Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids – Part 2

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!

You’re about to dive into Part 2 of my one-day adventure in Dresden with three boys and no husband. I last left you in a park bench on the south side of the Elbe with some questionable characters for lunch mates. To read Part 1, click here.

Dipping into Dresden Neustadt

With bellies finally satiated, we traipsed across the Elbe to Dresden Neustadt, following Albertstr. until we reached a Platz of the same name. It’s not every day you get to stroll across a bridge that survived while nearly every other place in the city was bombed out. But of course, the little people in my party were oblivious to this historical fact. Instead, my boys just enjoyed the fountains at Albertplatz and admired the statues encased in falling water.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!

We like fountains, yes we do! We like fountains, how ’bout you?

All that rushing water made a certain little somebody have to go to the bathroom right.this.minute. You might not know this about me, but one of my biggest sources of travel stress flows from the difficulty of finding bathrooms in foreign countries. Most of the places I’ve visited do not have shiny porcelain loos in every store, restaurant, or train station like in America. Potties are often impossible to find, ridiculously expensive,  gag-me-disgusting… often all three.

I frantically looked around for any feasible WC possibilities while the little guy insisted that no, of course he could not wait (silly Mama!). The only option in sight – an automatic toilet.

I’ve used these contraptions in Berlin and Paris, and they’re a force to be reckoned with. It’s bad enough to have to wade through that mystery muck on the floor and ignore the thoughts of who might have been there before you.. but when strobe lights come on and the latest club hits come streaming through the speakers (yes, this really happened to me in Berlin)… Just no.

Plus, trust me, you do NOT want to get stuck in there. Apparently, these stalls are locked after every visit and completely cleaned and sanitized with water jets and streams of chemicals. Could you imagine…?!

But hey, when one of your posse has to go, he HAS TO go. So, one euro and five frightful minutes later, we emerged only slightly traumatized and decided we’d had enough of Dresden Neustadt.

We turned around and headed back toward the Elbe in search of gelato to soothe our shaken psyches. We found the creamy goodness near Augustusbrücke, and gazed at the row of masterpieces stacked against the horizon on the south side of the river… just waiting there for us to explore the moment the ice cream melted.

South Side

It was the Katholische Hofkirche that greeted us first. Old and darkened yet still fiercely beautiful, she must be regarded before reaching the more lovely and famous Semperoper. Read up on the opera’s history here.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!I loved the opera house – magnificent, imposing. My boys, on the other hand, just wanted to climb the gigantic statue of King Johann on horseback opposite the entrance. Boys.

Last, we stumbled upon the Zwinger, only a stone’s throw from the opera house. Gigantic and gorgeous, the Zwinger just might tie with the Frauenkirche for my favorite place in Dresden. The fountains, the deep turquoise rust, the sheer size, all highlights in my memory. I savored the atmosphere in the courtyard – crisp air, the melody of rushing water, and peace despite the crowds.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!

A Serendipitous Find

Our day in Dresden was drawing to a close, a fact I met with relief thanks to my exhaustion of toting a little man on my back and melancholy because of the beauty we would leave behind.

The boys and I retraced our steps to Prager Str. on the way to the train station when I noticed we actually had a bit of time to spare. How did THAT happen?! On a whim, I yanked them into an outdoor, REI-type store.

To our utter delight, we discovered a climbing wall (free!) with loaner shoes (also free!) that the kids could use. They gobbled up the last minutes in Dresden scrambling up and down, up and down, until the clock decided they could climb no more.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!


When we could not spare even one minute more, we raced hand in hand toward the station and found our train. As we stepped aboard, I finally exhaled. I had done it – solo! And I did not hate myself or my small-ish companions! Small miracles, right?

Alone, I had managed to explore a completely new city with three little boys and without any help. We four shared a lovely day, and I will never forget experiencing the Jewel Box that is Dresden with my sons. Though I don’t wish to travel without Doc Sci, my husband and best friend, at least I know that I can do it should the need or urge arise.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: One Day in Dresden with Kids!Places I would like to have visited with the luxury of more time:

  • The Fresh Tea Shop. Actually, we did go here (see photo above). The tea I ordered was fresh (yes, really) and so incredibly refreshing. I took the cup back with me to Leipzig and kept filling it up with water because the mint and fruit were so flavorful.
  • Pfunds Molkerei. This quirky place seemed right up my alley. The most beautiful dairy shop in the world, a milk bar where one can taste varieties of milk, cheeses paired with German wines and specialties like milk jam.
  • Dresdener Parkeisenbahn. A steam train for kids, run by kids. Awesome, right?!
  • Paddle Steamboat Ride on the Elbe. My kids love exploring cities from the water, and the Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt operates the largest and oldest fleet of historic paddle steamers in the world.
  • Playgrounds! Check out this link for a map with recommended places to let the kiddos burn some energy.
  • Dresden Children’s Museum. This for-kids-only area is part of the Dresden Hygiene Museum. How very German!

Now that you’ve seen the highlights, what would you want to explore first in Dresden? Do you have a scary potty story to share? Come on, don’t be shy!

Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

American Marvel: First Thoughts on Reentry

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expats Move Home: A Series of Posts our Family's Repatriation ExperienceI wrote my first draft of this post on October 31, 2014. It’s… raw.

That post where I marvel at America and all the ways she has changed since we left, the one where I try desperately not to nit pick, and the one where I take an honest look in the mirror — it’s here.

After brief jaunts in Leipzig and Istanbul, we touched down at Dulles on the very day that US passport control rolled out a more meticulous ebola screening program. Nothing like waiting forty-five minutes with squirmy boys for your first, “welcome back.”

