Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bleigießen for New Years

We spent New Years Eve in Amsterdam this year with some friends from San Francisco. One of our guests is German so she brought a New Years tradition with her. It's called Bleigießen which is a tradition where each person melts pieces of lead (we used tin) on a spoon and then throws it in some water. You're then supposed to do fortune telling based on what you think your new metal shape looks like.

We had fun, though most of our initial shapes looked like terds. Brett's looked vaguely like a golf club and mine looked kind of like a sickle. I was a bit concerned to have a shape like the grim reaper's tool, but our guest assured us that it could also mean that you're getting rid of something bad. I'll take her interpretation any day :-)

As for New Years in Amsterdam, it's a bit crazy. The fireworks are going off like mad, and have been since 2PM. I can only imagine what midnight will bring. If you go to Dam Square there are revelers packed in like in New York City - but our colleagues warned us that we would likely have fireworks thrown at us if we went. After hearing about close calls and burnt jackets, we decided to stay home where it's warm. Happy New Year everyone!

Our dog walker finds some pretty cool gifts

For World Animal Day she gave Holly "dog beer." For Christmas she found a "Yule Log for Dogs." Maybe for New Years she'll give her some dog champagne or a dog scale for the impending New Years resolutions :-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A low key Christmas Eve

Earlier this month I was in 3 time zones and on 9 planes in 7 days. Needless to say, I was pretty tired by the time Christmas Eve came around. How to recover? With a gourmet Christmas dinner for two sitting on the floor in front of the TV of course :-) It might not look like much - but it was delicious! Hope you all had a great holiday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who knew there were so many flavors of Kit Kat?

Ok, maybe these are in the US right now, but the Peanut Butter and Hazelnut flavors are new to me...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My own dress shop

If Brett can have a bacon named after him in Munich, I can have a dress shop in Dusseldorf right? If only I looked good in sequins :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cool Holiday Shop Windows of Dusseldorf

I love the ginger bread houses....

...but my favorites are the pretzel tree ornaments....

....and the little wooden toys.

A town that loves their "wursts"

Dusseldorf, like many German cities, loves their sausages. Half meter sausage anyone?

Even the trash cans get in the act....

Of course, we appreciate a good bratwurst too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Germany - an environmentally friendly country

When Brett and I were at Oktoberfest, they served some street food in dishes made out of edible "cake cone" like materials. At the Christmas markets, they served the drinks in ceramic mugs and charged a 2 Euro deposit. At Starbucks they serve coffee in reusable cups, unless you request takeaway. I quite like this effort and wish more US companies would adopt earth friendly operating principles.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Racy" German Tea

The Sweet Kiss cherry flavored tea was cute, but then I saw this....

Those Germans sure are passionate tea lovers!

Monday, December 8, 2008


While at the Christmas markets, we ate...and ate...and ate. Lecker!! (German for yummy).

First up...sausages, sauerkraut, and potatoes...

Roasted pig knuckle with more sauerkraut and crispy potato.

A fried mashed potato ball stuffed with meat...

And raclette (warm melted cheese) on a toasted roll. Delicious. Sadly this is only about half of the food we ate over the 2 days at the markets. I didn't post the pictures of potato pancakes, fried dough balls, spaetzle (german pasta), flatbread with onions, cheese and bacon, or little domes of marshmallow like foam covered in chocolate. We were very full on the train ride home :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Markets in Dusseldorf

One of the great things about being in Amsterdam is how easy it is to get to other countries. Dusseldorf, Germany is just 2 hours away by train, so we decided to check out their famous Christmas markets.

There are 6 different markets in Dusseldorf, each serving different snacks and treats and selling different holiday gifts. It's a great atmosphere, as there are wonderful scents in the air, decorated Christmas trees and street performers playing Christmas carols.

The atmosphere gets even better at night, as all the lights start twinkling and people stand around outdoor tables drinking gluhwein (warm spiced wine) while kids ride the merry-go-round. It's very festive and easy to get in the Christmas spirit.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sinterklaas is here!

If you're Dutch and you have kids, chances are that tonight you're eating a cake shaped like Sinterklas' politically incorrect black helper, Zwarte Piet. You've also given your sweetheart a letter made of chocolate shaped like the first letter in their name.

