Friday, 17 December 2010

Star of Wonder

Olive was one of two stars in her Nursery School's production of the Nativity at the local Church of England here in Cheveley. As the "Star" (the astronomical conjunction of Jupiter, Venus, and Regulus, which is a cluster of 4 blue-white stars) her role was to stand on a box while all the other kids sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" It might have been the start, or end of an acting career, we shall see.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Weekend in Germany

Over the weekend, we popped on over to the Continent for a little German Christmas cheer. We flew out Friday evening on RyanAir. After the general lateness and vague directions we were able to "self board" the plane. We dashed around to the back door and took our cramped yellow and blue seats for our hour-ish flight. During which we were doused in full Light and Heat for the continuous commercial that is RyanAir- Keep those lights on, we don't want you dozing and missing out on our great products.... Do you want to buy a drink? It sure is hot enough to need one. Do you want smokeless German cigarettes? You can have your nicotine fix right now. Scratch off tickets to win 1 million Euro? You're board, you know you want to. Sandwich? None of those, why not take home a Hot Girls of RyanAir calendar?

After the hour long continuous sales pitch, we landed at Frankurt- Hahn Airport. Unfortunately there was a bit of a communication breakdown and we had a driving directions to our destination from somewhere in Frankfurt. When we walked out to retrieve our Hertz rent-a-car (a Ford focus, really?) through the piled up snow and flakes coming down, we were on our way, but not. Josh admittedly was going the correct direction for 20 miles, but he did think we were someplace else. We did turn around in someone driveway after all. I was so tired I kept trying to find "Ausfahrt" on our microscopic map in the dark. In the clarity of morning and a few hours rest, I realize my mistake and it meant "exit".

Past midnight, I broke down and Josh kept talking out loud "stay right, stay right" whenever we turned... so we got a hotel BACK at the airport. It was a lovely little place, but all we did was sleep and scarf an expensive meat and bread breakfast before we were back on the (same) road but knowing where we were coming from this time.

We made it to our friends home at around 11am after Josh driving the autobahn in our little 4 cylinder Focus. He was doing 120kph (a smooth 75ish) but there were definite passers-by running up behind with their left blinker going asking ever so kindly to move away. We stayed with the Laramie's in a village 20minutes from Ramstein AFB where he works. They served as our tour guides and chauffeurs for the next two days. THANK YOU GABE & STEPHANIE!

Saturday afternoon we went to our first Christkindlmarkt in Saarbrucken. Being dark at 5pm, we were dazzled by the wooden storefronts decked out in lights and all sorts of holiday cheer. Josh procured us with gluhwein, a mulled hot wine, in ceramic cups and off we went. Olive even got a Kinder-gluhwein, but wasn't having it.

We were lucky to arrive in time for the showing of Der Weihnachtsmann. Suspended above stories on a wire road Father Christmas, some fiberglass reindeer, and a special friend helper in the ballast which Josh, so maturely, called the "brain" due to it's scrotum like appearance from the sleigh. Olive thought it was neat stuff with the fire-work jets, fake bubble snow, and a red reindeer nose.

For dinner we had MEAT. Lots, and lots of pig meat in various forms. Josh had a bockworst , I had a schwenker , which was pounded grilled pig, and Olive had a kasegriller, a cheese stuffed pig sausage. All were placed on a brochen, a lump of bread. We also managed another gluhwein and a waffle with sugar before the night was up. (we didn't buy anything, but ate our way though the days)

We walked there were various stalls containing wooden carved ornaments, candies, nuts, glass, pottery, puppets, jewelry, art, and various items for sale. Olive and Layla took a ride on the most random round-about. Payed our 50 Euro to use the toilet. Watched a wayward angel lift her dress to children driving by on a ride. I payed a bride-to-be a euro for some cookies (It's a custom to go out with a basket of items for your batchelorette party and ask strangers to buy things from you to raise money for the rest of the night -dinner and drinks- a much better concept than a suck-for-a-buck t-shirt I think) Store fronts had lovely winter displays to gaze at on our walk back to the car.

On Sunday we awoke to go to a local bakery to sample a half dozen or so pastries for breakfast and left for Trier's Christmas market that afternoon. Bigger than the last, but still as folksy and bright. More gluhwein, this time in red boot mugs, and we were wandering about again. Olive spent some time at the nativity looking at the Baby Jesus (who Olive insists matches Nana every time she sees him, Nana I'm sure you can guess why ;) We also ventured into the Trier Cathedral (the oldest one in Germany) for a quick walk about and a Olive mandated candle lighting for the grandmas. Then back through the market to the Porta Nigra, which is also known as the Black Gate. It was built by the Romans when they occupied the area around 180AD. -I love how I learn the history of places I've been after visiting- All and all it was a good time with more pork, wine, and sugar being consumed.