Well, okay, waiting is something we became accustomed to in Germany. But customer service? THAT was our first clue that we certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore.

At the rental car counter later that evening, I felt like an accidental tourist at La Tomatina. The agent’s words were flung at me in rapid fire sequence.


And it really was just like that – her speech was all caps and her personality all pep. I could only blink, mouth agape. I flinched at every line. Her volume and intensity were just a bit much for me to handle straight out of the gate. I had become so accustomed to the quiet.

When our rental car rolled up, my jaw dropped even further. They must have confused our reservation. Surely, this double-decker bus was not in the minivan category. I must have scored some kind of free upgrade. The car we drove in Germany was a “van.” THIS, this was something for transporting elephants, rhinos, prehistoric mammals, cargo.

What would we do with all that extra space?! Even with our five carry-ons, five backpacks, and two checked bags, we still could still do “airplane arms” without smacking each other in the face.

All of this, and we hadn’t even left the airport.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expats Move Home: Notes on Reverse Culture Shock

We’re like ducks out of water, electric hair and wide eyes.

The past weeks have been like this for us. Everything strange, different, absolutely gigantic. My goodness, I can’t even touch the back of the clothes dryer without crawling in there myself.

The houses, the cars, the ovens, the burgers, the boxes of breakfast cereal, the shopping centers.. they’re all incredibly super-sized. I’m thoroughly convinced that the entire downtown shopping district of Freiburg would fit within the confines of one Super Walmart.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Reverse Culture Shock: First Thoughts on Reentry

This bag of Nearly Naked popcorn is nearly the size of my five year-old!

And the people… Oh, America, you make me sad. We are so sick, so unhealthy, so shockingly overweight. We are such a wealthy country and yet the bodies around me scream that even with all our excess, we are still looking for happiness in the newest flavor of Oreos or the hottest, newly-redesigned, expensive SUV.

What a crisis we are in with obesity! When I first arrived, I wondered how could this be so?

It didn’t take long to figure it out – (1) we don’t move our bodies other than from the couch to the car and (2) there are SO many delicious things to eat here. I know I said this before, but have you SEEN the Oreo aisle?!

Honestly, we as a nation need to sober up. We ought to be ashamed at how much food we consume – and throw away! – when there are so many in our world performing unmentionable acts and deeds just to eat once per day.

Yes, there are starving people in Africa, but Americans seem to forget there are starving people right here in our own community… and they are hidden in plain sight. They’re the kids stealing from that same Oreo aisle. Don’t believe me? Add Breaking Night to your reading list. You’ll never look at a tube of Chapstick the same way again.


Thrifty Travel Mama | Reverse Culture Shock: First Thoughts on Reentry

Spotted at a grocery store in the Netherlands…

This is my third weekend in America. On the first two weekends, I took walks in different neighborhoods in different cities. If I saw anyone outside, it was a lone adult. No kids, no families, no exercise, no games, no old-fashioned fun. I had forgotten that Americans don’t go for walks or play outside the way Germans do. If we exercise, we do it at home or at a gym. Why not outside in nature? Are we afraid? Bored? Uncomfortable? Inconvenienced?

I use the words “we” and “us” because as much as this country is foreign to me now, it is my country, my home land. I used to work out in a gym, I used to drive everywhere, I never went for walks, I used to eat only packaged/prepared food.

As much as I feel like an outsider, my passport says I’m not. I know the way things work in this country, where to go if I need something, and how to ask if I don’t. I can’t comment from the sidelines anymore; I’m back in the game.

In our marveling at each re-discovery, Doc Sci and I have the best of intentions not to let our wonder devolve into negativity. I think it’s okay to walk through each emotion (shock, sadness, confusion, wonder) as long as you don’t stay there indefinitely.

Due to the fact that our family has needed to just survive the last eight months, I’ve resigned myself to striving to end the string of discouraging thoughts on a neutral note – it just is what it is. Ultimately, I hope my feelings toward this culture and repatriation can grow roots in the positive, asking myself how I can change, how I can encourage others to change.

Have you ever left the US for a while and returned to find things you once considered normal to be completely foreign? 

Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

Supermarket Souvenirs – Scotland

Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandWondering what to buy from Scottish supermarkets either for yourself or the folks back home? Shortbread is the obvious place to start. But don’t buy these butter-laden treats from the expensive tourist shops in town. Stock up at the supermarket!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandScottish stores have no shortage of shortbread (ha). Walkers is the most famous, but step out and try other brands. We even found gluten-free shortbread at Sainsbury’s.

To be clear, shortbread is not actually bread, but a cookie (er, biscuit, sorry). And to eat it properly, you need tea. Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandPerhaps you’ve heard of English Breakfast Tea. But, did you know there’s such a thing as Scottish Breakfast Tea? The Kitchn explains the difference, but you can read it for yourself right on the package. It’s especially made to be brewed with soft Scottish water. So do make a pot while you’re in country.Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandIf you’re going to go to all the trouble to make tea while on holiday, you may as well pick up some tea cakes from Tunnock’s. These little calorie bombs are a puff of marshmallow placed on a biscuit and coated in chocolate. While you’re at it, pick up a package of Tunnock’s caramel wafer biscuits. Apparently, they’re the national treat!Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandIf you’d like something that more resembles actual cake to go along with that tea, unwrap the famed Kirriemuir Gingerbread. Again not bread, this treat hails from the same town as the author and playwright J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame. Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandAnother sugary snack is what’s known as tablet. It looks like fudge, but it’s not soft. Our pal wikipedia clarifies.. “Tablet is a medium-hard, sugary confection from Scotland. Tablet is usually made from sugar, condensed milk, and butter, boiled to a soft-ball stage and allowed to crystallize. It is often flavoured with vanilla, and sometimes has nut pieces in it.” YUM!Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandIf you’re a texture eater and can’t get over the crumbly consistency of tablet, you may as well go ahead and try the fudge instead. You’ll have plenty of brands to choose from, but Mrs Tilly’s is quite famous.. and apparently gluten-free, too!Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandAre you in a sugar coma yet? Let’s take a break from the sweets and go with another traditional Scottish food, the oatcake. I saw a zillion and one brands, flavor, and texture varieties at the grocery store. These little rounds are quite the versatile meal ingredient, and they can be served at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandI’d be remiss not to mention haggis, but given my absolute abhorrence when it comes to organ-based dishes, I can’t offer any personal recommendations without wretching. (I am not an adventurous eater..)

