Ask Auntie Val

Ask Auntie Val
“All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”
Alexis Carrel

Auntie ValOK, this is your page! Got some questions you’re just waiting to post somewhere? Want to know how to get that burned stuff off the bottom of your best stainless steel pot? Or how to remove that darned wine stain from your best pants? Or what’s going on in Florence in June? How about that recipe, book, CD you’ve been searching for and can’t seem to find? How did the Oktoberfest really get its start?

Well, this is the spot for all those practical and impractical questions – you write ’em, I’ll try to find an answer for you. Simple as that!

A word to the wise for all of you jokers out there: no obscenity or questions of a personal/sexual nature, please. I’m not interested in anyone’s sexual preferences or potency problems – there are enough sites on the web for that. If you feel you have to get it off your chest in this direction, you’re definitely wasting your typing energy.

I hope this page will be fun, informative and interactive so, go ahead – send an eMail and try me!

Deutsche Fragen werden auch auf Deutsch beantwortet!

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So, how did the Oktoberfest really get its start? Sabrina

The Oktoberfest got its start on October 12, 1810 in celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I of Bavaria, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The public festivities were held on fields at the outskirts of the city, then christened Theresa’s fields (Theriesenwiese) in honour of the bride. The Oktoberfest, true to tradition, still takes place there each year.
At some point in time, the Oktoberfest was moved to the last two weeks in September, probably because the chance of more summer-like temperatures was better. Every year, the weather gods seem to smile on the millions of visitors to come to this, the largest beer festival in the world – an estimated 2 million visitors were counted on the first weekend this year, due in part to the wonderful warm, Indian summer days Munich was having.
By 11 pm on October 3, when the last beer “Mass” will be emptied, around 6 million guests from all over the world will have visited this year’s Oktoberfest.
For all you will ever want or need to know about this extraordinary event, visit

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July 26, 2004
Liebe Valerie, ich habe seit einigen Tagen ziemlich Lust auf Milchreis. Gibt es so was Ähnliches auch ayurveda-tauglich? Hast du ein Rezept? Liebe Grüße, Rita

Hallo Rita! In der ayurvedischen Küche gibt es freilich sowas wie Milchreis, allerdings mit Wasser gekocht. Hier ist das leckere Rezept für Süßen Reis. Guten Appetit! Auntie Val

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November 15, 2003
Auntie Val – Can you by any chance tell me what an Irish Wake is? Have a dear friend who is presently dying & wants an Irish Wake. The only info I’ve been able to acquire is regarding departed being waked in their home. Is there anything with regard to modern times? If so, where can I acquire the information for the family. Thank you very much for whatever help you can afford me. Claire

Hallo Claire! The tradition of the Irish wake has changed a lot, even since my youth in the 50s, since the funeral usually takes place from a funeral home rather than from the home of the deceased. I remember that my grandmother was laid out in her coffin in the front parlour for a few days before the funeral so that everyone could come and pay their respects. Both of my parents were laid out in funeral homes but there were wakes of a sort at home for them.
The wake is a time of being together with friends, family and neighbours to remember the deceased and celebrate a life well lived. When my mother passed away, there was a gathering at my sister’s house the night before the funeral – a lot of alcohol “flowed down the Lagan” that night and a lot of anecdotes were told about my mother’s life. We laughed and we cried and everyone had a story to tell. I’m sending you these links which describes how a traditional wake used to be conducted. You can use whichever steps are feasible for you to create your own remembrance celebration.
Also this, taken from a related article found on the Internet:
“There is an affirmation of joy in the Irish wake and the American Protestant practice of a generally upbeat dinner meeting after a funeral, usually held in the home of the surviving family. Christians mark the transition from life to death with a funeral, followed by a time at the graveside. But this is not the end. The day ends with something more like a festival. Theologically, this tradition rests on the doctrine of the bodily resurrection at the final judgment: from death to life. For the redeemed person, death is not final. Death does not have the last say. Therefore, let’s party!”
I hope this helps you. All the best, Val.

