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Oct 31, 2012

I Vant to Suck Your Blood!

Q: How do vampires get around on Halloween night?
A: By blood vessels.

Ha! I just had to.

How cool is PicMonkey? I vamped us out in like 2.5 seconds. So fun! Go make your spooky photo now!

And because I just have to share this story and our second round of costume wearing...
Tuesday night I sent my handsome hubby to the PX to buy some candy for his squadron's Trunk-or-Treat event (we all line up our cars, decorate the trunks, and let the kids trick-or-treat around the parking lot since Germany isn't as hip to Halloween as America is just yet). When I arrived home from the gym, I found 15 bags of candy sitting on our dining room table. FIFTEEN BAGS. That's $60 worth of Halloween candy. I almost crapped a brick for 3 reasons:
1) I am a nutritionist and everybody in the squadron knows it. The thought of showing up to the event with THAT much candy completely terrified me. People were already taking bets that we'd be the unpopular trunk giving out fruit and rulers...but now, we were going to be the trunk that would give all the kids diabetes! Really, we wanted the kids to be happy, and gobs of candy is the only way to go. We were just glad NONE of them had to come home with us at the end of the night all hopped up on Twix bars and Sweet Tarts! Take that, parents!
2) That's $60 worth of candy. Or, if you look at it through a girl's eyes...it's a new pair of riding boots or a couple of winter sweaters. Color me annoyed. Which brings me to my next point...
3) Why in the world is Halloween candy...or candy in general...so dang expensive?!? It's highway robbery! We're taking out stock in Mars and Hershey ASAP. That money train isn't leaving the station without us.

In all seriousness, the kids had an awesome time. And we kind of did, too. After being trick-or-treater-less last year, it was so fun seeing all the little kiddies dressed up in their adorable costumes again. Truth is, even after flipping my lid about the ungodly amount of Halloween candy we'd bought, it wasn't even enough!! These kids plowed through it like deranged, candy hoarding dump trucks. I don't know how many times that night I heard the phrase "I told ya so!" from D. Yes, babe...you did $60 worth of a good thing and I'm eating crow. 
Case and point--happy, candy stuffed kids make for a really fun Halloween. :)

Oct 30, 2012

Homemade Caramel Corn & Halloween Memories

 My mom used to make this homemade caramel corn for my sister and I when we were young trick-or-treaters dressed up in our clown noses and princess crowns. It brings back exciting memories of Halloween night, dumping out that orange pumpkin bucket on our living room floor after a evening spent screaming "TRICK-OR-TREAT" at the top of my lungs to every house in our neighborhood. My sister and I would fight and bicker with each other about that one Reese Cup I swore fell out of MY bucket, not hers...until mom walked in with a bowl of caramel corn, flipped on It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and snuggled up with us on the couch until we slowly drifted into sugar comas. Funny how a simple bowl of popcorn can trigger such vivid holiday memories. This year, I decided to share my mom's special recipe with my friends at the Halloween party we attended last weekend. It was a total hit! Our friends couldn't believe it was homemade and that it was fairly easy to do. This is absolutely the perfect spooky movie watching treat for All Hallows' Eve. Give it a go, guys and ghouls! :)

10-12 cups fresh air popped popcorn (*directions for quick popping popcorn in the microwave in brown paper bag are below)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick of salted light butter, cut into cubes for easier melting
1/4 cup Karo syrup (light not dark)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1) Place popped popcorn in a bowl larger than the volume of popcorn in the bowl. You will need the extra space for stirring, believe me. Also, try to get out all the un-popped popcorn kernels out of the bowl. You don't want anyone chipping a tooth! Set aside and start working on the caramel mixture.
2) Put the brown sugar, Karo syrup, and butter into a microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 30-45 seconds, then remove from microwave and stir until all ingredients and well blended. Place back into the microwave and heat on high for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir again. Then microwave mixture on high again for another 2 minutes (tedious, I know). 
3) Remove caramel from microwave, add in the vanilla and baking soda, and stir together. The mixture will start to froth and bubble, expanding in size just a bit. Very neat. 
4) Pour your caramel mixture (very hot, no taste testing yet!) on to the popcorn in the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the popcorn is evenly coated with caramel.
5) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the popcorn evenly on the baking sheet. Place in the oven for 1 hour at 225°F, stirring every 15 minutes. This will help the popcorn become crunchy and less gooey.

*Microwave brown bag popcorn popping: Place 1/4 cup popcorn kernels in a small brown paper bag and fold down the bag so it won't burst open. Place in the microwave for 1 minute or until popcorn popping slows to 1 kernel per 2 seconds. No oil or butter needed!

Oct 29, 2012

A "Spooktacular" Evening!

I'm pretty positive that this past Saturday night was designated as the prime Halloween party night of the year. Photos of costumes, spooky party decorations, and all out debauchery flooded my Facebook newsfeed Sunday afternoon. Totally made me smile. I love how balls to the wall America goes for Halloween! Some of the costumes and haunted houses I've seen have been amazing this year! You guys are totally upping your Halloween game and I love it. Love it to tiny candy corn pieces. Germany is slowly getting on board with Halloween, but it's definitely not like home. If we get trick-or-treaters, I imagine they'll be teenagers with Rewe bags and David Hasselhoff t-shirts. Sigh. I miss home.

Anywho, D and I also had the pleasure of attending a Halloween party on Saturday night! My dear friend and fellow October birthday girl, Leanne, and her hubby, John, threw a spooktacular event in honor of Leanne's birthday and, of course, the greatest fall holiday of the year. We feasted on ghoulish treats like mummy franks and cupcakes, devilish eggs, and my homemade caramel corn until 3am Sunday morning. A totally big deal in my book. It's the first time in a long time that I've been up that late because of something other than jet lag. D and I are old farts, it's true. Nevertheless, we had a blast celebrating my most favorite holiday (next to Christmas) and one of my dearest friends here in Germany. What could be better than a Halloween birthday party? Leanne, I'm beyond jealous of your good birthday fortune. ;)

Our fabulous host, hostess, and pug ladybug!

Quite possibly my favorite photo of the night. Elton and pug ladybug just having a chat. 
She doesn't look amused.

The hatless Mad Hatter and Julius Caesar plotting to take over the world...with crossed legs, no less.

 Oh man, what a blast. Did any of you attend a Halloween party this past weekend and post about it? If so, leave me your post link in the comments section so I can check 'em out! I love a good party post, especially a Halloween one. :) 
Here's hoping your Monday is spooktacular!

Don't forget...20% off all Large ad space is still going on! You've got until Halloween night to snag yours at a discount for November! Exciting things to come! Use code FALL20.

Oct 25, 2012

An Ode to Panera: Honey Pecan Cream Cheese Spread

When we were living back in these states, a quick trip for breakfast at Panera was a regular occurrence for team Coté. D and I would start our Saturdays with a 9am spin class on base then refuel at our favorite breakfast stop (aside from the Mom & Pop pancake houses littered all over the Hampton Roads area...those kinds of calories would need more than just a spin class beforehand to justify). D would get the Asiago Cheese Bagel Egg White Sandwich and I'd always order a Cinnamon Crunch bagel, toasted, and smeared with their delicious reduced-fat Honey Walnut Cream Cheese spread. Ever since moving to Germany, I've been jonesing for an ounce of that breakfast spread. Of course, I've never really found an exact match in any of the grocery stores or bakeries here, so I decided to concoct my own. This time, with pecans...natures Southern candy. The result brought me right back to our booth, in my workout gear, talking over coffee with my favorite guy. Sometimes it's the little things, like a yummy cream cheese spread at a bagel shop, that can turn average everyday happenings in something a bit sweeter. Go ahead and give this recipe a try this weekend. Share it with someone you love. And say hello to Panera for me, would ya? ;)

Honey Pecan Cream Cheese Spread
1- 8oz. package or container of plain reduced-fat cream cheese
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. Splenda brown sugar blend (or 2 Tbs. if using regular brown sugar)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-2 Tbs. crushed pecans (you can use really any nut you like--I love pecans, so that's what I went with)

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until well blended. Serve with your favorite bagels (might I suggest Thomas' Pumpkin Spice Bagels...they're AMAZING). Keep refrigerated for up to one week (if it even lasts that long!).

Enjoy your Thursday, friends!

Oct 23, 2012

Boxes Filled with Fall

There's nothing that warms the heart of an expat more than a care package from home. Little boxes filled with familiar treats and seasonal gifts always brings back a flood of nostalgia and for a brief moment in time, you feel like you're not 4,000 miles away from everything you hold dear. For an expat, checking the mail becomes an everyday excitement. It also keeps you going. Just knowing someone, somewhere is thinking of you, missing you--wanting to send you love and comfort in the form of your favorite magazine or box of crackers because a hug just isn't possible. Care packages are like giant hugs. They bring joy of indescribable proportions and help to make home feel a little less far away. I live for care packages. That's why when my dear friend, Kristin, who blogs over at Vignettes, mentioned she would be hosting a Fall Friendship Swap, I knew I had to participate! Not only do I love getting mail, I also love sending it. So, I scoured Germany looking for the coolest fall goodies I could find and sent them over to Kristin, who also happened to be my swap partner (lucky me!!). Just a week after I sent my package off to Virginia, I received Kristin's gift in my mailbox and squealed with delight as I opened it, on my birthday no less. :) Thank you so much, Kristin! I adored every single thing!