I found these haggis chips (crisps) flavored with sheep parts for those who only want a taste without the liver-full commitment.Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandAre you sick to your stomach? No, just me? Well, a little carbonation should help. Irn-Bru is the Scottish soda to try (unless, of course, you’d rather have a Scotch & soda..). It’s bright orange with a very unique taste. I’m not sure how to describe it, but if you like Mountain Dew and all it’s variations such as Code Red, you’ll probably like Irn-Bru.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - Cheap Treats from ScotlandAnd last, but not least, this Saltire rock candy is a fun way to bring home the Scottish flag. Bonus: it tastes like Irn-Bru!

What are your favorite supermarket souvenirs from Scotland?  Anything I missed?

Headed to Edinburgh?  Check out my posts about visiting Scotland with kids!Signature-Marigold

Mishaps: Our Not-Exactly-Perfect Italian Adventure

Thrifty Travel Mama | Our Not-Exactly-Perfect Italian AdventureOkay, this is my LAST Italy post, and then I’ll shut up… promise!

When I post personal vacation pictures from our travels, I often get comments about how great it is that we travel the world.  And it is…. and, it’s not.

We are so, SO blessed to have this experience.  It’s awesome to pack up the kids and head to Italy for two weeks.  However, I just want to bring things down to earth, and share some of the utter chaos that often accompanies us when traveling as a family.

What follows is a short recap of our mishaps – the Italian edition.

Saturday… 330am

We wake the kids up in the middle of the night in order to knock out several hours of driving while they sleep.  We discover that Big Foot has a massive squidgy poo in his pants.  Annoying, but this is life with a baby, right?
Somewhere between Basel and the infamous Gotthard Tunnel, the poor thing has another blowout.  This one is even more epic and reminiscent of the early infant days, creeping its way up all over every possible surface within a six inch radius, including his car seat that conveniently does not have a washable cover…
And we wondered why he only slept about ten minutes of the first 3 hours of driving.  Huh.

Saturday… 330pm

By this time, we have been sitting in standstill traffic on the Italian highway for nearly three hours longer than expected.  We can’t exit the highway because the rest stops are clogged with other travelers escaping the eternal gridlock, and we are about to go bonkers listening to the bored boys in the backseat… screaming, crying, fighting, tired.

Saturday… 830pm

We realize that due to the morning’s unforeseen fecal fiasco, we seem to have forgotten the older boys’ stuffed animals that they sleep with every night.


Screech is playing in the yard in front of our villa, being creative with the available materials.  He pretends the gravel is chicken and stuffs it in the stone grill.  He rips the unripe pears off the tree and uses them to bomb the “bad guys.”
He then picks up a terra cotta vase that is used to decorate the yard.  As I warn him not to use the (ancient? irreplaceable? collectible?) artifact,  he promptly drops it like a hot potato and laughs as it smashes to bits.  There goes our security deposit…


In Siena, T-Rex tumbles head first down a flight of stone steps.  He lands on his face, bruising his nose and knocking three front teeth loose.  I have nothing more to say on this since I’m still *slightly* traumatized.


Doc Sci tries to hop onto the swing where I am sitting on the playground just outside Pienza, and splits the front of his one good pair of shorts wide open.  Daily photo ops are now over.
Later that evening, I am doing cartwheels with T-Rex in the front yard when I accidentally kick him square in the mouth, in the exact spot where he had injured his teeth the day before… I could not have aimed more perfectly if I’d tried.


The boys have managed to break half of the pool toys we brought along, including two brand new super squirters.  In just a few more days, they will have managed to reduce every last pool toy – literally – to pieces.


Despite our harrowing experience the previous Saturday, we decide to risk taking the highway for a short distance between Chianti and a pit stop near Pistoia.  We have not learned our lesson… and endure an unnecessary hour in standstill traffic.


I leave my brain by the pool instead of taking it with me to Firenze.  I grab the wrong paper map, fail to pre-load my “Tuscany with Kids” Google map on my phone, and forget the Frommers guidebook in the car.
We know our way to Brunelleschi’s Dome.. but after that?  No clue.  We wasted hours (hours!!) looking for a wifi spot in order to revive the map and trip notes on my phone.
I could go on, but you get the idea.  Life with kids is unpredictable and wonky in the best of circumstances; traveling with them just takes the pandemonium up a notch (or ten).
May our mishaps serve as the catalyst to bring contentment to the place you’re currently at (traveling or not) and anchor your dreams to reality (traveling with kids is only done by crazy people).
Got any good traveling-with-kids horror stories?  I’d love to hear them in the comments below!Signature-Marigold

Baby Food in Germany: The Jar Options

My neighborhood dm stocks a wide variety of jarred baby food.  Muller and Rossman are other drugstores with decent baby food departments.

