November 19, 2017

Cologne chocolate factory

If you haven't been to the Cologne chocolate factory, don't waist any more time.  It took us 4 years to go and I'm so glad we did.  It was great and if you have someone visiting you, then definitely put this on your sightseeing list.

When driving there, you can't miss it!
However parking is not the easiest.  For info on parking, click here.
When you enter, they have a coat check, bathrooms, gift shop and restaurant.  There is a foyer area and all these things are accessible from the foyer as well as purchasing tickets.

The restaurant has LOTS of sweets, and a few salads.  Other than that, don't expect any large meals or anything that is not really chocolate pastas, fries, or schnitzel here.

It is however, dazzling with it's chocolate pastries and gourmet hot chocolates and coffees, etc.
Once you buy your ticket and go inside, this place goes on for what seems like forever!  We were shocked!!!  Even my kids had a great time.  It was so interactive. 

You could make your own chocolate, find out how chocolate is made, the history of chocolate, see the molds that special chocolate pieces are made from, etc.

The options were unlimited!  It was a lot more fun for the entire family than I expected.  My kiddos weren't bored and they loved watching all the machinery make the chocolate.

The factory had little kiosk where you could create your own chocolate,
such as adding blueberries and almonds to a dark chocolate bar. 
You submit your order and depending on the line,
you could have your own personalized chocolate bar in about 30 minutes.

There were samples everywhere too.  It was so much fun!

The gift shop had so much to choose from:  cupcakes, coffees,
liquor, candy, molds, gift baskets, stuffed animals, etc.
The gift shop is accessible at the entrance of the chocolate museum, so visitors do not have to go through the entire museum in order to access it.  If you just want to go to the factory restaurant to eat some chocolatey desserts and buy some goodies at the gift shop, that is possible without having to go through the museum at all.

Christmas season: Opening hours

The museum is open on the following days:

On 26 December 2017 (2nd Christmas holiday) from 11.00 to 19.00 hours
On 31 December 2017 (New Year's Eve) from 10:00 to 17:00 hrs
On 1 January 2018 (New Year) from 11:00 to 19:00 hrs
The museum will be closed on 24 and 25 December 2017!


Address:  Schokoladenmuseum Köln
Am Schokoladenmuseum 1a
50678 Köln
Prices:  Children under 6 years old are FREE
11,50 euro for adults
7,50 for children over 6

Hours of operations:
Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Note: Closed on Mondays 6/13/20 and 27 November 2017
Saturday, Sunday, bank holidays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In November 2017 and from 8 January 2018 until the beginning of the NRW Easter holidays closed on Mondays!

November 12, 2017

Dinosaur Park

If you are looking for something to do on a Sunday in Germany, this Dinopark is the perfect place to visit.  It's great for kids AND adults.  We all had a great time and even though it poured down rain at the beginning of the day, we still ended up enjoying the scenery and had lots of fun discovering all types of dinosaurs and bones.
When you first enter the park, there are well kept (free) public restrooms.  There is also a shop and ticket building where you purchase your entrance tickets.  You must go through this building in order to enter into the park.
The gift store had goodies from small to large. 
You could purchase toys, t-shirts, binoculars, stones,
stuffed animals and rain gear.
Once you purchase your tickets you can also download a free app that will tell you about the park as you walk along the paths.  It will have an English option and you can listen to facts about each dinosaur and their era.
On the day that we went, there was a rain storm at the start of our day.  Lucky for us, the park had a great covered eating area and a little snack bar, where we purchased some brauts and fries and hunkered down for the storm to lighten up. 

Eating tent to stay out of the elements
There is also some fun things for your kids to keep busy with in this area as well, including an area to uncover dinosaur bones. 

There are also bathrooms in this area, which are free as well.

After eating, the rain let up and we were on our way.  We had a map, provided at the ticket counter for free, which we took with us so we could see where all the paths went.  Dogs are allowed and everyone just seemed to enjoy walking around and exploring.

You were able to touch all the dinosaurs that were reachable and in some areas even climb on them.

