Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Train Station

When I first moved to Frankfurt, I was very intimidated by, well, just about everything in the city.  Buildings, cars, people, trains, stores, pigeons, restaurants - all the time! - ....there were just so many things!  I never had a simple, clear place to be alone!

The main train station (Hauptbahnhof) was the most overwhelming place for me.  At this time, Igor worked near the Hauptbahnhof, so often we would arrange to meet there.
Frankfurt's main train station has 3 levels: the upper level has trains that travel longer distances (in the region and also to other countries); the middle level has the "schnellbahn" - fast trains for the Rhein-Main area; the lower level is where Frankfurt's subway trains run; outside are 3 tram stations.  On the upper and lower levels are food courts and shops.  With over 600 trains and 350,000 passengers per day, it's big, really big.
In 2004, trying to meet Igor at Hauptbahnhof typically ended up with a cell phone call ("where are you???!!!) and me being reminded how out of place in a city I felt.  Then, a few months after I moved to Frankfurt, Igor and I met at Hauptbahnhof to go out to lunch.  A new external collegue of Igor's came along.  This man lived in London and was in Frankfurt just for a work project.  As we walked through the Bahnhof, this collegue was in awe of the size of the train station.  Wait, someone from London (the largest city in Europe - almost 8 million people) finds this train station big?

Ok, maybe I am allowed to be overwhelmed by some of the aspects of city living, even if Frankfurt is a small (pop. 650,000) city.

Learning how to navigate Hauptbahnhof was one of the small steps towards me feeling more secure and at home in Frankfurt.  Being aware of such victories in city living helped me during the times where I (still!) felt out of place or didn't understand the language or took the train in the wrong direction.

When have you experienced small victories making a big difference in your life?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hello, Monday

I'm linking up with Lisa Leonard for her Hello, Monday series.

After a great weekend that included a night hike with Monkey's kindergarten group, we're getting ready for this new week.

Hello, finally starting to write things down, after neglecting a calendar since last year.

Hello, week with lots of potential (I'm looking forward to sewing!)

Hello, to greeting new babies, new acquaintances, and good friends.

Hello, to more Viking-Pirate-Astronaut excitement (I LOVE being a mom!)

Hello, having champagne "just 'cause I felt like it" (hope that happens more this week!)

What are you saying "Hello" to this week?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Food Friday - Finger Food

How's that for alliteration?
Today, Monkey's kindergarten group (the Waldmäuse - wood mice) is having a night hike (4-7pm) with a picnic.  We're to bring finger food, so I'm preparing one of my favorite and simplest recipes:
Tortilla Rolls (makes about 100 bite-sized pieces)
8 Tortilla Rolls
300g/11oz Cream cheese (you can use flavored cream cheeses to add variety)
sliced ham or chicken

Spread a thin layer of cream cheese most of the tortilla, leaving just a small portion plain. Add 1-2 slices of meat. Roll, leave the non-cream cheese part as the bottom of the roll.  Cut into about 1/2 inch (2cm) slices.

Super easy and always a crowd pleaser:)

I sometimes add Feldsalat or rucola salad to the tortillas and leave out the meat in some, for those who don't eat meat.

Oh, and something extra special for this Friday:

Last night it snowed!!!!
Have a great weekend:)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Theology Thursday

Each week as I think about this blog, part of my conscience keeps nagging me to have this be a "tough" theology entry.  To tackle huge, difficult questions about my faith and to not shy away from difficult themes. (all this while Timmy is faithfully washing the dishes...and himself and the floor...)
As I thought about this idea/pressure (from myself) the past few days, I've become resolved to address this Theology Thursday from a more personal view.  I want to share what is influencing and shaping my study and understanding of God and my relationship to Him and how I then live my life.
Some weeks, that may mean addressing tough issues.  But I think most weeks it means addressing the normal habits and reminders I need to keep my eyes on living a life for the glory of God.

Therefore, I want to share a verse I memorized many years ago:

Psalm 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

This verse has reminded me very often of my need to look outward, not on my own immediate situation, but on the general situation in my life: I live in a peaceful area, have no hunger or thirst, have a very comfortable home, am healthy, have interests and hobbies I can pursue, have friends and family...the list goes on and on.

And when I am in a difficult time, I know that I am going through it not on my own.  The Bible reassures me many times that God is with me; He knows the ups and downs of my life and He does not forsake me during the hard times, even when I am not being an "amazing Christian", as I sometimes trick myself into thinking that this the end all and be all of my existence (it's not.  Living in a way that gives God glory, that demonstrates love for Him and my fellow man, is the end all and be all for me.)

