Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Brad’s Elephant

July 21st, 2014 1 comment

I have known the Harper’s since my first tour in Heidelberg. If I remember correctly, Brad transferred from Stuttgart after they closed in 1994, which I got there in 1993. Actually, it wasn’t “Heidelberg” then but the 130th Station hospital which had be there since WWII and had the distinction of having the Patton Room. (who knew it would be important to be the place where that particular officer died of complications following an MVA).

Any how, Brad, Cheré and their two girls overlapped with me and my crew. Since that time we managed to maintain our friendship over multiple PCS’s, deployments, countries and kids growing up. Cheré  and I also have a few hobbies in common, mostly having to do with sewing and other needle related crafts. Besides being a professional harpist, Cheré is a speech pathologist. Add all that up and you have fabric, sewing machines, books, craft supplies, several harps (one full concert size), key boards and stacks of music.

When I visited their new house in Virginia fall of 2011 Brad was complaining that he would have to take up Elephants for a hobby in order to have the same volume of “stuff.” He was absolutely horrified when I offered to give Cheré  the hammer dulcimer that I have been carting around for years but haven’t played for a couple of decades.  I suggested that perhaps he could learn to play it….

In reality, I don’t think there is excessive craft supplies in their house. Much less that we have in Heidelberg. But then if you take away the knitting, spinning and weaving it might be just about the same.

As of 8 August, the dulcimer will leave here with the rest of the household goods heading to the US. I think that it will be much closer to the Harper’s house once it arrives and it shouldn’t be all that difficult to ship it from California.  It has been my white elephant – I am going to make it Brads!

one each dulcimer, hammered in case with stand....

one each dulcimer, hammered in case with stand….


<h4>Detrashing update</h4>

Done with the three store rooms. Have the downstairs hall cleared out except for the top and two shelves of the bookcase.  Noah is taking out the three large garbage bags and two overflowing large boxes of trash.

Packed up toys, sweaters. Dropped off five boxes of books @ Librarys, some found items at LRMC PAD and have one more bag of clothing/shoes for the Humana bin and three bags for the Refugee Charity.

Categories: Fiber, home Tags:


July 20th, 2014 No comments

It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. One of those 1000 pieces x about another thousand that is either a repeating geometric or red. Not a regular shape either so that you can start from the edges and work in but rather a multi-sided figure complicated with undulations. Just to add to the fun, the puzzle is two stories + an attic + the garage and minus two mice who very considerately placed their heads in traps sometime early this morning. #3 was seen heading across the patio while we were outside sorting.

I still have no idea if everything is going to come together or not, but the first two packers will be here 1 Aug.

But I decided that I am going to be brave and let you see the extent of the job/challenge and some actual progress.  Of course, it when I went looking for pictures that I realized it has been a few days since I downloaded photos from my 5D. iPhone, no problem it is out and about. But “real” photos – would you believe Norway (about 21 May)?


So let me start with the three storage rooms in the basement. When we started about 9 days ago you could not get in the door of any of them. Only a few things left that need to come out for the movers. The rest will stay/be donated.  The heavy lifting was done by the Eldest.

Next – downstairs -

We are taking little furniture from this level – only one full bed, a couple of stackable frames, the Eldests chairs.  And books of course. The plan is to limit the number of rooms the packers visit. The family room is sorted – if you can see it on the shelves it comes along.  The one bedroom still has a bit of sorting, but the shrank is empty the book case organized and the art supplies actually in a container. I can’t say anything about the mess in the hall except that it is better now. College Guy and the Eldest have been really good about doing a bit here and there

Then we climb up the stairs which are now box free and get to the back hall. I spent more than a day back here sorting out books, then adding to the collection as I sorted all the books from the attic as well as rounded up strays.

Speaking of books -

I will end here, only partway through the house with the terrace. I has started putting boxes of donate books out here the beginning of the month. Then we had George’s 66th birthday party so they all got moved. They are back and will stay there till the movers are gone. Just so you know, that is a regular size (seats 8 +) table which has a meter between it and the back wall. Well what was the back wall if it wasn’t completely obstructed by more than 100 boxes.  It is going to take a while to get them all gone….

It is raining – the curtain is gallantly giving the last of its useful life to protect the written word.

