Definition for Kayak :-)

Kayak [] n. 1. an oblong banana shaped boat with a hole in the bottom from which the occupant dangles. Can be propelled the wrong way up by experts. (definition courtesy of Pete Knowles)
(And I've got this one from Chris' Kayak Lexicon)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Heilig Abend

Finally we get to see the beautifully dressed tree that we had gone to find at single digits temperatures in the snow from Up North.

Isn't it beautiful! Again, next year, I'll have a tree too :-)

Uli yearning to open the big parcel he got from Germany!

Look at that spread! The Bergers sure know how to have a party!

Presents from all over the world! And lots of them!

Here's the dynamic duo themselves Markus and Chrisy!

Champagne! Those Bergers sure know how to party!

No, this is not a picture from Better Living, that was "just a bit o' cheese"!

Christmas cheer! Look, they even got stars from the sky for their guests! Well, I guess it's easy for Markus, with him working for an airline...Those Bergers sure know how to party!

(Uli, John & Joan, Markus & Chrisy)

The shimmy round the hors d'oeuvres buffet, yep, that's just the hors d'oeuvres, kinda just to warm us up before the sit down meal. The meal was two different kinds of salmon with mango salsa, homemade cranberry relish, asparagus, potato salad a la Markus Mum and much ah-ed over bread that Ulrich and Jessica brought along with those delicious cheeses. Those Bergers...I think I need a nap now...

(Ulrich, Jessica & Uli)

For me always a high point: The singing of Christmas songs. There is never enough singing in our lives! When Markus and I sang a traditional song (Es wird schon bald dumper) in our native accents that was very special. That evoked homeland feelings like few things do. And what is Christmas without the feeling of being at home... Well ok and the fact that Markus is a former member of the most prestigious Choir in the Western World (Wiener Saengerknaben) is pretty cool too :-)

Ah, the presents are unpacked and it's off to church. At this point I had to bail out with my cold catching up with me, which prevented me to go to my friends houses the next day, but it HAD been a lovely Christmas with Chrisy, Markus, Joan, John, Uli, Jessica and Ulrich!

Thanks for the lovely presents to all of you! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Friends' Wedding

Yesterday my friends Curt and Krista tied the knot! It was a beautiful candle-lit ceremony I dedicated my full attention to and don't have pictures of. I can't wait to see the pictures that photographer took! Also the couple asked me not to share pictures of them through this medium, which I obviously respect!

Several of my friends had a photographer at their wedding, who took fabulous pictures of them as a couple, just to realized later with regret, that they had virtually no pictures of the party and their guests! So I decided to step into that niche here!

Kurt the best man with his best woman Laurie.

Paul and Marsha with Roxanne at the neigbours table. You can tell, everybody is just having a good time!

Carol and Paul enjoying themselves.

That's me, in case you don't recognize me so dressy. Yup, I cleaned up alright with a little help from my friends (Laurie; and Kurt's approval didn't do any harm either :-)

And here's my table with friends of the couple..err.. I can't remember all of their names, but they were a lot of fun to talk to over dinner!

Tom and Courtney all spick, span and sparkly!

Molly and Mike on the right, nice fellow whose name I also forgot on the left.

Theresa in the Middle. She was taking pictures also, I hope I'll get see those soon! Ah well if nothing else a reason to arrange a sociable event to get together for exchanges!

And then it was time to dance! The music was fantastic, heavily leaning on 60s, which are my favorites. I can't remember the last time I had such a good dance! Thank you so much Curt!!! Needless to say, that the camera lay all but forgotten back on the table while there was music going!

In a nutshell, it was a wonderful wedding! I hope for you Krista & Curt, that this is the start of a life with many happy occasions and joyous dances!

And thank you so much for putting up that suggestion box and plenty of paper and pens. That was a suggestion box, right? I was a little surprised, we don't have those at weddings in Europe, anyway, I already mentioned it to Krista yesterday, but I also put a note in the box. I really hope you guys will renew your vows every year and have a fabulous dance like yesterday to celebrate it!

Thanks so much for inviting me!

The Very Best of Luck to You Twos!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Charlie Brown's Tree / Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum

Chrissy and Markus not only invited me to celebrate Christmas Eve with them, but also to go to the family's favorite tree farm and pick out the Christmas tree! I was excited about my first time at a tree farm and to be in the fresh air and play out in my beloved snow with my camera!

Chrissy and her Dad John with hot cider, a welcome creature comfort in those temps!

The weather forcast was somewhat sunny, so good for the photography The fact that we had single digits forecast as a high did not really register with me, so it could have been bad for the photographer, if Chrissy hadn't made me round up wooly socks, a thick muffler, sturdy boots and copious layers! (For my European friends, single digits means around -15 Celsius as the days high temperature or in short, it means brrr, serious brrr!)