I hope that this verse can encourage you where you are at this morning, whether it's in the midst of a trial or in the midst of peace.  God is with you and, because of who He is and what He has done, is worthy of your praise.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Sewing Story

It started as a whim. (Like most things in my life.)  In 2006, when Monkey was born, I decided I wanted to make him something.  I couldn't knit, crochet or scrapbook, but my mom had sewn several of my favorite childhood outfits (especially memorable are my "jams", which I think I wore daily the summer of  1989) and she had helped me sew napkins when I moved to Arizona after college.  With this experience behind me, I decided I'd try sewing a baby quilt.

My mom (not sure if I'd stick with this quilting idea) gave me a gift certificate to Verna's Fabric Store (love this store!), where I bought material, a rotary cutter, cutting mat and an easy baby-quilt book.  Super-supportive Igor bought me a Pfaff 1538 sewing machine and off I went.  I machine-pieced the top and finished with hand-quilting. 
Same process for Sissy and one other quilt in 2007. Nothing else sewn; the machine sat untouched for months.  At this time, I started going to an American woman's house for coffee and quilting (and chatting and praying).  I learned a lot about hand-sewing and friendship from the women in this group. 
When Bubba was born in 2009, I started my sewing procedure, only to find that my machine wasn't sewing properly.  Too lazy to take it to the sewing machine store, I pieced and quilted Bubba's quilt by hand. 

For now, my quilting is on hold (waiting for the next baby to help me complete another baby quilt).  I have started on a large summer quilt for our (Igor and myself) bed, but that's only this far:

note to self - next time, choose large squares!  I need 812 of these triangles to form the pinwheels.  At least I have my project to bring to Create! am Main on March 3!

I do look forward, however, to the time when I return to quilting on a more frequent basis. I loved having a sewing project that didn't require electricity. And I loved seeing the designs develop, both through the choice of fabrics and in the actual quilting.

It brings my heart joy, to see my handiwork being enjoyed by two of my most treasured people.

What's been your surprising life-activity (creative, athletic, intellectual) development in recent years?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kid Craft Project

I never dreamed I would write a title like that (unless, of course, it was a required part of a course).  I could write several paragraphs about how I always tried to avoid arts & crafts courses, opting for music, drama or sport classes.  My mom and sisters still laugh at the thought of me having a small sewing business and organizing creative markets and creative days (where people can come together to work on their current projects or come to learn new creative artforms/techniques).
Anyway, here is a short little activity that even I can get up enough energy/confidence to do with the kids (this time it was just Sissy):                   

Penny Art

Sissy recently discovered her piggy bank.  Igor and I regularly put our small change (1, 2, and 5 cent pieces) in this bank.  Since she and the boys have figured out how to open it, we are currently finding these pieces all over the house...but that's another story.

For this simple project, I simply used a penny as the center of the flower and drew with colored pencil the other details.  I let Sissy make this drawing of flowers on grass (I'm a big believer in actually letting kids make their own art; not directing their every move, so the end result is what I think would look best).

She's very pleased and so am I.  Short, sweet, successful:)

There are lots of other ways to use the pennies in pictures: to compose whole items (grass, waves, tree tops, etc.) or as part of a whole (in a house, space ship, etc.)  I'm sure your creativity will give you lots of fun ideas.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hello, Monday

Once again, saying Hello with Lisa Leonard.

Hello, starting the week with sick family members - I hope it doesn't affect our birthday celebration plans.

Hello, getting in a party mood - two (adult) birthday parties:)

Hello, needing to find a regular working (sewing) routine!

Hello, trying to appeciate each day as it comes - I just had a very special weekend with Sissy ("just girls, Mommy, no boys!").  Our time together and the time away from Igor and the boys reminds me how precious each day is (even on the days that need to be preciously short!)

What are you saying Hello to?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Food Friday - Breakfast

I think I am going to love Food Friday...it's fun to think about what I can make, photograph and present.  It's even more fun to eat it!

This week I've tried a long-time favorite recipe (a breakfast egg dish - original recipe given to me by my friend Maurie when I lived in Arizona) in a different form - as muffins instead of a casserole.

The recipe: (+/- a bit for the veggie content)
2 inches leek, sliced
5 mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp butter
1/2c frozen spinach (thawed, chopped)
3 eggs
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
Salt, Pepper, Herbs de Provance (to taste)
250ml/1 cup cream
1cup (about 75g) shredded cheese - Gouda, Emmentaler, Cheddar

Sautée leek and mushrooms.  In a mixing bowl, combine eggs with flour, then add baking powder and spices.  Add leek, mushrooms, spinach, cheese and cream.  Mix together, then spoon into muffin tin.  Bake at 350F/180C for 25 minutes. With this recipe, I made 6 normal-sized muffins and 12 mini-muffins.  You can refrigerate the muffins and reheat for breakfast - a great, fast breakfast!

Sometimes, I substitute the spinach with broccoli.  If I want meat, I combine broccoli with bacon and spinach with sausage.

Normally, I pour the egg mixture into a casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.  This is also really easy to mix together the night before, refrigerate and bake the next morning (without the baking powder...I add that just before baking).  But the muffin form made this dish even more fun for the kids and having a quick, relatively healthy breakfast is nice for me. Guten Appetit!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Theology Thursday

Anger.  It's a topic in our household.  Recently, I've been reading a blog series about anger at Femina.  It's been very thought-provoking and helpful, reminding me to think about the reasons behind some of the issues which flame our anger.  There's been several important and large topics touched upon in this series: anger/justice, the source of anger, forgiveness.
I am thankful that, as we struggle through anger popping up in various situations, we can remember that because of His great plan for salvation through Jesus, God forgives us freely, totally, lavishly.

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

How do you see the connection between anger and forgiveness? anger and justice?  our daily struggle with difficult things (both inside and outside of us) and Jesus?  How best do you self-reflect to understand whether your anger is justified?...ok, there's tons more questions but these are a few to get started.  I'm interested in your feedback.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good Morning, Sunshine

This has been the view outside greeting me the past few mornings:
No, this is not simply a picture of the not-so-pretty apartment buildings across the street.  Look at the lighting; look at the shadows; look at the sunlight!

Amazing!  Especially considering that typical light for Germany from November-March is this:

OK, even this picture has more light than what is felt when living here.  The idea/feeling is: cloudy, gray, dull.  (Although, to be more optimistic, I suppose I could appreciate the amazing diversity and change in the clouds...but I usually just notice the lack of sunshine.)

Amidst the many changes/contrasts I realized when I first moved to Frankfurt, the lack of sunshine was the most obvious.  I moved from Many Farms, Arizona (Navajo Reservation in the high desert) where we had cloudy, rainy days for maybe a week in August.  I easily became used to sunshine being a normal and generous part of my day.
Last year, I started cultivating the habit of commenting on sunny days and even sunny moments, especially in the winter months.  For some reason, when I mention something to other people, I remember it more clearly.  So, I can clearly remember that I have, at least once a week (usually 4-5 times a week!) since November, been commenting on the sunshine.

It might not be in our day for long, but it is here and we can be thankful for it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Coffee Break

One of my favorite activities with the kids is going to Igor's work and visiting him for a coffee break.  This was really easy when he worked downtown.  Now we need to take a train a bit longer to his workplace (still in Frankfurt), but his current building has an indoor pond, so I guess it's worth the extra time on public transportation.

It's been really great for us to see where Igor spends so much of his time Monday - Friday.  And I love being able to let him know that his work is also interesting to us.
We have the chance to ask each other about our day, to tell about special events, to share our normal moments (without trying to eat supper or being tired from the whole day).

I usually have a hot chocolate.  The kids get a special treat (this day it was chocolate milk and a raisin bun).  Igor gets a coffee or gets to chase the kids (usually both).

There's lots of running, looking at the water and adding life, laughter and happiness to the bank.

                   I think it does us all good:)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hello, Monday

I'm linking up with the amazing Lisa Leonard for her Hello, Monday series.

Hello, week after a relaxing and fun weekend!

Hello to hoping for more sunny weather.

Hello, another meeting of the German-American-Namibian Sewing Club and a big Create! am Main planning session!

Hello to another week of needing God's grace as I seek to parent our children and be a wife to Igor.

What are you saying hello to?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Food Friday - Appetizers

I love appetizers!  Nothing says to me "kid-free/date-night dinner" like nice appetizers.  I'm not talking about bacon-cheese-fries or breaded mozarella sticks, although those are definitely two of my favorite foods!  I mean like the dinner Igor and I enjoyed with our candle-lit christmas tree (those Germans!): stuffed mushrooms and bacon wrapped dates.  So, to begin my Food Friday series, I'll start off with these two super-easy appetizers.

Stuffed Mushrooms:
20 Mushrooms
2 Tbsp/28g butter
1/2 onion (in this case, I used 2 inches of leek)
1-2 cloves diced garlic (1 1/2 tsp)
Salt, pepper, mixed herbs (I like rosemary and thyme or Herbs de Provence)
100g/3.5 oz cream cheese
10-15 pistachios, coursely chopped

Wash and de-stem mushrooms.  Dice onion and mushrooms.  Sautee onion, garlic and mushrooms in butter until tender.  Season to taste.  Let cool, then add chopped pistachios and cream cheese.  Stuff mushrooms with cream cheese filling.