Categories: home Tags:

three car loads

July 19th, 2014 1 comment


Today actually wasn’t technically all that productive but I am going to claim it anyway. Three car loads left the house. Two were our car filled to the brim with donations to one of the local charity shops. This particular volunteer group deals primarily with refugees and is in partnership with a small town in Bosnia. Still recovering from last year’s floods, think fabric, yarn, notions. (I mentioned them before I think). What I didn’t mention the last time was their charity shop primarily because I didn’t know it existed. So add in some office supplies, household small items, clothing, bedding, shoes, toys. You get the idea.


Following that, Diana’s sister came by to pick up a large box of fleece. While she was at it, she was willing to take all the extra magazines that were looking for a home. She will share them with her knitting and spinning groups as she gets them sorted out. Oh, and some old costumes, and a bit of fabric (found after the other batch had left).  Diana took a number of mags, some yarn and some fiber. Their third sister took a few children’s books. End result? The back of her station wagon packed full. And yes, I did thank them most sincerely!


As part of this, I sorted out three boxes of English Language children’s books headed to a specific school in Africa, all the clothes so far in the donate pile. Those that didn’t go out today will windup at the Thrift Store on Ramstein. All the Jewish children’s books to be dropped at the Ramstein Chapel on Monday.


Did I mention dropping off three large bags of books @ the Neuegasse swap shelf before 0600 this morning (prior to the parking restrictions), going to the Strikktreff at Red and heading down the street for several hours this evening to a BBQ.


I left George there chatting, but I was too tired to be even mildly coherent by 2200.


Tomorrow will be more of the same, only with rain.


Categories: home Tags:

Idiots on two wheels

July 17th, 2014 1 comment

Ok, so not all bicyclists are idiots. I will admit to doing a bit of generalizing; I just have no interest in decorating my car with blood, guts or gore. I don’t think riders make good hood ornaments either.

Let me explain.

Heidelberg is a University town. That capital letter is on purpose. There are literally thousands of students here (35-50k depending on how you count it). On top of that you have to consider all the admin and faculty. Those student numbers are on top of the ~275,000 residents. Since students are poor, bicycles are an excellent form of transportation. After the initial outlay, there is only minimal cost to owning a bike. Unlike public transportation there are no automatic monthly tithes to the gods of Rhein-Nekar-Trans. All you need is air in your tires and away you go. Since the basic city is fairly flat, all the way to Mannheim and other towns along the rivers, there is little strain to peddling along.

This is a bike friendly area. The most recent road improvements included bike lanes along all the major non-autobahn routes. Clearly marked, they are in the road, not the parking areas. And as you are probably aware, bikes are wheeled vehicles and as such are subject to all traffic laws and regulations.  Makes perfect sense to any one with a modicum of brains in their heads which leads me back to my starting point.

The helmet law covers only those up to age 6. That means that you will see helmets, most likely ill fitting, on toddlers and pre-K riding along with helmetless parents. Exactly how is that going to help the child when the parent in front piloting the bike manages to leave their brains (obviously not being used) on the pavement?  Few of the rest bother at all. Then there are the women with the long flowing skirts – that’s right – peasant skirts just floating along the chain.  I am not even going to mention those riding a bike one handed while the other holds their handi to their ear (see comment above on vehicle laws being applicable). Stop at traffic lights? Hand signals before cutting left across traffic?

Heading home after dropping George off at his Stammtisch I was observing how 80% make life really miserable for those 20% who are obviously serious about their riding. It is those on well maintained bikes, safely attired and topped with well fitted helmets that leave me with a faint ray of hope.

I commuted by bike to the U of MN when I lived in South Minneapolis. I rode when the weather was nice, when it rained and when it snowed. I dressed properly and was extremely cautious about cars. I survived without accident or injury. So I know it is possible to commute by bike, to ride for pleasure and to do it safely especially today with the better engineering.  I will always give a rider plenty of room and leeway.  I just wish most of them would ride more safely. A smile for me after I wait at the top or the bottom of one of the few hills so their ride isn’t interupted also might be appreciated.

Categories: home Tags:

Empty the water, clean the filter

July 16th, 2014 No comments

It must be a remnant of my university days where laundry meant coins in slots and waiting on spinning agitators and tumbling dryers in order to have clean clothes ready to be hauled back to where ever I might be living. Or maybe it is the result of having lived in military stairwells where a bank of washers and dryers is shared property.

