Dec 262011
 
It is still Charlie Brown’s Tree, but it has more spunk now!

Hard Hearty Holidays
Ok, I will admit it.  I am among those people who usually have a bit of a roller coaster ride through the holidays.  I have high standards for myself and I want things to be special.  I want the archetypal Holidays with the whole family, tradition, music, cheer, friends, lovely decor and thoughtful-but-not-overly-comercialized gifts given with kindness and joyful spirit.  I want to make beautiful things with nothing but my hands, carefully selected high-quality materials, and as much love as I can put into them.  And, I desperately want everyone to feel and appreciate all that love and specialness when they open their presents, eat their food, or just happen into my effervescent company! I want to be Martha Stewart without the bitchiness, jail-time or divorce.  And I want to bring joy into dark places just by force of effort and good will!

Do I know this is a patently unrealistic expectation?  Well, yeah.  Of course.  But, try as I might to remind it, many parts of my psyche never quite get the memo. 

Do I know that I am living in a household of geeky/aspie/sourpusses who have about as opposite a view of the holidays from me as a single family can hold and still remain a single family?  Yeah, I know that, too! (DS excluded, of course.  He is just as idealistic as I am in this way, poor guy!)

Those two things are generally enough to get the roller-coaster effect.  I knock myself out trying to achieve the unachievable while those around me look askance and fail to share in my fantastical notions of Holiday Necessity! 

But, this year you might also rightly ask:  Do I know that we are currently about 1/2 a globe away from most of our friends and loved-ones, traditional decor and many other annual hallmarks of the season?  Well, that one is pretty darned obvious, isn’t it?

So, yeah, there were a few tough days in there.  It is frustrating not knowing where to go to find those little touches that make things “special” in my mind.  Those unexpected twists and adornments that catch even the cynical geeks by surprise.  In the states, I have a running mental catalog of every store we frequent.  And the ability to quickly and easily transport myself to the tiniest specialty shop in the next county with a hop in the car or a quick click of a computer button.  If I want to make a chestnut stuffing, I know where to get chestnuts.  If I want to get DD a mid-grade pencil set, I know how to find it.  And, of course, before the move, if I wanted to make something crafty, I had a lifetime of doodads and craft supplies to work with.
                              

Not So Much, Anymore.  This is Germany, Kiddo.  A whole new ball of wax.

But, I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s take a little step sideways and remember where we happen to be!

A Few German Things for the last couple weeks

Closed for the winter

One day last week, David and I found ourselves early for Pick-up at Durmstrang, so, we went straight instead of turning left and circled around into a rural zone near town.  The area has farms, and an odd green stairwell that goes down into the ground and disappears.  But, by far the most bizarre place we found was what appears to be a children’s activity playland.  Only, it is all made from about the least safe looking wooden bits one might imagine.  I think I got splinters just looking at it.  But, it does have a certain rugged charm.  I suspect kids learn a ton and have a lot of fun in the place when it is open…. Or, maybe film crews just do horror stories there?  Honestly, I could imagine either!

All I can figure is that they let the kids build the things themselves?

Here is something a bit more familiar- only we didn’t know it at the time.  DS came home one Tuesday to inform us that there would be a ‘party’ at his school on Thursday- and that parents were ‘allowed’.  Having no clue what this meant, we elected David to take the boy.  As it turned out, the party was a recital where the kids in his class sang and performed on instruments.  Then the parents made small talk for two hours while the kids snacked!  I was sorry to have missed the performance, But, I am pretty sure the 2 hours of German Smalltalk would have left me feeling like jello. 

DS found himself unexpectedly front and center!

Also interesting and German, but not toooo German- DS is participating in a regional science fair.  His group is studying the effect of plastic on mold.  So, here are his test tubes.  Each has a hunk of cheese exposed to mold spores.  Some have plastic containers, so glass, some have plastic wrap in with the cheese, others don’t, and 4 of them have water, as well.

Weather or Not, Here It Comes

One of the nicer things that reminds us that we are no longer in the states is the presence of- WEATHER.  In this case, Snow!  We did, in fact, have our first 2 snow storms over the last couple weeks.  The snow melted off by the afternoon of the following day each time, but it was enough to make things very pretty.  And, happily for DS, it was enough to play in!

My favorite tree, outside our bedroom

Out front- even garages and factories are lovely in the snow

The Field

Funky, snowy art on a house in Offenburg

DS making a snowman

Rolling, rolling

Ta Dah!!!

