Quelle Surprise!

Who doesn’t love a good surprise when traveling?

Most of our visit to the Auvergne region of France was fairly surprising, mostly down to the fact that I’m not a huge pre-trip planner in general, plus my crazy new work schedule last spring that left little to no spare brain space to plan for our trip anyways. I’m sure at some point this laissez-faire approach will bite me in the butt, but so far, I’ve done okay. Auvergne worked out fairly well for us, with a fantastic variety of activities, and an extremely helpful host at the holiday apartment that we chose for our five days in the region.

On our first full day, he advised us to head towards a few villages that were about an hour away from our location, and so off we went. However, on the way there, we saw something that made us say “WHAT IS THAT?” and a few minutes later we pulled the car over into a helpfully placed viewpoint parking lot.

So what did we see? Click on for details…

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Week Four.

Week four of social distancing was, mercifully, a four-day workweek. Good Friday and Easter Monday are both public holidays here, and they came at a perfect time.

For the most part I’m still feeling pretty decent most days, and taking advantage of the good weather, garden, extra cooking time, and all of that. But by the end of the workday on Thursday, I was ready to pitch my headset out of the window. I don’t even like talking on the phone… and so after four weeks of spending most of the day with this stupid thing on my head, my ears were very ready for four days off.

YES I am aware that this is small potatoes, and YES I’m very happy to still have a job through all of this, and shouldn’t really complain, but my ears hurt.

As of this week Tuesday, BV is now working from home almost entirely. He may have to go in once a week if something needs organizing in person, but I’m happy to have him avoiding public transit more.

In preparation for the long weekend, he took a half day and picked up a car share so he could do a big shop. We hadn’t been to the Getränkemarkt since before Thanksgiving, so our stock of water, beer, and juice was empty. Now we’re restocked on beverages, and he also managed to pick up a few other large and unwieldy items that we usually save for car trips.

Easter weekend was mostly spent baking. I made both Samin Nosrat’s Ligurian Focaccia and Swedish Cardamom Buns because everyone knows that Jesus only rises with yeast.

Besides that, we both tackled a bit more garden work. I didn’t get back to the fence clearing project, but I did manage to completely fill our compost box with dead grass that I raked out of the most offensive places in the garden. We may need to cut the grass more often. Maybe. We put down a bit of grass seed along the fence, and in some spots in the back that had been torn up when a mystery digger was parked back there a few weeks ago.

An outdoor brunch was also necessary, and the glorious weather lasted all the way through until this morning.

Really, it seems appropriate to end the long holiday weekend with a rainy Monday afternoon/evening. Hope it does some good for that grass seed.

The social distancing regulations that were announced a few weeks ago were scheduled to go through the upcoming weekend, with schools planned to reopen after the Easter holidays on the 20th. Nothing has changed yet as far as that plan goes, so let’s see what week five brings.

Side note: was thinking about doing quick posts with links to all the what-not that I’ve been cooking these last weeks… anyone in need of some new ideas and/or interested in that? Lemme know in ze comments!

And you? How are things going wherever you are?

 

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And Suddenly, It Was May

May 1st, Labor Day here in Germany. For perhaps the first time since I moved here, I actually feel like I’ve earned the day off this year. I do however, feel guilty about the lack of work I’ve been doing in this space.

To say that the first four months of this year flew by would be a gross understatement. Even having a reduced workload for the last two weeks due to Easter school holidays didn’t offer me much time to spend on the internet. Or at least, not this kind of internetting. But here we are, the third short week in a row and I have a minute to check in.

It also occurred to me that for the past two Mays, I have tried to do some sort of writing challenge. I very briefly entertained the thought of doing that again this month, but there’s just no way I can muster up that kind of energy.

So what’s keeping me so busy? My new gig, aka the first full-time job I’ve had in ten years. Turns out working 40 hours a week plus commuting time doesn’t leave tons of extra time for… anything, really. We’ve been trying to plan meals out a bit better, and BV has taken over more of the weeknight cooking responsibilities. But yoga has been tricky to fit in, baking and more ambitious cooking has to wait for the weekends… you know, all those things that normal adults manage to fit around full-time jobs. I’m still trying to figure all of it out. It’s a good thing, I think, thus far.

I’m still technically freelance because German bureaucracy moves slower than a snail. I thought we’d be able to transition my work permit back in March, but when we went to my appointment, my Beamter was on vacation. Slight miscommunication there. We then spent three weeks trying to get him on the phone (as instructed, by the gal who WAS there that day), before giving up and emailing him yet again. We now have an appointment in two weeks, conveniently right before we leave on vacation. It would be nice if that week off was covered by my shiny-new vacation days, but I don’t know if it’ll work out that easily.

On the plus side, we’ll be in France. So even if it’s not paid, it’ll still be France. I cannot wait.

