Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Hello Everyone! We had another adventurous weekend, but a little more than we bargained for—after arriving home a few days late. This post will be in two parts: one for obstacles and the other for pictures. On Friday, we traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland to experience the Christmas celebrations even though we didn’t know it at the time of planning. We stayed in a—“colder than a well digger’s ass in Montana" Inn--because apparently they shut off their heat to save on energy. I guess they didn’t read about the dropping temperatures into the 20s, so by the time Sunday rolled around, we were ready to head home and thaw out.

Before leaving for the airport, we ate breakfast at the Inn and saw this outside (picture). The owner said this amount of snow was very unusual for Edinburgh as we looked out the window—mouths wide—hoping we’ll make it to the airport in one piece.
While we were driving to the airport, I decided to take a picture of some sheep’s grazing…or trying to keep above the snow, and the snow-filled trees. By this time, I hoped they had an “Oh Shit” handle on the passenger’s side, because the snow wouldn’t let up and traffic crawled.

We arrived with enough time to drop off the car, walk fifty miles (that’s what the European experience is at airports—walking down long hallways and going up and down stairs), and go through security. We made it, BUT the flight is now delayed four hours—more than enough time to find somewhere to sit and grow anxious while watching the falling snow. The delayed time creeps up and we find out the flights canceled. Ryanair so graciously stated if we want to rebook or cancel to please go to ryanair.com. BLAH, BLAH! They left everyone stranded—no one could even get to the website to do anything.

My Love contacted his mother to see if she could get us a flight from anywhere to anywhere in Germany or Brussels while we talked to different car companies to rent a car. AHA! We had a flight booked at Gatwick Airport, and we got a great deal to rent a car. Our driving journey began Sunday night for a few hours before we decided to stop at a hotel to sleep. We had been dealing with travel since the morning, so we slept and woke very early to continue on. Below is a map of the U.K. and I circled our beginning point, Edinburgh to our destination, Gatwick Airport.

I must stress that I didn’t do any of the driving. My Love was stuck since I left my driver’s license at the flat, I’ve never driven a manual car, and everything is on the opposite side—drive on the right and the roads are on the right. He drove the entire way—AND STILL—after all this time—did not complain. He just went along with everything. Psstt…I think this is why I fell in love with him…anyone who knows me knows I’m high maintenance, compulsive and anal. He’s VERY good for me.

We did make a stop at a town called Windsor before getting to the airport. At first, we thought about Stratford-Upon-Avon, but I was already there. Here are a few pictures of Windsor.

We arrive at the gate 1-1/2 hours prior to take off to find out the flight is canceled due to snow in Dusseldorf. We just drove 356 miles! It’s Monday—another day lost! At that moment, I was about ready to cry and I dropped the F-bomb a few times. Now what? I pull my Love with me and we head up to the EasyJet desks to rebook for early tomorrow morning. The line behind us was extremely long, but we ran to get there before most. My Love had his mom try to rebook us online, but she couldn’t. When we got to the counter, the representative was about to book us on a 7:10 a.m. flight to Cologne, but because my Love’s mother was online, it locked the account. The representative said it takes about 15 minutes to unlock itself; meanwhile we waited as seat-by-seat started to fill on this flight. FINALLY, she was able to book us seats on this flight—the last two seats. I couldn’t believe it and I thanked God right there and then.

EasyJet set everyone up in a hotel room for the night and fed us. Thank you, EasyJet. You guys ROCK! This morning, we sat on the plane (delayed) while they de-iced the wings and arrived in Cologne later this morning. From there, we had to take two trains to get to the station in Hattingen, where we walked home with our heavy carry-ons.

We’re Home!

So, how was your weekend? Get any shopping done?


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Even though I’m not there to celebrate with you, I will be thinking of all and the things I’m thankful for.  Hope you find yourself surrounded by loved ones this day and every day.

Special prayers go out to the homeless, and that they find a dinner to fill them up and a warm place to sleep.

Another special prayer and thanks to all the armed forces and their families who sacrifice daily for our safety. If you have time, stop by Honor the Fallen to honor those we lost in this war, and/or Soldier’s Angels to donate or volunteer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Taste of the Holiday Season and Weekend Wonders

Hello my friends. It’s been an exciting weekend, so I thought I’d share some of it with you. First off, many of you who truly know me know that I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON. Unfortunately, I will not be in the States celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, but I did buy a little chicken that I shall cook up this week.

