Monday, November 29, 2010

Blue Winter Cottage. I'm lovin' it.

"Oh! the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and earth below,
Over the housetops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet.
Skimming along."

~Thomas J. Watson

I absolutely love this. I want to be snowed in. And I want it to be in this house.

Photo found here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kate Middleton and Prince William Make It Official.

"Without love, what are we worth?
Eighty-nine cents! Eighty-nine cents worth of chemicals walking around lonely."

~Hawkeye on M*A*S*H

So I'm just a little bit giddy about this.

Kate Middleton and Prince William
posing at their official engagement announcement in
The State Apartments of the St James Palace on November 16, 2010 in London, England.

I'm so excited about the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton, which may seem silly to you, since I don't even know them personally. It may even seem a bit elementary, or even naïvely dreamy, but it's much more about the pomp and circumstance which will surround this event which piques my interest. It likely stems from the same reason I like people watching (and maybe also something to do with my admiration of performance and being on stage, myself). I enjoy seeing how people choose to present themselves, how they choose to act, what version of themselves they choose to portray to the world.

Maybe it also stems from the fact that, as a three year-old, I am certain that I watched the widely televised wedding of Charles and Diana, as she walked down the aisle with her 25-foot long train. Who could forget that? (I'm sure I watched it again when I was around ten, so maybe that helped the memory, also.)

Or maybe I'm just living vicariously through them? I suppose there is something to be said for this suggestion. I haven't had a wedding of my own, nor ever announced my own engagement, so it's sort of fun to watch someone else doing it all.

Or maybe it's a lure that's genetically inherited. My grandmother, to whom I am often compared, had a real fascination with the royal family, and I guess I just also find their ways and their lives intriguing. I am always drawn to finding out why people do the things they do, and the royal family has undeniable appeal when it comes to determining motivations. Think about it, there are always so many things you begin asking as soon as your start hearing about the royals and the way they do things:  By what title will Kate (or any other new royal) be known? How do they determine places in the line of succession to the throne? When do they use Her Majesty versus Her Royal Highness? The questions abound. (You can find a lot of answers--and squander away heaps of time--at the Royal Family's official website, here.)

But the clincher? The royal family would have nothing short of famously elegant wedding and I do like elegance. I also like wedding dresses. I like a handsome man in a suit (and William is not half bad--the Diana half, that is). I like seeing happy people finding each other and choosing to make a commitment to each other and embrace and own that commitment by telling the world. And... I like sapphires wrapped in diamonds.

William gave Kate his mother's engagement ring.
We haven't seen it in public since Princess Diana and Charles announced their separation.

Wow. Simply beautiful. And totally my style, in case you're wondering.

I've heard also that Kate and William want this want to really be a wedding for the people of Britain. They've vowed to ensure that their families pick up the bill for all the events surrounding the wedding, so it should not cost the citizens anything. Also, they've decided to invite 100 random citizens to the events, as a way to show their interest in including the public. Wouldn't you love to one of the lucky 100 chosen at random to attend? You could see all the glamour up close and rub shoulders with all of the who's who guests. Oh, pick me. I can certainly pull of a wicked British accent for a day. What do you say?

All pictures found at zimbio.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blizzard 2010: Total Letdown.

"Wishing is good for us. Daydreams, fantasies, castles in the air, and aspirations all drive us forward, impel us to make things happen. They also tell us a lot about ourselves. Our wishes come straight from our core, and they are loaded with vital info."
~Author Unknown

Sometimes, when I feel bogged down by life, I dream about being snowed in or having a mandatory snow day from life. Seriously, I do. It's kind of like how my brother and I used to "pray" for a little earthquake, when we were little. You know the kind that made buildings topple, rendering it impossible to get to school, but not killing anyone.

Sometimes the (day)dream has me snowed in, in some remote village in Siberia where no one can reach me (although, for my sanity, I DO have internet access) and I live in a little house and can't get out ALL winter (darn). But luckily, at the time I've been snowed in, I have all the projects I've ever wanted to work on (photo albums, mission scrapbooks, writing, quilts, etc.) and all the books I've ever wanted to read, and of course, I have my year's supply of food and other resources, so I want for nothing. Doesn't that sound delightful (maybe, maybe not...)?

So today, I thought my dream was going to come true for at least a day. You know, the "storm of the decade" was supposed to hit with a vengeance today. Businesses all over town were sending people home early and schools were cancelling classes. All in preparation for the blizzard that was going to steadily and heavily drop snow for four hours.


I suppose the warnings did do something... it got most of Utah's residents off the roads. But really, does TWO inches of snow merit such a warning?!?! Totally disappointing when you have dreams of being snowed in. Sure it's freezing outside, but we got twice as much snow in 30 minutes on Saturday night! Apparently, there is supposed to be a little more tonight, but who believes them now?!? Haven't they heard of crying wolf?...

Such a letdown.

So my dream of being snowed in hasn't really happened yet, but a girl can still dream right?

And since, I don't really like posts without pictures, here's an entertaining one for your viewing pleasure. (I'll have to upload it later because Blogger seems to be having problems...)

Shep, me and Marina. I'm guessing this was Winter of 1991 or 1992? Help me out, family.


Preparing for Blizzard 2010.

"At the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in!"
~Neal A. Maxwell

Today, all the talk was of the impending storm coming from the north. This has been the most talked about storm, and as of this moment, it hasn't even started yet. Well, unless you count the 30-50 mph winds. Work sent us home early. The fewer cars on the road the better, as far as I'm concerned. Especially if my car is counted in the ones not on the road.

I'm preparing for the storm by staying home tonight, clad in my sweats, long underwear, sweatshirt, scarf and a fleece blanket wrapped around my waist. Maybe I'll make some hot chocolate. Unfortunately, I have a lot of homework to get done... so, I'll be busy.

I have plenty of food, as long as the power doesn't go out. I cooked up all that soup that I told you about, but if we have no power, then I don't have a stove or microwave to reheat. I've been hearing that power outages are likely. We'll see.

Next post... I'll let you know if this "storm of the decade" really delivers. :)

Until then, drive safely and stay home out of this blizzard!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Cooking.

"I eat merely to put food out of my mind."
~N.F. Simpson

Last week, I decided it was time to start making some winter soups to get me through the winter months and save some money while I'm at it. I whipped up some bean soup. Sounds appetizing, right? Eh. Well, actually it did taste good, and beans are supposed to be healthy for you, aren't they? Especially when you've mixed in lentils. I can hear you now, "Lentils? You cooked with lentils?" I know, I know, they taste kind of like pockets of severely compounded sawdust. Well, the soup was pretty good and served to provide me with meals for the last week. I still have three more servings.

I planned to go to the store on Saturday to pick up a couple of extra ingredients to make another soup, Italian sausage soup, but winter decided to arrive that night... I ended up not leaving the house because it was so snowy outside. With no snow on the roads on my way home from work tonight, I stopped at Smith's and picked up the key ingredients I was missing. This soup is similar to Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, only without the cream and bacon, so it's healthier. It's pretty delicious, if I say so myself. Plus it has mass amounts of kale, which I find so incredibly delicious in soup.

Here's the recipe:
Italian Sausage Soup

2 lbs of ground Italian sausage (½ mild & ½ spicy hot)
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper
6 slices of bacon diced (cook bacon to a crisp)
1 or 2 large diced onions (white or yellow)
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves of garlic)
6-7 cans of chicken broth (or approx 12 cups water with 6 cubes/teaspoons chicken boullion)
2-3 lbs of russet potatoes - unpeeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup of heavy cream (I've actually never used the cream, to reduce calories, and I think the soup is delicious without it)
4 cups of roughly chopped kale (stems removed)

1. Sauté Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat and set aside while preparing the remaining ingredients
2. In the same pan, sauté bacon till fat is rendered and add onions and garlic for approximately 10 minutes or until the onions are soft.
3. Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling.
4. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Add heavy cream (if desired) and cook until thoroughly heated.
7. Stir in the sausage.
8. Add kale just before serving, allowing it to cook for no more than 5 minutes. Delicious!

Then, I have also had a craving for these Chocolate No Bake cookies. Yum. Made a quick batch of those. I'm thinking those won't last all winter...

Well, goodnight. I am headed to bed. I can hardly wait to fall asleep.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seriously, Mother Nature?

"Time for the weather report. It's cold out folks. Bonecrushing cold.
The kind of cold which will wrench the spirit out of a young man, or forge it into steel."

~Northern Exposure, Lost and Found, 1992

Seriously?? Did you see that... 3°F on Wednesday morning? And the high is only going to be 18°F? Oh gosh, that just makes me want to grab a blanket and a book and curl up inside with a nice warm mug of hot chocolate and not go to work... too bad I'm not a teacher who has the whole week off...

We already got about six inches of snow last night. It's a real winter wonderland outside, downed power lines, broken trees and all.

Looks like I really need to bundle up and get to bed early so that I don't have any harder time getting out of bed than I already will knowing it's fuh-reezing outside. It seems like just yesterday I was sleeping in my underwear... and now, I practically wear a scarf to bed every night.

And to think, growing up in temperate, beautiful San Francisco, I always wondered and dreamed about what it would be like to live somewhere where they really had four seasons... so dreamy. Hehe.

Ettal Abbey and The Ritter Sport Factory.

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."
~Martin Buber

After a wonderful 2½-day stay in Oberammergau, we packed up and headed home to Stuttgart. On our way out of town, we stopped for a brief walk around the grounds of the Ettal Abbey and a quick peek inside. What a beautiful place. The weather was a little wet, having rained a bit, with overcast skies, which I love. It just felt cozy and comfortable.

Emery at Ettal.

We drove back to Stuttgart in time to pick up their friend Catherine, and grab some hot chocolate at the Ritter Sport Factory and Museum where we stocked up on chocolate souvenirs because who could leave Germany without bringing back some Schokolade?!

The Ritter Sport Museum.

The weather was beautiful by the time we got to Stuttgart.

Catherine, KDJ, and Linda purchasing their goodies inside the Ritter Sport store.

The Ritter Sport Factory.

The reflection on this window was almost exactly like a mirror.

Emery, Sarah, KDJ, and Catherine enjoying hot chocolate at the Ritter Sport Cafe.

Long live chocolate and he who invented it. (I think that's what it says.)

European red hair! I couldn't resist taking this picture. Love it!

What a fun afternoon. As the cover of the cafe menu said, "To drink tea (insert: chocolate) is to forget the noise of the world." And forget we did. The sun was out, the clouds rolled by, and we chatted the afternoon away.

The next day, we awoke early. KDJ flew back to D.C., and I got to ride the Deutsch Bahn (I love trains) to Frankfurt and then back to SLC. I had a layover in Chicago and treated myself to a chair massage while I waited for my connecting flight, since I had been traveling a very long time. I also noticed Ritter Sport chocolate in the airport store for about three times as much as I had paid in Deutschland. Nice!

Also, as a random side note, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the airport store by my gate also had a full produce section and a lot of very healthy snacks. Seriously, boxes and boxes of fruit. I felt like I was in the real world, and not an airport, so I promptly bought a banana and an other apple. Linda had packed me a travel lunch with apples, cheese, dried cranberries, etc. so I had a great travel day diet. Having real food while I travel makes a world of difference in how I feel at the end of my journey. Thank you Linda!

Thank you for such a wonderful trip; for a week I will forever remember. Magical, it was. Really. I can't wait to return to make new memories. Auf Wiedersehen for now.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ascending the Laber Peak in the Ammergauer Alps.

"We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey."
~John Hope Franklin

On our last full day in Oberammergau, we all took the Laber Bergbahn up the mountain to eat lunch and take in the beautiful scenery. Just look at these pictures below! At the top, I ordered schnitzel because I wanted to eat something authentically German. It was surprisingly good, especially since I typically don't eat much fried food. I didn't even take any pictures... I guess I was too hungry.

Picture taken by budding photographer, Andrew.

Looking back down.
On the way up.

THIS is us.
This is not us.

Do you see the Fall colors peeking through?

The NATO School buildings are in the foreground.
Then you can see the church on the left and the Passion Theater to the right of that in about the middle of town.

Andrew found a perfect little "window" all to himself.

Andrew and his "Papa" (Fred) at the top of the world.

Just stunning. This one of the most breathtaking views I've ever seen.

KDJ, Andrew, and I at the bottom.

Me with one of my goofy faces.

This small one room church was nestled in the trees near where we got on the Laber cable car.

Remember the wood piles I mentioned?
This family, situated just next to the small church, is clearly storing up wood for the winter, as well.

What a beautiful day! Thank you Fred and Linda, for making it possible! It will be forever etched into my memory.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Walk Through Oberammergau.

"Some choices we live not only once but a thousand times over,
remembering them for the rest of our lives."

~Richard Bach

The next morning after the amazing experience of The Passion Play, we (Fred, Linda, KDJ, and I) took a lovely walk through the town. The air was crisp and fresh. The mountains were beautiful and green and some of the trees had already begun to take on a more autumn-like hue.

This image will be forever ingrained in the photo album of my mind.

The Köfel, Oberammergau's Signature Peak.
I can't remember what building this is.

We chatted about the play, life, our dreams and goals, where we'd been and how we ended up here. Fred told us about his stay at the NATO School in Oberammergau fifteen or so years ago, and how he and Linda had fallen in love with the town. They were on a walk back then, talking about their lives, when Linda turned to Fred and said, "Wouldn't you love to live here?" (or something to that effect) They marveled how this small corner of the world had quickly etched itself a place in their hearts, and they day-dreamed about living here someday. Little did they know then, that their dream would come to fruition. Now, Fred and Linda don't actually live IN Oberammergau, but they live within a couple of hours, in what is still beautiful southern Germany. They travel down to Oberammergau often, staying at the same Bed & Breakfast, where they have made friends with the owner.

Frau Kühl (who I thought was just affectionately dubbed Frau "Cool" -- I learned the true spelling upon arrival) runs this wonderful little hotel (B&B) in the center of town. She's an excellent host and told us lots of interesting things about the Passion Play that only an "insider" would know. I loved staying here. If you're there (say, in 2020?!), I highly suggest looking her up!

Take a look at the fantastic way Germans make a bed! Love it.

Sitting on our balcony was so pleasant. And you wondered why I described the town as picture-perfect!

Such a quaint little town, where time seems to stand still, where dreams and daydreams seem to multiply exponentially, and the serenity we all hope for and the break from our routine lives can be found. I know I sound a little dramatic, but that's how it was for me. This could also have a lot to do with the company I kept. There is nothing like being with people who know you, who get you, and love you anyway! There is something calming in the knowledge that they held me as a baby, that they were (and are) such dear friends of BOTH my parents. That's a rare thing in my world, since my parents have been divorced since I was two. There's a connection you feel with those who have seen you through all your years and love you (and your family) just the same now, and probably even more. THIS is what Oberammergau means to me. I'm not sure how to explain it, but there was something magical about this trip.

So we continued our walk, arriving at the Catholic Parish Church of St. Peter and Paul where the very first Passion Play was performed in the yard, atop the fresh graves of those who had died from the plague, in 1634. This PDF slide show has pictures and more information about the church. There was a definite peaceful feeling about this church. I wondered how many people in Oberammergau have had a spiritual reawakening during the Passion Play years. This beautiful church warmly welcomes them, I'm sure.

Strolling through town, it's easy to see that one of the things Oberammergau is known for (aside from The Passion Play and the NATO School) is woodcarving. Beautifully carved wood is everywhere from delicate Nativity scenes in the souvenir shops,  to the balconies, to banisters, to benches, to small wood carvings like this one of St. Florian (below the longest row of cascading flowers on the corner of the building), on the side of buildings.

For some reason, I didn't get any pictures of the masses of wood carvings for sale and the evidence on buildings, so watch this video about one talented woodcarver in town, and you'll be able to see what I'm talking about.

Pretty cool, huh?

Walking through the town center, we stopped in several souvenir shops which were overflowing with carved wood figurines, Passion Play paraphernalia, linens, Christmas ornaments and decorations, and other trinkets.

Oberammergau is also full of decorative scenes painted on the facades of buildings. They are called Lüftmalerei. They vary from children's fairy tales to false architectural details.

The building on the left has two paintings above the windows.

This is an illustration of the Hansel and Gretel story. It's actually an orphanage.

A close-up of Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red Riding Hood.

This was another sight I saw all over town.

A sure sign that the winters here must get very cold.

Can you see why I want to go back?

Next post will be the last part of our stay in Oberammergau when we took the Laber up the mountain (great views) and the morning drive back home when we stopped at the Ettal Abbey along the way.