Saturday, December 29, 2007

and back again

Well, it's official, I'm back in Wisconsin. The trip back was pretty much uneventful compared to the trip out there! Dee and I got up at 6, she got me to the airport without a problem, and I was on my way! I read most of the way back, trying not to sleep. My mom had given me Tears of the Giraffe (part of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series) as part of a Christmas gift, so I read that completely en route! Since I had done as much of my homework as I could without an internet connection, and the rest of the books I brought were in my checked luggage, I ended up buying The Bourne Ultimatum in an airport store and reading that the rest of the way (so far liking the book better than the movie - Marie is still alive!!).
Now I'm off to visit friends and family throughout Wisconsin and might even dip in to Minnesota a tad to celebrate New Year's with Jen & Mustafa!
Happy New Year, one and all!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

last full day in Heidelberg

Oh dear, it's Thursday, the day before Friday, when - if all goes as planned - I head back to the States. Not that I dislike my home! But it has been marvelous here and it has felt wayyy too short. 3 weeks in New Zealand must have spoiled me!

Dee and I started out the day by heading to Heidelberg castle. It had loomed tantalizing over our heads for every previous visit into Heidelberg, day and night - so it was time! It was great fun; it's one of the largest ruined castles in Europe, and it truly was difficult to comprehend both its age and size. We had a guided tour that was helpful, but even so there was much I missed with my abysmal knowledge of European history. People to look up: Lisalotte and the little sun king (that's a note to myself!). One of my favorite bits was the huge tower that the French had blown up as they ditched the castle at the approach of the Germans. Check out the width of those walls! Another was the huge underground wine cask; apparently a big-time status symbol at the time it was built. I would think it would work for today as well, but it might be a tight fit in my garage! And just when I was hoping so much to impress everybody...

Deanna had to work in the afternoon, but her friend Christina offered to take me to Dilsberg in search of good chocolate! There was no resisting that one, so we took off this afternoon for the tiny walled city. It used to be one of four fortresses protecting Heidelberg. Unfortunately, the chocolatier there runs on odd hours, and apparently today was not one of her days. It didn't slow us down much; we wandered the town, the castle ruins, and even a few shops. We found amazing pottery in the quaint attic of one - it's probably a good thing it was closed when we came back through - and we stopped for crepes at another one. The were AMAZING! Pear-honey-green pepper (as in the seasoning, not the fruit), and plum-ricotta-cinnamon. Really fun to try. And the shopkeeper had on an Arwen necklacy thing. :) The castle was locked, but still neat to see from the outside walls, and it was funny in such a small town to find a Protestant church on one side, and a Catholic church on the other. I'm sure there are interesting stories about that one.

After a stop at a grocery store for chocolate (we had missed it at Dilsberg after all, and I couldn't very well be readmitted to the 'States without it!), wine, and greyere cheese (which I've really developed a taste for since I've been here) we returned to Deanna who was making roast! I don't remember if I mentioned this but she's a great cook, and this was no exception. She hadn't even made it before, and this one was smothered in small tomatoes and whole garlic cloves - ooh la la! Robert & RJ came over for that too, and Lane and Jacquie even stopped by for a bit.

The evening ended on a less lovely note - I had to pack! And fit in everything I'd bought with everything I'd brought! And now to pray for gentle baggage handlers... :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesdays in Germany

So on Wednesdays in Germany we always go to France. At least in my experience. And what jolly fun it is too!

Christina (Deanna's good friend) came with Dee and me today. It was snowing much of the way there, so - while it made driving challenging for Deanna, it really made the trip there delightfully beautiful. I unfortunately slept part of the way - we'll blame that on remnants of jet lag and never mind what my New Zealand travel buddies say. I did wake up enough to see a bunch of deer stands - and actually two deer! - and these big fuzzy puffball things in the trees that I couldn't quite figure out.

Strasbourg was beautiful in the snow. They actually had a merry-go-round running, and a Christmas Market still underway!! So I got to experience that and gluhwein (or vin chaud: we were in France after all) - woo hoo! - after all! The picture is of Dee and Christina warming their noses on theirs! We did get pretty cold. But we wandered all the way up and down it, and inside the Strasbourg cathedral. The cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and is remarkable for its architecture, history, and the voice that comes on the PA system shushing everyone every half hour. It also has the biggest, oldest astronomical clock that's still functioning in the world. Tres cool. I'll put more details on pictures of today in case you're interested (today's start here)!

We stopped in Soufflenheim on the way back to look for an open pottery shop. We found one (hooray!) and had great fun trying to figure out what (not to!) get. We also found a restaurant where I got to try several things for the first time, including veal cordon bleu with a mushroom & white sauce, garlic-y frog legs (what Deanna ordered!), and capers (on Christine's pizza - I'd always heard of 'em but never tried one!). All three things recommended - although Deanna has informed me a tad about nasty ways in which veal makes it to the plate, so I may not go that route again....

And just to make sure this account isn't too sugary; we did have "discomfortable" moments - nearly running out of gas, having the gps thingy quit for a while, wishing very hard for "toilettes" to be a little more convenient to find, AND getting quite cold wandering about.

All in all though, it was a great day. Awesome people to do fun stuff with in a great country that serves incredible food - Wednesdays in Germany are most highly recommended!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

Today was lovely. But it's late and I'm tired, so I will try to be brief! (wish me luck!)

This morning Jemila, a friend of Deanna's who's fairly new here (she's a nurse) had no plans for Christmas Day and was working last night and tonight. So Dee invited her for brunch! She made us shirred eggs (yum!!) and lots of other good stuff, and set the table out beautifully. We had great fun, and Jemila hated to go even though she desperately needed to sleep.