This recipe tastes great and makes me feel healthy - raw mushrooms have to be healthy, no matter what the filling!  For a less healthy alternative, take out the cream cheese, add 1/2 cup bread crumbs and broil (400F/220C) the mushrooms for 5-10 minutes until brown (oh, and brush them with 1/4 cup melted butter) - amazing! (but doesn't feel as healthy:) oh! and it works well to make the filling the day before and pop the filled mushrooms in the oven when guests arrive.

The bacon wrapped dates are just that: pit dates, wrap in 1/3 slice bacon.  Broil (400F/220C)10-15 minutes until browned -
uh-mazing!  This is also perfect to do with plums (even sweeter!)

What's your favorite appetizer?  Do you agree that bacon makes just about anything taste better?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Theology Thursday

For many years now, I've loved writing down my thoughts and experiences in a normal journal.  I still try to maintain that practice, but have allowed other things in my life to take over journaling's once daily place in my life.
With this blog, I'm trying to assign some days of the week a certain purpose, so I can weekly visit a particular topic.  Hence, Thursday Theology.  For those of you who know me, this is a topic very important to me, but possibly not in the way in which you think.
Theology is the study of God and things divine.  For many people, this immediately conjurs up pictures of large tomes, monks, and reverance.  For me, theology is something I experience on a daily basis in different forms - intellectually, emotionally, practically.
One such practical experience is included on this chart - a daily doxology.

Although I haven't used the chart to its full purposes, just the mental image of the daily doxology has helped remind me of my joy found in praising God for the little (or big) unique things in my day.  It's actually difficult to limit it to just one...and I find it does my heart good to, at the end of the day, form one sentence from the various doxologies I've experienced throughout the day.

Here's my doxology from yesterday:
Praise God for comfortable visits from friends, laughter, the sunshine through the clouds, and friends gathering in our home to study the Bible.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just another tree...

 One of the things I have loved about our apartment in Frankfurt (besides the ease with which we can go downtown or walk to the grocery store or visit several parks), is the huge maple tree in our (small) backyard.
This summer, the kids and I spent a lot of time in our house's garden.  Although it's open to all the people in our house, we took advantage of it the most.  It was great: grilling, playing with outdoor toys, relaxing in the shade of the giant maple tree, taking refuge under its canopy during some crazy rain storms (not lightening storms, Mom!).  In the fall, that tree gives off thousands of leaves; perfect for leaf-pile-jumping - so fun!  We even enjoyed the tree from our balcony - the view from our bed was of the tree's leaves.

I felt so blessed to have this wonderful green view greet me each spring, summer, and fall morning.  Even though we live in a city, I still had a lovely view of a big tree.
Yesterday, I left the house with a big, beautiful maple tree in the backyard.  When I returned at noon, there was this:
 Amazing!  In just a few hours, several guys with chainsaws were able to take away such a beautiful piece of nature!  When I asked our house maintanence man why the tree was cut down, he didn't know.  But clearly no griping about why it was cut down will bring back this beauty.  He did say we at least got a table out of the tree.
I'm interested to see how the backyard develops this spring.  I am trying to keep an optimistic view on our being able to enjoy the garden this coming season.  Well, at least we have our other nature outlets (but none quite so close - just four flights of stairs below us:)

What's your favorite outdoor aspect of your apartment/house? (and I'll try to not be jealous of comments like "our pond" or "the mesa" :) )

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oh, Tannenbaum! Oh, Tannenbaum!

Since moving to Germany, I've become aware of several Christian holidays my family sort of skimmed over.  Three Kings Day is one of them.  On this day, when the Magi's visiting Jesus is remembered, Christmas trees throughout Germany are taken down and put outside to be picked up by the local disposal service.  Not sure why this day has been chosen, but it helps give me a date to aim for, for undecorating from Christmas.

Because we live on the fourth floor of our building, we make use of our large windows facing our buildings' driveway to throw the tree out the window.  The kids love this! And usually immediately ask if we can do it again:)
After reading on the disposal company's website that christmas trees should be cut to 1 meter pieces, Igor  has taken to using his Samurai sword to help chop the tree down to size.  He's originally from Croatia; maybe that explains some of the craziness that happens in our house:)

Do you have a certain date when you take down your Christmas tree and decorations? What's your favorite after-Christmas tradition?