Monthly Archives: December 2010

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***I am on pins and needles***

The sun sets tonight on 2010.  We’ve had our ups and downs but I don’t believe any year will ever compare to 2010 for me and my boys.  With the dreaded  move back to the states looming next fall and the return to ‘sea duty’ for Ian, I am very apprehensive that 2011 could possibly end with the same contentment I feel this December 31.

I am on pins and needles.


i’m feeling a ray of hope.

***calm but lonely***

I got really frustrated yesterday.  Sometimes I just get like that and I can’t get past it.  I went to bed quiet and never really resolved it.  Now I have woken up calm but lonely.  I wish I could have talked about it when I wasn’t frustrated so I don’t have to start the day this way.

Oh well, today I will sit alone on the bus.

***I am steamed***

It is not cool to roll your eyes at someone after you have upset them.  Next time have the decency to say ‘I am sorry’ before rolling your eyes.


It is a couple of days early —  but I am determined to dedicate my year to creativity.

So I am brain-storming……  time to dig into my vast archives for some inspiration.



For Christmas, we bought Evan into the most versatile and impressive building set I have ever run across.  It blows away any set lego can produce and does so without gimmicks and movie titles.  It is called Fischertechnik.  One introductory set can create 40 different projects.  Add motors and then the projects can come to life.  Grow into robotics as the kiddos grow.  Infrared sensors, computer programing, remotes, all kinds of gadgets I can’t even comprehend.  Not surprisingly, it is a German company.  Training little engineers from the start!  Brilliant!  I have a feeling these will be an integral part of our household for my little designer-in-training.

You can buy it on Amazon!

Here is his first piece:

***Schönes Fest***

This is a little late because I was on vacation in Austria.  But, Merry Christmas!

***our German pyramid***

When we moved here I really didn’t intend to invest much in the local traditional items.  It isn’t because I didn’t think I would LIKE them.  It is because we have a strong desire to focus all our extra funds on travel.  We don’t buy souvenirs when we visit new cities because I take photos.  We only eat away from home one meal per week because it is more nutritious and more cost effective.  I knew that I wanted to buy a cuckoo clock which I did last summer.  But I adore the traditional German pyramids at holiday time.  They are fascinating and beautiful albeit oh-so expensive.

Well, we buckled.  We bought one.  It is gorgeous.  It is true that I have amazing photos.  But it will be cherished forever to watch our beautiful pyramid burn amidst candlelight for all our Christmases in the future when we CAN’T go to the market and drink Gluhwein.

As an aside, I have to share this photo from the Esslingen market.  Due to my wide-angle lens I didn’t have the chance to get a really good vantage point to showcase the pyramid, but this shot gives a great sense of perspective not only of size but how elaborate the market stands can be.

***the art of begging***

There is an art to begging.  While lately it seems there is a common theme in beggars and street performers such as ‘silver man’, ‘gold man’, ‘sphinx man’, ‘statue man’, ‘robot man’, ‘cupid man’, ‘historically-dressed-part-silver-man, and any other variation under the sun of something that resembles a statue, different cities have their own take on begging.  For instance, not far from our house we sometimes see ‘Tree Lady’ or is she ‘Mother Nature’?  And, once we even saw ‘Statue Musicians’ who actually played music.  In London there is a park with look-a-like performers and statue-men – one after another.  Michael Jackson, Mickey Mouse, all competing for your attention before you ride the Disney ride…I mean the London Eye.  Everyone has heard of Naked Cowboy in Times Square.  Is he possibly the most famous beggar?  There is an overload of Bosnian sad ladies with ‘sniffles’ in Paris.  They walk up to you with their saddest face and say, ‘Do you speak English???’ and I say ‘NEIN!’  In Venice the streets are loaded with what we call ‘Pigeons’ – Somalian vendors illegally selling counterfeit bags.  They harass you and get in your face and even try to goad your child to beg Mom for cheap made-in-China trinkets and toys.  If it starts raining suddenly they have a handful of umbrellas to sell.  Shoo!  Pigeons, Shoo!  Here in Stuttgart we have a man that begs with his bundled up cocker spaniel.  Now, that is a catchy plight.  That sweet little dog all wrapped in a pink fleece blanket sitting there looking so content yet forlorn at the same time….  And, of course, there are the street musicians of all types and levels of talent.  Some are amazingly good.  Some need to pack up the act and get back into the studio for some lessons.  We noticed Amsterdam street musicians are the worst of the bunch.  Clearly THEY need to get out of the ‘COFFEE SHOPS’ and find DETOX.  The musicians come out in droves during festivals.  It makes the experience far more rich to hear their wonderful music.  Here in Stuttgart we have the man who cranks his old-school standing music box and bops to the tunes.  If you give him money he gives you candy in return.  I love the dedication of the man who wheels his mini-piano bungeed to a dolly through the crowded streets during the Weihnactsmarkt.  The man playing the ABBA tunes on the French horn really made me smile.  Hats off, festival players!  Throughout Europe there are musicians at the street cafes, on the corner, in the train station, and even ON the train.  We were serenaded by an amazing duo on the train from Sitges to Barcelona.  Clearly it left an impression on me.  I am a sucker for an accordion player.  Come around with your hat while I eat bread and cheese and drink wine and surely I will give you a Euro or two.  Well, except for the 12 year old well-dressed kid in Berlin who could barely play the thing.  We didn’t buy his need for cash and he didn’t win us over with his talent.  But Rome stands out among all the places we have visited.  Rome is where you will find the deformed beggars with mangled legs and badly burned scar tissue.  Ok, I respect that.  That doesn’t bother me.  What a horrible and undeniable predicament.  I hope these people with genuine need are able to survive on this shaky living.  No, what stands out to me are the ‘sad old ladies’.  These sad ladies lay on the ground in their tattered frocks and babushkas  ‘crying’ with just their hand out!  Can you imagine the toll it must take on your psyche to pretend to cry all day long?  Do they beg like that and then need to spend all the money on Prozac??  I can’t even sit cross-legged for more than five minutes on the couch without feeling pain in my joints.  How can they lay on the hard cement and not be worse off than when they started??  One lady pretended that she had fallen and laid there all spread eagle with a cane sitting next to her!  People, that is creativity and dedication to the art.  And, while I think it is creepy beyond belief I must give credence to their ability to stand out among all those people who earn their living hanging out on the street.

Here’s to you, sad lady.  I didn’t give you any money.  But I did take a photo.  And, I will always remember you.

And, after seeing the lady who had fallen with the cane I will never have much time or interest in the lazy beggar who merely sits in the pedestrian zone holding his or her hand out.  Entertain me!!  Earn my money!

***going back in time***

Ok, so I admit freely that I was seeking comfort on the couch these past few weeks, not at my computer.  Alas, I have an entire adventure in Rome I have barely started to share.

Now is the time.  It is snowing like crazy and our ‘library’ is warm and toasty.  Evan is snuggled watching Elf.  I love winter break!

I suppose you may have heard of this place.  It is called the Coliseum.  Catchy, no?

Did they ever imagine back in 79 BC when they were building this structure that WE would wander their streets and wondering who THEY were and what they were about??

Then there is this other little place called the Sistine Chapel.

A famous painter named Michelangelo painted some pictures on the ceiling.  You can tell his work because it is the stuff with the impeccable representation of anatomy.  He was sort of famous for that.

And, then we did something that people sometimes do in Rome.  We threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain!  Well, I guess a lot of people do that because there was a huge crowd.

But it will always be a highlight for me to go to the Spanish Steps.  It reminds me of a romantic time back in 2001 when my two friends and I flew to Rome to meet the guys during a port call from the Enterprise.  We sat on the Spanish Steps in our cutest outfits patiently waiting for the boys to emerge from the metro station.  And, we waited, and we waited.  And, we waited some more.  We bought a bottle of wine and got kind of drunk.  And then we waited so long that we sobered up and we were still waiting.  Well, it seems we had a miscommunication.  That was way back in the days before cellphones and internet were easily accessible anywhere you went.  Oh well, they finally showed up.  But I will always remember the three hours I spent sitting at the Spanish Steps!

***Medieval Weihnachtsmarkt in Esslingen***

That would be the Medieval Christmas Market in Esslingen, Germany.  😉

The Christmas Markets in Germany are amazing.  I cannot describe the joyful and content feeling of wandering the market while the crowd is light and shopping at the stands for hand made gifts while sipping steaming Gluhwein (warm mulled wine out of a mug) and smelling the aroma of good quality food.  THAT is what Christmas should be like – not a mad rush to get thru Target buying made in China toys and standing in a long time and fighting thru the parking lot trying to get home so that you can make dinner.  Sigh.  My Christmases are ruined for life!  😉

We have a wonderful market here in Stuttgart.  I intend to hit it again today with my camera if I can brave the major snowfall (see prev post).  But in Esslingen which is just outside Stuttgart (it is so close it is not even on the outer bands of our S-Bahn line) they have a unique market that kicks it up a notch.  In addition to the regular market fare, there is a section that is themed from Medieval times.  Costumes, music, jesters, jugglers, artisans, bow-and-arrow, etc etc.  What a fun place to live.

Wishing I could bottle this feeling and save it forever…….

***whitewash out my window***

We have had a *really* snowy December so far!  And they said LAST YEAR was snowy!!  Not even close compared to this year.

Today is so peaceful and gorgeous – huge white puffy flakes.  Nearly impossible to truly capture what the naked eye can see….