20 Jul


It’s been six years since we lived in Germany and high time we went back to visit. Finally living on the right coast, we decided to take advantage of the military’s Space Available option and see if we could fly to Germany on the cheap. We got super lucky and landed the last four seats on this no-name airline taking military families to their new overseas assignments.

Germany Trip 1


We had no specific plans in Germany aside from just spending time with friends and soaking up the atmosphere that we have been missing.

No trip is complete without castles though, so we checked that box. Row 1: Schloss Marksburg, The Rhein River from Marksburg, Idstein. Row 2: Wiesbaden Casino, Burg Hohenzollern, Knights in Hohenzollern. Row 3: Heidelberger Schloss, Heidelberg’s Powder Tower, Bad Dürkheim area from Wachtenburg.

Germany Trip Castles



Other architecture is pretty awesome too. I don;t think I’ll ever tire of pretty little German towns. I love the way the Europeans combine ancient and modern as well. Row 1: Idstein, Limburg, a metal covered door in Schloss Marksburg. Wiesbaden, a house in Waldenbuch with decorative slate shingles, The Ritter Sport chocolate factory in Waldenbuch. Row 3: The Ritter Sport museum and shop, the corner in Heidelberg that used to house the gallery where I had my first solo show but is now an apartment, Mannheim market.

Germany Trip Architecture



I didn’t realize how much I missed the food until we returned to Germany. There are certain things I make at home, but so many others I had forgotten about, or that just aren’t the same out of context. Row 1: Spaghetti Eis (ice cream extruded to look like Spaghetti and topped with strawberry sauce), chocolate and nut ice creams presented to look like a baked potato, Döner Kebap (Turkish fast food). Row 2: Curry Wurst (fest food!), Frühstück (breakfast with eggs, cold cuts, cheese breads, yogurt, coffee, the works!), and Flammkuchen (Alsatian pizza-like tart topped with creme fraische, cheese, bacon and onions). Yeah, we gorged on the Flammkuchen. Row 3: Dampfknödel (steamed bun dipped in vanilla sauce), an assortment of cakes (to be enjoyed with coffee and friends at about 4:00), home made jams and jellies from friends because everyone knows how to make them.

Germany Trip Food



Even with ice cream and Flammkuchen, the kids needed more than castles and charming architecture to keep them happy. So, we entertained ourselves the way locals do. Row 1: Ge-Force roller coaster at Holiday Park, Kettenkarousel at Holiday Park, Fourth of July fireworks at the German American Fest in Wiesbaden. Row 2: Chiseling for fossils at a quarry near Stuttgart, planes, trains and automobiles (with slides) at the Technic Museum in Speyer, rock climbing at an indoor playground in Stuttgart. Row 3: amusement rides at the fair in Speyer, Sommerrödelbahn in the Odenwald (luge on a track). 

Germany Trip Entertainment copy


We also thoroughly enjoyed watching World Cup Fussball. We went with friends to a biergarten in Wiesbaden for the Germany France game, to the local Schützenhaus (gun club) for the Germany Brazil smack down, and with another group of friends to a biergarten in Mannheim for the finale against Argentina. It was so much fun to genuinely join in the camaraderie, national pride, and simple excitement. It reminded us of our fantastic summer living in Germany when they hosted World Cup in 2006, but even better because Germany won for the first time in 24 years (and the first time as a united country). Here’s a bunch of the kids all dressed up at the fest after watching the Germany France game.Germany Trip 2


Another thing we remember fondly was the small town fests. Germans can celebrate anything. Apparently there’s even a Cesarean fest in the town where the first one (in modern times) was performed. We went to the Radish fest in Glasshütte with our Stuttgart-based friends.

Germany Trip 14


The big draw was the old timer tractors brought out by the local tractor club, called Schlepper Freunde. Two were Porsches and one was a Mercedes.

Germany Trip 3

We took silly selfies as friends often do.


Germany Trip 4

And then my family took more silly photos when I left my phone unattended. They look like they should be on an album cover, don’t they?

This guy regaled us with hours of polka. Very fest-like. Though he stuck to the traditional and didn’t play Country Roads…

Germany Trip 18


Yes, those are ketchup and mustard udders.

Germany Trip 17


Did I mention that one set of friends lives just above the Ritter Sport chocolate factory? The air even smells like chocolate! The factory has a great little museum and shop. We came home with the 2 kilo surprise bag of assorted goodies.

