Deep dark chocolate secret, that is. The first part of the confession is that over the weekend we bought a kilo (that's 2.2 pounds) of handmade truffles. That's quite a bit of chocolate, even by my standards. But you can't get them around here and we really savor each one- spending time contemplating our choice, never knowing what delight hides inside. They should last a long time. It was a completely justifiable purchase. Seriously.
But Aaron is leaving for a ten-day business trip soon and I'll be left here at home alone- with the chocolates. Part two of the confession is that I am pretty sure that I won't be able to resist eating them while he is away. Belgian chocolate makes me happy and I will be by myself all day every day in the midst of this rotten winter. I'll need it.
The problem is that we get a little childish over these. As as kid, I remember having a friend over and pouring us each some Kool-Aid. I'd get down at eye level with the glasses to make sure they were exactly even. It's like that. Normally we are very generous with each other but not when it comes to truffles. If Aaron eats two, I get two. It has to be fair and equal. In retrospect I'm not sure why we didn't each get our own box but it's too late for that. Yesterday I mentioned to Aaron, "I'm a little worried..." And that's all I got out before he broke in and replied, "I'm taking mine with me!" I guess that settles that!
John Denver was right. Do you see that reflecting off of our glasses and our pale Northern European faces? It really is SUNSHINE! We had to drive six hours to find it but it was well worth the trip.
We spent a weekend in Antwerp, Belgium- a city that captivated Aaron when he visited on a business trip almost three years ago. It lived up to his memories and his description. The old city is dominated by a huge cathedral, which looks completely out of scale with all the surrounding buildings. Quite a sight, with really amazing art and architecture inside too. The most famous local artist is Peter Paul Rubens and we saw a lot of his paintings in the churches and at his home/museum.
The Belgians seem to love socializing and there were cafes and pubs on every block, all packed with smiling people. So refreshing to see! We had some great seafood, great beer, great chocolate- and in addition to our Friday afternoon in the sun it was the perfect formula for a mid-winter getaway!
Unfortunately, the snow didn't melt while we were gone. Just in case you were wondering.
This is the view from my front door, which is actually on the side of the house, but whatever. That's my neighbor's shed and compost bin. The point is -SNOW! Lots of snow for a sustained period of time! And I am not amused.
I'll admit that I was feeling pretty smug about the mild winters here in northern Germany. We didn't even bring our snow shovel, leaving it instead for the sorry sucker who bought our house on the steepest hill in Kalamazoo with the steepest driveway on the street. Last winter was quite obliging. We had a few dustings of snow but no more than an inch at a time and it always melted away in a couple days. The wickedly wintry white Christmas of the upper Midwest was tolerable knowing that I would return to a dark, dreary, damp but snowless winter at home.
But then...we had a "big snowstorm" on January 2 and it never melted. It has been below freezing for the whole month (so far) and it just keeps snowing. I didn't like winter in Michigan but I expected nothing less than relentless snow and cold from November through March. Here I feel as though I've been duped. I asked my neighbor if this was normal (just for confirmation that I was justified in feeling put out) and she said it had been many many years since there was this much snow. See?
I know I shouldn't complain because I'm not likely to get sympathy from you who live in the Midwest, and my friend who is experiencing Life in the Artic Circle will most certainly call me a big cry-baby! Everyone tells me that I would miss the seasons if I lived somewhere warm but I would be willing to try it and experience at least one green Christmas!
At the grocery store on Friday, upon checking out the cashier handed me a packet of smoked salmon as a small token of good fortune in the new year. What an... interesting... customer appreciation gift! We enjoyed it, though I could not find any bagels to go with our lox and cream cheese.
After a year and a half I am pretty well accustomed to my day-to-day environment. But I still have many moments like these that surprise me and I think, "Wow, I live in a foreign country!"
This is how we looked two hours into the new year.
The metal figures with the melting spoon.
Still a bit concerned about the meaning of my
resulting metal lump.
Okay, you can't really tell that this is
fireworks against clear sky and full moon
but it was really cool.
I fell victim to a nasty flu this week (I always blame it on the foul air on planes- ick!) so I'm taking the easy way and just posting some pictures instead of a real blog. My week has consisted of sleeping my way through the original Star Wars trilogy- not much to say about that.
Gutes Neues Jahr! It was our first New Year celebration in Germany- last year we were in the States with family- and we enjoyed learning about more traditions and customs.
We noticed that the wishes for the new year included, "Good luck," and many lucky images are associated with the holiday. Clover, mushrooms, chimney sweeps (chim chim chiroo), pigs, hedgehogs! I don't know why they're considered lucky but then again, I don't know why we think horseshoes and rabbits' feet (yuck) are lucky.
Part of the tradition is to take small metal figures of these lucky objects, melt them on a spoon over a candle flame and then dump it in cold water to see what shape forms. Based on the resemblance, you look up your fortune for the coming year. Our friends introduced this to us and we had some laughs trying it. Unfortunately, all the objects came out as unrecognizable blobs and 2010 remains murky. Guess we'll just have to wait and see...
Trick-or-treating is also popular on New Year's Eve (but not on Halloween). Kids and adults dress up and come to houses singing songs and asking for "sweets." The kids want cookies and candy of course and the adults want alcohol. They all sing pretty long songs, some of which are made up just for the evening. How can you say "no" to such creativity?
At midnight, everyone goes outside to light off fireworks. It seems uncharacteristic of the safety-conscious Germans but at nearly every house people stand in the street with their drinks in one hand lighting off, sometimes quite large and impressive, fireworks. It's quite festive to look around the sky and see it lit up in all directions. I don't think anyone in our town could have sleep through the new year!
So here we are, in a new year and a new decade looking forward with excited anticipation to what adventures the year will bring. I hope you enjoyed a festive celebration and that this new year will bring many good things your way too.