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June 10, 2003
Hi! I have a white travel mug. I cannot get the tea/coffee stains off the inside white. Any ideas?? Thanks!! Jo Berg

Hi Jo! Yes, as a fervent tea drinker I know the problem. I usually dip a sponge in some soda (bicarbonate does the trick) and rub until the stain comes away. Here’s another idea calling for less elbow grease:
Dissolve a tablespoonful of soda crystals (aka washing soda) in the cup with warm water and leave to soak for an hour. The brown film will then simply wipe off. Not as hard work as scouring and doesn’t leave a taste like bleach does (and it’s non-polluting!).
Let me know how it works! Take care, Val

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January 17, 2003
My husband burned homemade milk gravy to the bottom of my best pan, now I can’t get it off the bottom, the black gunk, help please …

Hi Elyse! I had almost the same problem last night while making Indian chai for 50 people – one non-attentive minute and two litres of milk burned black to the bottom of a stainless steel pan! Here’s the tip:
Just fill the pot up to about half with water, add a tablespoon or two of washing powder (detergent), and bring to the boil. The gunk should come off very easily – at the most you may have to help it along with a steel wool pad (pot scrubber). Last night we didn’t have any detergent powder on hand, so we used dishwasher detergent. Worked a treat!
I use this method to get coffee/tea stains out of pots as well. Good luck – don’t forget to let me know if your pan comes out ok. All the best to you, Val

AA  Hi Val! thanks, worked great, used dishwashing detergent and a steel wool pad, my pot is safe again … thank you, Elyse

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October 29, 2002
How do I remove a red juice stain from my carpet? Charlotte

Hi Charlotte! This is what I’ve found on removal of juice stains from carpets. This is also a helpful link. Good luck and do let me know if these tips work! Regards, Valerie

Remove Fruit Juice Stains
• Blot up as much of the spill as is possible. A wet vacuum is useful if a large quantity of liquid was spilled. If spot has dried, saturate the tufts in the affected area with tap water (do not overwet). Allow to remain for about 1 minute and blot. If the spot is being removed using water, continue until the spot is completely removed. Blot dry and apply paper towels and brick. If the stain is not completely removed go to the next step.
• Apply a small quantity of detergent solution to the spot. (To make the detergent solution mix 14 teaspoon of a hand dish washing detergent which does not contain lanolin or bleach with 1 quart of water; examples of safe detergents are Dawn® and Joy®.) Use a blotting motion to work the detergent into the affected area. If spot is being removed continue applying detergent and blotting with a white paper towel until spot is removed.
• Rinse with tap water using a spray bottle, blot to remove excess moisture.
• Spray lightly with water, do not blot this time; apply pad of paper towels and brick and allow to dry.
• If there is still some stain on the carpet and blotting is not removing it, then moisten the tufts in the stained area with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Let stand for 1 hour. Blot and repeat until carpet is stain free. Light will cause peroxide to change back to water so no rinsing is necessary. Apply pad of paper towels and weight down with brick.

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June 5, 2002 — “Strangers are friends we’ve yet to meet.”
Greetings Valerie: I surfed in from your post in the World Wide Recipe Newsletter. I enjoyed your web page very much! A question: I have a favorite Indian restaurant near me and they have the best yoghurt!! I do not ever eat store-bought, but when we go to this place, I eat it all!! By any chance, would you have a recipe for making Indian-style yoghurt? I would greatly appreciate it if you do have one and could share it with me! Thanx so much in advance!! Happy Cooking & Eating!! Mickie (Minnesota)

Hi Mickie! Thank you for writing – it’s so great to wake up in the morning and find an eMail from “a stranger I haven’t yet met!” – Ah yes, the yoghurt – I’m sure it is probably Indian “curd” which is made from a special culture. It’s a little more solid than the creamy yoghurt we are used to. In Indian homes, they usually have an ongoing family culture, saving a few teaspoons of yoghurt from each batch to make the next one. This recipe for Indian Curd I found on a South Indian food site.
The next time you go to your favourite restaurant, ask if you can take some of their yoghurt home with you (you can also ask how much of their yoghurt they use as a culture). I’m sure they will be very pleased at your interest – it is a compliment after all! Good luck and happy curd-making! I would love to hear from you again (and especially how the yoghurt goes!)
All the best, Valerie

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June 2, 2002
Dear Valerie! Following attention to your web page on the Internet, I wish to ask your assistance. Myself and a friend, both Irish (from Tipperary and Limerick) having completed our education in college, are planning to travel to Germany in mid June. Would there be any possible job vacancies in your facilities? If not do you know of any in the area? We both have reasonable German skills having studied the subject to an honours level at leaving certificate. I would be very grateful if you would be able to help. Regards, Eimear

Hallo Eimear! I’m sorry I can’t help you on the job front. I work in a small office and we are fully staffed. It depends really on what you want to do – I would suggest you go to the “Arbeitsamt” when you are in Germany and ask if they have any jobs on hand. You could also put an advertisement in the Munich English language magazine Munich Found or have a look at their job section online. iWork Germany may also be of interest to you. Here is the job page of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit – you fill out the form online and send it to them (and keep your fingers crossed!). Unfortunately, it’s all in German but if you have a good working knowledge of the language, you should have no problem.
Sorry I can’t be of more help. Have a good visit to Germany and good luck with your job-hunting.
All the best, Valerie

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Hallo Auntie Val. I want to cook an Irish dish called “Apple Fritters” and it calls for 1 fl of water. What does the fl stand for? I was surfing the net for Ireland and your site came up so I thought I would ask you! These fritters are going to be enjoyed by a class of 6th graders doing reports on different places and the food from that country. I didn’t think they would enjoy the mutton stew!

Hi Edna! 1 Fl means 1 fluid ounce – which seems very little to me (it’s about a Tbs!). As a reference, I’ve found the following recipe calling for “5 Fl” which in this case does seem to make more sense. Since I live in Europe, but also cook US recipes, I have lots of measuring cups in all weights and measures. I’m glad to be able to tell you that 5 fluid ounces is approximately 12 cup US.
Irish Apple Fritters
I do hope your 6th graders enjoy their international recipes – have to say I agree about the mutton stew!

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Dear Auntie Val, if I make chapattis for dinner and make more dough then I can eat alone, is it better – from an Ayurvedic view point – to make all of the chapattis that day and heat them up the next day or to keep the dough in the fridge and make fresh chapattis the next day? And from an Ayurvedic viewpoint: is it okay to add some toasted almonds to my mung dal ladoos?
All the best from Robert

Hallo Robert! You can keep chapatti dough for one or two days in the fridge and make your chapattis fresh each day. It is much better than making the chapattis all at once and heating them up – they are usually hard and not very nice! If you keep the dough covered in a Tupperware container in the fridge it should be okay. Of course, from a strict Ayurvedic point of view, I have to say it is better to always make the dough fresh but I know it is difficult when you are under time pressure.
Yes, by all means use toasted almonds in your mung dal ladoos – I would cut them into small pieces first and roast with the mung dal flour in the ghee. Guten Appetit! Thank you for writing!
All the best, Auntie Val

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Hi Valerie! I just read your recipe for Split Mung Bean Khichadi published in the My wife and I are arriving in Munich on March 16 and hope to rent a car to drive to Arlberg, Austria for skiing and some sightseeing. We will stay there until March 22 when we fly out of Munich.
Any advice on sights to see in Munich and on the way to Arlberg?
Any advice on car rental?
Any advice on a hotel in Munich? We may come back a day or 2 early to tour Munich.
Any advice on restaurants or shops?
What kind of weather can we anticipate this time of the year?
Many thanks for any help, Gary