On Friday, a neighboring town already setup their Christmas Market. We headed over there for some tasty food, mulled wine and to get into the holiday spirit…okay, I’m already in the holiday mood. All the booths are decorated so cute.

The first booth I will present is a bread booth. Germans love bread, so this was a must to share.

This is a bratwurst booth. I love how bratwurst is served here. It’s a very long and skinny, like a sausage, and served on a roll (forgot to take picture before I ate it).

My mom had a huge village that she setup at Christmas time. These are German houses for Christmas villages.

Here is a great bar area where they serve beer, wine and hard liquor for those “who want to get drunk fast, and [they] don’t need any characters around to give the joint ‘atmosphere’”.

I laughed when I saw these on display. It’s mulled wine bottles wrapped with bread.

And here were some snowmen and reindeers made from tree trunks.

On Saturday, we already planned to go to Luxembourg—told that it is part of my heritage. This was an interesting day, because I was in four different countries; Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium…Well…Belgium was an accident—we happened to have missed the sign that said “This Way!”

We left early and arrived before the crowds got in our way. Luxembourg is a beautiful city and my pictures do not do it justice. There was heavy fog over the area, so the sun didn’t get much of a chance to take a peak.

This is a picture near the town center looking down into the Petruss Valley. Outside the old fortress and palace, the water eroded and created the Petruss Valley, so the town built around this big park.

Here’s a picture for my eating buddies. This is a dessert and pastry store. The one in front to the far right looked like velvet, but we tried the individual caramel tort that’s in the middle in front. Mmmm…

This is the Passerell Bridge that has 24 arches and it’s in an arch formation. The bridge was built from 1859 – 1861.

This is the Adolphe bridge, built from 1899 – 1903, and was the largest bridge made from natural stone at the time of completion.

We walked up many, many stone stairs to get to the casements (system of tunnels for defense purposes).
Then we ventured into another area that somewhat turned into a little Italy. We had lunch in this area at a place called Oscar Wilde (great food at reasonable prices).

As we left the City of Luxembourg, I was able to capture a picture of the setting sun.

Today, we went to another town to enjoy the sun. SUN! We had sun, so I grabbed my camera to get some beautiful shots. I’ll share just a few with you.

Hope you enjoyed my weekend journey. Have a wonderful week.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I finally did it. I completed my first full revision yesterday and it feels great. It’s like returning to your favorite tavern—realizing how much you missed and enjoyed it. When I first wrote this novel, it was without a thought to fix, promote or possibly publish it. The discipline to write without worrying about editing is what drove the story. I can honestly say it wrote itself. Sometimes I felt like my fingers struggled to keep up with the intertwining characters and plot as I pounded away at the keys trying to make that 30 day deadline of 50,000 words. That was the main goal.

Now after sitting down with my novel again, reintroducing myself to the characters and experiencing the story after a lapse of time, it made me realize the dream could become reality. At times, I even reread lines asking myself, “Did I really write that?”! And then there were sentences I read and asked myself, “Were you drinking when you wrote that?” Overall, I’m proud of the characters and story I created, which isn’t something I normally say when it comes to my writing. I’m critical of the words I link together, along with being critical of other writers. Not so critical of the grammatical errors as I am of the character and plot—texture and flavor of a story.

But I arrived to the point in my novel where I sighed with satisfaction—an unplanned journey that I hope in time many will read—where everybody knows my name.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Salute You!

A Soldier’s Wish

“How long have I been here?”
I asked of my dirt-covered hands
that weren’t the only thing of filth.

My head is so heavy
from the fear. From worry. From pain.
Stuck in this rat hole of misery.

Trembling hands touch pocket
to ease this growing anxiousness
and to know my family’s close by.

I cry out, “Please save me!”
only the wind takes it away.
Hushed moans buried in this retched space.

Clock ticking in my head
drags on this war and good-byes.
Blood splatter with dirt coats my comrades.

Still, strangers I sit with
divulging information about precious gems
in case we’re swallowed by enemy.

In our darkest hours,
pray, we feel God’s abandonment,
or is it the country left behind?

If I had but one wish
I’d wish a wish for you my love,
you deserve joy that comes your way.

Unsure how I’ll come home,
Crippled, or in a wooden box,
your faithful words kept me company.

