Gizzy in Heaven!

Gizzy in Heaven!
I love you forever and ever, Amen!


Monday, November 30, 2009

The little town of wood and cloth

Today, I want to tell you about the Christkindles Market in Nuremberg, Germany (Bavaria) where I grew up. My cousin in Germany recently wrote in an e-mail that she and my aunt are planning on going, so I was reminded of the enchanting market with lights, glitter, good smells and tastes. (Please be sure to click on the underlined links for more images of the market. I think you will enjoy them.) It's been over five years since I visited Germany and it was during Christmas. At the time my sister and I went, I did not have a digital camera, nor did I blog. Located in the heart of the city, on the Hauptmarkt (the main market), Germany's most famous Christmas market, called the Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt, opens its booths every year to visitors from all over the world. The Nurnberger Christkind (angel) always opens its market on the Friday before the first Advent at 17:30 hours with festive prologue from the gallery of the Frauenkirche (church.) Until Christmas Eve more than 2 Million people visit the Christkindlesmarkt from all over the world. Approximately 180 wooden booths, decorated with red and white cloth, give the Christkindlesmarkt the nickname "Little town of wood and cloth." The at least 200 vendors present a distinct and traditional offer on their wares, such as Nurnberger Lebkuchen (spice and honey cakes), fruit breads, baked goods, typical Christmas articles, such as Rauschgoldengels (tinsel angel), Creche, Christmas tree ornaments, as well as candles, toys and arts and crafts. Most popular souvenirs are the "Nurnberger Zwetchgenmannle", figures made from dried plums. My cousin sent me one last year and I keep him in the fridge because since I live in hot and humid southern Georgia, I have to watch out for, well, you know... Here's my little "Zwetschgamoh" (slang for prune man) with his accordion. I guess my cousin picked him, because she always felt I needed a man and the fact that my dad plays the accordion and so do I. I keep forgetting I have him, because I don't see him in the fridge...poor guy has to live in hiding. They come in men and women forms. Their arms and legs are prunes, their bodies are dried figs and the heads are walnuts. They guys usually have a felt or paper hat with a feather in it and some kind of a burlap, cloth or felt attire and the gals have some sort of cloth, foil or sometimes stiff, pleated, crepe paper varies and when they're new, they look quite cute. My guy looks like he's been in the fridge too long. (ok, back to the Christkindlesmarkt) For the stroll through the market, refreshments such as Nurnberger roasted Bratwurst and Gluehwein (glow wine = hot, spiced port wine) are always popular and in demand. The workers of the booths look with critical eye towards tradition. Plastic garland is taboo, as well as constant showers of taped Christmas music or piped in music by the businesses. Also, the Market caretakers work hard in preserving tradition in a festive and tasteful environment, but all that hard work and attention to detail does not go unnoticed. Since 1981, the city of Nurnberg has received the "Zwetschgermoh" award in Gold, Silver and Bronze for having the prettiest booths. With its traditional face, the Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt is also an example for other Christmas markets. The "Little town of wood and cloth" is a very popular backdrop for artists and TV shows alike. More and more American cities are emulating the Nuremberg Christmas Market and soon you won't have to go over there to experience it - well, sort of.

The first Beekeeper

As most of you know, I support honey bee research. I subscribe to The Great Sunflower Project and learned something new from them today that I wanted to share with you. I think my beekeeper friends will find this especially interesting. The picture you see is L. L. Langstroth and he is considered the father of modern bee keeping. He actually invented the hives that we use today where there is a box that is filled with hanging frames. His important discovery was what he called “bee space”. This is a distance of 3/8-¼ inch or less that bees use as a passageway. If the space is less than that width, bees fill it with sticky bee sealant called propolis. If the space is larger than that width, they will fill it with honeycomb. Langstroth designed a hive where all the spaces were ¼ of an inch. He was a Congregationalist minister and took up beekeeping to keep his depression at bay. Next year will be his 200th birthday and Science Friday is celebrating it by developing a curriculum for schools to learn about bees. Now we know who we can thank for having sweet honey at our disposal anytime we want.

Did you know baked goods containing honey have a longer shelf life? This is due to honey's natural preserving qualities? (Honey does not require refrigeration.) Here's a recipe you can try using honey:

German Honey Bars Lebkuchen (makes about 6 dozen bars) Ingredients: 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/3 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup dark molasses 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 4 tablespoons butter (not margarine) sweet unsalted, melted 1 large egg 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds (optional) Optional Glaze (recipe below) Preparation: 1.Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 15X10-inch jelly-roll pan; set aside. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom and ginger in medium bowl. Combine honey and molasses in medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, butter and egg. 2.Place brown sugar mixture in large bowl. Gradually add flour mixture. Beat at low speed with electric mixer until dough forms. Stir in almonds with spoon, if desired. (Dough will be slightly sticky.) Spread dough evenly into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown and set. Remove pan to wire rack; cool completely. 3.Prepare Glaze. Spread over cooled bar cookies. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes. Cut into 2X1-inch bars. Store tightly covered at room temperature or freeze up to 3 months. Glaze Recipe 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (organic or very well washed) 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Preparation: 1.Place all ingredients in medium bowl; stir with spoon until smooth. (Find more recipes on How Stuff Works)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Unbe-leaf-ably fantabulous Day!

