Tag Archives: Germans in California

Xmas Baking Recipe: Peanut Butter Blossoms à la Anne-Kathrin

 

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Peanut Butter Blossoms

Growing up, baking cookies for Christmas was an established tradition by my grandmother and me. We used to bake a specific kind of sugar cookies and then decorate them with fun stuff like edible glitter and chocolate lentils. When I was older, the tradition continued with friends. During the month of December, a couple of my girlfriends and I would meet at one of our homes and bake the afternoon away, making about 3-4 batches of our favorite cookies.

Nowadays, I am still an avid cookie eater during the Holidays, but I have been researching some healthier options.  I still love to indulge and don’t believe in depriving myself of anything I like, but I do prefer to have a healthier alternative here and there. So today I’d like to share a recipe that I discovered from Tone It Up, a fitness community for women who I have been a part of for several years now.

The recipe doesn’t require many ingredients and is quickly made, two things I am a big advocate for as I personally don’t enjoy standing in the kitchen for hours and hours.

Happy Baking!

LIST OF INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Unsweetened Creamy Peanut Butter

2 Scoops Vanilla Protein

¼ Cup Egg Whites

1 Tea Spoon Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt

18 Chocolate Kisses

Coconut Oil Spray

 PROCEDURE:

STEP #1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

STEP #2: Combine all ingredients, except the chocolate kisses, in a large bowl and stir.

STEP #3: Form one tablespoon sized balls and put them on a cookie sheet greased with coconut oil.

STEP #4: Bake the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes. Once you removed the cookies from the oven and let them cool for a couple minutes, press one chocolate kiss onto each cookie.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Image: Anne-Kathrin Schulte

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes about her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany, she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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#VegasStrong

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#VEGASSTRONG

I have been to Las Vegas countless times.  My first time was when I was 15 during a three week road trip with my family. I will never forget how I was asked to leave the bar my parents were having a drink at because I was under 21. I started crying because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to sit down, and so my first initial impression about Vegas wasn’t the most welcoming in my eyes.

But then I learned about the “casino for kids” at the Treasure Island hotel. From that moment on I would spent the majority of my time over there while the adults had their fun at the “real” casino, and I made amends with Vegas.

The next time I came to Sin City was when I was over 21 and able to join in all what the adult fun had to offer.  I have been to the major clubs, have danced to the music of incredible DJs playing on stage, and had the occasional “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” experience.  But this last time was very different from any other trip I took out there.

In my last post, I wrote about my friends coming to visit from Germany, who I met up with in San Francisco. When we were planning this trip way back in the beginning of 2017, we decided to fly down to Vegas for a couple of days, since my one friend had never been.  We had planned to leave on Thursday, October 7.  Even in our wildest dreams, none of us could have ever imagined what happened only five days before our trip to Las Vegas.

On Sunday, October 1st, the deadliest shooting massacre in modern U.S. history happened, where more than 50 people lost their lives.  I had watched the reports on TV news; I had seen the videos on social media, where you could hear the horrific gunshots the shooter fired on those innocent concert goers; I had read the stories about the victims. But nothing can prepare you for what you are going to see when you are at the actual place.

The first night of our arrival in San Francisco, we talked about what happened. We weren’t scared of going, but we were clearly in shock and unable to grasp such an event. Would it still be ok to visit a club and dance the night away? Would it be fine to have a couple drinks, celebrating our reunion after not seeing each other for two years? Would it be disrespectful to have fun at a place where such a tragedy took place only a few days before our arrival?

The morning of our flight to Las Vegas, I wasn’t able to function well; partly because I didn’t sleep the night before and we had a very early flight, and partly because I was nervous about what to expect.  The moment the plane touched down in Vegas, we could witness the aftermath of the tragedy: we spotted the broken windows of the hotel room. It felt surreal to actually see a crime scene in real life rather than on TV.

The view of the broken windows followed us along all the way from the airport to the hotel. The sight definitely impacted our moods, but we still wanted to make the best out of our time being in Las Vegas. Since our room wasn’t ready at the time we arrived, we decided on walking along the strip for a bit to find a breakfast place.

It was a nice warm day out, but the bulletins we saw along the strip made me chill.  Where tourists were usually being bombarded with bright light advertisements, people could read messages like “We’ve been there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now.”

We walked past a restaurant that had a poster displayed in its window, mentioning that all first responders who were present at the time of the tragedy trying to help would receive a free meal.  Plastered along the streets was the hash tag #VegasStrong. Thank God for sunglasses in moments like this, because I was about to start crying whenever we passed one of those billboards or placards.