Germany Trip 16


The Germans are nothing if not efficient and organized. Even the trees are numbered (well, not all of them, but the ones that are regularly cared for).

Germany Trip 15


Other trees are cut and stacked for firewood. There’s nothing quite like a perfectly stacked row of German firewood.

Germany Trip 13


And then there’s the truly unexplainable. The town of Bad Dürkheim has a mineral spring where they pump the salty water to the top of a giant loofa wall so that people may enjoy the curative powers of salty air as the wind blows through the wall.

Germany Trip 10


Heidelberg University has the Studenten Karzer where unruly students were incarcerated for infractions such as shouting too loudly at night, or using the familiar instead of formal salutation with a policeman. Students memorialized their time in the prison by painting graffiti on the walls.

Germany Trip 12



And this is the Mephistophemobil at the Technic Museum in Speyer. It’s a wagon adorned with all kinds of things to make a racket as it rolls along. Notice the garden gnome and red antlered antelope.

Germany Trip 11


We had a fantastic time revisiting old stomping grounds as well as exploring new ones. Here we are in the family tree-painted room of hohenzollern castle.

Germany Trip 5


And here I am with the wonderful ladies who I breakfasted and sewed with every other Friday when we lived in Heidelberg.

Germany Trip 6



Two of our neighbors from Heidelberg who now live in Switzerland made the drive up to spend a day with us!

Germany Trip 7


And we spent a super four days with our exchange student and her family (including Oma and the boyfriends).

Germany Trip 8



Sadly, after two and a half weeks, we had to go home. All the flights back to Baltimore on the comfy planes were full, so we hopped on a cargo plane to Dover. It was loud and lacked amenities, but allowed for great legroom and a surprisingly generous box lunch. It was all part of the grand adventure and the kids actually enjoyed it as it’s not every day you get to fly in one of these behemoths with containers and a HMMV in the center aisle!

Germany Trip plane


Tschüss Deutschland, as ever, it was great.

07 Jan

It’s Crafturday (4)

Our beloved exchange student leaves today. She’ll be returning to Germany well equipped for the new school year though. In addition to well honed English skills and a suitcase full of American clothes, I’ve sent her off with a Multi-Tasker Tote bag much like mine which she’s been coveting.

ACU Multi Tasker Tote

This side has a big velcro-topped pocket in addition to the floral lined ones that are part of the original pattern.

ACU Multi Tasker Tote

I love this side in which I kept the integrity of the uniform blouse front. On my tote the button front is purely decorative. On this tote, I lined it so that the zipper can open to an actual pocket!

ACU Multi Tasker Tote

There are so many pockets on this tote it’s crazy! My hubby’s favorite is the pen pocket that normally lives on the uniform sleeve. I moved it to the tote interior along with a patch pocket and a flap pocket from the blouse front. And there’s a little loop to clip things on to too.

ACU Multi Tasker Tote

And, here’s the bag in situ as a fabulous beach tote.

28 Aug

Honolulu Walking Tour

As part of my mission to show our exchange student as much of Hawai’i (or at least Oahu) as possible, I took the gang on a self-guided walking tour of Honolulu today. By doing it on a Sunday, we saved on parking, avoided crowds, and didn’t have the opportunity (much to my kids’ delight) to go into any of the museums for tours.

Armed with an informative printout from Frommer’s, we started at St. Andrew’s Church.

Honolulu Walking Tour

The kids needed a bathroom so I asked the first people we saw — who just happened to be the bell ringers. They encouraged us to join them in the bell ringing (practice is Tuesday nights, no need to be a member of the church) and gave us great tips on how and where to add to our tour. Definitely filled with Aloha spirit.

Honolulu Walking Tour

The next stop was Washington Place, the home of John Dominis husband to Queen Liliuokalani, who lived there after her imprisonment at Iolani Palace (from reading the book The Betrayal of Queen Liliuokalani, I gathered that she didn’t like living at Washington Place prior as John Dominis’ mother also lived there and he was a total mama’s boy).

Honolulu Walking Tour

My son suggested that Father Damien was a “Cuban” (get it — “cube?”). Despite being afflicted by the teen years, he can be pretty funny sometimes.