I captured some autumn leaves as they blew from one tree to the next, floating ever so gently to the ground, some of them catching a breeze and briefly lifting back up before making it all the way down.

I wasn't going to blog today, but I took some photos while I was out with Gizzy for our Thanksgiving walk that I want to post in case my family or friends want to know what I did today. I love blogging because all my famly is far away. I have one child, a daughter, who lives in California (where I lived all my American Life) and my entire other family is in Germany, but thanks to the Internet and this blog, we can somehow keep closer. My mom and dad don't "do computer" but I call them frequently and my sister and cousin (who use the Internet) keep them informed as well. I could not have asked for a more perfect day. The sun was shining, the air was cool, but not too cold and we had a nice breeze blowing the leaves off the trees and keeping everything fresh and moving.

Many of the trees in my neighborhood are changing color.

As I was walking down the street towards Lake Irma, I was looking at Gizzy and saw that he was having a good day too. I began to give thanks for everything I have, be it ever so humble and for being able to walk with my dog on a gorgeous day like today. While walking, I ponder on the beauty of just about every season, except maybe summer. Since living here, I have really come to dislike summer. But, I suppose one has to suffer through it in order to get to the other seasons, so I will just have to learn to deal with it...or make other living arrangements.

I am thankful to have this pretty, little lake to walk to with my dog, plus Bank's Lake National Wildlife Refuge (which I must visit again soon) and Roquemore Memorial Park in close vicinity, the third of our three regular stomping grounds. Where are the two ducks? Can you spot them? We lingered and think we were gone for a good 90 minutes today, maybe even longer.

We sat beneath our usual tree and watched Gizzy TV. I like to close my eyes and absorb the smells, sounds and feel of the outdoors. Every time I do that, I promise to remember to bring a lounge chair the next time and a book, because now is the time for me to be outside without getting chewed up by mosquitoes. A few still find me here and there, but not like in the summer time. Gizzy ejoying the view.

In the shade, I see some little wildflowers blooming, stretching their neck towards the sunshine. The water sparkles in the breeze like someone sprinkled it with little daimonds or as if tiny tinkerbell fairies were dancing on top of the water.

On the way home, I see more birds of prey overhead, circling, watching, waiting...

Upon arriving back home at my apartment, I caught up with a neighbor who was raking the leaves. She allowed me to photograph those pretty bell shaped blossoms on a bush in front of her bedroom. I remember seeing those all over in Laguna Beach, California. I wanted to eat late, so I am baking my small chicken with vegetables now and it is starting to smell very good in here. Gizzy's snoozing (and snoring) and Middi's restless, either from the smell of the chicken or she wants out. Wishing you all a splendid Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving and Erntedankfest

When I grew up in Germany, we did not celebrate Thanksgiving as it is known here. It wasn't about turkey or pilgrims at all, naturally. We celebrated Erntedankfest, which translates to Harvest Thanksgiving Feast. It is usually celebrated on or around the first Sunday in October and is mostly an unofficial, religious holiday where the altar is decorated with fruits and grains of the fields and gardens. The parishioners bring other foods and staples to the altar to be blessed for later distribution amongst the poor and needy families of the community. Church services is followed by a procession through town and after that the food is distributed. It is a very humbling and charitable experience.

I think it's a lovely way to teach children to take nothing for granted and to be thankful and appreciative for the earth's bounty. It instills values and a sense of gratitude. I miss it, but am grateful for having experienced it firsthand for 18 years.
To me, it doesn't matter what religion you are, or even if you have any religion, as long as one realizes that man is not to be arrogant and so full of himself to think he has it in his power to make things grow and that there is a much bigger force at hand. Learning to say Thanks and practicing humility is necessary to keep things in perspective. I am thankful for:
1. My Family 2. My Friends, both in person and the Internet 3. My new hips (and being free from constant pain and the wheelchair) 4. My pets 5. My apartment 6. My car 7. My mind, attitude and life experiences 8. My Faith (and freedom of religion) 9. My travels, road trips, camping trips, etc. to give me good memories 10. My Oma (German for grandmother) who helped shape my life and is still with me after all these years. (OK, and my computer, digital camera and access to the Internet) What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Home for Boots!