My neighborhood dm stocks a wide variety of jarred baby food. Müller and Rossman are other drugstores with decent baby food departments.

Big Foot has just made it to the six month mark (yay!), and he’s decided to join his brothers in becoming a fast and ferocious eater.  The kid LOVES food.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to sleeping well at night, but that’s another topic for another day…

As with the other two boys, I’m making my own baby food.  I use the schedule and the frozen food cube method from Super Baby Food.  For the most part, it’s worked well for me and the babies.  But, I have to admit – it lacks portability when traveling.

For instance, Doc Sci and I took a road trip when T-Rex was about five months old.  I packed my food cubes in a cooler on ice for a 12 hour trip (uh, yes, we were totally nuts, and no I do not recommend a road warrior mentality when traveling with an infant).  By the time we arrived at our destination, all those neat and pretty food cubes had melted into each other, and it was impossible to tell where the avocado ended and the banana began.

Never again.

As you might know, when Screech was ten months old, we moved to Germany.  Luckily, I had a heads up about two months in advance that we might be hopping the pond, so I busted my you-know-what to make sure Screech was down with the chunkier textures and scarfing down the same stuff as his big brother and parents.

He was game to grow up a bit ahead in the baby food game, and I found that a pair of kitchen shears was all I needed to make my plate of spaghetti into Screech’s delight.

And good thing, too.  The baby food jar options in Germany are, well, um, interesting to say the least.  Now that I’m gearing up to take another road trip next month (only 7 hours this time!), I’m again venturing into the commercial baby food world to weigh my options.

Want to take a look with me?  Let’s head down to my neighborhood dm and give it a gander.

But first, a few notes to help decipher labels for those traveling to Germany or new to the country…

  • Bio = organic, and it’s pronounced B-O as in the gym locker fragrance, not Bi-oh as in biology.
  • Ohne Salz Zusatz means without added salt and Ohne Zuckerzusatz means without added sugar.
  • Hipp is usually the most expensive brand, but almost everything is organic and of good quality.
  • Nestle/Alete is usually the cheapest brand and has a rotten reputation.
  • Foods are labeled with which month they are appropriate to use (usually 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 months).  The higher the month, the chunkier the texture.
  • Just like in the US, the jars are rather expensive.  I’ve included prices in the photos below for reference.
German babies all start with the same food - carrots.  It is the only vegetable I have found that comes by itself in a jar.  Watch out though - some brands have added oil to provide omega 3.

German babies all start with the same food – carrots. It is the only vegetable I have found that comes by itself in a jar. Watch out though – some brands have added oil to provide omega 3.

All other vegetables come packaged with something else.

All other vegetables come packaged with other ingredients.  No single green beans, peas, or broccoli to be found here.

Spinach is processed with milk and cream and labeled as suitable for four month-old babies.  We have a history of food allergies in our family, so milk is completely off limits at four months.

Spinach is processed with milk and cream and labeled as suitable for four month-old babies. That might be okay for some little ones, but we have a history of food allergies in our family so milk is completely off limits at four months.

The only other green vegetable I've seen is zucchini.. but again, it's with potatoes.  Carrots and potatoes are the German baby food staples.

The only other green vegetable I’ve seen is zucchini.. but again, it’s with potatoes. Carrots and potatoes are the German baby food staples.  By the way, this stuff smells and tastes totally rank.  There’s nothing zucchini about it.

Here are some more potato-laden baby food options.

Here we go with the lineup of potato-laden baby food options.  I guess the Germans think the potatoes will make the other veggies palatable..?  But parsnips.. who eats parsnips?  I’ve never even seen them sold in grocery stores here, let alone considered them as infant fare.

There are more fruit options than vegetable ones, but often they are paired with apples.

There are more fruit options than vegetable ones, but often they are mixed up, shaken, not stirred, with applesauce.

Many fruit options also have grains included.  Spelt (Dinkel) is a very popular baby food option here.  Watch out if you have a history of wheat or gluten allergies/intolerance.

Many fruit options also have grains (Getreide) included. Spelt (Dinkel) is a very popular baby food option here. Watch out if you have a history of wheat or gluten allergies/intolerance.

And speaking of grains, Germans feed their babies Milchbrei (cereal with milk or formula).  I find it super ironic that the organic, bland, sugarless culture feeds their babies cookie and chocolate flavored infant cereal.

And speaking of grains, Germans feed their babies loads of Milchbrei (cereal with milk or formula). I find it super ironic that this organic, bland, sugarless hippie dippy culture feeds their babies cookie and chocolate flavored infant cereal.  But, they do.

If you've got a poor sleeper, or a hungry monkey, you can give a "Good Night" jar a whirl.  Apparently these mixtures are supposed to take longer to digest and therefore help the baby sleep longer.  (Unfortunately, this hasn't worked for us...)

If you’ve got a poor sleeper, or a hungry monkey, you can give one of the “Good Night” jars a whirl. Apparently these mixtures are supposed to take longer to digest and therefore help the baby sleep longer. (Unfortunately, this hasn’t worked for us…)

If you're going for pureed meat (mmmmmm, delicious), a few companies produce jars of plain chicken and plain beef.  It's quite expensive though, as you can see.

If you’re going for pureed meat (mmmmmm, delicious), a few companies are hawking jars of straight up chicken or beef. It’s quite expensive though, as you can see.

I am used to giving my babies one food at a time, waiting a few days to check for any allergic reactions, and then moving on to another single food.  I am not sure how you do this in Germany without making food on your own.  Other than the few fruits and vegetables I have pictured, the rest of the baby food jar options are "menus" or complete meals.  Here are a few of the menus for four month-old babies.