Honolulu Walking Tour

Behind Father Damien is the Hawai’i State Capitol. By reading the guide, we learned that the Senate and House rooms are cone shaped like volcanos, and that the columns represent palm trees.

Honolulu Walking Tour

In contrast to the 1960s Capitol Building stands Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the US. According to the Frommer’s guide, there’s actually two — the second being the Royals’ summer home in Kona on the Big Island. No tour today, but definitely worth returning to (sans smaller kids).

Honolulu Walking Tour

And on the palace grounds stands the lovely Bandstand built for King Kalakaua’s Coronation.

Honolulu Walking Tour

Across the street is the main reason for our tour — Aliiolani Hale (the State Judiciary Building), AKA Hawai’i 5-O Headquarters. J and I watch Hawai’i 5-O together as do her parents back in Germany. We love picking out locations where we’ve been, and they love recognizing some of the place names their daughter has talked about.

Honolulu Walking Tour

Not on the tour, but a must-see next door for us, is the Honolulu Post Office. I’m quite certain that these are the arches under which McGarret and Danno meet with lawyers and banter with each other while underway to the police station or other important business. I’ve confirmed via Hawaii Five-0 Undercover that the Court House is indeed the Post Office in real life, and should add that the Territorial Office Building should be part the walking tour as it stands in for HPD in the show.

Honolulu Walking Tour

Back to the tour, we stopped at Kawaiahao Church — Hawai’i’s oldest.

Honolulu Walking Tour

Then we continued on to Mission Houses Museum. The home of the first missionaries, this group of buildings is a little patch of New England in the center of a tropical metropolis.

Honolulu Walking Tour

Heading back to our car, we passed Honolulu Hale, or City Hall.

Honolulu Walking Tour

And finally, we passed the State Library. I’ve never been inside, but now I’m tempted.

Now we’re home, tired from the heat, but happy to have had a taste of Honolulu and it’s history.

18 Dec

Zimtsterne, Lebkuchen and Gebranntemandeln

My daughter and her BFF making sugar cookies.

My art quilt blog has been seasonally hijacked by German baked goods!

Commenter urs requested the recipes for the Zimtsterne and Lebkuchen Wiener Art in my previous post, so here they are for anyone who is also interested:

The Zimtsterne recipe is from the “Joy of Cooking: Christmas Cookies“. They use the English translation and call then Cinnamon Stars. I see that the book is out of print, but there are used versions to be had and one review said that many of the recipes are also in the new Joy of Cooking cookbook. I don’t know what the etiquette on posting someone else’s recipes is, so since I can point readers to the source, that is what I’m doing.

Regine has given me permission to post her Lebkuchen Wiener Art recipe, and I’m quite sure it’s not available in an English translation anyways, so here it is:

Mix all together and set aside:

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cardamon
2 Tbsp cocoa

Melt together in a small pot:

1/2 cup Honey
1/2 cup Molasses (or for a milder taste, 1/4 cup molasses plus 1/4 cup brown rice syrup or light corn syrup)

and then add:

2 eggs
1 stick plus 1 Tbsp Butter
2/3 cup grated hazelnuts or almonds (I ground the hazelnuts (bough in the bulk section of my local natural foods store) in my coffee grinder))

Knead together the wet and dry ingredients, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons milk as needed.

Chill the dough, then roll into 2 sheets. Place one sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread generously with Raspberry and Black Currant Marmelade (I used Bon Mamman Four Fruits Preserves) and lay the second sheet on top.

Bake 20 minutes at 350°F  then lower the temperature to 300°F and bake 25 minutes more.

Cut into squares while still warm. Brush with lemon sugar glaze. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Regine says that she hopes next year will smell every house of Lebkuchen! (Sorry, I had to quote her charming use of English.)

Finally, I had the inspiration to try another staple of the German Weihnachtsmarkt — Gebranntemandeln. Sold warm in paper cones, these candied almond are divine! I was short on almonds, but had a ton of local macadamia nuts, so I used both. Robin came to visit last night and she deemed them addictive, but the the mac nut version the better one (not that it stopped her from eating the almonds too!) and though I can’t dis the german tradition, I do think that using macadamia nuts is the perfect fusion of our German and Hawaiian Christmas experiences. I found the recipe/instructions in several places, but I think this one at Tasty Kitchen is the most accessible.

Frohes Fest!