Then I took a nap, and then we headed to the Philosopher's Way, a street here in Heidelberg that runs parallel to the river and overlooks the city on the other side of it. I guess Heidelberg has been a huge place for philosophers to congregate, and many of them would walk that route and look over the city and contemplate! Mark Twain lived here quite a while too. We ran across this huge hand-statue that says something like "Have you philosophized today?" How sweet is that?!! The walk was beautiful, and it was neat to see all the people out and also walking and enjoying the view. Deej says that's one thing she loves about Europeans; they mostly walk on Sundays.

Then we headed to her favorite-friends' place for Christmas celebrations: Christina & Robert and son RJ, Jacquie & Dane, and the two of us had a great afternoon/evening - complete with wine, amazing food that Christina had spend all day making, games, gift opening, and MARSHMALLOW PIPE GUNS! What more could you want for Christmas day?!

Dee & I wrapped up the day by coming home, getting in our jammies, and watching The Nativity Story, which neither of us had seen before. Actually, quite well done, though they did change the story in places.

Losing a day in travel snafoos has really made my time here seem short; we head to Salzburg, France tomorrow (and a really great pottery place on the way, John!). We're hoping Jacquie and Christina will be able to join us. Then the castle here on Thursday morning (Dee has to work in the afternoon), and then I fly out of Frankfort Friday morning. Eeep!

Merry Christmas, all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Day in Heidelberg

Merry Christmas Eve, friends near and far!

Deanna's summary of today:
"Just say you had gluhwein and you watched a French movie and you ate some French cheese (greyere), and we watched some German guy cut a huge loaf of bread and you ate the best apfel strudel you ever had in your life. And you laughed like a mad woman at all Deanna's hilarious jokes. And hypothesized about why European pavement is usually curved (is it that that's how the guy doing it can best follow the path of his arm's reach - in rainbow shapes? - or that it might not be quite so slippery or change shape so much that way?)."

That's pretty much it! We did some errands this morning down town, and this evening headed to "the cool part" of Heidelberg; very fun to see the old streets and shops and window displays. And the strudel was... indescribable. I have a new culinary challenge! We also had fun just sitting around and catching up more. Then we opened presents! She got me these super-cool pottery bowls that have polka-dots on them. And the coolest little journal that's held together with a long toothpicky thing. Woo hoo!

And thanks for the e-mails and posted responses to this blog! (Hey Becky, good question about the kitty! For some reason Zani doesn't get me at all; she must not have a ton of dander, and then she's not allowed up in the attic where I sleep, and it's all hardwood floors down here? Anyway, I'm glad I'm not needing an inhaler all the time or something!). More pictures of the day are posted to the end of this set! (And game night - I finally got the pics from last Tuesday added there as well...)

I'm so thankful for the birth of Christ, and for all that became possible when "God became flesh and dwelt among us".

I wish each of you joy, heaps and barrels of true and beautiful joy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

yes Virginia, there is a Germany

Made it! Not without my suitcase being lost and us spending over an hour wandering the airport to track it down - and a few other mishaps with meeting up and parking. BUT... Dee did meet me with a big "Ich Liebe Dich" gingerbread heart cookie that I was supposed to wear around my neck (here's a picture - looks like someone got to it before I got the picture taken...)!

The flight was fun; I really tried to sleep most of it, but the food (for airplane food) was lovely, and it was jolly fun having a full-auto-control seat in which I could nearly lay flat. I could have stayed there twice as long! ;)

While we were in Frankfort, we decided to try to see the Christmas mart, as most of them in the surrounding towns have pretty much wrapped up, already. Unfortunately, although Frankfort's was supposed to be still going, the vendors must have gotten tired of it, because all we saw were people breaking down and moving out these cool little huts that must have been great fun to see when they were up and running. (So sorry Patrick, no gluhwein yet - although Dee has a bottle we might break open tonight!) We wandered about the city, got ourselves lost a few times, and then headed out toward Heidelberg where Deanna lives.

And decided to stop at a castle that just happens to be on the way! Schloss Auerbach was built in the 1300s, and looks like it was primarily a fortress-style castle (lots of slots for archers in the outer and inner walls). It was great fun to wander about, climb the two tall towers, and wonder what the landscape looks like without all the fog. It helped that since I've arrived all of the trees have been coated in the most beautiful hoarfrost. The frost was falling on us as we approached the castle (you can see it in the picture if you look carefully!).

Then we got to Dee & Ben's place, and I got to see Zani-the-kitty (who I haven't seen since she moved out with Deanna 8 years ago! I think we're still friends). Their apartment is beautiful - clean and IKEA-esqu with wooden floors and heaps of skylights. I'm in an attic room with a ROUND BED! That's a new one for me! Am looking forward to seeing how it bounces. We've been settling in a bit - I'm fighting sleep and will try to do so till 8 or 9 or so. :) Click here for more pictures of the castle & our trip from Frankfort.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deutschland Dizzy

So, I'm creating a mini-blog to cover my trip to Germany for the week - I'd like to share it with a broader audience than I (so far) have shared this one with.

So if you want to see updates about the trip, here's your link!

(and side note; I've been homeworking like MAD! I finally finished one class on Wednesday (hooray!!)... but I did not get the second one fully done. The good news is I should be able to get most of the tuition reimbursement based on the first one. The bad news? I still have the second hanging around in my conscience. After my trip to Germany, I'll stop it and just enjoy being there.)

One thing that will be nice about being back in Appleton after the term's end (hopefully) is having less of that constant grinding pressure to get a million things done - I've been pretty dang regimented about homework and gifts-figuring-out, so I'm VERY ready for relaxed and marvelous trip. :-D

Stateside Scafuffling

Well, I'm off! Sort of. If you are a seasoned traveler, I suppose situations like mine today are, if not commonplace , not particularly notable either. So feel free to skim if it starts feeling... tedious. It sure did to me!