In any case, I think it should be an automatic courtesy when sharing laundry facilities with others, even if they are members of your own family.

After running the first load the other day I shoved them in the dryer. I just happened to glance down at the filter. Frowning I pulled it out, not all that amazed to find it covered lightly with lint. Given that happenstance it should be pretty obvious why I decided to check to make sure the water collector was empty. If you are scratching your head – we have a condenser dryer. No blowing hot air, no need to vent to the outside and no layer of dust attempting to snuggle into the clean clothes someone forgot to take upstairs this week. Last week? Month?

It wasn’t at all empty. In fact it was full.  The volume was enough that I would have had a mess on the floor if I had started this load. Now in the US you wouldn’t be able to start the dryer should the water receptacle be full as someone somewhere would have made that error, gotten a wet floor and promptly sued the manufacture when they slipped and fell. I live in Germany. There is an assumption of common sense and intelligence. We don’t have warnings on the toaster reminding us that sticking a fork in there could be hazardous to our health. Or that sitting in the bathtub with a hair dryer is more the sign of a Darwin candidate than not. Here – you are expected to figure out completely on your own that if the water is condensed out of your clothes in the drying process that the removable container needs to be emptied before it overflows.

I don’t mind loads being forgotten on occasion, that happens to all of us especially as age creeps up and the to-do list becomes overwhelmingly long. But not cleaning up after yourself? That is like leaving dishes in the sink.

Oh, wait. Forget that comparison since I am the one most likely to do that…..


Categories: family, home Tags:

Loose Change

July 9th, 2014 1 comment

One of the interesting things that happens when you live outside the US is accumulating multiple countries worth of spare change. Admittedly it is not as bad now as it was 20-30 years ago. Prior to the EU, every last country had its own currency which obviously included coinage. Now it is just the UK (and Scotland, we can’t forget Scotland which insists on printing its own Pound Notes) of the major countries which don’t play.

There are several other EU countries which have their own but frankly the merchants are more than willing to take Euros. Scandinavia is uses various Kroner (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) but Finland has been on the Euro since the start.

The reason I started down this line? Cleaning which involves picking up loose change.

Now it would be sensible to expect that we would have some US coinage given how often one of us travels to the US. Euros – well we live in the EU. Swiss Francs because George is there three days a week on those weeks where he can’t find a reason to be else where.

Then you have to remember that I have traveled to the UK and Norway more than once in the last year. And Australia last fall along with New Zealand and various stops in Canada. I pretty much avoided changing money in South America.

All told, I think I have a couple of kilos of mixed coins. I’m going to try and sort it out into spendable and not-spendable. The first category are those coins where I can physically use them (Euros for candy bars), US swapped for real money at the credit union, Swiss back in George’s pocket or back pack. I’ll use whatever pence and pounds I can find when I fly to London for WorldCon in Aug. I can probably even find Canadians and Aussies on my next cruise and send their coinage back with them (or see option below).

But there are coins for which there is no hope. I am even hesitant to drop them in one of the airplane donation envelopes. After all – DM have been out of circulation for over a decade; ditto with the French Franc.  Then there are the dinar, shekels, hwan.  I need to ask Terry what they do with weird coins. Especially since it might make up a good third of what we have on hand….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

The Fourth

July 4th, 2014 No comments

Courtesy of Maus since I spent the day shoveling more out of my studio. Visits from both Brigitte and Diana made the day go much faster.

Categories: family, home Tags:


July 3rd, 2014 3 comments

I got sick of clothing and books so decided to tackle two of the cabinets in the living room.


cupboard on the one end

cupboard on the one end

all the "what do I do with it" contents

all the “what do I do with it” contents

cupboard on the other

#1  - cupboard on the left side

The first was easy – bunch of cruise stuff, scrapbook kits from cruises, never opened jigsaw puzzles and a hundred weight of 33 1/3 vinyl records ranging from German kids music to Jefferson Airplane and Israeli Folkdance music. I am currently ignoring the cassette tapes on the top shelf although I will have to decide about them fairly soon. I am thinking they are the missing Harry Potter audio tapes.

