Monday, December 26, 2016

Church on the road

I’ve made some interesting observations over the years about faith development while traveling. During August 2014, we were in Chicago and Quebec, attending church in both places. My home church had Bible readings each week that followed a sequence, known as the Lectionary. I don’t remember anymore which passages were read that month, but I noticed that the passages followed each other over the weeks. For example, at home in Massachusetts earlier in August, I heard the beginning part of a certain Bible story. The next  Sunday in Chicago, the sermon referenced the reading that week, which was whatever happened next from the passage the previous week. Then in Quebec, the church was following the same Lectionary, and we heard more of the story. Now, many stories are already familiar, but it was really neat to travel many miles and hear that continuity!
In Europe, we have the opportunity to attend church on base or off base, depending on what type of service we want to attend, such as contemporary, traditional, Gospel, etc. When we are on the road, we are sometimes lucky to find an English speaking service, like in Prague, with phenomenal music, too! Other times our flights or drive times or no English services nearby have resulted in us listening to podcasts. Well, someone more talented than I has arranged for automatic downloads so we can listen to good preaching and sermons. My favorites are: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jon Niketh, Rick Warren and the team at Saddleback, and Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago. We usually listen in the car, but one time we were “stuck” in Copenhagen waiting for a bus, so listening to a podcast straight off the iphone helped to pass the time in a constructive way.
What are your favorite podcasts? We also have motivational podcasts such as Byron Katie, Martha Beck, and others to inspire us.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Krakow and Boleslawiec, Poland

We enjoyed our time in Krakow, even though it was very short, and would recommend it. If you can snag a cheap flight, it will be better than driving (we drove 6 hours from Kaiserslautern to Dresden, stayed overnight, and then drove another 6 hours to Krakow).

The Advent Market in Krakow included some unique vendors we had not seen previously at Germany markets. Their “hot chocolate” is literally melted chocolate with a spoon, not the drinkable kind. It tasted great but was way too intense to finish (think: hot brownie batter). Dinner was tasty in an Italian restaurant on the main square, and after walking around in the cold, we enjoyed tea and a snack at a café- try the raspberry honey tea!

The reason we drove (instead of flying) was to pick up “Polish Pottery” where it is manufactured, in Poland! The items were priced competitively, so it is worth the drive if you would like to get a bunch of plates, bowls, etc. Boleslawiec is close enough to the German border that you could make a day trip out of it if you wanted to stay overnight in Dresden 1 or 2 nights (not a day trip from K-town!). Friends who have wanted to go to several different pottery places have stayed overnight in Poland.

We were grateful for the many English-speaking employees we met throughout Poland- we also offered to speak German, but English seemed to be preferred. I wish I had taken photos of the smallest shops ever along our walk from the hotel to the market, but it was cold and we were hungry, so I didn't prioritize pictures at the time. We passed by dozens of tiny stores, specializing in 1 type of item/category, such as bathrobes and pajamas only, writing papers and notebooks only, 2 manicure stations only, soaps and bubble baths only, etc.!

P.S. I cannot post a photo of the Auschwitz Concentration camp museum. It horrified me to the depths of my soul, and is very meaningful, if you can visit. It is in the region near Krakow, and there are tours departing from Krakow.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Quebec to Boston by cruise ship

I just figured out that I never shared photos of this trip back in 2014! I caught a cold at the end of the cruise and was sick when we got home, then planned for the Life Coach Training trip in October, then was preparing the house to sell for our move.
We flew to Quebec and enjoyed the city despite the rain at the beginning of the cruise. I didn’t take as many photos on this trip, but the scenery throughout was beautiful even on rainy days (we learned on Prince Edward Island that when the cows are lying down, it means rain is on the way…sure enough, it rained shortly thereafter).
In Nova Scotia, the museum dedicated to the rescue of passengers on the Titanic was sad but memorable. I have never felt unsafe on a modern day cruise ship, though this one disappointed us when the outdoor hot tubs were closed and covered at 9pm- um, hello?
We did have some sunny days, too.
Bar Harbor, Maine, included a free shuttle bus to a state park, thanks to Jeff’s military ID card, and a beautiful walk around a lake. One of the reasons I like cruises is that on-board internet is so expensive that it’s nice to “check out” mentally from being connected all day to the outside world. These days, most cruise ship terminals have free wifi, and I almost took a photo of dozens of passengers on their phones, checking e-mail. Only for the sake of our cat-sitter, I checked e-mail, too, and found out about a job that was being posted for only 2 days, requiring extensive paperwork to be uploaded to the job application website before we got home. Um, no can do, really? Good thing we moved to Germany and I found a job right away then. We would recommend this itinerary- but if you like to enjoy the hot tubs after 9pm, don't go with a cruise line that is known for hosting the retirement age crowd (we liked the people just fine, nothing against retired folks!).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ceilings of Europe