I started out by of course forgetting two things; neither of which is essential, but both of which somehow bothered me. One was the upload USB cord for my camera (so if I have pictures to post for this trip "real-time" they will either be from Deanna's camera, or it will mean I found and either stole or borrowed one for myself). The other was the charger for my phone - which also shouldn't be a big deal since I can't use it in Germany, but I do find myself hoarding precious battery time "just in case".

After my friend Linda dropped me off at the airport, I waited about a half hour in line to learn that my Northwest flight to Detroit had been canceled. Their best option was to fly me via Delta out of Green Bay later, then to Cincinnati, and then to Frankfort. I called Linda back, she came and got me, and had meanwhile found that Barbara was heading to GB and was happy to take me, so after a few traffic delays and several Abbot & Costello moments trying to find Barbara, we headed north. Once I reached the GB ticket counter, they informed me that the flight was delayed enough that I would miss my connection to Frankfort, so they re-routed me to fly to Detroit again, and this time to take Lufthansa to Germany. TONS of flights were being canceled or delayed, so I was delighted when we took off; the weather was supposed to be clearer in Detroit. We reached Detroit in plenty of time for me to approach the Lufthansa ticket counter and request my boarding pass (Delta had told me this would be necessary). Here's when it started getting ugly: I didn't have a FIM... an actual ticket. They sent me to Northwest. Who said it was really a Delta problem and sent me outside the security site to the check-in counter at Delta. No one was there but another distraught passenger. We talked to some luggage guys and they suggested finding someone at the Delta counter down by the baggage. We did find someone there... who told us that she couldn't help us but that if Security would let us back in through the gate there would be someone at the Gate B20 Delta counter till midnight (it was probably 9:30 by this point, and my flight leaves at 9:55). There wasn't a long security line, HOWEVER! they couldn't let me in with my ticket not being a boarding pass. After calling in the supervisor and explaining again the situation, he let me back in. At this point I started running. Lufthansa was back in concourse A so this was going to be tricky. B20 was at the far end of a whole different concourse, and the counter was.... empty. I did see some Northwest folks behind another ticket counter, and I put my situation to them. They doubted it would do me any good, but issued me a FIM so that I could try to make my flight. I'm estimating it was a good 3/4 mile between there and the Lufthansa gate, but I ran most of the way, laptop bag, purse, and flapping jacket in tow! I arrived breathless, sweaty, and thirsty... the staff were still there for the flight, but they had already finished boarding and wouldn't let me back on the flight. I stood there, trembling, and just about cried. I returned to Northwest customer service, waited in another half hour line and was SOOO thankful to get someone who took responsibility for the problem and really tried to help. She ended up calling her supervisor over because there simply weren't any flights to re-book me to, unless I was willing to delay another day. (NOoooo!). So they booked me on a $5500 World Business Class flight and told me I'd have to now become the Northwest Airlines poster child! So here I sit in a half-way decent Quality Inn, with a flight that leaves tomorrow at 5 pm and gets into Frankfort Sunday morning at 7. Oh, and without my checked luggage, which means I got to take an adventurous walk to a tiny gas station that (hooray!) had souvenir t-shirts in size XL (read: Angela gets to wear JAMMIES!). Thankfully, I had an extra pair of socks in my bag that Paula had given me for Christmas to wear on the plane. They're so cheering that I took a picture and (if I get a cord!) will try to post here!

Since I'm here for most of the day tomorrow, I'm debating if I should be good (read: finish up Econ homework), or adventurous. Looks like there is an art museum, a Henry Ford museum, and a zoo which might be interesting to check out. I know nothing about mass transit options in Detroit - or really anything else, for that matter. What do you think?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

a bit o' background

So the story is: Deanna is a super-good college friend. When I moved to Appleton, she was already living here, so we became roommates. Which doesn't always work out (the whole friends being roommates schtick), but for us it really did. After she and Ben got married, she bashed about the 'States teaching French in sketchy places and distracting him from his medical studies (I made that last bit up, but I'm guessing it would be way too fun not to do...). They moved to Heidelberg in the summer of '06, once Ben had completed his residency, and this past August he was deployed. So Dee and I talked about me coming for a visit, and this is what came of it! I'll only stay a week, but dang! all sorts of things can happen in a single minute. And a week has heaps of those!

This is a picture of us with some friends at our last school reunion; Deanna, me, Tushar, Archana, & Santosh!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

the fattest wudgy wittle Christmas twee in the world

So! I was not going to get a Christmas tree this year. As nearly as I can guess, if I want to get my schooling done in time to get it reimbursed by work for 2007, I need to do about 5 hours of homework a day between now and Christmas (today's is done, hence the luxury of blogging!). Add to that Christmas shopping, wrapping, baking, the occasional ramble and times with friends and then packing/prepping for a week in Germany and I couldn't see it happening.
But I couldn't do it. Somehow the thought of not pulling out ornaments and having the warm lights to study by just didn't seem do-able. Then I got the lovely gift of a tree skirt, and there was no more option. I couldn't leave it till next year. So today after church I stopped by a lot, found the funniest-looking tree I could, had them whack off the bottom half (small trees are gazillions of times easier to deal with than tall ones), paid them $10, and voila! It fit in my trunk with the lid closed! I somehow like the reject trees in all of their off-set glory. And the fun thing is - they still look beautiful with lights and ornaments; at least I think they do. I was able to bribe Serena with tea and fresh-baked cookies to come over and we had great fun setting it up and decorating it and my apartment.
Isn't the new tree skirt lovely? And isn't the tree just so cute that if it had cheeks you'd just pinch them and say "wudgy wudgy woo"?

