Sunday, January 13, 2019

Advent Markets in general

Most seasonal markets in Germany have similar items available, while others have unique things to draw the crowds. The Stuttgart market follows the schedule of most, opening up near US Thanksgiving because that is often close to the first Sunday in Advent. That means it’s not always the same weekend- could be end of November or early December, depending on the year. When we were in Dresden over Thanksgiving weekend, that was the opening of their market. 
Most markets wrap up immediately before Christmas, with just a few open the week before New Year’s Eve. Speyer is one of the only ones I’m aware of that is open the last week of December. Just about every market sells some form of lanterns and seasonal illumination. The first year, we got a white paper lantern on a base that can sit on a windowsill. Last year we got an orange star with a cord for hanging, since our new house had hooks over the living room window. This year it was time for something even more fun!
Now we are just going to have to figure out what to do with our stars in the US with a German plug power cord. I enjoyed the Stuttgart market this year with a friend from out of town, who couldn’t quite understand why I was looking for the brush vendor. You have not really been to a German market until you see a booth filled with hundreds of different kinds of brushes and brooms! Last year I couldn’t think of any brushes we needed, but of course two weeks later I started a list of brushes to get this year. You can get plastic brushes in any old store, but the range of specialty brushes at the market stand is unbelievable.
For example, I got a glass water bottle this fall, which has helped me to increase my water intake. The glass straw is super helpful, and I got the perfect cleaner at the market brush vendor. I didn’t care for the typical plastic sink brush for flower vases, and got good advice as well as a couple of choices from the brush sales person. Of course, I couldn’t find the list of brushes at home from last January, although I found it the week after the market closed. But I’m happy with my two new specialty brushes.
I didn’t take a photo of the cookie cutter vendor, or the jewelry booths, or the cute ceramic houses with candles inside. Then there’s all the food and beverages, ranging in quality from so so to outstanding! Best to bring cash, as few vendors take credit cards, even if you try to buy a few ceramic houses as gifts for others.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Chocolate Market in Tübingen! Go!!!!!

For those 99% of you who like chocolate, I cannot recommend the Tübingen Chocolate Market enough! Please note, this is not the same event as the Christmas market. If there is any chance you can go during a weekday before 3pm, you will have plenty of space to walk around the stalls and get to them without standing in line. From what I understand, evening and weekend hours are absolutely packed.
I learned a few new things at this market! The first discovery was liquid chocolate poured into an ice cream cone base and eaten with a spoon. For me, this was very rich, and I probably wouldn’t get it again, given everything else at the market, but I’m glad I tried it. It was not as thick as the “cocoa” at the Krakow (Poland) Christmas market, but it was like eating chocolate fudge sauce.Check out these chocolate tools! 
A few vendors scattered around the market sold savory items, such as personal pizzas baked right there, pulled pork sandwiches, and mole turkey tacos (with chocolate in the mole). I tried a personal pizza sans chocolate, which was very nice after a LOT of chocolate. I didn’t try the chocolate dipped marshmallow treats, but they looked great! I have never seen such a variety of flavor combinations, including fancy toppings such as tiny candied orange peels. 
Same as all the other markets, you pay a deposit on a mug for your warm beverage and either return it for a refund of the deposit or keep it to take home. There was a wonderful variety of cocoa flavors- I wish I had taken a photo of one of the signs listing a bunch of interesting choices, above and beyond the regular white cocoa, milk, and dark, etc. I tried a vegan cocoa, which is gentler on my digestive system, and it tasted wonderful. I am definitely a hot chocolate snob, so I’m thrilled that it was yummy. Almost all the stands gave out samples of chocolate pieces!
What do you get when you cross a brownie with a cookie? Why, a “brookie”, of course! Mmmmm, how about a peanut butter brookie? Yes, please! There were all kinds of Italian cookies and cannolis, hundreds of different kinds of chocolate bars, and beautifully wrapped gift boxes of chocolates. I got some “spoons” for future cocoa fixings, in a variety of flavors.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

No wreaths here = swags!

We didn’t need a live tree or wreaths on the door where we used to live in Germany because we were working full time and usually on the road at the end of December. We always had a wreath with candles for the table, that that was enough.

When we got to Stuttgart last year on December 19th, we didn’t bother getting a tree, and I couldn’t find any wreaths for our doors. This year I thought about getting a tree but decided that greenery in the house would suffice instead of a tree. I searched high and low for wreaths, seeing plenty of table-top wreaths with candles, when FINALLY today there were wreaths!!! But wait, they were tiny- the size of my hand. Um, why? 
Everywhere sells greenery, so I scrounged up some creative courage and made swags! The boughs to make 4 large swags cost about the same as 3 teeny tiny wreaths, and I’m pleased with the fragrant results.
HRH, aka my assistant, served in a supervisory role while I set out the branches and US wreath holders. I got one bundle of pine boughs, a bundle of what looks like spruce, and two small bundles of mixed greens. Each swag had a little bit of this and that, and were topped by US red bows that survived the transatlantic move!
The house smells nice and looks festive.