More Snow

Snow just makes things prettier

Morning snow by camera flash

Snow in my hair.

Spellbound Holiday Party
Yes, Geeky German Gaming Companies do the Holiday party thing, too.  But, honestly, this year they didn’t do it all that well.  I did my part.  I dressed like a frightening stereotype:

Bad hair day, bright holiday sweater, red lips and even a holiday teddy bear bag!

And, the locale was impressive- they are trying to recapture the glory days of the Silicon Valley:

(Anyone remember the slide at Excite@Home?  I don’t actually find the comparison comforting!)

But, this was the food (and I had to sneak in the kitchen to steal the hunk of bread!)

That is a bacon-wrapped date, a piece of ham on a slice of buttered bread, and quark (a cream cheese) with nuts soaked in syrup, er, also on a slice of bread.

I really wanted the party to be great.  The last two were pretty fun and I met lots of people.  But, there was really nothing to do, no dessert, very little food, no music, and, honestly, not that many people!

These are like peanut flavored cheetos

We did speak quite a bit with Florian, who is a huge German man with excellent English skills.  He wears a sort of kilt-like skirt most of the time as his personal fashion statement.  He is friendly and knowledgeable, has traveled to the states often to visit family, and recently lived in Madrid for 2 years.  I like him quite a bit.  He pointed us toward some potential English classes at the local Community College.  We also got to chat a bit with Jacomi and Johan, one of the few other married couples at the company.  They are both from South Africa, so we have a lot of similar experiences with being transplants.  Unfortunately, the acoustics made it tough for me to hear their part of the conversation.  I am hoping to pick their brains more in email.

Once folks had eaten, everyone moved into the game room where they had guitar hero set up (or was it rock band?)  Whichever it was, they only had controllers for 3 players, so about 50 people stood around watching.  We decided our presence was no longer needed and (unsuccessfully) snuck out.

SO, after that, I lost it a little bit.

Why?  The party was dull, but not awful.  Nothing horrible happened.  But, it was just the culmination of a thousand little things tweaking all my holiday buttons.  I felt lonely and frustrated and unable to make even the most basic changes.  I couldn’t find the right gifts.  I still couldn’t find the stockings.  I hadn’t learned enough German or enough about Germany, yet.  I hadn’t been able to drive for most of the past 2 months.  And, we were about to spend our first Christmas with no one but our immediate family around.

So, I yelled at David for a while, then apologized to David for a while, cried on his shoulder for a while, and slept.  Sleep can be a very good thing.

The next day I got in touch with my inner elf and figured out what still needed to be done.  Mostly, I needed to adjust my attitude.  We went into this to have new experiences.  So, I figured out how to do my best with a mixture of New and Traditional.  I had to let go of some things, but, I am getting pretty good at that.  At least, most of the time ;-/  But, letting go and opening myself up to what is means I get a lot of unexpected and interesting new experiences to fill the places where expectations used to be.  Who knew Germany was so Zen?

In any case, here is how we wound up handling Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Yeah, I still found a way to go a bit overboard with the cooking, but, in the tiny kitchen it was a different challenge than usual! 

Our tiny German oven filled front to back with 4 dishes.

About to get Mulling!

We decide that living in Europe, we had to try out the Goose thing.  I originally thought I would roast the whole bird, but it turns out geese are BIG.  Also, expensive.  Not only would a single goose cost 50 EU, it would probably feed a fussball team and, oh yeah, I don’t think it would fit in the oven!  So, we opted for a goose breast and goose legs.  I roast the breast and did a confit with the legs.

Roast goose breast with oranges and root vegetables

I didn’t actually know what confit meant before making it!  It used to be a way to preserve the legs, but these days it is largely fancy French food.  You pretty much just slow bake the legs covered in goose fat.  They turn out tender and flavorful.  I actually liked them a lot better than the breast!

Goose confit

So, this is what we wound up with- 2 kinds of goose, orange sauce, cranberry sauce, roasted root veggies, homemade rolls (with *salted* butter!  I did manage to find something special 😉 and mulled cider.

Dinner is served
Everyone tried the goose (new to all but David)

I let myself indulge on the desserts…..

Then came the desserts- seasalt caramels, lemon poppyseed cake and orange shortbread chocolate chip cookies! 