Monday, November 26, 2007

somewhat of a summary

Somehow I have managed for the last few weeks and weekends to keep myself fairly occupied! As planned, I headed south to Chicago for November's second weekend, after two fun-crazy exhibition basketball games between Division I and Division III teams.
I had an awesome time with my buddy Alex. We talked about doing several things... and even stood in line for a while to try to get last-minute tickets for Wicked (I'd never done that whole stand-in-line-and-hope-for-scalped-tickets schtick before; and, so far, can't recommend it!), but what with the Blue Man group having only view-obstructed balcony seats available, and most other interesting things shows & plays being sold out, we ended up just bumming around and eating great food. Alex took me to my favorite: authentic Mexican at a place called La Pasadita. Kind of a low-key hole-in-the-wall with the best food. Saturday night it was some of the best Indian I've ever had, and we mixed it in with various visits to yuppy yummy Old Town restaurants. Alex is one of those best-ever kinds of friends who you might not talk to in forever, but when you do, you just pick up right where you left off. I even got to see him dance!
The following weekend was deer hunting! Uncle Dean and I headed out to the stands Saturday and Sunday mornings, bellies loaded with yummy breakfasty things Dar had made, and pockets packed with chocolate. Saturday night cousin Scott joined Dean & Dar & I at a game of smear. The good guys won, if I recall correctly, and we had a great time. Talk ranged from everything to Dad and Grandpa & Grandma, to neighbors and old stories and catch-ups on our current lives. I got a doe on Sunday; unfortunately it wasn't a clean kill so Dean helped me track it. I was really glad we found it because the trail was sketchy and hard to follow in the leaves, and I would have felt terrible if we had left it to suffer. Dean's a great tracker, so it was a really good thing he was willing to help me with it. I don't like the killing part of hunting necessarily, but it's great fun to be out in the woods; standing, sitting, listening to a whole world that we normally just drive quickly by.

Last week was Thanksgiving week, and a bit of a whirlwind. One of the gamenight crew and my rambling buddy/former neighbor Justin moved to Colorado on Saturday, so Tuesday was our last game night with him still living here. It was actually pretty neat because Patrick (another gamenight dude) was home again from Boulder for the holiday, so he got to be there too. Justin's girlfriend from Boulder also made it to town that night so she got to meet a few of the legendary game night folks at the lovely establishment of The 10th Frame - an old style bowling alley where you still keep your own score! We had fun; the music was fun and some of us actually bowled quite well. (uh, I wasn't one of them!).

Wednesday I headed down to the quad cities, on the border of Iowa/Illinois, to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Tom and his family. I blogged earlier about Debbie, his mom, so I felt priveleged to be invited to spend the holiday with them. We ended up having a really neat time; Tom's sisters and his Uncle David really pulled an awesome meal together, and the rest of us helped! I was in charge of making rolls, and had remembered that Lisa from my church (this wonderful, grandmotherly, German lady) had made amazing crescent rolls for a group of us when I was in college. I called her, and she actually wrote her recipe out for me so I took a stab at making those for the holiday (Patrick helped!). They did not turn out as well as hers, but they were good, so that was definitely fun. The weekend had several highlights, including Tom playing the Titanic theme song (seriously one of my LEAST favorite songs) for his 13-year-old cousins, and cracking them up completely with his insane vocal rendition of it. It was amazing. Besides that, there were other great spots of football, learning to play "pepper" a great bidding card game, playing with Pokey, Nancy's dog, watching the birds, listening to Tom play (for real!), and heading with the family to get and decorate a Christmas tree. And - it has to be included in this list - Bill Callahan was finally fired!

One non-highlight: I found out that my car is worthless. It's been eating obscene amounts of oil and then spewing them over the paint on the back side... and apparently it's a problem with my car's make and model and there's really nothing that can be done about it. It's actually lasted 120,000 miles instead of the 50-70,000 others were getting out of it. I like my car! And had just gotten new brakes and tires for it! I think I'll try to make it through Christmas/Germany and get serious about car shopping after that. I scrunch my face at the general situation.

I've been listening to Guns, Germs & Steel and am nearly done (16+ hours worth! - but good for these long car drives!), my friend Katie has a brand-new boy-friend-person, my friends the Dunhams and Camerons are heading to New Zealand, and I've taken a fair whack out of Christmas shopping. Have heaps o' homework to get done, though, and it's not... :( And for book club we'll be reading Shepherds Abiding - and I haven't yet started! Ah life! I do have several friends going through pretty rough times right now... so if you're the type, please pray for them!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

weekends west

so! for the last two weekends I ventured west... whether to seek my fortune, adventure and glory, or simply fun, friends and good food I will leave it to you to conclude.

