20 Jul

Deutschland!

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.

09 Mar

Austin

Where to start? So much going on, so little time. I could do things, or I could blog about them, but there does not seem to be time to do both (there’s hardly enough time to do just the “things”). Anyway, we went to Austin last weekend. My brother in law got married and he and his bride made a whole wonderful family reunion weekend out of it.

We explored Austin. We checked out the capitol building and I tried to get the kids to compare and contrast this one to “ours” in Honolulu, but they were enchanted by the squirrels! Yeah, we don’t have squirrels in Hawai’i.

Kids and I went horseback riding with hubby’s cousin at a local ranch.

We saw some cool street art to continue the theme from a few weeks ago.
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There was evidence of Hawai’i influence (though it’s correctly “shave ice,” not “shaved ice”). And by the way, the whole food truck thang seems to be quite popular in Austin. In fact food in general is quite popular in Austin. There was no shortage of interesting and delicious restaurants.
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I dragged the family to a quilt shop for “modern” fabrics (Stitch Lab. Charming), and a yarn shop (Hill Country Weavers) which had really, really great samples! This chicken photo is for Megan who doesn’t even read my blog but is knitting an adorable giant owl.
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The city motto is “Keep Austin Weird” and for being in Texas it sure is different. It reminded me of Melrose and Santa Monica streets in LA. I thought this medic turtle was wonderfully weird.
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Just about everyone converged on the boot store.
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Oh yeah, these came home with me!

Of course with a wedding comes a wedding quilt. As the couple lives in Texas, we thought a Lone Star was in order. My mother- and sisters in law settled on a pattern from “Material Obsession 2” and made it in the wedding colors.

I pieced the center and sent it to my mother in law to piece the smaller corner stars in their circles.

Then she sent it off to one of my sisters in law who hand quilted the whole thing in her gorgeous, tiny stitches. She finished it just in time so the best photo I have is in the hotel room!
Lone Star Quilt awaiting it's debut

It was well received (the bride LOVED that the grey fabric sparkles!) and I hope that it enjoys many years of use with the happy couple.

Cheers!

20 May

…But R&R is Pretty Great!

When I tell people my husband is deployed, one of the first questions is if he will be able to come home for a visit. On previos six month deployments to Bosnia and Kosovo, and the many four month TDYs (temporary duty assignments) the answer was always no. But for his current 12 month deployment to Iraq, he can come home. Soldiers deployed for 12 or more months get two weeks of R&R (rest and recuperation). We were planning on Art’s being in August.

He’s into surprises though. Many may remember how I was the last to know that we were moving to Hawai’i last year. With several our friends’ husbands coming home for R&R in the past few weeks, I actually had a dream that Art came striding unannounced across our back yard and into the house. Funny because to stride across our yard takes about two steps depth-wise, and with walls on three sides there’s no place to stride from.

He rang the front doorbell at 10:00pm Friday night though. Scared the you-know-what out of me, but in the end, should have been expected. It was a good surprise. The kids were incredulous the next morning.

In case anyone is wondering what it takes to get a soldier from Iraq  or Afghanistan to the US for R&R, Mr. Incredible has a few blog posts on the adventure. With a two day delay on the front end, it took 65 hours and 13 time zones. I think he’s posted a cool map on his Facebook account  (I don’t know since I don’t Facebook, which is part of how he surprised me). He took planes, buses and automobiles, both military and commercial and stopped in several countries along the way. It’s quite the dance they choreograph adding and dropping off soldiers as they criss cross their way over the globe. Along the way, my soldier and his fellow travelers met generous people who made their way a little easier, not because anyone said they had to, but because they were happy to.

If you meet, in your travels, a service member returning from deployment, or for R&R, consider the many hours and myriad modes of transportation they’ve been navigating, and the beacon of home at the other end, and maybe buy them a drink or a sandwich, let them cut in line, scootch over so they can lay down on the chairs, give them a smile and wish them pleasant travels.

Meanwhile, we’ll be making the most of our two weeks together, being, as my daughter pointed out this morning, four people again.