While everyone else in Germany seemed to be protesting, in a Biergarten, or perhaps both of those things, we had a pretty low-key day. We did some stuff around the house that needed doing, and I went out for a long walk.

Now BV is back in the spare room tinkering with more odds and ends, and I’m about to do some yoga and head to bed early. Thursdays I leave the house at 6am and no matter how disciplined I try to be, making myself go to sleep at a reasonable hour on Wednesday never goes according to plan.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Light work on Labor Day is acceptable, right?

Sunday Snapshots: Waterfront

Lake Garda, 2015

Considering that we just got through the Pentecost holidays, I’m guessing I’ve heard about Lake Garda somewhere between one and 10,000 times in the last month. It’s an extremely popular destination for Bavarians since you can get there in less than five hours. While I would’ve loved to get there again this year, I’m consoling myself with the thought that we leave for our summer vacation in a few days…

31-Day Challenge: Day 25

Today was Father’s Day in Germany, but since it’s conveniently paired up with the Ascension of Christ holiday, pretty much everybody has the day off.  Most men, fathers or not, typically spend this day dragging wagons of beer around while they gallivant with their friends. The ones that do spend time with their families are almost deserving of a special reward, or at least so says the internet.

Last year I remember spending most of the sunny day laying out in the garden with a book. At some point during the day, a literal tractor full of youths starting circling the village, blasting music as they drank their way up and down the streets. This year it was much quieter, so perhaps they decided to drive their tractor on over to another town.

We’re still in recovery mode from vacation, and were in thorough need of a real day off. I did a little bit of cleaning and sorting of things, and BV did some more work out in the garden. He’s now made a permanent spot for the tripod, but we’ll still need to make a real fire circle to go around it. But, baby steps. He’s also got the day off tomorrow, and the weather is supposed to be glorious for some more weekend barbecue action.

As far as I know, I have two classes in the morning, and it seems that myself and my two students will be the only people working in the country. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, as we haven’t met in a few weeks due to my vacation last week and their schedules prior to that. Also this is the same company that asked for a trial lesson during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In my nearly six years in Germany, that has only happened once. Still weird.

The good news is though, that I’ll be done at noon, home by one, and can relax after that. I’d like to take a crack at getting the garden in order this weekend, but that would involve driving to the Gardener, and I’m not sure BV plans on starting the car again until Monday. There are worse ways to spend the weekend than not doing anything. And given how packed June and July are, we’ll be rather short on relaxation time.

As of right now, we’ve got a friend’s party, a Polterabend, and a wedding in June, then one free weekend before we leave for vacation. Chances are though, that the last free weekend will be filled with either an invitation to BV’s parents, or them wanting to come to us for grilling, and then that’ll be shot too. I know time flies when you’re having fun and all, but this girl needs her quiet time. Classes are pretty much running as scheduled as well, so not much chance of a break there. But vacation is looming and that’s what I’m shooting for. Last week was fantastic, like a little appetizer. We can get there.

Thanksgiving the Fifth

I know they say that time flies when you’re having fun, but I still was surprised at how quickly the fifth Thanksgiving BV and I have hosted here came along. This year has, in general, blown by, but it seems like only yesterday I was discovering the joys of the Metro and learning how important it is to order a turkey from the local butcher early… ah, to be young and naive about turkey availability again!

I was also once naive about how weirdly enjoyable this part is.

I was also once naive about how weirdly enjoyable this part is.

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A rare sighting of BV in his natural habitat.

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Bondage Bird, aka Hank.

We also continued our unintentional tradition of having a bird much bigger than what we asked for. Hank weighed in at 7.3kg, and we requested something more in the 5-6kg range. *Sigh* But BV happily packaged up turkey to freeze and throw on the grill in the coming year. Thanksgiving leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving.

Like the previous four years, we had a houseful of people and a really lovely evening. At the risk of sounding like a complete cheeseball, it is so wonderful to have people coming in, exclaiming about how excited they are, and how they’ve come to look forward to this day every year. Not to mention the fact that someone is always willing to come out early and help, bring a delicious side dish, dessert, or even a chair or two.

At times it can seem like such a struggle to find the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with, whether you are in your home country or not. And cheesiness be damned, it is really wonderful to realize that it took some time, but you have got some really damn good people here. Warm fuzzies for everyone!

Those damn good people are also great about doing things like taking pictures of the finished product, thank goodness. Usually at this point in the cooking process my brain is figuring out my next six steps and have completely lost track of my phone so it’s nice to have witnesses who are actually on top of the documentation aspect. Big thanks to N. and S. for the next two photos….

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I am straight up impressed with how clean the kitchen looks here, considering this was taken very shortly before we planned to eat. It did not stay this orderly for long though.

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Feast mode!