There are sturdy bookshelves between the sides which at one time were nicely organized but have since gained a dressing of book piles, decorative mugs, stones and a topping of Hannukah candles.  Please rest assured that no knitting contributed to the mess. Just additional books picked up in the last five years and dumped there by my husband who ran out of shelf space.

The other cupboard was more interesting to explore. I found a heavy duty folder stuffed with brochures, maps, museum books and leaflets from the Norway trip we made ~ 1996. At least that is what seems to match most of the dates. I also found German hotel and restaurant guides from 1990 and some school books. The top shelf held multiple decks of cards in their original wrappings from various museums, post cards and empty tins.

The middle shelf also had several folders where I found these -

the boy

the boy



who later became these two

IMG_0425 IMG_0426


and I just will leave you with one of their selfies from Jan

and both of whom have cut their hair since then

and both of whom have cut their hair since then

Categories: family, home Tags:

Insanity for a reason

July 2nd, 2014 2 comments

So anyway, to recap my insanity. (and we will not go into the long involved story of “The Bet”, George’s loss of same, and the lack of decision as a result of where we will live when we retire). When one bails out, leaves or otherwise separates from the military (aka US Army active duty in my case) normally you are not particularly where you are going to eventually live. Especially if that last particular location happens to be in one of the ‘Stans. As a result, the government promises to move your “stuff” one last time, normally to what is considered your home of record – the rules about which have changed multiple times over the years.

I was technically stationed in the UK, attached to the US Army HQ in Heidelberg and on loan to the Medical HQ in Afghanistan. Taking all your stuff to a combat zone is neither bright nor allowed. Besides, there is no way to carry it all to Ft Benning. Instead you have your family mail you things, order what ever you need extra off the internet and wind up facing a whole pile of belongings at the end of a tour. Gee – bit of digression there. But that is exactly what happens to most of us over the course of years.

You start out with a couch, a bed, a kitchen set and a few pots and pans. Then you add a spouse, off spring and pets. The amount dragged along increases with every move unless you are super disciplined and burn everything before packing. Our last family move was in 2001 when we relocated from Munich to Heidelberg, buying a house in the process. The Eldest was already on her own but wasn’t in a permanent location, so we had her stuff as well. We also pulled everything out of storage (some of which had been dropped there in, oh, about 1993….)

Then there were the household things moved back from the UK in 2010 prior to that last deployment, additions from the kids over the years. Consider that our house has an attic and three storage rooms and you start to see the extent of the problem.

I like books. And yarn and wool and fabric and well …. fiber related toys. George also really likes books. The kids all have stuff….and I really think that possessions either reproduce or just gather up stuff of their own.

In any case – I can move 19000 # (US, not metric) back to the US at government expense. I would be stupid not to take advantage of that. The particular shipping offer has a limited time span. I received a couple of extensions, but this year is my last chance to ship. Use it or lose it – really.

The house in Berkeley will be tenant free mid Sept. I will have the Eldest and College Guy in the Bay Area for school. Add up all that information and you can understand why I am talking about shipping. Using up weight allowance on things that need to remain here would be dumb.  Hence, the reason for the sorting and tossing.

We will start with a couple of views taken in the livingroom


the living room window sill

the living room window sill

the yarn end of the living room pile

the yarn end of the living room pile

then move to the terrace


the terrace table - (note the pile of book boxes behind)

the terrace table – (note the pile of book boxes behind)

which is reached by walking out the door by the dining room table, currently covered by things for the flea market


all the lose, extra cables...

all the lose, extra cables…

and then I started tackling the back hall

part of the back hall

part of the back hall


tomorrow I will entertain you with piles of clothes, the studio and the hall bookcases

Categories: home Tags:

Making progress

July 1st, 2014 1 comment

Well, I managed to get through more shelves in the studio, both closets, the upper cupboards and three bins of yarn. Since by that time I was throughly sick of the mess, I started on the back hall.

Several years ago we put a major bookcase in the back hall. I lovingly placed some books on the shelves and filled all the gaps with various stuffed animals, musical instruments and ornamental things. The Judaica went in the glass fronted cabinet and the cookbooks in the corner section. Over the last ten years those shelves have filled. First completely, then with paperbacks doubled and tripled up on many of the shelves. The YA section overflowed into the Cookbooks. The travel books had expanded from the living room and invaded all my medical reference on the bottom shelf and dust settled happily over the whole thing.