Monday was a Ramstein day where we toured the American AFBs gigantic mall, shops, attractions, and Josh was able to catch up with a few people he knew stationed there. Olive did get a go on the rock wall, and was pleased just to hang. Afterwards we got back into our German speaking Ford and drove back to the airport amongst the views of old farms with solar panels and wind turbines in the setting sun.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Turkey, Santa, Snow, and Trees

I'll be diving right in to the past few weeks. Sometime it just has to be this way.

Turkey Day- For the beloved holiday based off family, eating, and American football we found ourselves in two variations of the day. The first was at the boss' family home with a few other expats on the Holiday Thursday. All the requirements were there: friendly folks, TV on during the meal, kids table, plenty of food with all the traditional requirements, even a turkey from Popeye's. Oh yah. It was lovely to be around other Americans and just have O run in a pack of kids and watch Nickelodeon.

That Saturday we held our own festivities here in Cheveley. Our friends Ron and Maria are from the good-old-days of Greenkill and are versed in many American customs. So, along with them, they brought a set of parents, and a brother with his family. They were newbies to American cuisine and T-day traditions. We made sure not to fail them. Josh made an awesome turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. I made the rest: homemade bread, roasted root vegi, sprouts, sweet potato pie, apple pie, mash potatoes. THEN I made the American "classics" out of a can or box: stove top stuffing, green bean casserole, Pillsbury crescent rolls (most amazed one was of the packaging) cranberry sauce with the can shape intact, sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows, and cherry Jello.
It was a good meal. Interesting questions of "why" do we celebrate and "how" were asked. But simply getting together as a family and eating is the primary function of the day. Not the history behind it at all. A good cultural exchange it was. And the first time many of them had ever tried pumpkin pie or sweet potatoes cooked in those manners.Sunday was a chilly day. We had been graced with true winter weather and it was -2C out. Perfect weather for a fun run. Josh dressed up in a nice thin felt Santa suit and Olive was cautiously bundled by myself for the event. It was a 2K. Josh and O made it back quick before I had anytime to do x-mas shopping. The rest of the morning in Bury St. Edmunds was spent at their holiday market. We walked the stalls, got hot drinks, dressed O as an angel at the Church's living nativity and ate Pannekoek (which is a mini Dutch pancake/crepe).All through the week it was cold and snowy. Most of the north was plagued with issues of snow and ice. We only had 2 inches thought the week. Enough for "sledding" in the backyard- which is really running and then whipping olive off the sled onto the ground. Really, she loved it. She did.

This past weekend was getting ready for Christmas here. Olive is trilled that she gets to wake up to a chocolate every morning. Maybe we should have scooted the time in hindsight, but can't change the pattern now. We went to get a tree on Saturday. It was a "farm" which you chose your pre-cut tree from. A small fortune later, we had procured a tree and had it pulled to our car by dog. The Newfoundlands people were there to help raise funds for charity and had their big woolly, slobbery friends were hooked to wooden carts to help you out. Olive wasn't having it at first due to their booming barks. Then slowly, after a few pets, wet muzzles to the face, and warmth of them, she gave it. She now wants one of them too.

The rest of the day was setting up the tree, explaining the magic of Santa (too many detail questions, I'm soon to be caught in a lie), and general holiday cheer. The family has been plagued by the never-ending-cough-of-England. In Josh's attempt to cure himself with Hot Toddy's, he fell asleep before 8pm.

Sunday was another day out and about. We ended going to Blackthorpe Barn for a craft fair. Yeah, for me. I ended up getting a etching of a rabbit by this Welsh woman. Me being me, I asked if her work was on-line, she smiled at me, gave me a phone number and said for me to keep trying to call if the line was down. So, I decided to get one instead of wait due to poor phone service up her mountain lane.

Sinterklass came later that evening after several choruses of "Sinterklaas Kapoentje" with Oma and Opa on Skype. S. managed to toss in chocolate coins, chocolate hedgehogs, a pound of marzipan, owl hat (thanks Nana), 2 books, and, Cookie Monster Wii game into the carefully selected boots Olive put out for the family. Boots see because they are bigger than your every day shoes. We've got a smart one here already understanding volume!This week we're gearing up for our weekend in Germany. Ryan Air adventure and Christmas market stories to come.