Ditto for the table. We started strong but ended up having to put in an extra seat for another couple who arrived a bit later. But everyone fit comfortably this year, and there was plenty for all. Plus leftovers, of course. Now if only the magical dish gnomes had shown up to deal with the aftermath for us!

 

Previous Thanksgivings here in the Dorf

One * Two * Three * Four

 

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A Penguin for Your Thoughts?

penguin ornament

I wish I could say that I actually have a penguin to give anyone who reads this post, or to myself for writing it, but I’m guessing PETA would have something to say about that. Instead, we will all have to survive with only a picture of a penguin ornament as my slightly-awkward segue into this post about what the hell has been going on lately.

To say that life has been busy lately is something of an understatement. On the positive side, I’ve managed to pick up a bit more work. The timing was great, as some other work is/has been ending, and I was getting a little worried about filling the void. But things are looking up for next year, and finding a bit of work to finish this year off with was a very unexpected surprise. Not a ton of classes start right before Christmas, so I felt very lucky to fall into working with the school that I did.

On the downside, my three-week break will be interrupted by one day of work at the end of the month, as a company wants a trial lesson. What kind of maniacs are working between Christmas and New Year, you might ask? Hopefully the kind that really like me and want to have lots and lots of English lessons. I’m going to have to bring my A-game for that one, which may mean I need to find and dust off my A-game.

But of course, life hasn’t been all about work. Since my last post, BV and I have been either 1) working, 2) socializing, or 3) slightly ill. December kicked off with our hosting our fourth Thanksgiving together, with the usual chaos of a full house and all that goes with it. We took almost no pictures on the day (once again), but here’s the turkey….

turkey 2015

It looks a bit dry in this picture, but it was not. I’m basically a turkey ninja at this point. A big shout-out has to go to B (not BV), my sous-chef, who is an excellent chopper, and filler of cooking wine/prosecco. As an added bonus, we had enough leftovers for Thanksgiving II on the following day, when  BV’s parents joined us for lunch. Win-win!

Oh, and just in time for Thanksgiving, I finally finished painting/staining all of our new chairs. BV and I have been searching for wooden chairs since some friends gave us a new dining table two years ago, and as it turns out, it’s been a more difficult and time-consuming search than I anticipated. Now we’re shooting to have eight chairs at some point, but we are up to five, and they are all in service. It’s not a great picture, but here’s Marry die Katze modeling the table/chairs in the living room, where they are living until after his parents visit us on Christmas Eve (our kitchen has a dining nook, but it’s too small to actually use).

new chairs

That table is taking away half of our living room and making me nuts, but it makes more sense to just leave it in here over the holidays. Marry is mostly upset that it is temporarily replacing her favorite chair, so now she has to sit on the table to stare at us instead. Cats, am I right? Anyway.

Just a few days after Thanksgiving, the Christmas cookie factory officially opened for business when we hosted several of BV’s friends/colleagues for an evening of baking. We came out the other side with a few kinds of cookies, and a nasty cold for me. Luckily I recovered by the following weekend, when I headed south for the fifth year of baking with the Villagers. Their girls are alternately super helpful (decorating) and unhelpful (distracting me by standing on chairs/singing the ABCs at the top of their lungs on either side of me while I try to mix the tricky pink cookies with one hand and reread the recipe on my phone with the other hand. This led me to add waaaaaaaaaaaay too much vinegar, and then we had to start the whole damn thing over again.) but they are adorable enough to forgive most things.

My last week of work for this year was pretty enjoyable because the school feeling never seems to fade when it comes to Christmas vacation. That means movie time, and even Glühwein time in one group. Score! In my Wednesday classes, we watched an assortment of holiday videos, including A Charlie Brown Christmas, and a couple of different holiday episodes of The Office. Plus, I got some sweet goodies including…

bier book

That’s right, damn near 700 breweries and brew restaurants just in Franconia. Not in all of Germany, or even Bavaria… just Franconia. By that logic, we should have one in our garden. Just from flipping through, I already found one brew restaurant with my last name, so I fully intend on visiting it and staking my claim.

With work wrapped up for the year, BV and I settled into vacation mode starting last Friday. Preparations for the holiday are slowly being made, and on Saturday we went to visit our old tree man. He had a rough year due to the heat, and apparently a lot of his saplings didn’t make it though the year. We found a nice little tree though, and also enjoyed being followed through the “forest,” by this little cat…

tree lot

Slightly blurry, sorry. My iPhone isn't into focusing these days. Or working, generally.

Slightly blurry, sorry. My iPhone isn’t into focusing these days. Or working, generally.