The first was to the Twin Cities: a work trip/retreat with the high schoolers at my church. Definitely a sweet time. I got to know a VCP (very cool person) Caleb, and his four friends fairly well as I was their chauffeur there, back and in between. We got a jolly smattering of church experiences throughout: starting at St. Paul's Cathedral (yeah THE St. Paul's Cathedral), staying at First Baptist (a big creepy old cool building downtown on Hennepin) both nights, helping with hanging drywall at a artist community church-type thing (I'm helping Tony, another VCP, in the picture), the Fallout on Saturday, heading to Wooddale (a wealthier mega-church) for church service Sat. night where The End of the Spear guy shared bits of his story. Oh, and there was excellent pizza and a jazz quartet after that, REALLY GOOD, for which I somehow felt responsible to bring down by having something in my teeth. Mike also had us start the devotional My 30 Days Under the Overpass as part of the weekend. Good stuff! I think we all had a pretty good time - there was other activity in there - we hung out at Club 3 Degrees Friday night, and the kids played Catacombs Saturday (they're the "Christians" hiding pretty much anywhere in the huge mostly-dark church, and Roman "guards" track them down and imprison them. Great fun.). [photos]This weekend was a great follow-up! This time my westward wandering took me near Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Aside from a slight incident with local law enforcement, I arrived without problem late Friday at my Uncle Dean & Aunt Dar's house. They live on "the farm" - the place where my grandparents lived until I was in my early 20s. So it's always great to get back there, see what's changed, appreciate what hasn't, and remember. Sat. morning Dean and I went deer stand scouting. We kicked up heaps of grouse, and found several good options for stands, so I think I'm set (opening day of rifle season is less than 2 weeks away!). Then we headed back, and went with Dar up to the Flottum cabin. Aunt Lynnette, Cousin Shellee, Aunt Corrine and Uncle Ron had all come over for the afternoon! We had marvelous food, then headed out on a walk around the place. Lynnette, Jim, Naomi and Ray (aunts & uncles) had put up a memorial bridge for my dad earlier this fall and we wanted to take a look. Well - the rains had been hard on it - Dean had had to rescue it a couple of times - but it was still there! We had a great afternoon ambling about in the fall sunshine and "discovering" all sorts of things. When we came back to the farm, I climbed the old silo just for the fun of it - they don't make 'em like that any more! It's been used to house everything from foxes (to see if they could be tamed) to snapping turtles (to be sold for soup), but I don't know that it was ever used to store grain Anyway, not since the mid-50s! After a brief stop at Brickyard Pottery, and the cemetary, I headed down to Bloomer where my college roommate Jocelyn and her family live. I didn't get many pictures, but we had great fun, really good food, and the kids were a blast to get to know. Ed also gave me pointers on gun care. I hadn't seen them for quite a while, and hadn't actually visited in Bloomer since Brook was an infant, so it was about time! After great thought and pondering, I feel confident to recommend "West" to anyone considering it. [photos for this weekend]

I'm heading south - to Chicago - to hang out with another college buddy Alex this weekend, so we'll see if my recommendation changes! In the meantime, I'm headed to two biggish (for me) sporting events this week (one at the Resch center in Green Bay, one in Madison), work will be a bit nuts, and my classes are in full swing! Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

phooning finally!

OK, Serena and I spent Saturday in Door County, where phooning finally befell us! Who knew it would be so hard too keep a straight face while engaged in this noble art creation? After many takes, we finally gave up the struggle with Serena. For mine - ah, I was a tad more camouflaged, and no one will ever know whether I smiled or no (wisconism alert - "or no" is proper English in Wisconsin! Or at least proper Wisconenglish!).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

eschew obfuscation!!

- or - "the thing that made Angela smile already today"

If you're at all interested in English word usage OR in flowers and plants and the naming thereof, have I got a link for you!

The one that's been bugging me lately: the continual use of "orientate" when "orient" does as well or better!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

do - re - me - fa - sol - la - ti -

Do you ever feel as though you're a part of a story? That just around the edges of your awareness are all sorts of things pulling themselves together to show up at just the right time? That unfinished bits - relationships halted by graduation or moves or job changes, unfinished conversations, people dying with things not quite tidied all up, books lent out and not yet returned, strangers met at random that you feel you'll meet again, health issues that just need technology to advance a little further to be cured, and of course, socks dropped behind the dryer - really will wrap themselves up neatly before its all said and done? I do, and I usually tell myself that "unfinishedness" is just part of life... that whatever instinct that has a problem with it needs to be muffled, silenced, and that I need to be okay with life's messiness, brokenness, unresolved endings (and missing socks). Maybe I do.
In college, I had a bunch of music-major friends, and they would play this silly game with each other: one of them would solfege as I have it in the subject line, and wait to see how long it would take before the other music major would just have to finish the unfinished "do"! My music major sister tells me that is ridiculous; contemporary classical music is all about this kind of irresolution. (So me trying it on her had no effect whatsoever, unfortunately!).
In music as in life: I'm thinking there's been a "modern-era" trend toward finding meaning and beauty in the incomplete, rather than seeking completion itself. Perhaps there is something noble in this... but it's bugging me. Is it actually settling for less? Finding a way to be comfortable and happy in the midst of uncomfortable misery? Being content to (as Lewis puts it) play in the mud because we have no idea of what is meant by a seaside vacation? I think he's talking about "uncool" mud (pottery rocks!!); nothing to compare with the coast.
Sorry - this post will be incomplete, because I can argue both ways on it. Can't stand the thought of stagnating. Settling for less than what is possible. Being stuck in my ways. Missing opportunities. Inertia. But... also have major problems with: discontent, frenetic activity, constant, pushing restlessness. Drivenness.
Christianity (at least at the moment) isn't helping me on this one. There's the "beauty" (??) of the journey with all its dangers and difficulties, and the Someone the journey is pointed at. There's the shocking love of the Almighty for the miserable, helpless, wasted, and ugly. There's the abandoned pursuit of joy with the courageous fortitude of fighting that one sin this time. There's the classic verse about "being in but not of the world". What the dilly-yo is that supposed to mean?!! Will all unfinished stories someday come to a satisfying, page-turning, wrap?


Monday, October 08, 2007

please phoon

OK, this one made my day. Please, please, please phoon somewhere, take a picture, submit it, and share the link with me! I'll try to do one soon, and share it here!

I didn't know what phooning was before today, and I now see what a miserable, barren existence it was. I hate that when I'm miserable and I don't even know it!

It must be serendipitous: not only the above, but I believe it will also be confirmed shortly with tickets that I'm HEADING TO GERMANY FOR CHRISTMAS!! Yahoosey! My friend Deej will be alone there, and it's the only decent thing I can do. :)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I think I saw a weasel...

