Monday, December 15, 2008

Flensburg Weihnachtsmarkt- that's more like it!

Our friend Jan is back from almost five weeks in the U.S. and on Saturday we celebrated his return by attending the Christmas market in Flensburg. Downtown was packed and the pedestrian mall was dotted with stands selling punsch and food, mostly meat! In the square there were Christmas trees for sale, along with stands with sweets, crafts and more punsch! There were twinkle lights everywhere, a pretend Alpine ski hut and this giant Christmas pyramid. We saw people wearing Santa hats, reindeer antlers and even red bunny ears with white fur trim (something new)! This is the Christmas market we'd been looking for!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just a few photos...

Aaron on his birthday this year- back in Sept.

November walk along the beach

A cold but lovely morning!

Delighted by a care package from Kalamazoo friends

So many treats!

Running in a tunnel for 6.8 miles

That's what it felt like when we joined the Atec running club for a jog at 6:00 pm yesterday. The temperature was hovering just around freezing and it had rained nonstop the previous day so there was this tremendously thick fog. And it was, of course, completely dark by that time of day. We all had headlamps but they seemed effective only in reflecting their own light off the fog instead of illuminating the road. And of course I had no idea where we were headed. A cold, dark, foggy run in a foreign country with a bunch of strangers- what could be better?

It was great! I ran with two of Aaron's female colleagues and we passed through several villages and by farm houses where we could see Christmas lights twinkling on the trees or in windows. We even passed by a bus stop shelter that was all decorated with garland. Inside, three old men were sitting together talking and drinking spiced wine! If only I'd had a way to capture that image... I got to practice some German and spend some time with some potential friends. And I completed one of the longest runs I've ever done!

We are looking forward to joining the running club on a regular basis starting in January. It will be a great way to exercise and socialize, and we will be training for the Coast-to-Coast race in June. Atec will have two teams in a relay race from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. We can't wait!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cookie catastrophe- almost!

I think I may have mentioned my love for cookie baking once or twice. Since arriving in Germany I have overcome a number of challenges in this regard. The difference in several ingredients, the complete absence of brown sugar and chocolate chips, the voltage problem for my Kitchen-Aid mixer. I thought it was smooth sailing now that I've worked through these things. I've adapted to the different texture in sugar (it's coarser here), I have found baking powder or something similar that works, friends and family have helped me import chips and brown sugar and we have a hefty transformer to step down the voltage for the mixer. I thought the way was clear for me to start baking some holiday treats.

I got out all the measuring cups and spoons, set out the ingredients and hauled the transformer over to the mixer. I plugged it in and turned it on--- and nothing happened. I unplugged it all, replugged it - still nothing. Okay. Don't worry. Maybe something is wrong with the outlet. Tried a different one- nothing. I started to panic and called for Aaron. He tried the transformer with a different appliance and it worked fine. Really panicking! My mixer can't be broken! I love this thing. It's expensive. Who can repair it in Germany? It's too heavy to pack in my suitcase to get repaired in the U.S. Meanwhile, Aaron suggested trying an extension cord. I scoffed. "Why would that work if the mixer is broken? But how can the mixer be broken? Nothing happened to it! I've never plugged it in without the transformer and...." Aaron left and got a big long orange extension cord, and voila! The mixer worked perfectly! Aaron says that's why he's the boy. He does not panic. He just analyzes the problem and deduces a solution. I might have figured it out on my own... eventually!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Not all that we had hoped for...

We have heard a lot about the Christmas markets in Germany. Of course, the big cities have them but we were excited to find out that Soerup also has one. All of November, we looked forward to attending it on the first Advent weekend. We planned to taste the hot spiced wine complete with souvenir mug, check out the handmade crafts, listen to German holiday tunes and maybe have a tasty snack. We were in a festive mood after our Thanksgiving feast last Friday, and the weather even obliged by sending some big fluffy snow flurries on Saturday afternoon. We walked toward the town center, noticing our neighbors' trees lit with strings of lights and the town decorations- shooting stars outlined in twinkle lights along the street.

As we approached the Weihnachtsmarkt, we heard not Christmas carols but really awful children's music from an odd trio with a cat puppet. Nothing like seeing a 50-year-old woman in pigtails playing bass guitar and singing off-key to a dozen preschoolers to get you in the holiday spirit! What? Is this Christmas in Germany?

We wandered over to the area of wooden huts and bought two mugs of punsch- in styrofoam cups. Not an inspiring souvenir. The only foods for sale were hamburgers and french fries. Seriously. And there was not a single craft or holiday item for sale. Not that I miss the insane commercialism, but my people want cool German Christmas presents, right?

Aaron and I looked at each other over our empty styrofoam cups and decided we'd seen all we needed to see. As we started to walk home, the "cat trio" started a countdown and we got to see the lighting of the lovely big Christmas tree- the best part of Soerup's holiday market!

We went home and watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which never fails to kick off our holiday season right! :)