Stocking Saga

Here they are from last year.  Pet stockings included.

The next issue to be addressed was the stockings.  This is a big deal to me.  My great-grandma made my stocking before I was born.  I made the ones for everyone else.  I *thought* I had unpacked them when our stuff arrived Offenburg.  But, when we went looking for them, they were nowhere to be found.  Our apartment is not large.  There are not many places to stash things.  We searched each several times- but, no stockings.

What is worse is that Germans don’t do stockings.  They do the hausshue thing on St. Nickolaus Nacht.  So, there were no local stockings to be found!  I thought I had seen some in Strasbourg, but the only day I might have been able to go check, it snowed.  We will be getting snow tires soon, but, we don’t have them, yet.  So, I didn’t want to make the trip.  We even tried ordering some from England, but the company who makes them cancelled our order.  All we could figure was that they were out.

So, 2 days before Christmas and we had no stockings!  I had pretty much resolved myself to using pillowcases when David and DD came home with a solution.  They had found 4 matching bright red shopping bags!  DS came up with the final touch.  We each made personalized paper decorations for our bag.  I think they came out quite festive!

That is a spider in a Christmas Hat to the right… not sure about the vine/tentacle.

Christmas Morning
 We usually do a photo of the kids coming down the stairs into the room with the fireplace… only, no stairs and no fireplace this year!  So, silly hallway slow-mo dash works instead :)

Who might have asked for a sled?
David and his Igel second head….

DS got some Goodies in his stocking!

Er, DH got some chocolate coated hobbits!?! (if you can’t read the package, click on the photo for a larger version)

DH and his new army of minions
One of my favorite presents- a tea pot with a warmer from DS- like the one in the restaurant!!

DD *almost* hugging DS- he didn’t quite trust her enough.

He did seem genuinely happy this morning, though!

Silly Me

Smiley Girl

So, alls well that ends well.  We had a very pleasant holiday.  Skype helps a lot.  As do email and facebook.  And, of course, a good attitude is necessary equipment!

David has the next two weeks off from work, so we hope to do a little local traveling.  Maybe take in a castle, a movie and perhaps even a trek someplace snowy.  I will post when we have nifty new stuff to share :)

Dec 142011
 

Boys Republic Della Robbia Wreath

My Great-Grampa Bert was a big supporter of the Boys Republic.  You have probably seen the movie Boys Town with Mickey Rooney as the bad-kid-with-the-heart-of-gold and Spencer Tracy as the tough priest sure to help him find it.  Similar idea, only this one was the brainchild of a SoCal judge and largely funded by a Pasadena Philanthropist named Margaret Fowler.  Here is a recent LA Times article on the program.  In any case, Grampa Bert liked them.  Their big fundraiser each year is to make and sell distinctive holiday wreaths.  Great Grampa and Grandma would send them to everyone in the clan.  When they passed, Grandma Connie started sending the wreaths out.  They are part of my family tradition and I love them.  They smell good and they signal The Holidays for me. 

Given our German Excursion, I didn’t really expect to receive one for 2011.  But, Hooray for Mom and Grandma, about a week ago we got notice that ours had arrived!  Of course, being that this is Germany, the customs agents wanted to have a little chat with us before we could take it home.

With our crazy schedule and David’s driving obligations, it was tough to make it down to the customs office in Appenweir, an outlying suburb in the wrong direction from everywhere.  This morning I pressed and David (very) reluctantly made the trek.  It was apparently further than he remembered.  There is a storm blowing in, so the wind is impressive and the sky is dark.  When he got there the customs agent did the same routine as with the bath mats Mom sent when we first arrived in Offenburg.  Open box.  Demand to know what it is.  Question purpose.  Raise eyebrows.  Re-question purpose.  In this case, though, according to David he got an extra-special eyeroll.  Even after explaining the charity and the family tradition, the agent just didn’t understand.

“You can’t get trees living in the black forest?  You had to have one sent from America?  Unbelievable!” She scoffed.  

But, at least now I have my lovely wreath!

DS poses with the wreath.  My those walls are beige!  A little color goes a long way!

So, how are our Young Wizards doing these days?  Lets check in at Hogwarts and Durmstrang to find out….