My first pass through was pretty brutal. All the medical references older than 10 years (other than Gray’s Anatomy which never goes out of date) are leaving as are 90+% of the mysteries, most of the romances and a lot of the junk fiction. I am hanging onto many of the hardbacks (which I no longer buy) as well as the Urban Fantasy (which doesn’t contain lovingly described vampires. I on the side of not buying sparkles). I now have several hundred books on both the terrace table and on the living room ledge backing up the knitting and sewing mags.

Yes, I know that I could make something on them in Berkeley if I wanted to haul them along. But really – given a weight allowance, if I want to make money bringing zauberball would be a lot smatter for the kilo.

Categories: Books & Tapes, home Tags:


June 12th, 2014 No comments

am I? In Germany I think. As long as I fall over my own feet too much from fatigue. It is not like I do all that well with the time zone changes in this direction. I keep quietly howling with laughter to myself when I hear all those on transatlantic crossings complain about losing 5 hours over 13 nights between Florida and Southampton.

I mean really, it is not all that much compared to – oh let us just say – the nine hours between San Francisco and Frankfurt done in one swell foop. So here I am after having been home a couple of days still staggering around with fatigue during the day and wide awake like a petulant toddler at night. All of which means that my original ambition to run errands and clean like mad just hasn’t happened.

But books – yes, I have managed to haul down 20 boxes of books from the attic and end up with 17 that are headed to swap shelves. Two of the other boxes are kids books and as such are not mine to give away and the 20th is SciFi/Fantasy which actually could be sold at various used book stores in the US if I was so inclined.

The end result is that I had no big adventures today…

Categories: Books & Tapes, home Tags:


June 11th, 2014 No comments

If you walk away from any computer for a number of minutes some preset programing will kick in. Perhaps you have yours set to shut down to save battery life or to screen lock requiring a password to break back in.

In the old days, most of us set various assorted screen savers, especially on PCs before someone figured out that it was an excellent way to spread viruses. The built in ones usually, but not always sucked. Either there were toasters flying around, some word spinning, flipping or morphing, or the ever popular logo.

I haven’t figured out how to import screen savers to my MacAir, but it turns out not to be relevant. I just have it set to flip up a montage of entries from iPhotos. Sometimes they are whole screens, sometimes 1/2 to 1/8 screen shots in various orders. Some of them actually have turned out to be pretty interesting.

old world doors

old world doors

New world Canadian Rockies

New world Canadian Rockies

Now, I wish I could just predict what was going to come up next….

Categories: Photos Tags:

And the Champ

March 17th, 2014 2 comments

pictures to follow from crossing the finish line.

photo 2

Dani once again proved that with training and determination you can mange just about anything including coming in about 20 minutes sooner than the estimated time she provided the race organisers.


Alex and his family were there to cheer her on and help celebrate.  He is doing well post reconstructive surgery and now just (!) has to get throughout the next courses of chemo.


Thank you so much for your support and I will keep you posted on how they are doing

Categories: family Tags:

New York 1/2 Marathon

March 15th, 2014 No comments

15 March 2014 – Just a reminder


For those who missed it the first time around or just stopped to think a moment, then kept on going (and my thanks to those who made a pledge).

This is probably only time I will ever mention something about fundraising. Considering all the charitable foundations in the world, it is hard to say that any are less deserving that others. So it comes down to the personal – what matters to you, affects you, your family, your friends.

In the case of tomorrow – which is the New York City 1/2 Marathon – it is Daniela (Ms Soprano, Ms Journalist, Daughter #2) who is running to raise money. It is not like she has a real love of running or sees herself as doing something for the world. This is personal. As part of Fred’s Team – her pledges go to Cancer Research.

Why?  Alex, her boy friend and all around good person was diagnosed with osteosarcoma this past fall. Osteosarcoma is primarily a disease of young people, mostly teenagers with a few in their 20s. So far he has undergone surgery, chemo therapy, reconstructive surgery and has more chemo in his future (through to next fall).  He was back in New York finishing his last year of university after having spent a year in Chicago as part of TeachAmerica.  He had not planned obviously on spending this year primarily being a patient of Sloan Kettering or needing hats to replace the hair he no longer has.