I am used to feeding my babies one food at a time, waiting a few days to check for any allergic reactions, and then moving on to another single food. I am not sure how you do this in Germany without making food on your own. Other than the few fruits and vegetables I have pictured, the rest of the baby food jar options are “menus” or complete meals. Here are a few of the menus on the market for four month-old babies.

This one baffles me... noodles (wheat), tomatoes (highly acidic), pork (hard to digest), and the long-standing staple, carrots... for a four month-old.

This one baffles me… noodles (wheat), tomatoes (majorly acidic), pork (hard to digest), and the long-standing staple, carrots… for a four month-old.  Say, what?!

Here's another good one.. Lamb?  What?

Here’s another good one.. Lamb? Well, it’s new.  Maybe it’ll be a flop.

There's a tie for the most outrageous four month-old meal.  The first contestant isn't pictured; dm was out of the salmon in cream sauce.  So, this one wins.  Who feeds their young baby veal?!

And the award for the most outrageous four month-old meal goes to… Wait, it’s a tie.  The first contestant isn’t pictured; dm was out of the salmon in cream sauce. So, this crazy concoction wins. Who feeds their young baby veal?!

As in the US, there are a few toddler TV dinners.  I'm not big into these because by the time the baby is one year old, they usually eat everything that the rest of the family eats.  But just in case you're looking for a microwave meal, there you have it.

In case you’re itchin’ to know, there are a few toddler TV dinners on the German baby food market. I’m not big into these because by the time the baby is one year old, they usually (hopefully?) eat everything that the rest of the family eats. But just in case you’re looking for a microwave meal, there you have it.

Okay, the TV dinners and these squeezy fruits aren't jars, but whatever.  I know these pouches are all the rage in the US, but they have just started catching on in Germany.  They're here, but few and far between.

Okay, the TV dinners and these squeezy fruits aren’t jars, but whatever. I know these pouches are all the rage in the US, but they have just started catching on in Germany. They’re here, but few and far between.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour of the baby food section at my neighborhood dm drug store.  Unfortunately, I’m still without a traveling baby food solution.  Maybe I could convince Big Foot to subsist on carrots and pears for a weekend?  Yeah right…

Make It Yourself: Spiced Whole Grain Donut Holes

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut holesHappy Donut Dress Up Day, also known in Germany as Fastnacht!  Okay, no one calls it Donut Dress Up Day, but really that’s what it is.

Children and adults run around in costumes and stuff their faces with fried food.  There’s a parade and a whole lotta crazy, freaky masks.  We went the first year, and that was enough for me.

I also must admit I’m not much of a donut lover.  The greasy sponge of choice here is the Berliner, a jelly-filled type dusted with powdered sugar.  I just can’t bring myself to indulge.  Squishy fillings completely creep me out.

But donut holes?  Covered in spiced up sugar?  And whole grain?  Well, I am ALL over that.  And since Germany isn’t really into the whole grain donut thing, I’ll have to whip some up myself.

Given my laughably miniscule amount of free time, I prefer to use the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day doughs whenever possible.  The recipes are simple, and there’s no kneading or other complicated professional baker type stuff.

I own both books, but my copy of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day is resting comfortably in a friend’s kitchen on the wrong side of the Atlantic.  Thankfully, I had a few notes scribbled on a random piece of paper as to how to make these delightful dough balls.

If you don’t have the book, you can find the recipe and directions for mixing up Whole Wheat Brioche dough here.

Just a heads up for those with will power issues… The recipe makes a LOT of dough.  One quarter of the recipe should yield about sixteen donut holes.  I had my two best eating machines around to make sure that none went to waste (or to my waist).  If you decide to make the whole batch of dough – consider yourself warned!

Because my boys are home from school for a few days this week, I had my kitchen-crazy five year-old help me make the donuts.  Just a little heads up if you do the same.. he did an awesome job fishing the finished donuts out of the pot.  Plopping the dough circles into the hot-enough-to-send-you-to-the-ER-if-you-get-splashed-the-wrong-way vat of oil?  Eh, not so much.

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesStart with your dry ingredients; I used whole spelt flour instead of white whole wheat.  Salt, yeast, and vital wheat gluten round out the mix.  (Vital wheat gluten can be found at health food stores or in nice care packages from your brother.)

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesYou’re also going to need some honey, melted butter (or oil), and eggs.  Whisk the wet, and mix into the dry.

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesThe result is a wet and shaggy dough that needs some alone time.  Two hours at room temperature, and then at least two hours in the fridge.  Sheesh.  What I wouldn’t give for four hours to myself!

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesMeanwhile, get some good old-fashioned white sugar out and spice it up.  The recipe in the book calls for one half cup of sugar plus 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom, and 1/4 tsp cloves.  I subbed nutmeg for the cardamom and upped the cinnamon ’cause I seem to be completely unable to follow a recipe from start to finish without changing a single thing.

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesWhen your moody dough is ready, turn it out on a flour-covered surface.  Flatten it using your hands or a rolling pin until it’s about 1/4″ thick.  Any thicker and the donuts will not cook all the way through.  Using a small circular biscuit cutter, cut out your donut holes.

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesPour a mad amount of oil in a deep stock pot.  It should be at least 3″ deep and creep about halfway up the side.  Heat it up until it reaches 360/370F.

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesCarefully drop two or three dough blobs in the hot oil.  Cook for 1-2 minutes and then flip over using a spider.  Fry for an additional minute or two, and then remove (again with the arachnid on a handle) to a paper towel-covered plate.

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesWhen cool enough to handle, roll the donut holes around in the spiced up sugar.  Pile ’em high and serve ’em hot.