Tomorrow will be our main shopping day, and luckily we don’t have too much to buy. I’m also hoping the weather cooperates, and we can have a bit of a poke around the Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt without getting soaked. The weather has either been rainy, or spectacular sunrises like this…

wed sunrise

…which then give way to more gray skies. The Wisconsin part of me hurts to say this, but snow would be preferable to rain. At least the Christmas markets would feel more festive. We visited the market in Fürth with friends last week, and the drizzle didn’t let up all evening. We still had a nice time, and handily the main Glühwein stand was covered, very full, and had a roaring fire in the center of it. We had a bit to eat, a bit to drink, and a bit of a wander around town.

When I look at some of the other bloggers in Germany, I feel pretty slacker-ish. I don’t know how in the world some of them manage to pack in as many Christmas markets and other festivities as they do, but well done kids! This year, I’ll just have to settle for two markets, but as you just read, it’s been a busy month over here.

Since chances are I won’t get around to posting again before Christmas, I’d just like to say I hope all of you readers have a lovely holiday and lots of time with family and friends! Enjoy lots of treats, good times, and maybe even a little snow, depending on your location. 😉

Frohe Weihnachten!

Nemo Killed Halloween

Alright, this is perhaps going to be a controversial opinion, and it may make me a pariah among American expats but I have to get this off my chest…

“Hi, my name is Heather and I give exactly zero fucks about missing Halloween.”

There. I said it.

Honestly, I’ve never been all that crazy about Halloween. When I was a kid of course I enjoyed trick-or-treating and feasting on all that candy, but that was about it. In college, I reluctantly dressed up and went to parties but I was never really that into it. If it wasn’t a costume I could fashion out of stuff I already had, it wasn’t happening. I was endlessly impressed by some friends and their commitment levels to crazily elaborate costumes (for ex: recreating the entire cast of Anchorman, which was fantastic), but digging through the local Goodwill was never my thing.

Nor was I into buying one of those pre-made costumes that come in a bag and usually (if you’re a lady), should include the word “slutty” right in the description. I think this aversion to cheaply-made costumes comes from my parents, who were always very adamant that we didn’t need them. That meant being slightly jealous of my friends who had shiny new costumes every year, while I wore my two costumes from dance classes until I was far too big for them, or something that came out of our “dress-up” box.

The last time I wore a costume was to work back in 2007. The museum I worked at was having an event  for the holiday so I dressed as Tonks from the Harry Potter series mostly because the only thing I had to buy was the spray-on hair color.

tonks costume1Yes, my costume consisted of: my winter coat (very practical, as I had to be outside a lot for the event),  one of my sister’s emo kid hoodies, a cat toy stick as a wand, a stuffed owl, and purple spray that 1) barely colored my hair and 2) made it impossible to brush. Fun!

The weekend after this photo was taken, some friends of mine were coming to Milwaukee to go out for a few nights. I remember that we briefly discussed if we should dress up in costumes, but I figured, “hey, we aren’t in college anymore, who’s going to be dressed up in Halloween costumes in downtown Milwaukee?”

The answer? Everyone. We were literally the only four people not in costume and it was on that night that Halloween officially died for me.

We were out in a bar that was stuffed to bursting, including an entire horde of guys dressed as Roman soldiers. You couldn’t order a drink without being whacked by a shield, or having your foot stepped on by some chick in stripper heels, but that wasn’t the worst of them… that honor went to Slutty Nemo.

Yes, Slutty Nemo. How can Nemo be slutty, you might ask?

Answer: black tank top, black underwear, black fishnet tights, black heels, and a stuffed Nemo hat.

That was the last straw, as far as I was concerned.

Now that I live here, I quite enjoy not having to bother with Halloween. Of course, every year there is a round of parties, events, blah blah blah, to cater to the expat community, but I have zero interest in anything that involves a costume or a cover charge. The last two years, BV and I have bought one bag of candy for any possible trick-or-treaters, but there were none to be seen and we then feasted on tiny Snickers bars.

Call me a party pooper if you will, but judging from my FB newsfeed, Halloween is basically a month-long event now in the States. That is absurdly long. Most of my friends have kids now, and most of those kids seem to have been in costume 95% of the month. There are school parties, family events, and trick-or-treating on multiple days in multiple neighborhoods. This is especially perplexing as it seems that most of those kids don’t even get to eat all that candy. So what is the point?? And if they aren’t in a costume, then they’re in festive orange pumpkin sweatshirts to sit in the pumpkin patch for FB photoshoots. (Because if it doesn’t go on FB, what’s the point?)

And while some expats here are bemoaning the fact that the Germans haven’t wholeheartedly adopted the festivity of the season, I’m enjoying their steadfast refusal to care about Halloween. Besides, Carnival starts next month, so they’ll have their chance to put their costumes on then. So there.

I enjoy fall, I do. I like the colors, I like eating squash in various forms, I like getting out my scarves and boots, but Halloween? Meh.

So… anyone else not care about Halloween? Or do you want to pelt me with fun-sized candies? Leave it in the comments…