And not to be outdone, my sweet momma also mailed a few fall gifts our way. D and I will be sipping Pumpkin Spiced Lattes well into Christmas thanks to my mom and her super awesome coffee hunting skills! You guys in America are really going nuts for the PSL this year, aren't you? She had the hardest time getting her hands on those Via pouches because they're selling out so quickly! Thanks, mom, for running around town like a crazed coffee nut for us! And thanks for the pumpkin bagels and pretzels. Mind=blown.

Friends, do you have a friend or family member that lives far from home? Do you know a deployed military member who could use a little morale boost? Let them know you're thinking of them by sending a little love this holiday season. Not only will it warm their hearts and lift their spirits, it's good for your soul, too. :) 
Happy Tuesday, dears!

Oct 19, 2012

Really Important Things

A little blog housekeeping...
First up, thank you all SO MUCH for your kind birthday wishes this week!! My heart is so full! Please don't forget to enter my 500 Follower Birthday Giveaway, the giveaway just for all my awesome readers! FREE STUFF, guys. FREE! You've still got a little over 3 days left to enter, so go tell your friends and add your entries!

Secondly, because I'm still feeling rather generous and this little blog is still growing like a weed, I'm going to be offering 20% off all LARGE AD SPACES (use promo code FALL20) on the blog until October 31st! Head on over to my sponsor page and get hooked up!

Whew. Now that business is out of the way, it's time for some Friday Letters!

Dear Internet,
WELCOME BACK MY LONG LOST FRIEND!! It took 36 days, 23 emails, 3 stumped technicians, and 1 BRILLIANT specialist to finally connect us to the world again! Guys, this insanity went on for far, far longer than it should have. Turns out, all that needed to be done was to uncross some wires and to re-terminate the fried cable running from our modem to the wall (not the friggin' cable underneath our sidewalk like some do-do birds thought...idiots) and boom, internet! I swear, I could have kissed that Deutsch Telekom specialist when he said "Alles gut!" and that Google search bar popped up on my Mac! Don't worry, I refrained, but D and I did do a major happy dance in the living room after he left. We're SO happy it's back and we're no longer cut off from our friends and family back home. Praise the Lord!!! America, expect an ungodly amount of phone calls from me very shortly. And it's true, our house has never been cleaner. ;)

Dear Birthday,
 Truth be told, I was worried. Worried because for yet another birthday, I was going to be 4,000 miles away from my closest family and friends. The sad feeling came and I foresaw lots of Häagen-Dazs and ugly cries happening that day. But, turns out, you were a pretty fabulous day...all thanks to my amazing husband. He totally tricked me by going into work at 6:30am (as usual), but then came home at 8:30am with breakfast in his hand and a smile on his face. My sweet boy took the entire day off just so I wouldn't have to spend my birthday alone. Folks, there was still an ugly cry, but it was for much happier reasons. :) We spent the day snuggling on the couch sipping wine, shopping for Halloween costumes, and ended the night with Mexican food and margaritas with friends. He managed to turn a potentially craptastic birthday into a really, really wonderful one. Ladies, if you don't already have one, get yourselves a hubby like mine. They make life so much more lovely. Ahem, but notice I said like mine, not my actual one. Then I'd have to cut you.

Dear Germany,
 You never cease to amaze me with your beauty and plethora of fall actives that completely warm my soul. It's harvest time in your vineyards along the Rhine and you graciously allowed me to fulfill one of my life long dreams...turning grapes into wine. Did you know D and I would love to own a vineyard one day? Did you know we had no clue how to start the winemaking process? Well, we learned a lot that day picking grapes for Weingut Eugen Werheim. Mostly about how grape picking is backbreaking, knee-killing work...and that I like drinking wine more than making it. Never, ever again. Despite our aching bones, we've made a mental note that when we have our own precious vineyard one day, we're buying grape picking machines...or hiring people. It's completely necessary and a small price to pay for a life making wine. Believe me. Anywho, thanks for letting us spend the day in your vineyards above the Rhine, sweet Germany. The view was indeed beautiful.

Dear Blog Friends,
I've been keeping a bit of a secret. And no, I'm not preggo. But I am jetting off to ITALY Monday to have a 5 day blate (blog+date=blate) with one of my dearest bloggy friends in the world, Jessica from Jessica Lynn Writes! Excitement times 1,000, friends. I'm doing cartwheels in my head as we speak. And while I'm there, I also plan on hanging out with Amanda from Adventures in Italia and Tessa from Caio, Blogga since they also happen to be fabulous and in Italy. On the agenda for the week will be exploring beautiful Venice and Verona, with a little shopping in Nove and some wine and olive oil tasting thrown in for good measure. :) There will probably also be an insane amount of laughing, lots of pasta, and little rubbing of Jess's cute pregnant belly (totally not weird, right? I'm going with no. Jess, you've been warned!) A blate of EPIC proportions, to say the very least. Since I'll be out galavanting around Italy, I won't be much of a prompt blogger next week. So, make sure you follow my Instagram feed (username: @CaseyCote) for photo updates of our Italian adventures! Caio, bellas!

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