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut HolesHave leftover dough?  Make this super cute Valentine’s Day bread with the rest of your brioche.  Enjoy!

Thrifty Travel Mama Spiced Whole Grain Donut Holes

Quirky Korea

Every time I visit a new place, I’m bound to notice the quirks, you know those funky things that make here different from there.  And boy, oh boy, did Korea have plenty fodder for the funnies.

Before you have a look, let me just make it known that I am in no way trying to put down or insult Korean culture.  We’re not stereotyping here; we’re just making observations.  Every people group is weird in their own way, and some of those ways are just hilarious.

SPAM! Koreans love it. Not only do they eat it, they give it as gifts. I found this multi-pack in Home Plus, the Korean version of Tesco. Up close, it looks like free toilet paper with massive Spam purchase, but the photo looks more like paper towels. Well, whatever, free gift with SPAM purchase!

Remember the ramen+convenience store love I mentioned yesterday? It's not just for school girls. Forget the lunch specials at the steak house. Just grab a bowl o' noodles at 7-11. Heat, eat, and go. Oh, and there are TVs everywhere (cars, taxis, buses, subways, elevators, mobile phones). For some reason, this one is not on. Must have TV with ramen!

If you've never seen a Korean drama (aka k-drama), you're missing out. Of course if you have seen them without subtitles, then you're REALLY missing out. We found multiple restaurants with photos such as this, noting the restaurant's involvement in a particular k-drama. This is serious advertising because Koreans LOVE their k-dramas.

Vitamin Water in Seoul? Yes! But, be careful. Korea is known for their knock-offs and you might get stuck with not-exactly Vitamin Water. Some imitation brands I saw were The Red Face (The North Face), LeadSports (LeSportSac), Orion (Oreo), as well as a plethora of very good designer fakes (Gucci, Coach, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, etc).

Korean women do not like freckles, wrinkles, and sun spots. Actually, loathe, detest, and fear might be better words. We rarely saw a woman outside without a ginormous visor and gloves (unless she was going to the office). Many had face masks underneath the visor, just in case the sun decided on a sneak attack.

I cannot for the life of me figure out what these white leg cover thingies are. I mostly saw them on girls in Myeongdong who were trying to get customers in their stores. But, I also saw them on girls in Home Plus who were stocking shelves. Protection or statement?

There's a lot to be said about Korean couple culture. But, the most hilarious thing to see are the matching outfits. His and hers for just about anything imaginable.

This dude is Haechi, or Seoul's mascot. He's supposed to welcome visitors, but I think he's rather disturbing. Though you can't quite tell from this picture, he's got fangs. These haechi figures are actually quite fierce since they're supposed to be protectors. In typical Korean fashion, the haechi has been "cute-ified" and turned into a cartoon character.

Bowing is the typical, respectful gesture in Korea. But this might be taking it a bit far. The poor woman in the picture had to bow to each car that came into the hotel parking lot at Lotte World.

No, it's not a mime in bronze paint. Yes, this woman was there long enough for Doc Sci to take several pictures of her, reading a statue's book. Too bad I don't read Korean; the text must have been mesmerizing.

I don't speak Korean, but I do speak English! Maybe I should give Fun Talk a call. One of my dream jobs is to be a professional does-this-translate-well-into-English proofreader. But, then sites like this would cease to exist.

You had me at ...

Nothing like encouraging violence in the streets.

No soap dispensers, only communal soap on a stick.

And, yet, if you need to know if a bathroom stall is occupied or not, you just check the digital display...?

Girls, break out your Buns of Steel tapes and get ready for squatty potties! Almost every public bathroom had half Western toilets and half squatty potties. But hey, at least I never had to pay for the bathroom workout experience. Score!

And, on that note, we’ll conclude our two-week re-cap of my recent trip to South Korea.  Check back next week for an exciting update to Where in the World!

Seoul: Food

What did you eat in Korea?  Did you like the food?  Did the boys like the food?  Did you survive two weeks on just rice?  What was the best thing you ate?  What’s the grossest thing you tried?

I keep getting these questions, so I guess I ought to answer them.

I honestly did not eat that much Korean food, because we stayed with our friends who cooked delicious American-style meals.

Who wants to eat kimchi when you've got this bowl of taco soup awesomeness instead?

But, I did try a few things (and saw a few things I was NOT going to try).  Here’s a rundown…

Bibimbap is a bowl of vegetables and usually minced beef mixed with rice and spicy red pepper paste.  In restaurants, it is often served with a raw egg on top.  The idea is to mix everything together, and the heat of the rice cooks the egg.  Since I tried my bibimbap on board Asiana Airlines, I luckily got out of the salmonella-risky raw egg experience.  But, I really liked the bibimbap.  For a better description of Asiana’s bibimbap meal and a photo, see here.

Ssambap is a lot of fun to eat since it feels like I’m eating an Asian taco.  I  also tried Ssambap on board Asiana.  I was served a bundle of different types of leaves (lettuce and some other funky things I’ve never tasted before), bulgogi beef, rice, and a soybean paste sauce.  You take a leaf, stuff it with rice, beef, and soybean paste.  Then you wrap it up, and shove it in your pie hole.

The right half of the photo depicts Asiana Airlines' ssambap.

Daeji Galbi are marinated pork ribs, barbecued on a grill right at the table.  We tried these on Jeju Island, and I thought the marinade was the best I have ever tasted.  If the restaurant sold it, I would have bought it.  Our hosts at the Tae Gong Gak mentioned that the marinade recipe is a family secret.  Along with the pork, we grilled marinated onions and raw garlic.  We then put the pork, onions, and garlic in a lettuce leaf along with a soybean sauce (much like ssambap above but minus the rice) and wrapped it up like a burrito.  Delish.