Life at Durmstrang

DS is starting to devour German like it is cotton candy.  His favorite new thing is to use freerice.com to quiz himself on German Vocab.  For those unfamiliar, freerice is a nice ap that donates 10 grains of rice to the UN Hunger Relief Fund for every correct answer on any variety of quizzes.  It is a great tool for the altruistically motivated student.  DS was thrilled yesterday when he figured out that he had managed to accumulate about 3 bowls of rice for a starving person.  “I fed someone for an entire day!” he beamed.

Changing face shape

He really seems to be enjoying himself at school these days.  He has two different music classes this quarter.  One centers on singing and he comes home merrily bursting out in snippets of German songs.  What is especially cool is that he seems to be getting some actual Singing Instruction, because his vocal quality is greatly improved.  Clear, round notes in a beautiful still-soprano (but not for long).  Love it!

The second music class centers on instruments.  In somewhat of a repeat of his bold soccer pronouncement, when asked what instrument he played, DS clearly announced to the room that he plays the drums.  Boggle.  He doesn’t.  His sister does.  He has occasionally struck one.

He was apparently thinking that having hit a drum now and again was the closest he had to a musical instrument skill of his own (though we did work on keyboard for a while).  Whatever the case, he was shocked when they expected him to be able to play a drum set!  So, now they have it worked out where he plays 1/2 the set and another girl plays the other parts.  This suits him just fine.  In fact, he coyly admits, several of the girls in the class think he is a rock star for playing the drums.  As he sheepishly notes, the other drummer does half of the work, but he gets all of the glory. 

From his stories, I am beginning to evolve the impression that he may be getting a fair bit of female attention.  There is one girl who is not in the least shy about her crush- and for DS to notice, it must be blatant indeed!

Also, perhaps a bit ironically, it turns out he is not a bad soccer player after all!  He has largely taken to playing goalie, and from his perspective, he is one of the top two players in his age group.  Rock on, little man!  Drums, soccer and an exotic American accent?  No wonder the double-X chromosome set can’t help but take notice.

Hogwarts Update

Meanwhile, back in France, his sister is juggling gender-related issues of her own.  But, as she is now a full-fledged teen, I have been forbidden to further discuss her gender-based social life here.  Sigh, more’s the pity from a strictly selfish writer point of view! But, I suppose that as far as personal development and maturity of one’s offspring, I should be pleased she has reached the “Stop Posting About That, MOM!” phase of life!  Teen, indeed.

In non-gender-related, DD-semi-approved update news, her scholastic experience is more up and down than that of her brother at the moment.  All her scores took a nose dive last month when her Big Tests lined up with our Rotten November.  And French is still her personal bane.  But, she is connecting intellectually with a group of the geekier students, having a blast discussing math theory and arguing out science.  Her French is improving- though not being fully immersed, it is slower than DS’s German.  We have decided that I will focus on French with DD for a while and our male contingent will be our Germanophones.  We got some beginning French books and DD and I will study over vacation.

The Party

Multinational Teens at a party

This weekend DD got invited to a party to celebrate her friend V’s 15th birthday.  It was in a complex right along the river on the German side of the border between France and Germany.  V’s parents went all out.  There were two teen DJs, a smoke machine, a felt-covered dance room (to protect the floors), and, at the end, a slide show of everyone’s silly moves while dancing.  About 20 girls and 6 boys showed up.  There were French, German and English speakers there.

DD and V, funning for the camera

And, from what I could tell from DD’s descriptions, it went down just about like any other mid-teen dance.  The girls danced, and the boys hid in the corner. 😉  DD’s observations were actually pretty wonderful.  She says there were essentially two forms of dancing that went on- Waving and Bouncing.  She claims that the waving was beyond her skill level, but she bounced with the best of em.  She also relayed there were two forms of communication.  “Are you having fun?” and “Do you like the party?”  The answer was that she did have fun and she did like the party! But, by about 10:30 she was essentially ready to come home.  David got the “come get me” call and headed out.

When he was walking up the path to the party, he spotted something he had been searching for since we arrived in Deutschland!  He called DD on her cell and she ran out in stocking-feet so she could see it, too.  An Igel!  They didn’t have the camera, but here is the level of Cute with which they were faced:

Igel are wondrous native hedgehogs.  We have up-til-now unfortunately only seen them as roadkill.  But DD and DH got within 2 feet of the one near the river.  I am so envious!