I can’t really describe the feelings that went through me during those three days.  My friends and I still enjoyed the warm weather and what the city has to offer, but it did make me feel guilty.  One night, we watched the amazing water show in front of the Bellagio hotel. A few steps further down from where we stood, people had built a memorial with candles, signs and flowers. All three of us grew quiet when we passed by it.

While we were reading the messages, a couple feet further down, two women dressed up as showgirls were trying to get tourists to take pictures with them. That is Vegas for you: no matter if during the good or the bad times, the city is still trying to give you what you came for: an escape out of everyday life.

We didn’t end up going to any clubs or shows this time rather than just relaxing by the pool, indulging in some good food, and exploring the city. At the end of our three day trip, Las Vegas bid farewell to us with the same scene it welcomed us: the view of the broken hotel windows.

It is really hard to grasp such a tragedy and witnessing the aftermath first hand. But it is also beautiful to see how a city stands strong and brings strangers together during hard times like this. #VegasStrong

Images: pixabay.com

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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If You Are Going to San Francisco…

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IF YOU ARE GOING TO SAN FRANCISCO…

The famous 1967 song from Scott McKenzie always gets me in a reminiscent mood.  I start thinking about my time as an Au Pair, when I was living so close to one of the most fascinating cities in the world.  But at the beginning of October, I didn’t have to reminisce no more. I was actually going to San Francisco to meet two of my longtime friends from Germany.

I haven’t seen them for two years, and I sadly missed out on their big wedding this summer. Luckily for me, they decided to spend their honeymoon in the states and invited me to tag along.  I didn’t have to think twice to announce that I would be on board and counted the days till October finally came along.

For our stay we had rented an apartment in the Russian Hill area, which was walking distance to the piers. From our living room window we could see the Alcatraz Island, which was extremely spooky at night with the fog and the prison building lights shining through the clouds.  Just thinking of it now really makes me miss this place and the city. Except the steep hill we had to walk up every day to get home.

On our first night together, we walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf to grab dinner at Nick’s Lighthouse.  A great spot for seafood lovers with some decent vegetarian offers and a cozy atmosphere, we celebrated the first night of our reunion. After some good food, we worked off all the calories from dinner by climbing our way up the steep hills towards home. This was definitely a great alternative instead of hitting the gym.

The next morning, our culinary excursion took us to the Buena Vista Café right down the street.  I have been to this place many times, and since it was only a two minute walk from our apartment, it was a no-brainer to have our first breakfast at this location. The Buena Vista Café is well-known for its Irish coffee. I have to confess that I have never tried it and am not intending to, but it is sure interesting to watch the baristas fixing it for thirsty customers.

For me, the best part (besides the really yum food options), is the view onto the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. I could stare all day at this beautiful piece of construction, wondering how it is able to hold tons of cars and people crossing it each and every day.  The cafe is located right across one of the cable car starting points, in case you’d like to catch a ride right after.

If you do consider visiting the Buena Vista Café, I have one tip: If you can, avoid going on a weekend.  There is no “Waiting to be seated” agenda, and the restaurant gets VERY busy. People literally wait till one spot opens up and then rush over to claim it theirs. It doesn’t matter who sets foot in the restaurant first. Weekdays are much less crowded and strenuous to your nerves.  Trust me, I have tried both weekend and weekday and I would never consider visiting this place on a Saturday or Sunday again.

For the remainder of the day, we checked off a couple of mostly touristy activities on our list.  We visited the seals by pier 39, wandered around the area, and then headed over to Powell Street for some shopping, followed by then devouring the cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory at Union Square.

To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of the tourist spots in San Francisco.  Of course, you have to visit them if you have never been before, but I personally prefer the less-overcrowded-by-foreigners areas, such as the Haight and Ashbury district with all its funky and unique stores.

One of the days, we decided to visit the Golden Gate Park and see what it had to offer. We took a stroll around the Japanese Tea Garden (cost: $9 per person for non-residents) and relaxed in the Zen atmosphere.  We totally forgot for a moment that we were residing in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the U.S. and rather focused on the beautiful trees, plants, and ponds.

Afterwards, we decided to walk the more than three miles towards the end of the park, where two giant windmills were located.  We did feel like being in the Netherlands for a second until we crossed the street and found ourselves at Ocean Beach.  Unfortunately, the fog had taken over and so we didn’t witness a breathtaking ocean view.  That is another thing I am sure many of you know: the weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable.

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Another spot we discovered during our time was Za Pizza, a very small pizza joint located in our neighborhood.  The pizza is amazing, and the restaurant is located in the midst of residential complexes.  No tourists, no noise, no overcrowded streets.  This was what I was looking to find during our trip: A hole-in-the-wall kind of ambiance that turned out to be a total gem. We went two times while being in town, and I miss this place dearly being back in Southern California.