Cooking Korean BBQ ribs at the table in Jeju.

Gimbap is like sushi without the raw fish.  I suppose it’s possible that versions with raw fish exist, but I didn’t eat any.  My Korean friend’s mom made us a huge plate piled high with gimbap.  To assemble it, you get a sheet of dried seaweed laver (gim), layer a blanket of sticky rice (bap) that’s been mixed with a bit of vinegar and sugar, and top it with any number of fresh or pickled vegetables.  Apparently color is key so we had cooked egg, carrot, pickled radish, ham (which I found out later was probably SPAM!), and American cheese (say, what?).  It’s rolled up and sliced, just like sushi.  Call me crazy, but I brought home some gim to make up my own versions of gimbap.

Eating gimbap and other delicious things at our Korean friend's house.

Lotteria is the Korean rip-off of McDonalds.  Fancy a kimchi burger, shrimp burger, squid burger, or lady burger?  Or maybe you’re with someone and want to try the “couple pack” (Koreans are ALL about couple stuff, more on that later).  Well, follow our example and head on over to Lotteria.  We thought the couple pack was hilarious and went for it.  Unfortunately, you have to choose a “manly” burger and a “lady” burger.  I didn’t want a lady burger.  I have marathon thighs, and I want a man burger.  So, I ordered a pack of chicken tenders and gave the girly burger to T-Rex.  Verdict?  The manly burger was okay, nothing to go crazy about, but edible.  The lady burger was somethin’ strange.  I just don’t think “ketchup” and “asian” are flavors that go together.  The chicken fingers were spicy!  And the fries a bit soggy.  Guess I should’ve tried the kimchi burger, eh?

The Lotte Empire's attempt at McDonalds.

Ramen warmed us up after reaching the “top” of Halla-san.  We didn’t try it any other time (mostly because we can’t read labels in order to avoid melt-your-face-off spicy and mushroom varieties).  Koreans, however, love ramen.  They also love convenience stores.  Put ramen in convenience stores, and you get Koreans who eat it standing up in the window before hurrying off to who knows where.

School girls scarfing ramen standing up. In 7-11.

Pizza was our lunch one Sunday.  But not just any pizza.  This pizza’s dough was made with green tea and sesame seeds.  And wow, it was REALLY good.  Even the sauce and the cheese tasted right.  A few days later, we needed a fast dinner in Jeju and grabbed a cheese pizza to go at some restaurant called Mr. Pizza.  Awful.  The cheese was a bit yellowed and had a funky flavor.  It made me wish we could hit up the green dough place once more.  Not sure I can try that at home though…

A picture of the green tea dough on the pizza box. Takeout orders come complete with a ribbon for easy carrying.

Green tea ice cream was an interesting find in Myeongdong.  It was more like soft serve and swirled with vanilla.  It tasted like matcha (finely ground green tea), and most likely was made with it.  I enjoyed the flavor shock, but I don’t think I’ll be stocking the freezer with it anytime soon.

An ice cream cone almost as tall as T-Rex.

Mountain Dew was Doc Sci’s favorite surprise.  We don’t have Mountain Dew readily available in Germany, so to see it in a drink dispenser really made his day.  One can costs 800W (sometimes 600W), and Doc Sci says it tastes a bit different than in the US.  But, maybe that’s just because his taste buds haven’t had it in such a long time.  Can I just take a second now to mention that Korea is full of 7-11 stores but NO SLURPEES?!  What a load of kimchi.

Guzzling Mountain Dew at the War Memorial.

And now for things I definitely did NOT eat…

Beondegi (silkworm larvae) has to be the most disgusting snack I’ve seen live in person.  I saw these cooked and sold for human consumption while wandering around Namdemun Market.  I couldn’t even give them a second look.  It was like boiled little roach bodies waiting to jump inside your mouth.  EW.

I get nauseous even looking at this picture.

Pigs feet produced another instant gag reflex.  I didn’t even get a good look at them.  I just hate eating animals.  It’s not moral or ethical thing.  It’s a major ick factor thing.  If I think too long about what the piece of chicken on my plate went through to get there (sorry, it’s not warm fuzzy thoughts – it’s more like ew, this used to be covered in blood, skin, and feathers), I can’t eat it.  Oh, to be vegetarian!

A food stall at Namdemun Market. The pigs' feet are in here somewhere.

Octopus is a fancy dish in Korea.  In fact, you can even order a special kind that is still alive.  Apparently, there’s a risk in eating the live octopus in that it can stick to the roof of your mouth and you can choke or not be able to breathe.  Someone please tell me, what is the point?

A fish market; for some reason the octopus tank didn't make it in the photo.

The Black Market is a place I’d only previously heard about.  My friend thinks it’s possible that these items are pilfered from the military commissary or other places.  Whether or not that’s true, one thing’s for certain.. a steep markup on prices.  I didn’t have time to shop around, but I thought it was funny that Koreans bought these American goods.

Hershey's in Korea anyone?

What about you?  Have you tried Korean food?  What did you think?

Trip Report: Seoul (Part 2)

Thrifty Travel Mama - Seoul, South Korea with Kids, Part 2You know you’ve had an amazing vacation when you have to work at coming up with things you didn’t enjoy.  What a hard life a blogger has, I know.

Below you will find my Low Blows from our recent trip to Seoul, South Korea.  Disclaimer: my reasons for choosing the activities I didn’t like may be lame, ridiculous, or accidental.  Read at your own risk.