A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

So, we have the vast majority of our decoratives in storage, including out Holiday Ornaments.  But, I really wanted to make sure we had at least a tree and a few sparklies around.  So, we headed out to Bauhaus and selected a small, currently-living tree that would not only fit in our apartment, but also in our tiny car!  We all picked a few little ornaments and had a speedy tree decorating session.  I think it may still need a thing or two here or there, but not bad for a first effort in the New Land!

Singing as we work- I never realized how much DS looks like DH from the profile!

Our poor little Charlie Brown Tree.  I like the star on top, though!
A few ornaments from the curtain rod
Dec 082011
 

Frohe Weihnacht!  Merry Christmas Season!  Bubby and Zany are visiting with us this week, so we have had many adventures.

First off, here are a couple photos that I stole from Zany’s camera.  Folks on FB have seen these before.  But, I like them!

Bubby and DS.  Two loving people very happy to have each other around.

Bubby, Me and the little man in Offenburg- yes, I still have the brace, but (knock wood) not much longer!

I had a nice warm cup of chocolate glühwein.  Yeah, it is as decadent as it sounds.  I really like this photo of me.  Tough to get a good one when I am usually the one with the camera.  Thanks Zany!
Strasbourg
Sunday, we decided that the only thing that might be open was the Weihnachtmarkt in Strasbourg.  It is supposed to be one of the better ones in this region, and it was indeed!  The markt has been in the square of the cathedral since the late 1500’s.  Though, I dare say it was likely a bit different during any variety of war years!  About every ten feet is a stand selling hot spiced wine called glühwein or vin chaud, depending on your language of choice.  The rest of the stands mostly sold little gifts and craft fair sorts of goods.  Nice place to pick up a few holiday presents (which, I am told, is perhaps the whole idea…..)

The little tramp greeted us and other visitors as we arrived at the Weihnachtmarkt.  I actually had a really hard time getting a photo because large numbers of oblivious tourists would always seem to walk in the way just as I was about to click the shutter!  I stole this photo from Zany’s camera- apparently his superior size, patience and perhaps pushitude yielded him the superior photo!

The Cathedral and its Christmas Market.  It has been going on here in this square annually since 1570!
That is the tourist offices with the huge gingerbread decor.

See the lady with the stork on her head?  She was an American.  She had no rhythm.  And she didn’t know the words to Jingle Bells.  I don’t know why she thought that the two Santas wanted her to sing with them.  But, there was a LOT of glühwein for sale.  Perhaps that had something to do with it.

This Year’s theme was “The Swiss are your Neighbors”- I wondered how many of the Strasbourg natives needed the reminder?

I suspect that the gentlemen with the enormous cowbells are who we heard parading when we were eating dinner.

Swiss Bell-men
A Jules Verne themed merry go round- but of course!
There may have been a few folks in town.
No, really.  Even more than that (Mom, DS and I are at the front of the shot)

All the side alleys are decorated with fun themes.  Teddy Bears or Angels or ornaments of all kinds.
Zany with a blue LED lit tree and a statue of Gutenberg.
The English language version of the menu at the restaurant where we ate… David wasn’t with us this day or I am sure he would have gone for the boar stew!
Muscat- highly recommended!

The French apparently use the entire scallop, not just the round white part.  I didn’t know they had another part!  Honestly, I found I preferred just the sweet white rounds.  The orangy bits were more strongly flavored- and they really did have visible antennae and faces.  After a 1/2 dozen or so, I decided I didn’t need the extra calories anyways, and just went with the good parts!

Bubby and her cheesecake- the green spot on her sweater is the result of the green paper napkins at the eatery.

Zany and his apple strudel

When we got upstairs, the heat in the room fogged my camera!  Ah, the Hollywood starlets would love it!
Zany’s camera did the same thing!  I don’t look less wrinkly, though- just in a haze….

Dumbwaiter- to the left, the guy on the right seemed to speak several languages.

DS liked his dessert- a sugar cube from my coffee!

My dessert, Black Forest Cake!!! First one I have eaten since being in the Alsace region. (yea, I am sure the little scallop heads I didn’t eat gave me plenty of spare tummy space for this!)

We had to go up via this elegant but daunting structure.

More decorations in old Strasbourg- sort of a different style than the American Shopping Decor I have seen.
DS and Kaan, one of his good friends from school.  Kaan’s family owns a cafe in Gengenbach, so we decided to have lunch there.