A  Hallo Gary! Well, as coincidence would have it, my current “Place of the Month” features Bavaria with lots of information about Munich and the surrounding areas that will likely be of interest to you – please check that out too. Here are some answers to your questions:
Sightseeing: If you’re driving to Arlberg, you will probably be driving through Garmisch and over the “Fernpass” so, time permitting, I would certainly stop and take a cable car ride up the Zugspitze (Germany’s highest mountain). – You’ll find more information about sightseeing in the Munich-Garmisch area on my “Place of the Month” page.
Munich sightseeing: Since your sojourn here seems to be very short, I wouldn’t plan too much, perhaps come back to Munich a day early and just stroll around the city centre. There are also city sightseeing tours leaving from the main station every hour which take you to a few of the city sights (Nymphenburg Palace, Olympia Park etc.) If you are staying near the city centre and like to walk, you can do a lot of sightseeing on foot. Walk down the pedestrian zone from Karlsplatz to Marienplatz (the City Hall there is quite a sight). On the way, you’ll pass lots of department stores and, if your taste is more exclusive, you can window shop at the more expensive shops just near the City Hall. You can also walk to the Viktualienmarkt (Munich’s open air fruit and vegetable market). There are lots of restaurants and beer gardens there (I like the small quiet restaurants at Dreifaltigkeitsplatz just a few steps from the market).
Accommodation: I would suggest staying quite near the city centre, within walking distance of a lot of the sights. The prices and quality of the hotels vary so it’s not possible for me to recommend a hotel without knowing your preference/budget. Here are some hotel-links in English that you can check to get a feel for prices etc. If you choose a couple of hotels and want to know where they are in Munich, just drop me a line:
This link is for the Eden-Wulff hotel right next to the main railway station across the road from where the airport bus stops – quite expensive but if that is not an issue, it might be worth it to rest away your jet-lag before setting off to Austria. You can certainly arrange for car-hire from your hotel as well. It’s also a 10-minute stroll from the very centre of the city and across the road from Hertie, Munich’s best large department store. The bus tours of Munich leave from in front of Hertie as well. They are quite reasonably priced and will give you a good overview of the city sights.
Auto Rental: There are lots of internationally known car rental companies in Munich and you can arrange to have a car waiting for you at the airport. However, if you are coming to Germany for the first time and are jet-lagged, I would suggest taking public transport into the city (Underground train or bus which are both very convenient) and picking the car up from your hotel. At this site you can get a feel for what automobiles are available and what they will cost.
Weather: March in Munich is a little unpredictable weather-wise. For the past few days we’ve been having VERY warm weather for January but we could have snow in March – I would advise checking the weather at shortly before you leave the States to get an idea of what you can expect.
Restaurants & Shopping: Depending on what you are shopping for, there are lots of big department stores and smaller more expensive boutiques in the centre of the city. As far as eating out, depending on your culinary preferences, you’ll find every kind of food imaginable from California cuisine to Indian to Mexican to Lebanese to down-home Bavarian. Check out Munich’s English language magazine Munich Found for lots of information on what’s on in Munich.
If you need more tourist information, have a look here.
And, lest we forget Austria altogether, here is an English language information page about Arlberg!
Enjoy your trip! Auntie Val

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Dear Auntie Val! I have spilled iced tea on a light cream carpet and can’t get the stain out. What do I use? HELP? Ethel
PS: My daughter wants to get married in Ireland in a year or two. Where do you suggest she do this?

Hallo Ethel, I went hunting on the Internet about your stain and found a really good website with some super tips:
1. To remove tea, coffee or red wine stains from your carpet, pour soda water over the stain then blot dry, repeat until stain has gone.
2. Household Ammonia is great for removing carpet stains. Just spray it on the stain and wipe with a clean cloth.
3. Shaving lotion works wonders for carpet stains. Remember to use the white foamy kind of shave cream though, it seems to work the best.
4. Ivory bar soap is a miracle-worker! I have removed furniture polish, red wine, tomato sauce, and grape jelly stains from my carpet. Just scrub with an old toothbrush and rinse well.