... for real! I was rambling through Bubolz Nature Preserve tonight, and as I approached a bridge, a small head popped up between the first and second slats and disappeared almost immediately. I was only 2-3 feet away, but I still tried passing off as an eggplant (had purple pants/green shirt on, which hopefully helped). As hoped for, the head popped out again, this time for long enough and with enough of the body for me to figure out that even though the head wasn't much bigger than a mouse's, the body was much longer and thinner than that tiny creature has any right to be. The head vanished again, and the show was repeated four or so times as the dude tried to figure me out. The next time he vanished I heard a tiny bit of scrambling, and the head popped out again, this time on the other edge of the bridge, still between the same two slats. My eggplant show must have been every bit as puzzling from that angle, because the head alternated several times between observing me at one edge of the bridge or the other, before finally giving up and disappearing altogether. After a short wait for the head's return, I looked up to see a couple that had to have been approaching me for a while. Embarrassed, but not wanting to pause to explain my stillness and absorption with bridge slats, I made a most abrupt and un-eggplant-like exit.

I looked it up later, and am almost certain it was a Least Weasel. The fact that it's not even a little bit endangered hardly discourages me at all, because as far as I know I've never seen one for my very own self before. Of course, reading of its aggressiveness makes me a little glad, after all, that he wasn't fooled by the eggplant gag. If I were a weasel on a mission, I would NOT allow a mountain-sized eggplant to in any way prevent me from doing whatever it was I was going to do before I saw it.

I've been busy online lately, just not here. I've updated info on the blog we created for my Dad, (I'd had recordings of his last 3 sermons for a while, but hadn't gotten around to formatting them /making them accessible. So that's finally done, along with some neat updates from my Aunt Lynnette), created a facebook account (I know, I know, but it IS way better than myspace), and found a sweet site:, where I can log the mad amounts of reading I've been doing lately. I can even put a widget here, so my latest reads are visible from my blog. It has me pretty excited, as I've wondered things before like "how many books did I read in the last year?", and this site will enable me to track that. And see what other people I like are up to, reading wise (hint, hint!).

I had a great weekend; hung out with Amy and Augusta and Sherman up in Iron River. We had fun talking, eating and - you won't believe it - clothes shopping in Duluth. Amy and Augusta (and Sherman, who was at home by himself), were amazingly patient. Having helpful and motivated people with you when you shop makes all the difference. It was something I was wayyy overdue on, but hadn't been able to motivate myself to do. We also made it to the food co-op, where I do like to shop. A lot! Amy's a member now, making it doubly wonderful. Most importantly, Augusta and I discovered that you can, after all, still buy thunder cookies singly, which made for quite a cheerful ride home!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

a prize if you can guess what this is!

This one tickled my fancy! Click on the picture to find out what it is - I'll owe you a nickel if you guess it before you click!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What about a Sensible Inerrancy?

Well, have you heard the term "inerrancy" before? (I get a red squiggly line under it when I type it, so apparently Firefox has NOT!). When used in reference to the Bible, it's the concept that there's something inspired about it; it goes beyond the level of being created by people, and is said to be without error in its original form. This is important because - if the Bible really is inerrant and inspired by God - it has something to say about really is and is not so in this world. Christians, however, have varying beliefs about the inerrancy of the Bible; I stumbled on a discussion of it this week. Because it's on a private discussion list, I'm going to copy out the messages in the comments section of this blog; I would love it if you'd read through them and add your own. You'll see a post or two of mine as you progress through them. (The posts come from Spare Oom, a Yahoo! Group that discusses the life and works of C.S. Lewis).

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day weekend

was awesome. Ben and I met up at Amy's place in Iron River. The three of us stayed up late talking Friday night, Ben and I went paddling on Lake Superior in and around the sea caves (check out the pics - I added some narrative - they're fun!) on Saturday, the three of us and Roberta went down to the mouth of the Brule River on Sunday, did a night-time swim and marshmallow-roast, and laid on our backs watching the stars fall, and on Monday the three of us paddled down part of the Brule River. Add to that wonderful food all weekend, good conversation, and lots of sleeping in, and it's not so hard to say, "life is beautiful".

Thursday, August 30, 2007

jasmine and other things right with the world

I've only recently discovered that I like jasminey things. I fear you will not believe me. I endeavor to convince you:
  • jasmine is my favorite tea. I'm not even sure that I'm dippy about the about the taste, but the smell when you're cuddling a nice hot cuppa is either bliss or his very cute younger brother)
  • jasmine rice is tip-top. I only know that from this week: I tried it by itself (i.e. not smothered in something else saucy and strongly flavored) in my rice cooker and was quite carried away with enchantment. I hope the leftovers do not stay in my fridge long enough to take on a life of their own and start issuing commands - I'm quite sure I'd be powerless to disobey.
  • my cousin is named Jasmine. Of course - I only met her when she was very very small, but (circularity aside) with a name like that, how could she be anything but charming?
  • isn't the word itself, jasmine, evocative of rare and exotic things?!
I rest my case!

Speaking of fridges... I've been wondering lately why they're called refrigerators. Why not just frigerators? Where did we get this big "re" idea? Most things that go in there seem to start out hot, including cow's milk and eggs!

OK, here's a quote from a book I'm reading.
"there is something terribly wrong with life. I don't mean that it's hard or cruel or painful. That much is obvious. There's something about life that doesn't make sense, something that's wrong with the whole picture. And this idea that life is skewed in some way is very much tied to the whole problem of human suffering.
... Anyone who can appreciate a dazzling summer sunset, or a crisp, orange autumn day, or a magnificent symphony, or the smile on the face of a beautiful girl can see that these marvelous works of creation simply don't belong in the same world as a cancer ward, a hospice, or a cemetery. It's not enough to say that the world is full of both good and bad things. That explanation simply doesn't suffice. The good things in life are just too good; the bad things are just too awful. They just can't be part of the same plan. C.S. Lewis put it best; he said that human beings instinctively know that the good things in life are supposed to exist, while the cruel, painful things are not. He said that somehow we know that "right" has a right to be there, while "wrong" has no right whatsoever."
Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, Anthony DeStefano, pp.67-68
I like it - although I would of course use jasmine (be it the word, the tea, the rice, or the cousin) to exemplify the category of things that are right in the world!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