The donation link is here, please consider pledging even a small amount if you can (and thank you to those who already have or are supporting others also running tomorrow).


Categories: family Tags:

Can’t win

March 8th, 2014 No comments

8 March 2014 – Can’t win?

It is a sea day, the first of two before we hit the port of Ushuaia again. Tomorrow we are supposed to be rounding Cape Horn. Or, if the seas and the weather continue to increase it may be the Drake Passage instead. Me? I would rather the passage. It is not that I have anything against going round the horn, but the glaciers are a lot cooler to watch as we sail by than a simple island with a light house and Albatross monument.

So shoot me, but I got to see them on the last cruise. Admittedly, it is nice to be able to say that you have seen them. I like glaciers better (grin). So no matter what the new captain of the vessel choses, and safety will rule, someone will be happy and others not.

The excitement of the day consisted of participating in a Cabin Crawl (everyone was pretty impressed by the size and layout of my simple outside cabin) and the mandatory presentations at the Captain’s Club (Loyalty bit) for the most days cruised. Even with the new numbers game on Celebrity, the folks on board who have been on since Miami are still not going to hit Marios (the top RCI person’s level…)

Anywho – I am still thinking about the Youngest’s comment that I didn’t say much about her! Might have been because I was posting a day late. Might have been because I am commenting about her a lot. But mostly, I wasn’t sure how much she really wanted me to say!

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

College Guy + Punta del Este

March 5th, 2014 No comments
Jan in the Caribbean

Noah this Jan in the Caribbean

Continuing with my trend of talking about my wonderful offspring on their birthdays – College Guy turns 23 today. He is steadily cranking his way through community college, working and taking a break every once in a while when I can convince him to leave town. That is how I was able to get him on a ship this Jan; his father to get him to San Diego for a weekend last year.

But he has always been the quiet one of our four. Perhaps it is because he was third of four. More likely because having three sisters would be overwhelming to just about anyone. More so because I am sure that they always “knew” what he wanted and were more than willing to speak for him. Being more of a math/science person than languages probably didn’t help. But at the same time -he was the one who could look at something – take it apart and put it back together. The one who easily figured out how to fix things and could be depended on for certain household chores.

He is well liked and respected at work – about school I have absolutely no clue. But 23 in my world is even more important than 16, 18, 0r 21. It is the age at which he falls off my ID support, our taxes but not our lives. I am not sure what he has planned for today. I am hoping that one thing is to get online and sign up for health care. I was thinking about sending him flowers…… In any case, I would be more than happy to send along birthday greetings.

Punta del Este

the hand reaching up from the sand

the hand reaching up from the sand

When I was 23, the thought of traveling most of the world was beyond reach. Sure, I had done the backpacking through Europe with the Eurail Pass for three months right after I graduated. Since I had almost no money, spending what was left didn’t seem like much of a big deal. I had what I had and it was going to have to last. Please remember that 1971/2 was prior to Internet, affordable phone calls. It was the era of American Express money transfer and letter drops. Of taking overnight trains to save the money for a nights lodging. In spite of being school smart, I was extremely dumb and naive -trust me on that.

So here I am, 40 + years later. Sitting in Uruguay at what is to me a most reasonable time in the morning. Not so here. Nothing opens before 0900 and I have a feeling that 1000 is more like it. Not Burger King, not McDonalds. Nothing but the gas stations. I don’t get the feeling that the current religious holiday (Ash Wednesday) has anything to do with it. I just don’t think people here get up early.

At 0900 a few of the cafes opened. I checked the usual suspects – they either don’t have wifi or serve as a base for one of the local providers (no account:no service)

I have my picture of the hand and have walked the town. The Manos del Uruguay shop here doesn’t carry yarn. Since I don’t need sweaters or hats, I am not going to stay till/if they open.

Categories: family, Travel Tags:


February 10th, 2014 No comments

Did I mention how proud I am of my oldest daughter?

It is hard being the first, paving the way and teaching the two genetically related adults how to be parents. Then, after all that work seeing your younger siblings get the benefit of all that experience. And not have to deal with as much angst and restrictions as you did.