Towards the end of the park, there is an open play area and playground.

But, what was unexpected was the kids activities that were available.  You could chose from discovering fossils in rocks, to mining activities and discovering copper and silver, to painting your own model dinosaurs. 

All of this was for a small price and there were LOTS of options.
Along the way, there were small placards that told of the dinosaurs and some info about them.  They were in Dutch and English.

At the end of the park, there was a caveman exhibit that had mammoths and other displays.

This was great little family trip.  It's close to the base and will offer 3-6 hours of fun for the entire family.

***The 2018 season starts on March 24th and ends on November 4th. ***
The park is open daily-also on Sundays and public holidays from 10:00 to 18:00 hours
Distance from Spangdahlem AB front gate:  32 minutes
Address:  Dinosaurierpark Teufelsschlucht
Ferschweilerstr. 50
54668 Ernzen
Tel (0)652593393-44
Ticket Prices:  8,50 euro for children 4-12
10,50 Euro for above 13

June 25, 2017

Italian Gnocchi

Every Christmas we have single Airmen over for dinner.  Being overseas, your coworkers and friends quickly become your family.  We love this tradition and every Christmas we have a 'Theme' dinner.  We always have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, so for Christmas we like to change it up a little.  We've had 'Felize Navidad', 'Italian Feast', and 'Comfort Food' themes.
We've had an 'Italian Feast' Christmas dinner twice out of the four years we've been stationed in Germany, due to high demand:)  People loved it and it's super easy...Pasta feeds a large number of people easily.  Being married to a 1/2 Italian, means I was blessed with being able to reach out to his great aunt for recipes on famous sauce, meatballs, and cannoli secrets.  But, I'm going to share with you my own Gnocchi recipe.  I served this our first 'Italian Feast' and it was gone by the first round of the buffet line.  So, I made plenty of it the second time I served it. 
Here is what you'll need:
One bag of Gnocchi
Italian sausage links
One bag of Spinach
2-4 Garlic cloves, minced (more or less depending on your taste)
1 Can of Italian stewed diced tomatoes
Shredded Parmesan cheese
*If you are feeding a large party, then I would definitely double the ingredients.  This amount will serve 6-8 people.

1)  Boil water in a medium pot
2)  While you wait for the water to boil, cook the Italian sausages according to the package directions (I brown the sausages on all sides in a pan on the stove top, then I add some water and cover the pan to finish cooking them through).
3)  Mince 2 cloves of garlic and sauté the garlic in a pan with extra virgin olive oil (be careful not to overcook.  Garlic burns quickly).
4)  After the garlic is slightly browned, it's time to add the spinach.  I toss an entire bag of spinach  in the pan with the extra virgin olive oil and the garlic.

5)  At this point your water should be boiling.  Add the gnocchi to the boiling water.  Stir.  The gnocchi does not take long to cook.  Keep the water at a roiling boil with the gnocchi in it.  Once the gnocchi starts to float to the top of the pot, that indicates they are done cooking.

See the gnocchi floating=done
6)  When the gnocchi is done, drain it (just like you would do pasta noodles).
7) Assemble: 
Put the gnocchi in a large mixing bowl, add the sautéed spinach/garlic
Add the Italian sausage that you've sliced up once finished cooking
Add the shredded Parmesan cheese (as much as you like)
Add the can of diced Italian stewed tomatoes, juice and all. 
The steam and warmth from the gnocchi will melt the Parmesan cheese and warm up the diced tomatoes. 
Toss it all together and serve. 

We serve ours with garlic bread and salad when it's just our family.  For our Christmas 'Italian Feast we also add bruschetta, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and caprese salad.  Delizioso!

When it's all over, we play games.  Our motto is "you eat, you play".  The Airmen are usually the ones that laugh the loudest at the end of the night.  When all is said and done, I pack up leftovers in Tupperware so they have something good to eat the next day. 
Making friends your family is important, but extra consideration is made at the holidays for everyone to be able to have a home to celebrate in-wherever that home may be at the time.
Getting ready for some Pictionary!

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