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Throughout our stay in the city, we mainly traveled around by bus.  It was really easy and cheap to go from point A to Z by public transportation. And, as weird as this might sound, it made me feel being more one of the locals than a tourist. We also happened to be there when it was Fleet Week. We got to witness the streets being crowded with sailors and watched the incredible air show, the highlight being a performance by the amazing Blue Angels.

The only real downside during our vacation was the bad air quality we experienced during the second week in the city. Due to the heavy fires in Sonoma County, smog was laying all over town.  It started on Monday night when we acknowledged a smokey smell in our apartment. We first thought it must have come from a barbecue, but the smell got stronger by the minute.

It was when we turned on the news that we got informed about the cause of it: the outbreak of the horrendous fires up in Napa Valley and the surrounding areas. The next morning, when we pulled up the blinds on our windows, a big cloud of smoke was hanging over Alcatraz. It consisted of the remainder of our trip. Even at the airport, the air quality was so bad that some flights experienced delays.

We made sure to still make the best of our time despite the impact of the fires. We visited China Town and took a tour through Madame Tussauds. Spending time in this city never gets old, and I am already looking forward to my next trip. Until then I will keep listening to Scott McKenzie’s tunes.

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Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Halloween Horror Nights

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HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS

One of my favorite times of the year is finally back among us: Halloween. I love walking around my neighborhood looking at houses fully decked out with Halloween decorations. This year on the actual Halloween day I am going to do something I have never done before: passing out candy.  I am sorry if I gave you the intention that I would be doing something spectacular, but it is a first for me since I am usually the one who is out and about on this day.

One event I never miss during this time is the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Hollywood.  This year marked my third year in a row that I went, and I love this event more every time I go.  One of my best friends laughed at me when I told him this since he remembers me all to well back in the day,  when I was too scared to even step foot into a haunted house.  Boy, times definitely have changed.

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The Horror Nights in Hollywood started twenty years ago and have become an established event. Each year, for about a month and a half, Universal Studios gives residence to various spooky characters from famous horror movies.  This attraction is definitely not for the faint-hearted, as the monsters walk freely around the park, trying to scare the masses of people.  The event also hosts several mazes, with each of them dedicated to specific horror films.

This year, the park hosts seven mazes in total with the following themes: Saw, The Shining, Ash vs. Evil Dead, American Horror Story, Insidious, The Horrors of Blumhouse, and Titans of Terror. In addition, visitors can ride on the Terror Tram, or take part in the Walking Dead attraction, which the park hosts year round.  Several rides are also open during the Halloween Horror Nights, including the Transformers ride, which is an amazing 4D experience you don’t want to miss.

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(Part of the outside of the Saw maze)

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(Outside of the Ash vs. Evil Dead maze)

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(Part of The Walking Dead Attraction)

I personally got very excited when I heard about the Saw maze. I really can’t watch such graphic movies anymore without having to puke and facing terrible nightmares the following night.  For some reason though, the mazes don’t freak me out as much. I am mostly amazed at how detail oriented and lifelike Universal builds them every single year.  You really do feel like you are at the scene of the particular movie.

The Saw maze was pretty good, but not my favorite one this year.  I have to admit that I had never heard of Ash vs. Evil Dead before, but the attraction was amazing! It was pretty scary, and I jumped and screamed several times when the horrific characters came out of nowhere.  Bless my sweet friends who bore with me while I was jumping all over the place out of fear. Especially my one friend hasn’t had it easy the past two years she attended the event with me.

Last year, I accidentally hit her in the nose with my elbow when I jumped backwards after being scared by an American Horror Story character.  We were already exhausted from having to wait more than two hours to get into this attraction, and then I had to top it off by actually hurting her.  I felt horrible, to say the least.  But you’d think I would have been better at getting it together this year.  Nah, I am embarrassed to say so, but unfortunately, you are wrong.

We had agreed that this year, I would be the one walking behind my girlfriends, so I wouldn’t be able to hit anyone of them with my elbow by accident.  Well, I was successful at not hitting my friends.  But unfortunately, I still wasn’t able to control my body.  When we bravely made our way through the Titans of Terror maze, one of the spooky characters came at me out of the dark. I started screaming and jumped forward, my arms circling in the air and getting a hold of my friend’s net sweater she was wearing and pulling it down.

She first thought that one of the characters had touched her, which is actually not allowed due to one of the park’s regulations.  She turned around and looked into my apologetic face, realizing that it was me yet again who hurt her.  Gosh, I really can’t control my body when I am freaked out.  From that point out, I was holding my hands whenever we walked through a maze and made sure to keep a distance.  I really can’t say if she would go a third time with me to the Horror Nights.

