Saturday, November 29, 2008

Journey back in time

Approximately 40 years ago, this was me (Susan) on a little street in Kreuz-Wertheim, Germany. FYI - I still have that baby buggy and have pic's of the girls in it. Last week, my dad and I on that same street.
Below - The old fortress above Wertheim. A place I had heard about since I was a little girl and finally had the opportunity to visit. My dad was stationed here during Vietnam with the Army. The US was still very active on bases in Europe in the 60's - there was still the "Cold War." My mom flew over with me when I was about 3 weeks old and I spent the first year of my life there. Really wish I had retained more German! Ha Ha.

Wertheim is a very pretty village. Very "old" German feeling. Plenty of old towers and turrets to keep the camera busy. I can just imagine that my mom, as a 20 year old from CA with a new baby, had plenty to keep her amused and busy.
I've often said that my comfort in moving to a European country was in the fact that my parents never gave a negative impression about their (our) experiences overseas - my dad's experiences were, of course, mostly confined to the base - my mom always had a lot of interesting stories.
I actually have a Steiff bear on wheels which they splurged on for my first Christmas. Apparently it cost them about $35 - can't touch that now.

Dad in front of his old base - Peden Barracks. The Army turned the property back over to the City quite a long time ago and while the buildings are still there, some are unused, some converted to private housing and a large part used as facilities for the Wurzburg Police Academy.
It was a bit melancholy for Dad - it was a bustling military base and now it is quiet and not a sign of it's former inhabitants except for......
this street sign. A lasting reminder that the American's were, in fact, in Wertheim, Germany.
Another view of Wertheim coming down from Peden Barracks - towards Kreuz-Wertheim. I'll leave off with a last look at Heidelberg. A city worth a stop if you are cruising through Germany - a day trip though, it's not very big.
My cold, after a week, seems to finally be nearing an end. I think the cold weather (stayed at freezing for most of the time) has not helped me AT ALL. It's hard feeling crummy when you have guests - but my dad has been great and we've really enjoyed having him here. It's hard to believe his visit is nearly at an end.
I'll have to post more of what we've been up to now that I'm feeling better. We had a lovely Thanksgiving and hope you all did too. Christmas tree went up today and we are on to another season! Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow........

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

He got here just in time

Yeah Dad!!!!!!!!

Can you believe I put my dad to work so fast? You betcha!!! I can say that only because I have Minnesota in-laws. Otherwise, it would never have been introduced into my vocabulary. I would still be saying "totally" which totally doesn't work when you're talking about shoveling snow.

Anyway..... My dad arrived safely from CA, we had a nice weekend trip to Germany and I returned with a nasty headcold which still has a firm grasp on what's left of my brain. So this is short and I will update with more pictures later . We had good traveling weather in spite of the snow - we seemed to follow it but were never in the midst of it. Best way to do it when you're on the road. It sure is pretty. Prettier when seen after Dad shoveled and I took a long nap.
Quick peek of Grandpa Paul with his girls in Heidelberg.
Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving this week and more later when my head finds my body. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Something I find myself doing when I'm in various cathedrals/churches is taking pictures of the ceilings. Growing up in the 20th Century, in Protestant churches, well, there just weren't any pretty ceilings to look at.

Most of the artwork through the 15th/16th Centuries in Europe was commissioned by either the ruling aristocracy or "the Church." Even much of the aristocracy at that point was somehow connected to "the Church." For instance, in the case of Salzburg, the Archbishops had duties in the Church but were also secular rulers of the region - with land, Schlosses and private wealth.

How that little bit relates to my ceiling pictures, I'm not sure. Just a piece of information to share. Neurons are firing down different paths this morning....

So - here is my favorite ceiling in Europe: St. Peter's Abbey in Salzburg. Beautiful white plaster with soft green relief on it. It is very soothing to look at and the building has a peaceful feeling. When we walked in this last Spring, I remembered I had taken pictures of this very ceiling back in 1996 when Bart & I made our first trip to Europe. It is still my favorite. Here is a view looking down the center aisle of St. Peter's - just to get a full effect.
Here is the altar in the hillside catacomb chapel in Salzburg. The entrace is at the side of the Abbey cemetary - you really have to look for it. The Christians worshiped here during the Roman persecution: the altar dates back to the 3rd Century. There isn't a pretty ceiling in here but thought I'd share. It really impresses upon you the endurance of people and their strength of belief in light of persecution.
Here is the dome ceiling of the "Cathedral" or "Dom" of Salzburg. It is an enormous Baroque structure and a definite contrast from St. Peter's. A beautiful building but with an imposing style vs a cozy style. I don't know if cozy is the right description for a cathedral but some buildings are just soooo big. Notre Dame - big but cozy/comfortable. St. Peter's Basilica - big but formal/not cozy. Not sure what it is? Maybe it's just me.
Here we are looking at Salzburg "upside down" on the ceiling in the Mozart Geburtshaus. Everthing in this room is upside down. Done so as they say he saw many things differently than others and essentially turned the music world "upside down."
The ceiling in the cathedral of Mondsee, Austria. The church where the "Sound of Music" wedding scene was filmed. I forget the name - it is long and I didn't take a picture of the guidebook cover like my smart friend Julie did. :)
Ceiling from a 16th century church in Sopron, Hungary. A very ornate church.
Lastly - from a chapel in Sienna. I LOVE this! I would like this in my house. But the cost of one ceiling like this would probably equal the house value so will content myself with pictures. Love, Love, Love it. That's all.
My dad arrives tomorrow! We are headed to Germany for the weekend and will post pictures of the town I lived in for my first year + of life. Cheers to all!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kitchen notes

Hey - here's the first apple pie of the Holiday season. We had an early Thanksgiving Dinner with some friends last weekend. We will probably have another Thanksgiving Dinner while Grandpa Paul is with us. So more pie, and turkey.... speaking of which.... Did you notice the size of the oven? I know I've posted a similar picture a few years back but, just had to share again. Notice how I can get one, whole pie in there. As long as the turkey I get is only about 10, maybe 12 lbs, I'll be OK. Anything bigger and it just won't fit. And yes, the oven only came with one rack. Don't ask how I manage to get everything onto the table still warm - I don't half the time!

Here is the whole kitchen. To the left is the oven cabinets and another storage cabinet. To the right is the Fridge & Freezer + cabinets on top and bottom. A 'bit' smaller that I had in the States but guess what? It doesn't take as long to clean and yet, with all those cabinets, I still have room for all our stuff. Just don't take offense if I turn down help - it gets really crowded if 2 people try to do dishes.
But this pic shows why the bakeries are so popular:
What a mess! It is nearly impossible to make pies when you hardly have any counter space. I'm trying to roll out dough and banging into everything within 2 feet of me. Not to mention the clouds of flour. But that's not really the fault of the small kitchen. Just my ineptitude - you should see the layer of dust when I make frosting. They have a great powdered sugar for glazing etc... but it's sooooo finely ground that it practically floats out of the bag. I digress....
So, someday, when it's time to return and get our very own house once again, I would like a kitchen that's not too big but has some good working space. And a view. I like a nice view while I'm at the sink.
Grandpa Paul has requested Apple Pie for his birthday so that's what he'll get. I just hope I don't break anything. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free is NOT always FREE

I was inspired by money today.

First was the refund check from the State of NY sitting in our postbox. Yeah! Addressed to us in Wadenswil, Germany? Well, at least it didn't travel to Thailand first. I think the US Post Office has issues since the zip codes here are only 4 digits long. I've even sent something to Ireland that had no zip - just a township name. Love it.

Re: the NOT FREE items. I was ordering my Christmas cards yesterday and noticed that we could get free address labels with orders in excess of 75 cards. I had already placed the cards in my 'shopping basket' and went back to do the labels.

Fortunately for our pocketbooks, I had looked at the shipping charges which were $49.99 (there was a code for free shipping but only within the US so I'd have to pay anyway - it's actually a good price believe it or not).

I finished the labels, added them to the 'basket' and went to check out. Gee, I was getting 90 free labels and only paying 5.98 for the additional ones - Why did my total look so big? Oh, WELL, it might be the $88.98 in shipping charges that I see.

I quickly removed the labels from my basket and rechecked the total - shipping back down to $49.99. So - the FREE labels were going to cost me an additional $39 to ship! For labels!

So - I will not have free labels with my Christmas Cards. I might have to use the 'mistake' ones that were sent from another company - they have Bart's name on them - and pretty pink roses with ballet slippers. He loves those labels. Really. Not.

I'll think of something. Something that won't cost $39 for a name and address!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Election and its Impact

It is a curious phenomenon - in the US, many people are guarded about exactly who they are voting for. Especially if one thinks it might be unpopular with the person asking because we are uncomfortable with confrontation. At least I am. I've never been quick with the tongue and I need to process information - not a good candidate for the debate team.

In Switzerland - I can't speak for all of Europe - people want to know exactly who you have voted for. For Pete's sake - in some towns, they still all show up to vote in person with a raised hand! No joke. As my German teacher said "Yes, you may be the only one to cast a vote for something unpopular but your vote is respected. No one will ambush you on your walk home."

From the Democratic party primary's to the selection of Palin as McCain's running mate, US politics has been a main topic of conversation with neighbors - and for Bart with co-workers/clients. A friend from China and another from S Korea have watched with extreme interest. They have all been very involved and concerned as they watched what was happening in the US.

People are very quick to point out our (America's) problems. What they see us doing wrong. What they think we should do to make it right. Occasionally admitting they have some areas that could use a little work. It is curious also that they see the results of this election as the impetus to great change and hope for the future - because of the man. I find that to be a lot of pressure for one man. I'm also thankful that my ultimate hope rests with God and not in man.

There is no doubt that history has been made and the people have made it clear they want change. It is just interesting to see it from a different perspective. That of people not living in the US and who are affected primarily by foreign policy. Not by the daily, grassroots trickle down that will occur with such change. Their eyes glaze over a bit when I discuss health-care, immigration or religious freedom issues.

For them, it's really about what the US is going to do for the world, what the US is going to support, where the US is sticking its nose into. It is curious how the US is seen more favorably right now with Obama as President-elect. Their hopes are all tied up in a person. I certainly hope he is successful at his job. He needs our prayers. It is a difficult task he has ahead of him.

I have had very frank conversations with Swiss re: the difficulty of being in Europe during a time when the American government isn't popular. You are your country's politics to some people - regardless of personal views and beliefs.

Hmmm - wonder if the attitudes will change now? All because of an election. Or will they wait a while and see how things go first?


A Thank You to all who have served and fought for our Country.
Our thoughts are with you this Veteran's Day.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Reminding me of Blessings (including Boots)

Just in case you want to read a couple very well-written blogs re: a current trip in the Dominican Republic for Compassion International:

I know times are financially tough and I am not promoting these blog pieces in an effort to guilt anyone into sponsoring children if they can't afford to.

These blogs just remind me why we are sponsoring Eloisa in Mexico (Rachel's age) and Mary in Ghana (Kendra's age).

To whom we write and receive letters from. The process takes a while - for us, it can be up to 2 months for letters to be delivered. We write a letter, must post it to the US, it is then translated and then posted to S. America or Ghana. When these girls write to us - it has the additional stop of Mom's house in the US before forwarding on to us. I'm trying out the email option for quick, smaller notes (these are received in the US, translated and forwarded to the Compassion center in the local country) but really like to hand write most letters so that we can include a card or picture drawn by the girls-and it's just flat-out more personal. It also helps keep up my handwriting skills - which are deteriorating due to the computer.

Compassion works through local infrastructure - local people helping local people. They have an open financial policy - we know that our money is really used to help these children and their families. It is a non-denominational, Christian based organization striving to educate and care for children in poverty stricken countries.

It has been a great learning opportunity for Rachel and Kendra as well. As well, at school, all their fundraisers go to support Unicef and a school in Ghana - the children feel personally accountable to helping their 'classmates' in another part of the world. Especially with the Ghana school - they get pictures, letters, see what the donations have been able to do (clean water well, fence around school to keep out animals, play equipment, library books, a small bus as some kids were walking 5km to school - just over 3 miles, etc...). Efforts such as these do make a difference.

In spite of the current atmosphere of doom and gloom, these are examples of conditions we know nothing about. My poorest summer in college can't touch conditions in these countries - and conditions that do exist in our own (we have to look harder to see them but they exist). They serve to remind us how blessed we are even in times of cutting back and wondering what we can and can't afford - what we should and shouldn't spend. Most people in the world don't have those options. I'm not minimizing the difficulty many people are facing right now - just trying to say "think of your daily blessings."

And hoping that we will make a difference in someone's future.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Boot Blog # 2

Oh, I love boots..... (think Oscar the Grouch singing "I love trash")

My Hungary posts triggered a couple of comments and I felt I should re-visit the "Boot Blog." I didn't post one last year - don't know where my inspiration was. I think I was too caught up in my ski dillema. Which I never posted about and will have to get you up to speed this year.

My mom said "I want to see the boots!" So here they are. The boots I bought in Hungary for MUCH less than I would have in Switzerland. Per Makila, Ben said it took me 3 seconds to buy these - He was right, I had been looking since last year. Actually it took 3 minutes because my credit card wouldn't work in their store and I had to pay 10,000's + in Forint. And LOOK - they fit my 'sporty' legs with the jeans tucked in! I don't know if women in the US are wearing their jeans/pants tucked into their boots or not. They do in Europe. And when in Rome...... Here is my 'Boot Wreath.' Mostly for the amusement of my husband. I don't have THAT many, they just take up more space than 'normal' shoes.

In counter-clockwise order: 1. the boot at top - this will be their 3rd season. Italian made. They are sooooo warm and get me through the ice and snow with nary a slip or slide. I Love them even though they aren't beautiful. 2. the 5 yr old boots I've worn year round that really ought to be tossed. They're split up the back seam (unrepairable), been resoled ? times, which led me to 3. these boots which are a little feisty and purchased in the alley behind my Irish hairdresser's place in Zurich (also Italian made). 4. The tall, black boot (Italian - yes, trend here) which prompted the 'sporty' leg legacy - cannot tuck the jeans into these puppies! 5. The Marshall's bargain from about 4 yrs ago - get's me through the dressy heel boot moments - and are a killer walking down the 6 flights of stairs to the car. 6. Last but not least - the green, suede boots that were a killer bargain in the Shoe Clearance room at Von Maur. Of things I miss from Des Moines, behind friends and our church, Von Maur might just be next. I'm shameful.
So - there's my boots (excluding ski boots but they are down in the garage and not exactly every-day wear).
Here are a few more for your enjoyment (via the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich):

Love these but my feet would be hurting after the walk down to the car/bus/train.
These are tall and skinny. With the big bag. And cell. And my feet would still hurt.
Note the layered capes/poncho's. She was about 6' tall - don't think this look works for those of us around the 5' level - unless you have no meat on your bones.
Oh - I thought these combo's were just fun and wish I had the guts to pull them off.
OK - I'm shameful. And I like boots.
Enough to take strangers pictures while pretending to be a tourist on the Bahnhofstrasse. I've lived here long enough I felt a slight twinge of embarassment. Very slight.
Lastly - Good News. Nephew JT is able to walk around now and the treatment for the Pneu. is working. The complications involved a virus that was attacking his leg muscles and had potential for kidney failure. Thank you those who were praying for him. He is a precious little boy. Aren't they all.