She survived it well and has grown to be a lovely adult. She has pitched in for her sibs when needed with the result of having a rather interesting career path spanning both sides of the Atlantic pond. It looks like she may have yet another change on the horizon as she is contemplating going back to school for a Master’s Degree. I know she is competent and capable – she is the one who finished undergraduate in less than four years. She is looking primarily at programs on the west coast since Germany is not a contender for programs that give you much consideration for more than a decade of work experience.

Shana has also reached the age when I will simply say that her birthday is 10 Feb and no longer give you the year although she is well below the magic “39 forever” milestone. Following family tradition, we took her out to dinner.


Categories: family Tags:

Third day home

February 8th, 2014 1 comment

And my head is still spinning a bit. Nothing has changed, but it does feel like I have distanced myself even that much more from all the “stuff” in the house which is a great thing. If  I can live without everything for 3 months at a time, I probably don’t need it.

But wait, I think, what happens when I can’t travel. If I ditch everything then I won’t have yarn and needles and patterns and fabric or a sewing machine or spinning wheels. What about all my books. Since I am not a clothes horse – that part of the equation doesn’t even exist. Nor are shoes high on my list of importance. In fact, my husband has a lot more shoes than I do. Never mind that all of his look the same, it is the principle of the thing.  I have my stock four pairs (flip-flops, keens, sandals and running shoes) on the road and two pairs of heeled shoes, one pair of flats , a pair of white sandals and an extra pair of sport shoes. That is my entire shoe wardrobe. I haven’t even had hiking shoes for years since my Keens have become my do-all shoes for just about anything other than the treadmill, the shower or a dressy evening (which is where those two pairs of sandals come into play).

It still was extremely easy when packing up for the Saturday Strikktreff to toss in some yarn and fiber in hopes that it would go home with someone else.  It was lovely seeing everyone and it was even nicer being able to handover all those magazines that I have been lugging around since Hawaii (yes, early Oct for those who are counting).

Now, if I could figure out when to sleep…….

Categories: home, Knitting Tags:

Hole in the ground

February 6th, 2014 No comments

My lovely, wonderful guy picked me up at the airport this morning and drove me home. Both he and the Eldest had mentioned road construction on Panorama but I really hadn’t paid any attention. After all, I was in the Caribbean. Bumpy street in front of the house? Eh!

And then we arrived home to find

A hole, at least a meter wide and more than that deep

A hole, at least a meter wide and more than that deep

But actually I can’t really call it a hole. It is a trench along the street. On the side that we live. Since there is slope down into a park on the other side of the road it is just us here at the bend to appreciate the challenge.

see the boards across the trench?

see the boards across the trench?

and gee – it is just wide enough to drive a car across and into the garage. If you are brave, up for a challenge and not spatially impaired. Me? No way am I driving in or out of the garage. There are buses, taxis, streetcars and husband if I need to get anywhere before Tues.

Oh, did I mention that the street before they did this was barely a single car wide? And that the road is completely blocked a bit further up meaning you need a transporter beam to turn around…..

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

New York 1/2 Marathon

February 1st, 2014 No comments

Interrupting the normal travel and knitting log -

Consider all the charitable foundations in the world, most of whom are not shy about asking for your money – all in a good cause. Some of the causes are more interesting to you than others, but all are critical to someone.

Right now I am considering cancer, and what it does to anyone’s life, much that of a young person. Especially if you were just back in university for your senior year after spending a year in Chicago working in TeachAmerica. That pain and discomfort which you were reassured was a simple cyst – wasn’t. The semester was trashed, the rest of the year gone and you have no hair. Chemo therapy is not kind to anyone and the strain can be devastating. Your girlfriend, locked into a course which started on its once a year cycle in September is beside herself. What she can do is run, coming back from a foot fracture a couple of years ago.

And so that takes it to my daughter #2 who plans on entering the 16 March 2014 Half Marathon in New York City. Osteosarcoma is primarily a disease of young people. Teenagers to be blunt and uncommon enough that Dani decided that contributions to Sloan Kettering’s Research would be the best way to go. The donation link is here, please consider it.