Using the outhouse in hostile temperatures is all part of the Minnesota experience, right? Well, let's just say that I don't often have penis-envy, but that was one of those times...

Von drauss vom Walde komm ich her, und ich sage Euch in der Kaelten photographiert es sich schwer.:Markus, Chrissy's German-Austrian husband.

Chrissy, her Mum Joan and John scouting another tree candidate.

Hurray! Charlie Brown found his tree! Well, since this is really John, we didn't really take that one. My sappy side was really touched, that the tree farmers leave this ugly treeling it's little peace of home, while my cynical side is wondering, whether they have a wager each year, whether someone is going to buy it :-)

But here it is already! I did not expect folks to settle on a tree so quickly after driving to the tree farm for an hour and a half. Me thinks that the number of trees people look at corresponds to the temperature in Fahrenheit. We had about 4-5F, so the fourth tree was just perfect or so our lobbyists the little blue toesies convinced us.

Doesn't Joan look just like the cop from the movie Fargo on her day off?
To show just HOW cold it is, Joan is showing the woolly gloves she's got underneath her furry mittens.

Enchanted beauty in the snow: Silk Weed, couldn't you just imagine this being a fairy transfigured into a delicate flower by the spell of the cruel Ice Queen?

Hey nonny nonny, the farmer is picking us and the tree up with his "sleigh": Oh what fun it is to ride in a John Deere open sleih-hey...

Ah, you can see how excited Markus is about the tree being on it's way home! Next year I will buy one for my home too!

Is it just me, or do the smiles look a little frozen. Maybe it's because those blooming photographers take so long for the shots with those big mittens on those little digicam buttons...

Yep, it IS really cold. In fact I had to warm up my camera after every few shots, because the battery went on strike in those temps! A few minutes of body heat and it was ready for a few more, before I had to incubate it close to my skin again!

On the way home we hit a proper butcher's shop, where they make sausages and cure meat themselves. You can find things there you can't find anywhere else, like cajun smoked turkey breast filets, about a dozend different kinds of jerky, pork chops the size of a truck wheel and pinapple bratwurst. The latter seamed a little suspicous to me, but Markus had it in his shopping basket and assured me that they stock up for the winter and try new things every year and they have never been disappointed! A bought a few things. The Jalapeno Cheddar Beef Stick was yummie!

Carolan, Joan, Chrissy, Markus, John and Penny at Keith's.

Another must make stop was at Keith's Kettle. Keith has been a friend of the family for decades and Chrissy told me, that's why every year they go to his restaurant, which is nothing special. Well, let me tell you about nothing special! The place was American diner atmosphere at it's best and the food was delicious! Keith was weaving his way in between the tables to make sure to let you know, that in between the apple, rhubarb and blueberry french toast the rhubarb was his favorite and to order the Mexican Omelette with chicken istead of the beef, because "it tastes great and is just a little more healthy." The rhubarb French toast with fresh eggs and Minnesota wild rice sausage links was American fare at its very best! All the while ample numbers of friendly wait staff are buzzing around bringing more hot chocolate and cream for our coffee.

But what made this lunch even more fun was meeting Joans two sisters Carolan and Penny, who arrived at Keith's doling out big bear hugs, whether you were family or not. I loved them already! Those Kelly women have a great sense of humor and we had a riot! Our lunch was wonderfully leisurely and nobody was in a hurry to part because this was company at its very very best!

We eventually parted with thanks to each other for this perfect day!

How often do I still have to wake up until it's Christmas Eve at Chrissy and Markus'?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Warmest Thanksgiving on Record!

Last year Thanksgiving I looked at our deck thermometer and it showed a solid 60F as we were outside without a jacket barbequeing the turkey in the back yard!

This year the temperatures were in the 20s and yet it was the warmest Thanksgiving I have celebrated since my records began, which was in 2002!

Don't get me wrong I have ALWAYS had a good holiday, since I have moved here. I've always had dinners to go to and it was always fun and good company. The one year I decided to make this holiday my own I remember spending a wonderful day in my warm and homey kitchen baking Christmas cookies and having the jolliest time preparing for a German style Christmas and watching thick snowflakes dancing outside the window all day!

This year too we had the first snow, which is always exciting for me! And it was the absolute perfect snow. Crystals like from a children's picture book, powdery and delicate.

I had two parties to go to, well actually three, another friend had invited me on short notice, but there is only so much celebrating I can do in one day! (Oh ok, you got me, I am showing off a little but I gotta do it while I have the chance :-)

Lunch at Mike & Molly's

I spent lunch with my friend Molly's Family who had arranged the celebration in a way that her Dad Bob, whose health had sadly been poorly for the last couple of years would be able to join and enjoy it. And enjoy he did. It was just lovely too see him in good spirits and as well as I hadn't seen him, since his health deteriorated rather suddenly. I hope he keeps up the good work and his wife Mimi gets a bit of a load off her shoulders! They are both such splendid people as is of course Molly and her husband Mike as well as her lovely sister-in-law Bridget and her husband "Tiger". Lets not forget their super kids of which they both have 2: Geordy and Margit, Erin and Gretchen.

