contestant on The Voice of Germany. Then the actor who made the audio book, read from the book. The kids were enchanted by his voices and sound effects of all the characters. A great start and one that found as returning to the Kids Bubble throughout the day.

The Kids Bubble and the Giraffe-Affe
The fair is a huge event and encompasses everything to do with books. Of course there was the technology and new forms but I didn't even get to those specialist halls. There were stands with just paper, beautiful paper that I had to touch. There were thousands of books from all over the world waiting for someone to buy the rights to translate them into another language. Stands were dedicated to all the accessories you can buy in a bookshop. There was even a "walk of calenders".

But there were a few areas that particularly interested me. The Gourmet Gallery. It was full of cookbooks, wonderful cookbooks. I was drooling. There was a Prosecco Bar and a demonstration kitchen where famous cooks were cooking live recipes from their books. I could have stayed there all day paging through the books.

And some of us are having a good time!
Trying to get a feel for the crowds in the Comics area - it was packed.
The Comic area was incredible. Comics are alive and well. You could even create your own comics with the aid of technology. They had lots of tablets and individuals could create a comic. You choose images or made a collages of images then add your own text or the suggestions. These where then on large screens, so everyone passing could read the comics being made real time. How cool is that!

Then there were the famous comic artists drawing for their fans. The queues were amazing, but the art work that each person received was done with care and the joy of sharing the comic passion. Some were taking a good 10mins to paint or draw wonderful images. It was clear that those receiving the art were delighted and their long wait made worthwhile.

Watching a comic artist at work
Then there were the Manga fans. At first I thought it was some workers on the stands dressed up. How cool I thought. Then I saw 10, then 20 then 50......and throughout the day 1,000's of people dressed up. Most were quite sophisticated costumes that must have taken hours to prepare. The hair alone was impressive. I was a bit hesitant to take photos as did not want it to seem that I was making fun of them. To balance it out there were Hufflepuff fans and for some people you had to wonder if it was their real clothes or they were also "in character".

Wanting to be a fairy princess
Our own Giraffe-Affe
What else at a book fair - places to hang out and read and relax.
Release of a movie with the child stars and author/movie producer.
The end of our day was a movie-book release. The author/movie producer of the Wild Kerle (sounds better in German), read from the book and we got a sneak preview of movie. Two of the children actors were there and talked about their time making the movie. Marlene bought the books and got them signed by the author and the actors - she was delighted.

All in all a fabulous day. I congratulate all those who put in so much creative spirit and energy in making it such a wonderful event. I can't wait to return next year. Who is joining us?

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Hairdresser

There is nothing more fraught with nerves and danger than trying out a new hairdresser - especially when you don't speak the lingo. Having short hair most of my life, a visit to the hairdresser has not usually phased me - taking off a ski helmet is another story as you might recall. As if anything really goes wrong I have consoled myself that it will grow back or out or something.

I do recall an incident when I was 4-5 years old and decided that I did not want a fringe, so I just cut it off. My mother did not see it so black and white. It might be where my hair mantra will grow back or out or something.

Today I went to a new hairdresser in Frankfurt. I had been tempted to test the place 200m from our front door step - what a convienience. But Ron had been there for a hairuct and the free added spiritual awakening (in which he did not awake). I was not sure that I would not have laughed out loud when following the haircut she danced some voodoo stuff and waved essential oils around my head. Needless to say Ron is giving the voodoo hairdresser a pass. Although no spiritual awakeneing - he nows believes he can sing demonstated outside the Alte Oper, Frankfurt.


In the last 10 years or so the hairdresser has meant communicating in a foreign lanaguge: French, "Austrian", Hungarian and now German. My french usually meant that I ended up with hair much shorter than I had wanted. In Austria I sometimes took Ron to translate but that also did not work. Hungarian was another story and you always ended up with red hues reagrdless of what colour you requested. I had a friend who never did her colour and a haircut at the same time in Hungary. She exclained that she could not cope if both the cut and the colour were wrong! In Hamburg I just went to the most expensive hairdresser and crossed my fingers and smiled. The results were variable but I finally got the colour right!

My Frankfurt hairdresser research involved asking a lady (that we know) with what I consider to be fine, straight hair. Just like me! Luckily she was not the least worried by my request and gave me the number of the "Hair Palace". She told me that its run by a Chinese guy and she figured he must be good with straight hair, given most Chinese have straight hair!

So I went to make an appointment - by ringing the Wong number. I spoke with his wife and asked only for an appointment in the morning - "Morgen". She thought I meant morgen as in was a public holiday, so they were closed. After a bit of back and forth we finally got to an understanding that my Morgen was mornings, not tomorrow (small "m" morgen). I don't know how you can say that in German. Finally appointment made.

I decided to drive downtown. Parking in the middle of town is dead cheap - its amazing. We don't know another major city that has such inexpensive parking. For 2.5hrs I paid 5 Euro. And it would have cost me 2 Euro each way on the tram plus 15min walk. So since it was a "ME" morning I forked out the extra Euro for the convienince of central city parking and not damaging my new hair cut on public transport.

Result you ask? Well he said he would just trim the ends. But I said I wanted a tad more. So it is a bit shorter than I had imagined. The problem when both are not speaking thier mother tongues. But I am happy and I will stick with this salon and hairdresser during out time in Frankfurt - chop chop.

He is a bad attempt at the post hairdesser selfie.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Things I'll miss....

We are now officially in the Big Smoke,  Frankfurt am Main. We are enjoying city life again. During the move in week (without kids) we went to 3 different restaurants - Vietnamese, Indian and Italian. It was such a treat.

In the last 7 days we had 3 sets of visitors, so were able to discover the city with them. We are 7 tram stops from the main shopping street. There is a great food market there with all sorts of international goodies. I am so excited to go shopping for some special treats.

Although we are excited to discover our new home town there are thing we will miss about leaving our lil' village - Estebrügge.

  • Going to buy milk at the corner shop (10 metres from our front door) and coming back 15 mins later after chatting with several people. It was almost impossible to pop in and out :-)
  • The heard of sheep 5 mins walk from the door step.....although I suspect Goldie misses them more than we do. She would kiss them through the fence.
  • Giving the "wave or local village salute" to every other car that drives down the street, as you know who they are. 
  • Knowing your kids can walk or ride to a friends house or after school activity in realtive safety. Everyone is watching.
  • Bridge to Bridge - its just over a 2km walk and it needs its own post one of these days.
  • The beautiful black Galloway cows - that we then purchased later for the BBQ. Always good to know where your meat comes from!
  • The Este moods and the distinct seaonal changes.

  • The local wildlife (and the local kids!). We saw baby ducklings and deer on a regular basis.

The following is one of my favourite photos. I recall it had been raining constantly the whole day. As soon as there was a bit of sun we left the house to take the dog for a walk. It was a stunning afternoon as the sun pushed its way through the receeding clouds.

Most of all we will miss the friends we made. But never fear, the Estebrugger Market is next weekend! We are travelling north to see friends and have a fun weekend. Our guest room was well tested in the last week, so we hope to see some of them down south for some Apfel Wine and Grune Soße - the local specialities.