Gengenbach
Monday, we picked DS up from school at 1, and headed over to the restaurant run by the family of a friend of his.  Lovely place.  Delicate pizzas and wonderful tea!

This is definitely the Right Way to serve tea!  Mmm… Orange!
Bubby, DS and Zany outside the townhall in Gengenbach

Every year they make it into the “world’s largest advent calendar!” (each window and the panels above are opened one night at a time to reveal a new image, if you squint you can see a few random ones have pictures instead of regular window coverings)

The Chocolate Museum
Tuesday we went out to France for another pass at the Chocolate Museum.  Bubby had missed it last time and really wanted the experience.

Zany and Bubby in the Mayan Chocolate fields

Yup, zombie slave children are still creepy!

And that poor Mayan woman is still stuck cowering behind Cortez.  What IS that?

 But, I don’t have a photo of the oddest part of the trip.  Like many such establishments, it is laid out so that you exit in the gift shop- of course!  But, when we emerged this time, the place was overrun.  There appeared to be two groups spread out through the cramped store.  The first was some sort of school group with kids in their early teens- maybe DD’s age, maybe a year older or younger.  They were well behaved, but, they were pretty typical teenagers.  Lots of little clutches of kids trying to decide what presents to get for family and friends, gossiping (in French) the whole time.  The second group was all disabled elderly folks!  We are talking ancient people in wheel chairs or with crutches and fearful, bemused, sometimes glazed looks on their faces.  Between the stranded wheelchair-bound seniors and the swirling gaggles of giggling boys and girls, movement was, shall we say… impaired!

An enormous line formed at the cash register.  To my horror, I realized that there was only one employee who was buzzing around with a shell-shocked look on her face, trying to make some sort of gift basket.  Oh No!  As I continued looking up I realized that poor Zany was standing there looking completely flummoxed.  He and Bubby had put their purchases in a basket like the ones the local venders use for gathering small items.  But, this particular one was actually meant to make attractive presents for the holidays.  And, since he doesn’t speak French, there was no explaining what was up to the saleslady!  In slow motion, I tried to make my way through the molasses of people, but it was no use.  I put back my potential purchases and called myself lucky to get away without waiting through the line.  The whole experience had been some sort of surreal comedy routine.  If I were into such things, I might suggest that it could have been better enjoyed with a little herbal enhancement!

Outside, things weren’t much better.  Some pushy German lady *really* wanted our parking place.  There were others, but ours was apparently the best one.  Mom got a little flustered, but successfully pulled out and gave the woman a clear berth.

Next it was my turn to be flustered.  What was that sound?  The scraping noise couldn’t be good.  We stopped and I got out to investigate.  OH.  The “chin spoiler” had fallen off.  That is the lower piece of plastic under the bumper.  Thank goodness Zany was there.  He knew just how to pop that baby back on!  Woot!  Zany magic for the win!

Zany and the Chin Spoiler

Lying on the wet road in France, putting our car back together!

 
St. Nikolaus Nacht
St. Nikolaus Nacht was that evening.  This is a German tradition in which the good saint shows up at the house with his switch and beats the tar out of anyone who has been naughty.  Then, depending on your area, either he or a nice lady named Kris Kindele fill everyone’s hausschuhe (slippers) with trinkets, nuts, fruit, candy or whathaveyou.   I guess there were no bad children in our house, or we were lucky because the old meany never showed up with his switch!  The next day when the kids got out of school, though, they came home to find their shoes filled with treats and trinkets.  So did the grownups!  I guess someone thought our ears were cold because among the best presents were a series of animalistic knit hats! (prepare for a long string of family photos, sorry!)

DD’s shoe

DS’s shoe

Mine and David”s

Zany with his and Bubby’s

DS Likes his gifts

DD seems a little confused by hers, really….

Hmm, is this how you wear this?
Mimicking St. Nick’s finger pose

Bubby seems to like her Nikolas offerings, too :-)

Spiffy New Hat!

Letting Loose the Monkey In Me (It was suggested that I got the monkey hat because my favorite kid-friendly swear word is Crudmonkey…)

Pensive…

Er… long-suffering?
A man who knows how to wear a spiffy hat!

I think it adds a certain gravitas to his presentation.

DD decided to take the photos rather than be in them, but her cat hat is getting an assist from DS

There are worse photos of us.
But this is my favorite!

Myconids- St. Nikolas at least knows our bizarre family aesthetics!