It was just a really nice and fun family get together. I am so glad I had a chance to see those family members who I hadn't seen for a while. I think of Molly like a bit of a sister. And there's a funny anekdote to that. I gave Molly a knitting book of mine. And after I left, a picture fell out and Molly couldn't for the life of her figure out, why there was a picture of herself in the book and why she can't remember the scene in the picture. Turns out, we looked so much alike as kids, that even she herself couldn't tell us apart. I like that story. I guess that would make Mike like a bother-in-law to me...

Mike the host with with in-laws Tiger and Bridget and their daughter #1 Erin.

Geordie, Molly and Mike's Sonnie Jim giggling before lunch.

Daughter #2 Gretchen on Mommie's lap and Mike& Molly's Margit on cousin Erin's lap.

Yumm!!! Dinner is served! Hasn't Margit got the coolest pumpking sippy cup?

Tiger with his Dad Bob, his Mum Mimi and his favorite wife Bridget. Knowing where a good times is to be had I have my place right next to her and Molly! No seriously you couldn't really go wrong with anyone at this party, they are all smashing!

Hostess Molly capturing the moment for her own family blog!

Look at Margit, that little bird! She had been saving herself for desert! And she wasn't disappointed.

Molly had made it quite clear :-), that she wants us out of the house pretty soon after desert, so she can put the kids down for a nap, before they have dinner with the other side of the family.

Dinner at Trevor and Jenni's

After a change of gear at home I went to Trevor & Jenni's house for dinner with Erik, Laddie, their three dogs and their cat. Armed with two pies and a crock full of green beens I arrived later than I had planned. (Well ok, I also had fallen into a brief turkey coma...) Just my luck, that just this once, the turkey is done ahead of schedule! Trevor had cooked a 5 and 1/2 hour bird to dark amber and juicy perfection in a record 3 and 1/2 hours!!! And there I was with my raw green beens having counted on the usual delay I had been hoping to cook them "to order" and to crisp green perfection, rather than reheating them to olive mush... (Not to mention that second "experimental" pie I had brought along for the ride...)

Jenni and Trevor were extremely gracious despite being close to a no-food-since-breakfast-and-now-she-comes-late-and-with-ruddy-raw-beens coma!!!

Erik and Laddie also came to again after a few mouthfuls of delicious turkey and fabulous fixin's!

I breathed again... :-)

After dinner we played a really fun new game Erik had brought. We had to make headlines out of five words that we were dealt like playing cards. Most of the went about like that:

Mob Bosses downsize naked model scam

Lost DNA reveals fake wife

You get the drift ...I dare the others to post more examples as a comment to this blog entry :-)

I had brought my Bavarian playing cards and we premiered Bavarian Holdem and played a Bavarian game called Watten. They all took to it like a duck to water and outplayed me in no time. Erik stunned with his excellent pronounciation of "Unter" which is one of the face cards.

A "footsie" incident made Jenni and I laugh until tears ran down our cheeks, you had to be there!

And then finally time to play some poker! It was nearly midnight, when we finally peeled ourselves away from this holiday and made our ways to bed.

Jenni & Trevor's first Thanksgiving as a married couple, adding finishing touches.

Where's is all gonna go? I told Jenni, that we only need one kind of cranberry sauce!

Laddie and Erik watching the football while Jenni & Trevor's dogs Lilly and CJ are watching the table! The feathery golden blur next to Erik is Laddie's dog Feather.

Constant Vigilence! Something may fall off the plate! Ya never know!

Ah ya can't beat a good game o'cards!!!

Doesn't that look mighty comfy?!? There's Feather on Laddie's lap with CJ snuggled up against both of them, while Lilly is curled up agains Laddies' right side.

Here's to absent cats! Mowie the cat thought it was a little too much dog for her that night and only came out once for a bit, safely cradled in Trevors arms.

Bavarian playing cards with the four different suits (acorns, hearts, leaves & bells) and King, Ober and Unter as face cards. Don't they look a bit different.

Now what made this Thanksgiving so special?

Especially the winter holidays like Christmas and New Year's and now Thanks Giving I just really like to spend with people I know and like WELL. For me, that's not the time to meet new people and make new friends, but to enjoy and nurture older friendships. Celebrating with people who know who I am and have known me through triumphs and disasters, who have forgiven me failures and laughed about my quirks.

Thanks all you guys for having me round for Thanksgiving!