Last, you've asked a neighbor (or hired someone) to knock on your door and drop presents wrapped in a garbage bag at the doorstep so your kids could think that Sinterklaas just came. You put your shoes out by the fireplace (or radiator) along with a carrot for Sinterklaas' horse, and the next morning the shoes are filled with candy.

It's interesting - but I think I like Santa Claus better. Who knew hiring a personal Santa to knock on doors was a business though. I wonder how much they get paid....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Free flip flops for the drunk?

While traveling to London, Brett and I started laughing after reading the local paper. It had a picture of a veteran policeman holding a pair of bright pink flip flops in his hand. The story was about a local police department who handed out free flip flops as a way for the drunk ladies of the town to get home safely. Seems there’s quite a problem with young ladies tottering about on high heels after a night of drinking, and as their balance fails them, they get some nasty scrapes and sprains. We laughed it off as an amusing British newspaper story, but noticed many other indications that the government was trying to change various drinking behaviors. We saw a series of posters in the tube (subway) with paraphrased messages like:

1) Don’t fall on the tracks after drinking. 436 incidents last year.
2)Plan your route home before you get too drunk and pass out on the toilet in a bar after smearing lipstick across your cheeks instead of on your lips.
3)Don’t brawl with the subway staff who are trying to help you find your way home (and clean up after you).

We laughed everytime we saw the signs, but my favorite is the flip flop story. Too funny. You can read the article here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One lonely picture from London

This is the only picture that Brett and I have of our trip to London. Sadly, our memory card was lost, somewhere in the streets of London after a full day of touring. This is an especially ironic passing as the reason it was removed from the camera in the first place was to protect the pictures from theft in case the bag check staff at a restaurant had sticky fingers and stole the camera.
Alas, the camera is still here, the photos are gone, but the memories remain. Here are the things you will NOT be seeing photos of on my blog....

1. The Tower of London.
2. Brett inside a British Guard booth looking “mock mean.”
3. Lori hugging a statue of an archer.
4. The sign at the Tower of London that told guests how to get to various points like the toilets, the entrance, and of course – the beheading area, which had it’s own unique cartoon like symbol – making beheading seem cuter somehow.
5. Buckingham Palace in the rain.
6. The London Eye in the rain.
7. Brett in front of Westminster Abbey in the rain.

Oh well. I always have the pictures in my mind…and the one photo from the camera’s internal memory.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Suspect Package? Diamonds? Or A Keychain?

While riding the train to Heathrow airport on Sunday, Brett and I were seated across from a young woman and her two male companions - all with suitcases. A few stops from the airport an announcement came on. If you weren’t listening closely it sounded like “passengers for the airport should exit here and wait on the platform.” They quickly jumped up and ran off as one of the men said “Wait! Why are we getting off? Nobody else with luggage is exiting!” They attempted to re-enter the train but the doors had closed. It was only after the train started moving that we noticed the girl had left behind a Harrod’s bag and an umbrella.

For those of you who don’t know, Harrod’s is like Barneys department store in New York. They’re super high-end, selling everything from $15.00 a pound raw turkeys to $5,000 pairs of shoes. They also sell tourist trinkets and affordable luxuries like $5 boxes of tea in Harrods tins. The other thing to remember with this story is the idea of “suspect packages.” In London, they’ve had terror attacks in the subway, so all through the subway stations there are signs saying “if you see unattended luggage or suspect packages, let us know.”

Brett and I were eying the package. My thoughts ranged from: I should give it to Lost and Found at Heathrow….to…....I wonder if there’s a diamond bracelet in there……....I could use an umbrella…’s probably security cameras in here… we told an employee about the package, would they stop the train and evacuate everyone, causing the train to be delayed?…..Maybe we just shouldn’t say anything because it seemed like a genuine accident....

When we arrived at the next stop, a subway employee came on to pick up garbage. We watched speechlessly as he just picked up the umbrella and the Harrods bag and unceremoniously dumped them in his garbage bag along with the water bottles and newspapers. In seconds he was back off the train and we were left to wonder: Did that man just throw away a diamond? An explosive? Or a Harrod’s keychain. I guess we’ll never know.