Gasthoff Tritschler & Bubby’s Birthday
 We were going to miss Bubby’s birthday celebration with the family, so we all decided to go out to a local gasthoff that Tom, my physical therapist, had recommended.  Getting there was a bit tricky because our car only holds 5 and there are 6 of us!  So, David walked over from work.  It was pouring rain most of the day, mind you.  But, he managed not to get too soaked.  The restaurant itself serves traditional German fare…. very, very slowly.  We were there about 3 hours for our 2 course meal (entree and dessert).  Probably could have skipped dessert, but the food was better than good and quite filling, as you can see from the photos!  After dinner, it was Bubby and Zany’s turn to walk back to their hotel, while David and the kids and I took the car back home. Nothing in Germany is without at least some work!

Gasthoff Tritschler has a self portrait!

Bubby and Zany.  Awwwww.

David and Me.  Yeah, I think that is us.

I suppose this is, too.

That is a Rump Steak on Bubby’s plate.  This place may have had largish portions of meat!

David’s pork cordon bleu.  The thing probably weighed in at a kilo or so!
Lervley!

Leontine!

Speaking of leontine, there are typically dogs in restaurants and shopping malls everywhere in Germany.  Tritschler there had at least two.  But, some canines draw attention even here.  This fellow’s name is Kito- he is French.  He had lunch with us today at a different gasthoff in Offenburg.  If I understood the conversation correctly, he weighs upwards of 200 pounds.  Yow!

I will never think of the Hound of the Baskervilles quite the same way again!
Finally, what family visit would be complete without a picture of your mother with Dobby?

Dec 032011
 
Occupy Offenburg

Bubby and Zany are Occupying Offenburg!  This is a good thing!  It also gives me an excuse to cook!  Woot!

Shortly after arrival, Bubby is wearing the new hat we gave her.  Zany is ready to run with the dingoes downtown.
DD decided she needed a hat, too.

They did not make it to dinner
But, my Bio-lachs meal woke them up OK.  I made a mistake at the store and accidentally bought about $40 US worth of organic salmon.  Oops!  Tasted good, though!

I asked my physical therapist to give me his favorite Yule-time German recipe.  He started by telling me I would need to cook with a hose!  This is what he actually meant.  It is a tube of cooking film called Bratschlauch.  You use it to create sort of a fake pressure cooker effect for meats. 

Every market sells bundles of “Suppengrün” or Soup Greens to cook with stewed meats (or, I suppose, soups!).

This is the recipe he gave me.  Tie a scheufele (cured pork shoulder) in with some wine and veggies, then cook slowly in the oven.
A few hours later, this is what we had.  IT SMELLED SOOOOO GOOD!

I decided our meal also needed some roasted root veggies.  Can you smell the lemon and garlic?
It is one of those meals that is less attractive to look at, but Wonderful to eat!  Definitely keeping this recipe!  The meat tastes like a cross between bacon, ham and brisket.

In poking around online I happened upon a recipe for Honeycomb.  Honeycomb just happens to be my favorite candy- and it needs both corn syrup and baking soda- two things Mom brought me from the states.  The decision seemed obvious! 
Chocolate dipped :)

Finished Chocolate Honeycomb- the chocolate didn’t get tempered quite right because it lost some of its gloss, but, that doesn’t seem to be keeping anyone from eating it!

This is my mom and Tom, my physical therapist and guide to all things local.  He really is a sweetheart, and thoroughly knowledgeable in everything Offenburg.  I would happily go hang out just to have him teach me about local culture.

We made the mistake of trying to get breakfast during the Christmas Market in town.  Germans apparently do not have waiting lists or lines for restaurants as we do in the states.  Every place we went that was full essentially chased us away!  We finally found a bakery with some little tables we could stick together.

DD channeling Grandma Estelle

Siblings

Everyone trying to read a German sign.  It told you how to get a token, go up two flights of stairs and use the restroom!

This little fellow, Karlo, was out and about making friends.

Guess who he decided would be his best friend?
In town we ran into the group at the top of the page handing out papers trying to get together an Occupy Offenburg rally.  There were only about 1/2 dozen of them, but they were giving it the old college try!

Best. Skating. Helper. Ever!
I don’t think that means what they think it means.

Each one of those dark dots is a crow.  They were agitated by the storm we are having.  Can’t tell, but it is windy, wet and cold out!  No snow, but a nice day to be inside!