cabbages and kings

Today I sampled the delights of a sweet, sunny and cool Wisconsin Sunday from the seat of a motorcycle. We did a 160-ish mile loop through many small towns, including King where we made an obligatory stop for ice cream. I didn't want to; I thought we should press on and be more intense about getting miles behind us, but my traveling buddies would have none of it. ;) I hadn't gone on a hour+ ride for probably two years, so it was definitely overdue. My bike is an old beater, but it does the job and it's small enough that I can boss it around. Had one heart-stopping moment where I failed to read the "20 mph" advisory sign for a sharp curve, and ended up in the other lane... thankfully there were no oncoming cars. I have several coworkers who have recently taken lessons, so I think I might be going out on a smaller ride later this week. Anybody want to come?
And while I'm in recruiter mode: Larry from church is trying to recruit people for a kickball league in Neenah on Wednesday nights - anybody up for that?! I'm too escared to do it without moral support; 'specially because I think I'd be lousy and particularly at disadvantage to all those people who played soccer growing up!

In other news, I'm slogging my way through the Bible reading plan I mentioned earlier. It's not terrible or anything, but it's historical reading right now in the book of II Chronicles... started out with building the temple in Jerusalem, and following on with accounts of Solomon and his descendants. I always get bummed out reading about the bad kings who really screw things up and do nasty stuff - and thinking about the suffering that it causes all their subjects. I'm tempted to bail, and go for a different reading plan. I found this and may opt for a different one before long, but should probably stick with this one for a little longer just to see how it goes. Other suggestions? There actually are bits in there that would be interesting to discuss; so let me know if you read any of them and want to talk about it!

Oh - and sorry there are no cabbages in this post - but it sounds so much better than just "kings"! Wait, here:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


So there's this story about slavery in modern-day China, and then there's this one about tracking people in Shenzhen, and now there's this one about regulating reincarnation (that one strikes my fancy, though, somehow)!

I really would like to talk to some of the people I knew from China in college and get their thoughts on this stuff... Somehow my inability to "get it" when it comes to this amazing and frightening place bugs me. I hear such random tidbits, that I really wonder about everyday life for the "average" Chinese person - if there is such a thing! I would love to visit, actually, but to be honest it would be more for the experience than from a belief that I would actually like it there. I think I would like the food!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Well! I think I can chalk this past weekend up to once-in-a-very-long-while sorts of experiences: Javier, Serena, Justin, Ben and I landed in Eau Claire to watch the 2007 Boomerang National Championships. Javier and I actually headed up on Thursday night, and so on Friday got to catch the nice, sunny day of the event - and some of the more fun competitions - fast catch (how long does it take you to throw and catch a boomerang five times) and trick catch (picture on left - Dan threw 2 booms at the same time, just caught the first, and is holding it in his mouth as he catches the second) among others. We got to hang out with a bunch of the competitors - many of the best boomerangers in the States - and listen to their stories and watch them compete. Joce joined us for dinner, and we were later joined by the rest of the crew. The weather wasn't nearly as fun Saturday and Sunday (it was cold and rainy!), but it was still great fun to be around such quirky amazingness. [pics]

Bro Dan, who was competing, ended up getting 3rd in the Aussie Round (a combination of distance, accuracy and catching), which was very cool - but because he had done consistently well in all of the other events, he got 2nd in the all-around tournament!! It will be neat to see how things go next year as the World Cup will be held in Seattle, with team trials in the spring.

There were tons of stories flung about throughout the weekend, but one of the best actually happened during the competition: Katie, the sister of the Bauer brothers, headed to Shopko for sunscreen on Thursday (I think). She found the pink bottle of Banana boat spray stuff, and ended up picking up the last in the store. She paid, and was walking out with her bag, when a mom spotted the sunscreen in her bag, grabbed the bag away, and hit Katie on the head with it!! She then took off, and only because the store manager happened to be watching was she intercepted and the precious sunscreen commodity returned to the stunned and speechless Katie! So much for midwestern friendliness! Katie did assure us she bore no ill will toward Wisconsinites in general, which I thought magnanimous given the circumstances. I would have loved to have watched that one unfold.

My favorite part of the weekend was hanging out with my nephews & niece who I hadn't seen in far too long... definitely overdue!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bohnanza & Boomerangs!

Tuesday is game night, and tonight we played Bohnanza, the bean game. It's a sweet German card game, but to our chagrin we found ourselves without it after Ben moved to the Twin Cities and Patrick moved to Colorado within the past few months. The only possible explanation is that they BOTH callously took their copies of the game with them when they moved away. Snookpotters. Folks in Wisconsin are people too, you know. If we had known their true intentions, we never would have let them go. Serena saved the day, however, and generously spent a gift card she got for her birthday on her very own game-with-expansion-pack. It was a new one for Javier, and made for a fun night. Now we'll just have to keep a wary eye on Serena. Maybe it's the game that causes such mysterious nomadic behavior.

We had fun talking about/planning a bit for the Boomering Nationals which are being held in Eau Claire this weekend. It sounds like me, Ben, Justin, Javier, and now maybe Serena will be able to make the pilgrimage to see the wonders of trick catching and MTA event. Javier and I will both get time with our families, and there are rumors of other fun things that may be happening as well!

On a completely different note, this week is the one-year anniversary of when my dad came home from the hospital for his last week with us. I'm debating about putting another post out on his blog, but I'm not sure what I would say, really. Will take some thought. Sure miss him and wish he was still here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

what did they do before squeegees?