All in all, it was a night full of fun, my friend forgave me, and I am already looking forward to next year’s event.  If you would like to check it out yourself this year or at some point in the future, I have some tips that might be helpful:

  • Try to go early. The wait for mazes can go up to more than two hours during peak times.  Universal offers early entry at 5p.m.  My friends and I went at 5:30p.m. the first weekend the event was open in mid September, and the longest we had to wait one time was 55 minutes.  Other than that, we never waited longer than 30 minutes.
  • If you can, go ahead and purchase a front of the line pass. This gives you mostly instant access to the attractions without having to wait in the main lines.
  • Don’t bring any liquids when you go. Universal Studios Hollywood has a security checkpoint, and they will make you throw out any liquid items you posses. One year, I had to throw out my body mist spray because it wasn’t allowed.
  • Check the wait times for attractions online on the Halloween Horror Nights side. That way, you are always up to date and can see which mazes might have shorter waiting times than others.

I hope you all are going to have a spooky Halloween, no matter how you celebrate!

Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte, pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Cake Disaster Part Three

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CAKE DISASTER PART THREE

When I first decided to share my cake disaster, I didn’t intend to make a three part series out of it.  But when I started writing down this disastrous memory (I know I am a tad bit overly dramatic here), I realized that it would turn into a novel if I wouldn’t break it up.

Since my attention span doesn’t last too long and I personally get discouraged reading an article that is more than about half a page, I figured it would be best to split this story up (oh how I wish this really was just a fictional event and not a real-life experience.)  But anyways, let’s continue where I left of last time.

Luckily, my boss was very understanding of the situation and tried to calm my crying self down.  After all, I still had to go face the wedding planner and her entourage, trying to deliver a broken cake to them.  In that moment, I wish I was still a little kid whom it would be easily forgiven if it would have dropped a cake (maybe not a wedding cake, point taken, but who would give a wedding cake into a child’s hand anyways.)

I still had some driving time ahead of me before arriving at the venue, and I kept telling myself that somehow, the wedding staff would be empathetic and able to fix the cake.  Eventually, my tears had dried and I turned onto the windy road up to the Malibu Mountains.

The scenery was really beautiful: deserted windy roads, surrounded by meadows, the mountains, and wineries.  It took me a little to figure out the way to the venue, which made me arrive even later.  But that was the least problem I encountered that day.

Once I had securely parked my car I somehow managed to step out, still trying to convince myself that “everything would be fine.”  I carried the cake over to a table close by, where I then called the wedding planner.  She soon came walking over to me and spotted the disaster.  I explained the situation to her, hoping for the best.

It was no surprise that she wasn’t too thrilled about the situation.  She asked me in all seriousness if I could “just drive back, get the cake fixed, and bring it back.” I am sorry, lady, but it took me almost three hours to get there, and the cake would obviously not make it back in time.

So that option was crossed out quickly. I then suggested to her that maybe the florist would be able to do something about it.  The wedding planner was ok with that and directed me and the cake towards the main venue.

Unfortunately, it was very windy on this given day.  I had to walk really careful and slow, but I still felt the cake moving a tiny bit from the gust whirling around us.  I did manage to carry the cake over to the florist with no further incidents (thanks God.)

She inspected it and was not too happy about what she saw, but she wanted to give it a shot and sent me up to a small cottage with a kitchen where the cake was supposed to be stowed.

Again, I fought the gusty winds, balancing the cake on my hands.  Once I had reached the cottage and put the cake on a table, I let out a sigh of relief.  Relief that I didn’t drop it again, and relief that I was about to get out of this uncomfortable situation failry soon.

While waiting for the florist to make her way up, I looked around the room.  I saw wooden signs with the name of the bride and groom.  I felt horrible just imagining if it was my special day and I had to hear the news of a broken cake. I was quickly ripped away from that thought when the florist entered the room.

She kneeled in front of the cake, inspecting it while she bombarded me with questions and comments: “Why did you not bring cake tools?” “Aren’t you a baker?” “THIS is the cake they wanted? Looks so simple, you can barely see the colors,” and so on and so on.  I patiently and uncomfortably answered her everything, stating that I am just a coordinator and neither a delivery person or baker.  She eventually set me free by saying that she got this and that I could leave.

I wanted to scream my relief out, but instead I just walked quietly and fast down the meadow towards my car, jumped in it and drove off.  I called my boss and gave her the rundown of what just happened at the venue.  We both put it down as a learning experience and moved on from it.  I couldn’t wait to be back in Orange County, join my friends for my girlfriend’s birthday and get a drink in my hand.

The whole trip took me seven hours.  Seven hours!  That was a clear turning point for me.  From that moment on I did not fulfill any more deliveries.  And, to be honest, I think my boss liked it that way, too.

Images: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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