Namsan Park.  One of the “must do” things in Seoul is a trip in a cable car up Namsan Mountain to the N Seoul Tower.  And by “must do,” I mean “must do if money is no object.”  The whole she-bang costs about 35,000W per person (kids included!).  No thanks.  A post card with a view better than the one I’d actually see costs only 1,000W.

Instead of forking over the cash, we thought we’d just walk around the park.. on the side of the mountain.  What we didn’t know is that you don’t walk in the park.. you walk UP the park.  From the subway to the one path that circles the mountain’s midsection is straight up.  Not fun with a stroller after a long international flight.

And, since it wasn’t a “normal” park, we couldn’t see our way to it or through it.  We ended up having to haul Phil & Ted up and down steep stairs.  At least the air was clean and smelled like a forest rather than exhaust fumes.

Expensive N Seoul Tower in the background. Ridiculously steep hill that does not look so steep in the foreground.

Jeontong Dawon Traditional Korean Tea House.  I thought it would be swell to sip the green stuff while sitting on the floor of a traditional tea house.  Swell, and expensive.  Well, whatever, it’s vacation, right?  I got over the 7,000W per cup of tea price tag and ordered only to be told that we could not order just ONE cup of tea.  Everyone in the group had to order.

Perhaps I would have talked everyone into it if we had been super jazzed about the menu.  Perhaps if we had come by ourselves, just Doc Sci and me, no kids.  Perhaps if we were independently wealthy, traveling the world in style.  Instead, Doc Sci did a great job painstakingly examining the menu while we scarfed down turkey sandwiches at an outdoor table and then skedaddled.

Ginormous kimchi pots in front of the snotty tea house.

Seoul Nori Madang.  In Dublin, I really wanted to see some authentic Irish dancing (as in not Lord of the Dance).  Didn’t happen.  In Seoul, I really wanted to see some traditional Korean dancing.  Didn’t happen.  Granted, I wanted it to be free (but only because I would’ve been livid had my kids ruined a 50,000W per person performance – I’m not opposed to paying for art, I’m opposed to paying for art that I can’t enjoy).

So we (that’s four adults and five kids aged 6 and under) high stepped it south of the Han River to go to some outdoor theatre that supposedly had folk music and dancing every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm.  Supposedly.  Okay, we showed up at 330pm, but the only evidence that any activity was taking place at Nori Madang was a flyer for an event honoring an elderly Korean man and a lone dude setting up a solitary microphone on stage.  Not exactly what I had in mind, dancing or not.

We didn’t get to see any singing and dancing, but we did get to walk by Lotte World.

Dalki Little Farmer Cafe.  After the failed folk festival, we walked to the nearby (and I use this term, uh, loosely) Olympic Park in search of this quirky cafe I read about here.  I thought this kids cafe would be a good reward for little tired legs that had been dragged all over the city

Perhaps my kids should have played up their blue eyes, blonde hair thing a bit more and begged for some spare change.  The admission charge to this place was insanely ridiculous.  I had somehow missed the note in the above post that children must pay 10,000W just to play (about $9).

And even if I had been prepared to pay that just for the novelty factor (this cafe features some weirdo poop character – see link above), we found out upon entering that adults also had to pay 5,000W each.  That’s over $26 to walk in the door.  Food, drinks, and peace of mind extra.  Instead, we grabbed 50 cent ice cream cones from nearby Lotteria and went home to a delicious lasagna dinner.

Topgol Park.  I love parks.  With or without kids, how can you go wrong with an interesting park?  Visit Topgol Park in Insadong, and you’ll find out.  This is the only place in the world I have ever seen that has at least five times as many bathroom stalls for men as for women. And for good reason.

The women’s bathroom is the one door all the way to the right of the building.

There must be some kind of unwritten, male-only attendance rule.  Even though the park has a famous pagoda and historical significance, I got the creepy feeling that women just didn’t go there unless some kind of risky business was goin’ on.  Try to explain that to your three year-old who wants to know why he can’t stay and play.

Going to South Korea?  Read a recap of our Blue House tour and trip to Jeju Island with Kids as well as some great tips to Know Before You Go to Korea.Signature-Marigold

Where in the World Will Thrifty Travel Mama Go Next?

Fun graphic art from Studio MPLS.

I wish I was as cool as Carmen Sandiego.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to travel the world in a bright red trench coat?

Alas, I cannot be Carmen Sandiego… because Carmen Sandiego + kids would just be too darn easy to find.

And, just where will you find my not-so-secret-agent self and my crazy, loud, hilarious kids next?

South Korea!

By the time you read this, we will be jetting our way to a new continent, seven time zones away.  Have we gone totally bonkers?  Quite possibly.

Did I mention the flight there is 10 1/2 hours and the flight back is 11 1/2 hours?  Bring your eye masks and earplugs folks.  It’s about to get real.  Nutty.

This will be our biggest, zaniest, most expensive, most nerve-wracking trip to date.  And I am totally excited.

Well, about everything except the actual longer-than-the-average-work-day flight time with two under four… and the food.  I am NOT an adventurous eater by any means and I have read that such things as silk worm larvae, live octopus, calf lung, and eel await me.

You can rest assured I won’t be trying anything so ridiculous, BUT I have to admit I’m terrified of accidentally ordering something so gag-worthy because I don’t read Korean.

And the only things I can say in Korean are hello, thank you, sorry, I’m hungry, and are you crazy!?.  Maybe I should brush up on that.. “nothing alive and still moving, please.”

Hang on to your hats folks and ready yourselves for trip reports and posts featuring marvels, miracles, and mishaps from our first trip to Asia!