Well, getting married in Ireland seems to be a big subject but I’ve come up with a few links which you’ll probably enjoy delving into. Perhaps have a look at what’s involved (financially and, of course, legally) then decide which part of the country your daughter is most drawn to. I come from the north of Ireland (Ulster) and there are beautiful spots there – I am very partial to the North and Northwest (Antrim, Donegal, Sligo, Lienster) – have a look at the Place of the month on my website to get a feel for that part of the country.
Here are some general Irish sites where you can explore Ireland by county and get a feel for where the wedding should be. The most well-known counties for tourists are, of course, Killarney, Connemara and the like, all beautiful but all overrun in the summer months. Have a look at Donegal, Sligo (the poet Yeats’ country – he is buried in Duncliffe church cemetery), Mayo (in particular Achill Island).
My best to your daughter and have fun with the sites! I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful wedding. Slainté! Auntie Val

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Dear Auntie Val, I’m hoping I can get some helpful hints being the well seasoned Muenchener you are (I’m presuming here!) … I currently live in NYC and have been here for eight long years. I’m an Irish lass wishing to make a move to die Weltstadt mit Herz! I visited Munich/Bavaria last summer and fell in love with the place, loved the people, beer and the Alps. So, I guess my question to you would be could I swing getting a job without the native tongue and earn a decent living? Are there any agencies I could forward my C.V. to and Irish community organizations I could write to for more insight if you are unable to assist me here in my time of strife? I also hear apartments in Munich centre are expensive or is it possible to get a place for a non-exorbitant price?
I’ll be waiting in anticipation for your informative reply. Niamh

Hallo Niamh! Ah, a tricky bunch of questions but I’ll give them my best shot! Since I haven’t been on the market for a job for quite sometime now, I can’t really say how easy it is at the moment. I don’t want to dampen your hopes, but I know quite a few people who are looking – the IT slump hit us as well and lots of people were laid off. On the up side, there are still lots of IT and foreign companies (and the European Patent Office) settled here so your lack of German may not be a hindrance at the outset. Living here, you could easily take courses in German. I know lots of resident Brits and Americans who have only a rudimentary knowledge of the language but I for one believe it makes life more interesting if you can converse with people in their own language.
Here are a couple of links you may find interesting:
The last one is a posting from someone with a new American company here looking for native English speakers.
As far as apartments – well, I can’t give you any positive news on that, I’m afraid. Accommodation in the centre of Munich is at a premium and above most people’s means. I’ve been living in my 1-bedroom city centre apartment for over 17 years and pay around $560 a month (including most utilities) but that would be everyone’s dream at the moment. Only my tenure makes it so affordable. Mostly you would pay more than that for a small one-roomed studio. If you move further out of the city (remember the subway here is VERY efficient), or share, it can be cheaper.
Since I don’t know what your job skills are or what you would be interested in doing, I can’t say much more – if I can be of any more help, just drop an eMail. And stay in touch – I’ll be interested to hear how your job search works out.
Good Luck!
Auntie Val

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Auntie Val, do you have an idea how I can clean up a working surface after kneading bread dough or rolling our pie dough?

I know about this one, especially now that the “baking season” is underway. Try this: when you’re left with a doughy mess to clean up on your counter top or table, use a metal spatula to gently scrape away as much as possible, and then use cold water to get the rest. Warm water only spreads the mess. Use warm soapy water after the cold water has done its job.

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Dear Auntie Val, I know you’ll have an answer to this one: how do I make the perfect cup of Indian chai?

Ah yes, a question close to my own heart! Here’s my recipe for one mug (or two teacups) of delicious Indian Chai.

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