My wish I wish for you.
Find love if our time ends soon,
continue to breathe life into our memories.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Food for the Soul

I                                                        You. Or maybe this looks like a butt to you—it’s all about interpretation. We bought a huge bag of potatoes, so my Love could make some potato soup (Kartoffelsuppe). He was in the kitchen for a few hours grating the potatoes, cutting up carrots, onions, sausage, boiling and creating the base of the soup. There are two kinds of sausage in this soup, one is a smoked strong sausage (Mettwurste) to add to the flavor and then he put in whole sausages that we cut up when the soup was served. Mmm...he did a fabulous job making this soup that kept me full for at least a few hours.

The next pictures are of some pastries we picked up at the bakery, Löscher Bäckerei. This first pastry is a traditional German dessert called Bienenstich (Bee Sting). This is the one I picked and it was instant love. This is made with a sweet bread, cream or vanilla pudding, topped with honeyed almonds. 
My love ordered this one and it was called Mangaroca Batida De Coco. Layered chocolate cake with cherries and whip cream flavored with Batida De Coco (coconut liquor) topped with a cherry sauce. He let me have a small bite—a very, very small bite—accompanied by a ‘you ain’t getting anymore’ look. This one was fabulous too.

One day, we went to a place called Das Pfannekuchen-Haus (the pancake house) for lunch. Much of the menu consists of a pancake (unsweetened) topped with whatever toppings you order. The first picture is of my Love’s meal. It’s a pancake topped with ground beef, broccoli, spinach, cheese and Hollandaise sauce. Again, he let me have a small bite and it was fabulous. Actually better than what I ordered.

I ordered a pancake with potatoes in it and topped with onions and a sunny side up egg. This also came with bacon, but I asked for it without. It was good, but didn’t have enough flavor as the other one.

My love washed his down with a Köstritzer bier (black beer). He said the beer was okay, but he still prefers Guinness.

And finally, an ice cream I had at the ice cream parlor in Blankenstein. This place, like many ice cream places, will close up at the end of the month and return in the spring. Many of the ice cream parlors are Italian owned, so they return to Italy over the winter months and return in the spring to serve their homemade ice cream. I’ll admit that this was half-eaten already when I remembered to take a picture. I had two types of ice cream, a almond and a cookie dough ice cream topped with fresh whipped cream (unsweetened). I don’t even know if I’ve ever had homemade unsweetened whipped cream, but this was fabulous.

For now, this is all I have to serve--until next time, Bon appetit.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Tale of Two Years

To celebrate National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I finally finished my first complete revision of the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2008. It cost me close to 2-years to get my butt going and revise it. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is it’s a fun approach to writing. You sign up on the website and on November 1, you begin writing your story. The goal is to complete a 50,000-word novel by the end of November 30. During this time, you can post your progress on the site and encourage others while they encourage you.

I participated in 2008 and completed a 50,000-word novel, and the picture to this post is what I won. Most people think you walk away with prize money, but all you really walk away with is the knowledge of knowing you wrote a novel in one month. To some—like me—it’s a satisfying feeling.

So now what? You could ask someone to read it to see what they think, which is what I did. My Love, who at the time was just a friend, asked if he could read it. I shrugged and said ‘sure’. I had no plans to do anything with it until he read it within a few days and said he loved it. I thought, “Come on, it’s a mess”, but he thought it was great. He’s always been my biggest fan. Before I sent it to him, I prepared him for the mess, because wanting to complete 50,000 words in one month when you work full-time means turning off your internal editor. There is no time to clean-up or fix mistakes. NaNoWriMo helped me learn to write under pressure without going back and editing the crap out of everything I wrote. I was on a clear, direct path to finish and nothing was going to get in my way…and it didn’t. Coming into the last week of November, I still had to write 25,000 words to win and I freaked. How am I going to do that? Vacation days. I used vacation days to finish my 2008 NaNoWriMo.

Fast forward two years and here I am, working with an editor to clean it up. It isn’t a free revision—it costs to have someone do a line-by-line, but my Love convinced me it was worth it. After this revision, I will need to find a few proofreaders to go through it again…and then to go through it again until it’s error free…or at least close to it. Aside from this novel, I wrote my first one back in 2003, which is nicely tucked away in my drawer due to my poor writing.

I toast to those who are participating in the 2010 NaNoWriMo, and wish you all the best. It’s a great adventure, so write hard and TURN OFF YOUR INTERNAL EDITOR . Good luck!