Yesterday I reacquainted myself with my apartment. It's quite a nice place, really. I forget that when I get lonely and ratchet up the busy-ness to compensate. I actually did quite a few "spring-cleany" things: washing bedspreads, lampshades & windows. I used to clean the outsides of the sliding doors with Windex and a gajillion paper towels, but it's so dang dirty out in that great outdoor world that it would take forever. Then I got a cheap little squeegee thing and it takes me some soapy water, a few minutes and no paper towels . Ahhhh! (see how clean that window is?!)

Today I went to two different church services. One at my regular church, and one at "the bar church" to hang with some friends. Really had a great time at both - I hadn't been to my church for quite a few weeks with all the different weekend stuff that's been going on, and it's so fun to see and catch up with "my family". John's talk today was on Nehemiah 8: "No Spiritual Well-being is Complete without Scriptural Input." I got to thinking about that... do you agree? He acknowledged that people may have different spiritual pathways - ways that people feel closest to God (through nature, solitude, activism, serving others, etc.) - but that without regular times of listening to/learning about/connecting with God through written scripture, we shortchange ourselves in our ability to be close to Him. I do try to read the Bible every day, but he challenged me to try to be a little more purposeful about it. I just looked quick and found this (looks like there are heaps of them out there ) I think I'll try the Story of the Bible one, even though I'll be starting in the middle since it's August, and see how far I get! If you have any interest in doing the same, that would be awesome - you'll keep me going, and we can talk about it as things stick out to us!

Part of the challenge of the above, for me, is to have the humility to actually acknowledge that I really might need something like this. I've been hearing stuff like the above all my life, right? Well, at the bar church, the talk was on humility. Greg had his sister-in-law, who's been in recovery from drug addiction for over 20 years, come up and talk about how humility is a huge component of staying clean and sober. In our "quick fix" world, it's so hard to acknowledge our own brokenness, our inability to fix ourselves. The addict mindset is an "I can handle it" one. (Yeep!) But for ongoing recovery, we desperately need to acknowledge our inability to (on our own) handle the things that can literally kill us. Without getting overly personal (after all, I'm pretty new to this idea of blogging to update my friends on where I'm at! I don't want to OVERshare!), I can say that when I feel most numb, most rootless, least equipped to deal with the confusing things that my life throws at me, I am usually farthest from my last good, intentional time spent with God and His people.

Tonight we have our St. Louis trip reunion. Josh is actually coming up for it - woo hoo! Apparently he found a friend who was willing to drive up with him. Also, my friend Paula is getting back from a week of being with her family - one of her nephews died last weekend. So I think Erin and I will try to stop by and see her and Dave as well.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

motorbikes & little things

Tonight I went for a motorcycle ride with my friend Wendy. I haven't ridden it much this summer at all, as it was out of commission. I had forgotten how great it is to be tooling along a country rode in the midst of a sunset and the (varied!) smells of the country. We stopped at Tom's Drive In in Little Chute and had a great time catching up. Now I'm off to visit my buddy Jon at Barnes & Noble. I haven't seen him all summer either, and am looking forward to catching up. (I posted the photo for Joce, based on her comments!)

Current Reading:
I'm listening to Shadow of the Hegemon on tape, reading Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus for our book club (which is starting to bother me a tad - I may not finish), Kotter's Leading Change and Schon's The Reflective Practioner for work, and Wodehouse and C.S. Lewis to fill in the gaps (like when I leave a book in the car and am too lazy to run down and get it). Shadow of the Hegemon has me most absorbed right now, and I might cheat and go to printed soon because the pace drives me crazy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Tom, one of my best friends, just lost his mom last week to amyloidosis. Things had been somewhat hopeful for a heart transplant and some other therapy, but unfortunately her body just couldn't hang in there quite long enough. Thankfully all the kids and Tom Sr. were there for her from Sunday/Monday (when she took a bad turn) through July 4 when she died.

Debbie was so fun; in the times I spent with her we laughed: with her - and at her - because of her youthfulness and quirkiness. Conversations ranged from serious to silly to practical to musical. She loved all of Tom's friends, and was unfailingly interested in and kind to all of us. This might seem silly, but one of the best gifts I received from her was her time: she would go shopping with me. I'm a lousy shopper, especially when it comes to clothes, and several times Debbie took me under her wing, and worked with me till we found good stuff. The things we found are still many of the mainstays in my closet.

Debbie was also a model - in a true, non-sappy sense of the word - of generosity and hospitality to me. I knew her so little in comparison with the rest of her family, but the loss for me is real, and hard. I lost a friend. How much more her family is suffering this loss... I pray God's comfort and presence to be really felt for them as they adjust to this loss. And I look forward with them, I think, to again being able to laugh with - and at - her someday. Hooray for heaven!

Friday, June 22, 2007

just in from St. Louis...

I posted a few of the updates for our recent work trip to St. Louis - you can see mine by clicking here! You can also click a link to see all the posts from the trip on the top of that page.

Monday, January 29, 2007

As the Ruin Falls

Ran across this CSL poem today, and it echoes thoughts I had in church yesterday; thoughts and wonderings about life and the whys and particularly the wherefores.

As the Ruin Falls
All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls.
The pains You give me are more precious than all other gains.
- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Grandma socks and toe jam

Last night Jen, Mustafa, Katie and Carl came over. Ben made venison spaghetti and I cleaned! We also heated some homemade applesauce that Lisa (German lady from church) had given me, stole some salad from Katie-roommate, and had homemade bread. It was a good night of just bumming around and catching up with each other. I got to break in my Christmas wine glasses. Had hoped to break in the new corkscrew too, but everybody brought wine that had already been opened, and the sparkling grape juice (of course) did not have a cork. *sigh* ah, the tragedies of life. I was wearing sparkelly black socks Ben's Grandma had given me when I visited for Christmas and they gave me black, fuzzy toe jam! We were going to watch a movie or play games, but ended up just hanging out in the living room, eating chocolate chip cookies and being our parts in this play of life. Ahhh!