15 Dec


I’ve got my Christmas music on (mostly German) and I’m in the mood for a Weihnachts- or Christkindlemarkt. So, I browsed my older posts and dug out this list of German Christmases past:

Advent, Advent. No photos, but a nice description of the time of year.

Bad Wimpfen.

Kindergarten Advent play.

Kindergarten, music and cookies here.

Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt.

Nürnberger Weihnachtsmarkt.

Waldschule Weihnachtsfest.

Living creche at Nurnberger Zoo.

Decorations at my house.

Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt.

16 Aug

Mail is Great

Every now and then I get a great week or so of mail.I had one of those a few weeks ago. it started with this cute little mushroom baby from Bitter Betty. After the mushroom swap she had said she’d send me one to go with my little mushroom guy. I had totally forgotten about it, so it was a fun surprise when this little one arrived at our door.


I had also sent my insane hexagon quilt, “Am Rand von Oma’s Weizenfeld,” to Germany to be part of an exhibit of hexagon quilts at the Heidelberg Hearts and Castles Quilt Guild 20th Anniversary Quilt Show. Margarete and Christine returned it with a CD of photos from the show AND a magazine with my friend Valerija’s artwork on the cover. Inside were both the optical illusion quilt and the tote she made from the scraps, plus two accessories! Way to go Valerija! I am also the proud recipient of my third Valerija bag — this one in a fun black and brights print with shiny silk inside.


And if the week couldn’t have gotten any better, my long time friend Silke sent me pot holders from her home town to remind me of Germany, a recipe book so I can make my own german treats, the french fry spice that my german-born kids can’t live without and a box of semmelknoedel. Of course, you don’t see the knoedel because we’ve eaten them already! Oh, since it matched the blue color scheme, another hero card from my hubby is in the picture.


Finally, speaking of my hubby and mail, the first Iraqi Bundles of Love arrived! This is getting exciting.

14 Dec

Christmas meme

(My mom, my hubby and I finally got me the new camera I’ve been wanting/needing for the last year for my birthday and I’m slowly getting to know it. I can take pics in low light now, and can download the photos to my computer. Yea me!)

We put up our Christmas decorations today, so it seems like a good time to jump on the Holiday Meme train like fellow Bloggers Gerrie, Terry and Diane:

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? What about Glühwein? It’s not Christmas without Glühwein. (Wassail and Glog count.)

Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree?
Santa fills the stockings with wrapped presents.

Colored lights on tree or white? White, but I’m often out-voted.

When do you put your decorations up? Decorations can come out any time after December 1st, but I won’t put the tree up until the weekend closest to my birthday (December 15th). This was a family tradition since it meant that the tree would still be reasonably fresh on Christmas. We have a fake one now, but the tradition has stuck. We’ve adopted the German tradition of taking the tree and decorations down on Three Kings Day (January 12th).

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? We usually have turkey, but I did a roast with Yorkshire Pudding one year and that was pretty tasty.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Like Terry, I played along long after I knew Santa was really my parents. And my parents played along long after they knew we knew!

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Presents with my mom’s side of the family Christmas Eve and presents and Brunch with my dad’s side Christmas morning. At home it was one present the eve of, and the rest in the morning. After my parents divorced we had multiple Christmases with all the varied parts of the family.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Growing up it was always eclectic handmade, then I collected enough to do themes, now I tend towards a combination of red, straw ornaments, and painted European figures.

Snow! Love it or Dread it? If I’m going out I dread it (unless it’s just to walk to Weinachtsmarkt to drink Glühwein). If I can stay at home warm and cozy, then I love it.

Can you ice skate? Forward and backward around the rink and stopping, but that’s it.

Do you remember your favorite gift? They are all my favorite!

What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family, traditions.

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Gingersnap cookies from our secret family recipe.

What is your favorite tradition? Stocking Christmas morning. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving? Mostly giving, but what’s not to like about receiving too?

What is your favorite Christmas Song? Any German Christmas song, but probably Kling Glöckchen the most. I even wrote a post about my love of German Christmas songs here.

Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yum, but not too many of them.

Ever recycled a Christmas present? Not that I can remember — certainly not from or to any close friend or family member. Wrapping — now that we recycle for years!

And because I seem to live between cultures, as I wrote this, the Christmas music on my computer got changed to Hawaiian and we’ve been practicing Hula in between answers (type type, uehe, type type, kaholo, ami, ami, ami, ami).