This is Boots, or Bootsie as I call him. He is one of several "community cats" roaming our apartment complex. He is the most likely to be adopted, because he obviously belonged to a previous resident, but was left behind when they moved out. Bootsie is starved for human interaction and is very affectionate. He visits me every day and knocks at the front door - sometimes late at night (what? am I running a 24-hour cat cafe now?) and this is what I see: If I didn't already have a cat, I'd take him in a New York minute. Sad thing is that he really is a much nicer cat than my Middi. Middi drives me nuts sometimes. She wants to go out, jumps around and cries at me. Sometimes, when she gets too rambunctious and starts to knock things over (I live in a very small apartment) I have to lock her up in the bedroom to let her (and me) chill for a while. Besides, she agitates Gizzy with her wild behaviour sometimes and then he's chasing her. There's just not room enough for roughhousing in here. We are not allowed to let our pets roam free in this complex; besides, I don't want her to run the risk of getting injured out there and come home with all kinds of bugs to share with Gizzy. She has plenty of open windows to look out. It was always enough for her before when she first came to live with us half-starved and sick. Now that she's fat and sassy, she thinks she can be an indoor-outdoor cat, but No Sir-ee! Not while we're living here. Anyway, a while back a few of us residents, in combination with my animal group that I belong to, held a public fundraiser in the park called No More Homeless Animals Day where we raised enough money to have 8 cats sterilized and immunized for rabies. Bootsy was already neutered, but he got his rabies shot and a deworming shot. Boots is a free spirit and he makes the rounds to the few apartments where he knows he's welcomed. I'm not having much luck finding him a good home, even one where he can just roam, yet come in for a little love and affection that he is obviously craving. I try my best, but Gizzy hates cats and yet, I have a cat (we're only allowed two small pets), so I can't take him in, although he would be a sweetheart to love. If there's anybody out there who either has the space, or knows of someone who has a place for a smart, handsome, lovable tuxedo cat - an older gentleman, as the Vet called him - PLEASE, could we work together to get him to his forever home and out of the cold? That would be the best Christmas present for me and Boots. I had a bit of a tricky time getting him photographed because he moved around so much, rubbing on me and wanting to be loved. He is all sugar and spice and everything nice right now, but you should have heard him in that carrier when he went to the mobile Vet. Oh, my, he sounded like a caged tiger. He was a very unhappy boy! So, keep it in mind. I'll keep looking and if you know of anyone that can give Boots a nice warm spot in their home, heart or barn, let me know. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and Bootsy says: Meow! PLEASE: Don't tease, because this is really important, so only offer, if you seriously can and will help. Thanks and bless you!

p.s. Update on Boots as of 2/13/10: No, sadly I've not found him a home, but since it's been so cold outside, I've been allowing him in for a few minutes each day to eat his meal in peace and have a warm bowl of milk.Middi doesn't seem to mind. She just watches him.  I do this early in the morning when the "dragon" (my Gizzy) is still fast asleep in his bed and isn't the wiser. If I could, I'd take him, but we're only allowed 2 pets. If I ever move into a bigger place, he's coming with! (God knows my heart, so maybe He'll work it out somehow!)
Bootsie was found dead this morning, Wednesday, February 17th (Ash Wednesday)...apparently he found his home another way ... ! I will miss you, my sweet feline friend.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Don't pass the buck!

I don't care much for watching commercial TV; I think it corrupts the mind. Talk shows, reality shows, dance shows - bah, humbug! Get real! Get off the couch and get into life. Don't be a free loader and don't expect to get somethin' for nuttin' - just because you think "the world owes you" - society only works if we pull together and all do our share. So, don't whine and complain and blame others for your unhappiness, take charge of your life. You are the only thinker in your brain, you are the captain of this ship, so choose to be positive! Leave all that old luggage behind and move on. Set yourself free and forgive someone. Learn your lessons from your mistakes. Life's worth it, dahlings! Life doesn't come with an owner's manual, it's not a guided tour, it's an adventure. Live at your own risk! Live life to the fullest and be sure to laugh every chance you get. Laugh till you cry - or pee your pants, whichever comes first!

YEAH BABY! I just love her!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A November afternoon in the park

Yesterday, I took Gizzy for a qick late afternoon walk in the park. I have been crocheting and knitting a lot, so Gizzy sleeps. He's getting on in years and my hope is that as long as he's sleeping, he's preserving his life and maybe will live a little longer - at least that's my hope! The sun was starting to set and I think I got some interesting shots that I'd like to share with you this morning. I'll start off with a big ole bumble bee that was collecting nectar and pollen from the Lantana bush out back. I already showed you the butterfly photos yesterday, one of which had his wings all torn, poor fella. I always think about all the other places where it's cold and snowing and here I am, watching butterflies and bees and seeing flowers... At the park, I am seeing traces of fall in the foliage and plants around me. As you can see, the weeping willow is bare. Traces of falling leaves are on the ground indicating the changing season. You can see the little gazebo in back where people pose for prom pictures and such. There are several of these pink Camellia bushes/plants all in a row, all blooming a lovely pale pink, almost making it look like spring. There are a few white ones, but mostly they are pink. I think they look just lovely blooming all at once together. A few white Hydrangeas are also blooming, getting the last of the warm sunshine.

My boy just walking and looking around.

Some salmon colored Azeleas are also getting in on the bloom fest.

The lantana seems to be in perpetual bloom.

...and we're walking over to the rose bush. The sun's starting to set leaving streaks of sunrays on the ground. Over to the left is the monument surrounded with roses. As we were sitting there at a picnic table, I took this close up of Gizzy that says: "I am not amused!" but then, what do I know? Overhead I can see a flock of birds circling in the sky. I was told by a fellow blogger friend that they look like Turkey Vultures. Sorry, guys, but I really need a zoomier lens.

Hope you enjoyed our little walk in the park. Be blessed! Guess what I'm preparing to do next?