Friday, January 1, 2016

Stranger in a Deutschland: Reflections on our first year in Germany

Exactly one year ago today we arrived in Germany, having travelled all night. We were exhausted and not just a little bit traumatized. It was January 1st –new year, new country—and not a single grocery store was open.

My family was hungry.

We bought what we could at a gas station and we survived. Pringles and microwave pasta, if  memory serves.

We joke about it now, but at the time I was pretty sure I had made the biggest mistake in the history of the world by taking my family to a place where I couldn’t speak the language, wasn’t familiar with the culture, and didn’t know a single soul.

I’d just like to announce now –one year later—that I no longer feel that way. Actually I haven’t really felt that way for the past 11 months.  Thank goodness. Because if those feelings had remained we would’ve already been high-tailing it back to the U.S.

It’s been a year of growth and stretching in just about every aspect of our lives, for sure. And growth is hard.

Besides just the general “we miss our friends and a country where we understand the language” blues, we had some specific downers in 2015:
Boblingen - our hometown

  • Kevin breaking his foot a month after arriving here
  • Having a pretty difficult time finding a permanent house large enough for our entire family
  • Finally finding our house and making it to the highest level of selection to be on House Hunters International, only for our landlord not be willing to sign the document that would allow us to shoot the show on her property
  • Me trying to decorate our new house. You guys, the stress. UGH.
  • Kiddo #2 getting some sort of chronic cough half way through the year that he still hasn’t completely shaken.
  • Me hitting a parked car while trying to get out of the way of another car on a tiny street. Then trying to explain to the owner –while in my pajamas and robe—what happened. Oh yeah, and I didn’t speak German and she didn’t speak much English.
Then there were elements that weren’t really downers, just more difficult:

  • Finding an orthodontist for the kids
  • Learning how to work all the new appliances whose manuals are all in German
  • Learning how to order in restaurants when the menus are all in German
  • Learning how to manipulate the public transportation system when… you get the picture
But the great, was really REALLY great:

  • Meeting Benedict Cumberbatch (sans restraining order) and Lionel Ritchie in person
  • Traveling to all theses places and more: Amsterdam, Paris, Croatia, Istanbul, the Black Forest, Venice, London, Austria, Switzerland, Greece
  • All the festivals and activities here… October Fest, Pumpkin Fest, Chocolate Fest, Wine Walks, Christmas Markets. Seriously, Germans do not believe in staying inside
So as 2015 ends I look and see we’ve grown, we’ve changed, we haven’t learned as much German as we should.  There are things we’ll change for the new year, but a lot will just continue as it is. Life here can often be hard, but the hard is what makes it great.

Here’s to 2016 and the new adventures it will bring. For all of us, no matter which side of the ocean we're on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Omega Sector Shakshuka

Harlequin authors are sharing their favorite recipes this week. Head on over to Twitter with the hashtag #sweetandspicyholiday to find some great ideas and maybe fine a new author to read! My contribution is Omega Sector Shakshuka! 

Shakshuka is a Northern African/Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, and peppers, often spiced with cumin. It is a common breakfast food, but can be served as any meal.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 5-6 (but it’s so easy to make more or less)

1 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 eggs
½ medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green and/or red bell pepper, chopped
4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon paprika
Chili flakes (sprinkled for spicy flavor)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
Pinch of sugar (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Chopped parsley (optional)

Besides being totally delish, another great thing about this recipe is its flexibility. Use whatever you want/have on hand in your base: mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, jalapenos, parsley, green chilies… (I once diced potatoes and put them in)


1. Heat oil in deep, large pan on medium. Add onion and sauté until softened (3-5 minutes). Add garlic until fragrant (1-2 more minutes), then add peppers (5-7 more minutes).

2. Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir till blended. Add spices and sugar, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka

3. Once sufficiently thick, crack in the eggs one by one on top of mixture (as if you were frying them), making sure to space them out evenly. Cover the pan and allow the mixture to simmer and condense for 10-15 minutes, depending on how cooked you prefer your eggs.

4. Once the eggs are cooked, garnish with chopped parsley, and the shakshuka is ready to be served with pita or challah bread!

Derek Waterman, the hero in my December Intrigue SPECIAL FORCES SAVIOR did multiple tours in the Middle East during his time in the Army. Shakshuka would undoubtedly been something he became acquainted with there. Quick, easy, made up of whatever is on hand -- the perfect recipe for a solider who wanted to fix his own meal.

Our family of six (including four teenagers!) loves it too. Introduced to us by an Israeli neighbor, this has become a weekly staple in our house, a breakfast food we love to have for dinner!

Be sure to order your copy of SPECIAL FORCES SAVIOR -- Book 1 in the critically acclaimed Omega Sector: Critical Response series. Available Dec 15th.

Book 2 - FULLY COMMITTED is available mid-January. 

Details/excerpts/buy links  HERE.

© 2016 - All rights reserved.

"Did I misread what I saw? Was it all in my imagination?”

Lie to her. That was all he needed to do. One tiny lie, let her down easy, and avert this crisis. Moments passed. It was his tactical advantage and he knew he should take it.

But looking into her precious brown eyes, her sweet face, he couldn’t. “No. You didn’t imagine it.”

She took a step closer. He took a step back.

“Why, Derek?” Her question barely more than a whisper. “Why have you stayed away from me all this time? You’ve had to know I wanted to be with you.”

“Molly, our worlds don’t mix. I’m not the right person for you.”

“Don’t you think I should be the judge of that?”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Stanger in a Deutschland: Reflections at Six-Months

Did I mention I'm publishing SIX books in 2016, and am currently in the midst of writing them all? Thus: poor, neglected blog.

Since we've been here in Germany almost seven months, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how things are going.

Overall, I honestly can say, with Tony the Tiger-like enthusiasm: they're GRRRRRRREAT!

The travel, man, the travel. In case you live under a rock and haven't seen all my social media blasts, all this happened:
Dubrovnik, Croatia

Istanbul, Turkey

Olympia, Greece

Venice, Italy
So yeah, all those places happened since we've been here, plus: Paris, Amsterdam, London, Austria, and Switzerland. Not to mention, I saw a Shakespeare play (Merchant of Venice) performed outdoors at a real, live CASTLE one evening. It was definitely a quintessential "Hey, we live in Europe" moment.
Y'all, we live in EUROPE.
When people told us we should take advantage of travel and opportunities while we were here, we took them at their word. 

Of course, it hasn't all been easy. Kevin's job is significantly harder, or at least the learning curve has been. The hours are longer. The traffic is THE PITS. But he's surviving.

I've pretty much given up on learning German because Mark Twain had it right...

Okay, I haven't given up, but IT'S SO HARD. (Es tut mir leid. Mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut. Still, people. Still nicht sehr gut.)

Another difficulty has been the weather: it's been one of the hottest summers anyone can remember. Everyone says we'll be glad to think of this nice warm weather when winter rolls around again and it's so cold.

But right now, it's been in the upper-90s multiple days in a row. AND THERE IS NO AIR CONDITIONING. So basically this:

But except for sleeping with ice packs, the good far outweighs the bad, for sure. We continue to love the adventure, even when we can't watch America Ninja Warrior because it's not on Hulu. 

We play, we fight, we eat, we live. Sometimes it's boring, sometimes it's exciting, sometimes some old German guy is yelling at you outside your car because you accidentally blocked the bike lane while waiting for a red-light to turn. To which you just shrug. 

Basically, this place has just become home.  And what a beautiful place home is: