Friday, October 31, 2008
It's the time of year when we all start thinking about soup. The leaves are falling, the air is brisk, we come inside with cold noses and cold hands. Nothing sounds better than pulling up to the table for a bowl of fragrant steamy soup and a thick slice of fresh bread! Mmmm!
So, I've been pulling out my recipes and headed to the store this morning. Just one problem- I couldn't find broth! Soups have to start with that, there's just no way around it. As I was strolling past the freezer section, I happened to notice a sign that said soup chickens. I thought, "Well, they say there's no true substitute for real broth and since I can't find the canned stuff I might as well go for it. How hard can it be?"
I seem to have momentarily forgotten how much I hate handling raw meat, especially when it is still basically shaped like the animal it once was. So I got her home (I have now read that soup chickens are "spent breeders" and I can't help thinking of it as she) and thawed her out in the microwave. Then I rinsed her in the sink and started crying! I know it sounds totally ridiculous, and I don't know if I was crying for her, having spent her life laying eggs and then ending up in a soup pot, or for myself because it was right then that I realized that I would not only have to get this thing into the pot to cook but also get it out again, take its skin off and cut all the meat off the bones. Just thinking of it is giving me goose bumps, or is it chicken skin?!?
But I feel like I have to complete the task that I started, even if Aaron does get home in time to do the dirty work. I am less certain of whether I'll be able to eat anything that comes from this endeavor!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Remember back in the summer when I was complaining about the weather? Well, it hasn't changed much! Only now, it seems seasonally appropriate and maybe even better than what some of you are experiencing in the Upper Midwest.
Although we did have some "hot" days, July and August were more notable for the rain and 63-degree high temps. And when my parents came from Illinois in mid-September they suffered from the "It's still hot here, it surely can't be that cold there" packing error, one that we've all committed at some point. It was still in the 80s at home but in the 50s here and their layering was a bit on the light side. Now I am hearing about first frosts and first snow flurries in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois. We still haven't had frost, or a temperature below the freezing point. Just yesterday, Aaron's boss asked him how he was doing with the cold weather and promised that it wouldn't get much colder- it was about 35 degrees!
So, I'm really excited by the prospect of a winter without mounds of snow, frozen eyelashes and bitter cold that steals your breath away! We'll see if that makes up for the lack of a real summer. If not, well, you just might see us back next summer to soak up some tropical summer sunshine on the shores of Lake Michigan! Of course, I hear the coast of Spain has some lovely beaches...
Monday, October 27, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I have seen a lot of things in Germany that make sense. Things that make me say, "Huh? I wonder why no one does this in the U.S."
This, however, is not one of them! I have noticed that people here seem a little wimpy about cold weather. But seriously- shoulder warmers? Elbow warmers? Let me give you a tip that we use back in the old country- just put on another shirt!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
And I know you do too. So, whatever you believe in, get out there and let your voice be heard! The best political bumper sticker I've seen says, "If you didn't vote, don't complain!"
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
My parents and I spent an afternoon in Schleswig when they were here. There was a bakery on every corner. We chose a self-serve one (because why speak German to someone if you don't have to?) and loaded up a tray with various treats- pretzels with and without cheese, pastries with nuts, and even a plain white roll with a giant chocolate-covered marshmallow sandwiched in the middle. I couldn't resist. It was just so odd. It turned out to be the best thing I ate there. Which was good and bad, since I decided to start a quest for the best hot pretzel in Germany. I think I live in the wrong end of the country for this, though.
Anyway, the bakery must have been around the corner from the high school because teenagers started pouring in. We sat near the cash register and we couldn't believe that these kids could eat two or three rolls and call it "lunch." Student after student passed by with trays of carbs only. I don't think they have ever heard of Doctor Atkins over here. Or maybe he came over and tried to sell his diets and they just threw him out!
Aaron and I occasionally have the conversation about our favorite food/beverage item. "If you could choose only one treat, what would it be?" "Which food would you refuse to give up?" The tops choices are always cheese, coffee, chocolate or beer. We discussed this recently with our new friend Jan and you know what his answer was: "Oh, bread of course!" We looked at each other is disbelief. It's never even been a contender.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Although we did see a Holiday Inn Express in Baden-Baden, we were happy that it was an anomaly! If our experiences are any indication, small family-run businesses are thriving in Germany. At both hotels, we worked directly with the people who owned it, and in both cases one of the owners was also the chef in the hotel restaurant.
In Cochem, at Zur Schoenen Aussicht, roughly "With a Lovely View," a husband and wife greeted us by name when we arrived. When was the last time you checked into a hotel and someone said, "Oh you must be...! We've been expecting you." She led us up the narrow old staircase to our third-floor rooms. The doors had counted cross-stitch decor with the room number and bunches of grapes and I would have bet anything that she made them. And our rooms did have lovely views looking out at the river!
The next morning when we went down for breakfast, the resident dog was hanging out in the dining room. He was clearly a veteran, as he barely noticed our comings and goings. I have noticed that dogs here have many more freedoms than in the U.S.- it is common to see them in restaurants and shopping centers. And they are astonishingly well-behaved! Perhaps they know that bad dogs wait in cars or on sidewalks.
Breakfast was different- an assortment of sliced deli meats and cheeses, with a huge basket of bread and rolls. It think we would call this lunch! But, they also had Nutella, marmalade (homemade by the lady of the house), muesli, and yogurt. Whatever you call it, it was tasty and a good start to our days.
In Baden-Baden we stayed in Rathausgloeckel, Town Hall Bells- located right next to the town hall, of course. It is a 16th century building and they used to bring prisoners there for their last meals. We saw the iron rings where they chained them up to eat! Luckily for us, we got to eat dinner in the dining room instead and it was one of the best meals we ate (though by no means did we suffer through our other meals)! Two men owned this hotel, which has just nine rooms in addition to its well-known restaurant.
Beds are different in Europe too! Aaron and I don't experience this at home since we brought our bed with us. They are almost always platform beds, so no box springs and they tend to be low. For bedding, there is a fitted sheet but no top sheet. Each side of the bed has its own down comforter in a duvet cover and a big square down pillow. That's it! Harder to snuggle up with your honey under the covers but much simpler to make the bed in the morning- just fold up your comforter.
Staying in these places was so different from staying in a standard American-style hotel. The hosts knew who you were and you had the feeling that they would help you however they could. They served fresh-cooked meals and were proud of their businesses, their livelihoods. It was refreshing and gave us a better understanding of the areas that we visited.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
We arrived at Burg Eltz after driving up out of the river valley, across farmers' fields and into a forest. There we parked the car and set out on foot down a winding wooded path. When we caught our first glimpse of the castle, we were looking down at it! There was just a bit of cloud and mist and Mom commented that it didn't look real, more like a miniature, a picture in a story book. It is nestled into the midst of a forest, with the little Eltz River curving around it on three sides. And even though it seemed hidden away, it was quite grand with its many turrets pointing up to the sky.
What struck me as most amazing was the history of the castle. They think it may have been built as early as the 12th century, with additions added over the course of 500 years of changing family needs. It has always been owned by the Eltz family- 33 generations and 850 years! For several hundred years, a group of joint heirs shared the castle, each building his own "house." In the inner courtyard you can see the three separate entrances and the differences in the architecture of each. It is also unique in the area because it was never destroyed. Almost all castles in the Mosel and Rhine regions were burned by French troops in a land war in 1689, but Burg Eltz survived because of good family connections. There are 100 rooms in the castle and we saw just a few but they have been preserved to reflect the way of life in the early Middle Ages.
Unlike Burg Eltz, Reichsburg castle in Cochem stands proudly above the town. You can't miss it! We walked up through the narrow streets, past Catholic alters and vineyards. The foggy morning leant a bit of mysticism to our journey. We were the only four people for the first tour so our guide spoke English (we were prepared to read along in an English pamphlet while being guided in German), a stroke of good luck! Cochem castle has an ancient and interesting history dating back to the 1100s. It passed through many hands in the political chess games of mideval Europe until it succumbed to the same French troops that spared Burg Eltz. Only a single turret survived and was dubbed "the witch's tower." The castle was rebuilt in the 1870s by a wealthy Berliner; it was en vogue at the time for wealthy people to restore castles for their summer homes. This was the Romantic period so everything is ornate and "over the top!" There are rich furnishings, suits of armor in the living room, balconies overlooking the river... not at all accurate to it's original form. But lovely and interesting none the less!
I've posted more pictures of our trip at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/37438151@N00/
If you are really interested in these castles, check out their websites: