Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weird obsession

My kids have this weird obsession with cemeteries; they would walk around cemeteries for hours if we let them. I suppose maybe I created this obsession several years ago.  If I would have known how excited they get when I say something like "I was looking on google maps and found a cemetery right in the middle of a neighborhood" I may not have encouraged the stop over.

A few years ago while trekking to the beach, we saw many signs in the South Carolina country that marked historic sites.  I kept saying "we need to stop at one of these and see what is there."  So, one time we did.  It was a very, very old church that had a cemetery behind it.  It was completely abandoned but we had a good time looking a piece of history and the kids became obsessed with running around the headstones looking for the oldest one.
"Dad, this guy was a general in the confederate army!"
"Mom, this one is from the 1800's!"

An obsession was born.  Now our trips include phrases like "come on, we need to stop at that cemetery."  "Please mom, it'll only take a few minutes."

Emily has learned how to look up cemetery records online and can tell you the oldest grave and then like a scavenger hunt she needs to find that grave.

While I admit that finding the resting place of people who helped shape the city you're from is kind of cool, it is still a bit weird and I try to keep a button on their lips while out in public.
"Mom, let's go that cemetery we saw on the way here" tends to raise a few eyebrows.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A day with a friend and Burg Lichtenberg

Today I had the pleasure of meeting an online friend, in person.  Our husbands were both creeped out by it but we were both so excited to actually meet each other.  I had the best time hanging out with her for a day in the real Germany.  First we went to a farmer's market nearby that was simply awesome; I saw the best produce I've ever seen today.  Then I tagged along with her for the rest of day and got to see her kids' schools, their music lessons, her house and real German villages.  It was a normal day for her but I had the best time.  We may have to have discussions with the kids soon because it might be really cool living here.

J came and picked me up from her house and then we spent the evening at Lichtenberg Castle which is right up the street from her house.  Seriously, right up the street.

This castle was built in 1200, making it over 800 years old.  That is just hard to fathom.  The castle caught fire twice so the ruins have been turned into grounds for a church, restaurant and youth hostel.

We climbed up into this lookout tower to enjoy the view of the countryside.

We had dinner on the patio of the castle restaurant before driving back to the hotel for the evening.

It was a very fun day and I love that it got us away from the touristy areas and the Americanized Germany.

Burg Nanstein

I learned yesterday that burg means castle so this would be the Nanstein Castle.  This castle has been turned into a summer theatre and it also has a small restuarant/bar (mostly bar) at the top.  We saw lots of beer but no food so we sought out food from a different location.

There is also a 10K hiking trail that goes all over the mountain that Nanstein is located on.  J has been to the castle twice before and hiked the trail once so he wanted to take me up there.

It was a very uphill journey but after a few minutes we came to this.

More pictures from the castle grounds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rothenburg, Germany

The historic district of town is surrounded by the old town wall.  Cars aren't allowed within the historic district unless you live there or you are a hotel guest.

You can walk up the towers to the top of the wall and then walk around the entire city.  A bit dark and creepy in some spots but really cool.

I just loved all the German houses and shops all lined up.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Castles on the Rhine

I meant to add more details to the airplane photo post but here is how it went:
10 minutes before boarding I decided to post a picture for the kids.  I try to log into blogger and forget my password.  Try again: Fail.  Try again, finally right.  7 minutes to go, the people are standing in line all around me.
Start a post.  Try to upload a picture: Fail.  Can't do it that way on a phone.
Quickly set up my blog to accept emailed posts like I did when we were in China.
Type email with details, try to attach a picture: Fail.
Board the plane.
Realize I must open the picture and email it that way.  Type up a post with details and hit send: Fail.
Watch the flight attendant yell at people for not getting seated quick enough and say "we must go, just sit down and we'll fix it once we're in the air."  Listen to the pilot come over the speakers and say "we must depart, sit down, turn off cell phones."
Try furiously one last time to send the picture, type as few words as possible and hit send.
13 hours later when I finally had internet again I checked to see it really did post and only once: Success!

So, for the details.  J has a conference for work in Germany this week so I decided to come along as his +1.  We left a few days early to enjoy some sites together and our children are with wonderful Meme back home.

We flew overnight and arrived in Frankfurt around 7:30 am but jet lag seriously kicked our butts so that first day was spent walking around like zombies and crying over lunch because the only choices available were all fried food.  Seriously, it was that bad.  I made it 25 hours before falling asleep but it has proven to be worth it because today I was up at 4 am and still haven't fall asleep and it's now 11 pm.

Today we took a tour with a local company to visit a castle on the Rhine river along with a couple wine tastings, boat ride, lunch and a gondola ride.  It was all so very cool and awe inspiring except the gondola ride; that nearly made me wet my pants.  And then when we got to the top and I found the bathroom I had to pay to use it and I didn't have the right kind of coins.  ACK!

This is the castle we toured; it is privately owned now by a family and is open for tours and also has a cafe.
After the tour we enjoyed a piece of plum cake on the patio and this was our view.

Pictures from around the castle:

The basket was used in ancient times as a punishment for criminals; they'd hoist them into the basket and leave them there for awhile.

These are two that we saw on our boat tour.  I lost count after awhile but I think we saw 8 castles today.

One more interesting stories from today is that this castle sitting up above this small town on the Rhine river is currently owned by a Japanese businessman; he has his helicopter fly him from the Frankfurt airport to his castle when he comes.

I only took pictures of the gondola ride with my cell phone because I was too scared to bend over and get the camera out of the backpack.  That might rock the cable car and well, I was already breathing shallow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Make your own: Brownie Mix

This makes a lot.  I only made half the amount the first time to make sure I liked them well enough to mix 15 cups of stuff at once; I did.

It's hard to find a good recipe for homemade brownies when boxed brownie mixes are easy, fairly inexpensive and just... well, good.  But, they are also made with enriched, bleached flour and partially hydrogenated soybean oil; no thanks.
These brownies are a really close substitute for the boxed brownies.  They are moist and fudgey with a crunchy top.  I make our brownie mix with whole wheat pastry flour and raw sugar so I feel somewhat better about eating the entire pan myself,  feeding them to my family.

In your largest bowl, mix:

  • 6 cups flour (you can use any kind you'd like, I used freshly milled soft white wheat)
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 tsp. salt
  • 1 8 oz. container unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix it well to really incorporate the baking powder and cocoa powder evenly.  If you use all purpose flour you could store this in your cabinet or pantry in a ziploc bag or plastic storage container; just attach a piece of paper to it with the baking instructions.  I store ours in the freezer because the freshly milled flour will turn rancid at room temperature.  This time I divided up the mix into individual bags because I was avoiding the house cleaning before my mom arrives to save time later.  This large recipe made 7 batches of brownie mix.

To make the brownies, mix:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup oil or melted butter
  • 2 cups brownie mix
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional
Preheat oven to 350, grease an 8" pan.  Your mix will probably be quite thick, spread it into pan and bake 30-35 minutes.