Rest assured, the ceilings in the cute German house we are renting are standard/boring white popcorn (no photo). But ceilings from days of yore are a sight to behold! This is a café in Vienna- really!!! The one where I had a lemon tart.
One of the smaller rooms of the Belvedere Palace in Vienna:
The large room in the same Palace:
Next up = St. Petersburg, Russia! The “Swan Lake” ballet theater:
Museum of Russian Art:
Church on Spilled Blood (please note, these are ALL mosaics, made of bazillions of tiny chips of stone):
Dublin, Ireland- the “Riverdance” theater:
Whew, that's all for today!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Off the beaten path in France: Metz

Metz is 1.5 hours west of Kaiserslautern, and is worth the drive to see a walkable, historic French town. We drove in a small German car and were still nervous in the underground parking garage…and the small van ahead of us backed out of the tiny opening to the garage! But we fit in ok (barely), and escaped unscathed at the end.
The Cathedral is beautiful, including some modern stained glass windows and art work. There are plenty of restaurants and café’s ready with lots of delicious bread, dairy, and meat. We didn’t buy any clothes or shoes, but couldn’t resist chocolates (for gifts, of course!), and a natural health store had an amazing array of teas and oils.
The farmer’s market ended before 2pm, but the indoor vendors sold a wonderful assortment of cheeses, fish, home-made pasta, and more. We were greeted at the river walk by friendly swans, and ended the day on a sunny note.
Driving back to K-town, we used a restroom break as an excuse to stop at the Cora grocery store right at the border in Forbach, France, before Germany. The bathrooms were just passable, but the rest of the store was fabulous. I’ve never seen such an assortment of yogurts, and the free samples of pizza that were handed out were the best pizza ever (haven’t been to Italy since we moved here last year). The fruits and veggies need to be weighed before the cash register- the clerk shook her head that they cannot be weighed and paid for at the same time. The chestnut (maron) yogurt in a jar was outstanding and worth a return trip to Cora!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vegetarian Lasagna (crock pot optional)

I tried some new ingredients and techniques, and two people asked for the recipe! I made one in a crock pot and put the exact same ingredients into a traditional baking dish. The only difference was I boiled the noodles for the regular 9x13 baking dish, but I put the noodles into the crock pot raw.
Cut off the top ¼ inch of a head of garlic, and place it on a piece of foil. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto the garlic, and fold up the edges of the foil around it. Gently squeeze the edges of the foil to seal loosely. Just stop reading here if you need exact details about quantities, because you are not going to get any. Put the foil-wrapped garlic into the oven with the veggies.
Chop up 2 zucchini, 2 summer squash (yellow crookneck), 6 or so tomatoes and one eggplant. I cut the squash in half length-wise, and then made about 1 inch slices. I cut the eggplant in half length-wise, then cut 4 or 5 slices in both directions, resulting in rectangular cubes. Place in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper on top. Stir gently, then bake for about 30 minutes. I’m not sure about the exact temperature- my German oven was set to about 180. In the US, I would have set it to 350. I did take the dish out once to stir the veggies.
I had leeks on hand from our farm share, and sautéed them fairly finely chopped in olive oil and butter. I like them well done, so let them brown a bit. Add as many chopped mushrooms as you’d like. I cut up 200g, which was the package size I picked up in the store. Let the mushrooms soften, then commit a kitchen crime (?) by adding 2 cans of tomato paste, 2 envelopes of spaghetti sauce mix, and the amount of water called for on the envelope of sauce mix. Let it simmer for a few minutes, then add the roasted veggies to the sauce. You could keep the veggies separate from the sauce if you wanted to.
see note below

Squeeze out four or so large cloves of roasted garlic and smush them around in a bowl with a spatula until it is in a lumpy paste. Place a large container of part-skim ricotta cheese into the garlic bowl, and blend the cheese and the garlic. Next time I will probably use 6 cloves of garlic, but I didn’t want it to be too intense. Add shredded cheese of your choice. I used mozzarella and gouda, and didn’t measure the quantities. Probably at least a cup of each. Stir together.

Boil lasagna noodles (or don’t, if you are going to use a crock pot). Layer the tomato sauce/veggies, noodles, and cheese. Top with a bit of parmesan. Crock pot on low for 3-3.5 hours, oven for 30 minutes or longer if you refrigerate the pan overnight.

The last photo is of a fruit that did not go into the lasagna. I didn't cook with them, so there is no recipe for this blog. They are called "goldbeeren" in German, which means gold berries. They are eaten raw and though they look like yellow cherry tomatoes, they taste like limes! I cut them up and put them on a salad - we do that with grapes, so why not these interesting fruits?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Vienna, Austria: not at all off the beaten path

We drove from Salzburg to Vienna through glorious scenery and a bit of fog. Vienna is the kind of place where you are walking around after dinner and pass by a church with organ music coming out of the doors! We gazed at over done décor inside, while the thundering organ pipes washed the  music over us and up through the floor. Our first café after the concert had the very best apricot cheesecake with crumbles on top, but the cocoa was too sweet. #firstworldproblems
 We enjoyed the art museum, the “Kunsthistorischesmuseum”, though the paintings were not my favorite. There was an interesting coin collection, from the smallest chip of metal centuries ago to current commemorative coins and even a credit card! There were also amazing “household” wares on display, such as jewel encrusted cups and plates, and intricately carved metal clocks from days of old. That night another concert took place (well, there were dozens of concerts every night in Vienna!) at the Charles church, “Karlskirche”. An octet of strings played the top 10 of classical music, including Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Vivaldi.
On our last day, we took a tram ride to the Belvedere Palace, where several Klimt paintings are housed, including “The Kiss”. Stay tuned for another post with photos of amazing European ceilings! We finally found a nice vegetarian restaurant with a spectacular buffet- even if you are not vegetarian, we recommend “Yamm” near Schottenring (Votivkirche Park). 
There was another wrap/bowl place in the 1st district where everything was vegetarian and you could add your protein of choice, but the atmosphere was very casual with loud rock music (!). After another long stroll in the rain, Jeff asked to go to Café Central, which is famous. The lemon tart was exquisite, and the piano player was on an American kick, such as “Moon River”. 
I'm pleased with the quality of photos taken with the iphone, and no longer lug around the huge "regular" camera.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Salzburg, Austria: not at all off the beaten path

Well, the only thing off the beaten path that we did was stay at a hotel in the suburb of Wals, that had a nice view into fields and mountains. 100% of everything else was standard issue- but we’d really recommend it!
Because we were making a week long vacation out of this trip to Austria, we drove to Salzburg, and then on to Vienna. Others have taken the train from the Kaiserslautern area to Salzburg, and there are also flights, but the 6 hour drive was not too bad. We tried the famous “Nockerl” dessert, which was light and fluffy, yet rich at the same time (eggs, vanilla, probably cream, etc.).
We walked through both parts of Salzburg, on either side of the river. Had the best hot chocolate ever (though pricey!), at a café near the Dom cathedral. The Christmas Museum started with a nice display of Advent Calendars! There were street musicians everywhere, and they were quite talented.
Thanks to a beautiful, sunny day, we relaxed in the gardens of the Mirabell Palace for a few minutes. We also took the cable car up to the fortress for stunning views and a history lesson on the area in the museum. We ended the day listening to an amazing concert in the cathedral, with three choirs, orchestra, and organ playing a coronation mass and a Te Deum.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Update from the cats in Germany

Things are going well for us in our village. We have a nice balcony to hang out on, with views across the meadow and our neighbor’s garden. It is Sidney’s favorite place for hours on end.
We love to go out into the yard on our leashes, where we eat some grass, take a nap (Sebastian), and chase butterflies. There may have even been a tiny hummingbird that was too fast to catch.
We like the wide bathtub edge, and of course we love suitcases. We don’t care if you are tired of seeing cat in suitcase photos, because we hop inside every time they get hauled out (entirely too often for the hauling, not the hopping). Apparently, there is another trip in the works, to some place called Vienna. Sheesh!
The cool thing about the “live” photos on the iphone is that they can show how tough I am (Ida, the cat). Some stray cat asked to come inside, and I hit the glass door really hard with my paw. I don’t care if he looked pathetic, all talking and asking nicely. I chased him away, which you can see, if the live feature goes through on the blog post.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Home-made grape juice!!!

Once again, having a farm share has broadened our horizons. German grapes taste amazing, and are often filled with seeds. I googled several recipes for grape juice, and decided to give it a try. The results were stupendous, and well worth the labor.

Rinse off the grapes and remove them from the stems into a pot. Use a potato masher to break open the grapes right in the pot. Add water- sorry, no measurements from me. We got 1 kg of grapes, and I covered them just barely with water. After the juice was strained, I added a bit more water. I did not put any sugar in the pot because the raw grapes were so tasty. I’m glad I didn’t, but most of the recipes I saw called for sugar.
I boiled the grapes gently for about 20 minutes. I have no idea if shorter or longer is better, because after I turned off the heat and the concoction cooled slightly, I found the flavor to be excellent. Apparently, mashing and boiling allows for more flavor to come out of the seeds and possibly the skin.

I could not locate my cheesecloth anywhere (hello, frequent movers, I know it’s here somewhere). I tried 2 different methods of straining the liquid from the pot: a traditional paper coffee filter, and a tea strainer. The coffee filter worked great for the first few ladles of grape juice, but eventually it got clogged up. The tea pot with built-in plastic filter worked very well.

I can’t rave about the flavor enough. I probably would not go to the grocery store just to buy seeded grapes to make juice with, but as long as fresh from the vine grapes arrive in our weekly farm share, I’ll make juice.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No exciting travels to report!

There comes a time when the draft blog posts are all gone and there are no new travel photos to report on. Can you stand an update about regular life? I’m so happy that one of my friends recently posted a photo on FB of the unpacking process, not just the pretty pictures. Here is a photo of our moving in chaos from last year ("unpack" does not mean put away nicely" - unspoken quote from the movers):

What I’m grateful for now:

1.     It is hot, and I miss my a/c at work and at home (in the US), but I am grateful that I don’t work on an arctic explorer ship, like we saw in this museum. I’ll take the heat for now, knowing that it will be cooler soon.
2.     My new job is going well. I’m teaching one social work class and learning everything I can about administering the program for undergraduate and graduate social work students. Most of them are Americans living here (Germany), but there are students from other locations in Europe.
So happy to receive a farm share each week. We can take our chances on what we get (yes, please) or vote on preferences

3.     I can go to the American grocery store on base 7 days per week, though it feels somewhat frustrating that all the stores in this part of Germany are closed on Sundays. But really, do I need a new pair of shoes on a Sunday? No. It would be nice if we are out of town to be able to go to a grocery store in our village when we get back on a Sunday, but all the people who work in shops get the day off.
4.     I miss my friends but I’m grateful for skype and google hangouts and someone is finally coming to Europe to see us! I have also me some really nice people here, from my jobs to Chapel/Bible Study, neighbors, fellow choir singers, etc.
Boodles of carrots in the farm share, along with a spoonful of local honey and cinnamon

5.     I’m glad to stay home sometimes. As much as we love to travel and discover new places (haven’t really been anywhere twice yet except the airport!), it’s restorative to take care of things and relax. Sleeping in is nice…although, had anyone else noticed that the older we get, the earlier “sleeping in” in the morning counts? Anyway, getting all the laundry done, cooking a bunch of healthy food for the coming week, and emptying the dishwasher help me to chill on the back porch or at the pool or on the couch with the cat and a book.