Categories: family Tags:

Jacqueline Mertes Bird 1926-2014

January 30th, 2014 No comments

It was going to be Antigua That is where I am today – another little slice of paradise in the Caribbean. Like many of the other islands, the story of the island involves explores from South America via boats down the Orinoco, European colonial powers, slavery, disease and long battles for self determination. Instead I am going to divert to more personal matters.  Most of the time, when someone writes about an essay/obituary it is all about the good, wonderful things the person did. This is more about reaching an understanding for myself about how life experiences shape you, influence your choices and interactions with the world. Some of it made sense to me growing up, other parts are my interpretation being long past the point of my  life where any of it is personal, which may say more about me than her.

Jacqueline Mertes born 23 Sept 1926 died Jacqueline Bird 29 Jan 2014.

To be a small child during the depression is something that I can’t imagine. To worry about your next meal, to not feel welcome in the home where you and your mother live, to wear hand-me-downs. It is not an experience that I can claim any coherent understanding. What I do know now is that it formed the core of Linn’s being and personality. To hold part of oneself in reserve and to always expect the axe to fall. My mother and grandmother Esther lived with the eldest of  Esther’s sister in small town Minnesota after they left California when Linn was small. To be a child without two parents in the middle of a narrow minded community would have been a challenge for the most strong of will. Doing well in school would have been an exit strategy.

Attending the University of Minnesota, Linn graduated in 1948 with one of the liberal arts BA which qualified you to be a secretary (if you could also type) or a MRS which is what I think she really wanted. To be part of a family, to be on the inside rather than an observer.

My parents were married in 1948. I was born in 1950, April in 1954. I am sure that my mother was not what my grandparents had envisioned  for their “prince of a son.” I don’t think she understood the uphill battle she was facing. Thinking back, I can’t imagine two people less suited for each other (past the flash of initial attraction) with one sure he ruled the world and the other just waiting for something to go wrong. .It did, which should not have been a surprise and I am sure that there was plenty of blame to go around. But my sister and I were caught in the middle and suffered all what I know are the normal reactions of children trapped in a silent battle ground. April was cute, I was smart and the two of us were never encouraged to be close by either of our parents.

Looking back, I now know that Linn did what she needed to in order to survive and put a roof over our heads. I will tell you that in line with the average teen I had more than the usual amount of hostility and anger being caught in the mess and not understanding much of what was happening. Self-centered is a way of life at that age. She remarried to Melvin Bird in about 1965. None of which I understood till I was in my mid-thirties with a terrific husband and an incredibly lovely daughter to think about having to start over at that age with nothing but two children who needed love, food, stability. She did what the women of her generation did.

I really don’t know much about her life between when I left home in 1968 till 1985. She came to our wedding in 1978 and exhibited disapproval at the way I was living my life. Or I though it was until I realized that she was mostly scared that something bad would happen to me.  She and Mel visited when we moved to DC the first time. The experience was not a positive one to put it mildly.

I next saw Linn ~ early 2000 when I attended a meeting in Albuquerque, NM. Meeting on a middle ground was the best I could do. I never saw her again which meant I could keep my prejudices intact about her smoking, drinking and priorities of which I had not felt that I was one.

Now, dealing with the aftermath of her death in Arkansas it is probably time I grow up as well. To let go of hurts and slights. To examine how it has affected me and my choices. To hope that she had good years with the choices she made. It is not the same as when George’s mother died; a person who had devoted her life to her husband, son, grandchildren, family and beliefs. Her passing was a hole in our lives that has healed. Linn has not been part of my life for decades.

I can’t find tears, feeling or emotions at her death; I lost those back in my teens. What I can do is feel relief that I was able to do at least a minimum for her: to make sure that her wishes were respected with regards to DNR, excessive measures.  To make sure that anything she left behind goes to April, the daughter who had the longest and most difficult burden.

Linn was lovely and loved. I will grieve for the person she was before Alzheimer’s took her away. I can have regret for choices that we both made; ones that set us permanently on different paths. If she hadn’t been who she was I would never have had the drive to go to school, achieve, support myself and hug my children.

Those are not insubstantial gifts and will last far longer than the basic gift of life and breath.




Categories: family Tags:

Day 12

January 11th, 2014 1 comment
Ms Maus & College Guy

Ms Maus & College Guy

My travel companions who are currently (allegedly packing). Unless, of course, they are sleeping

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

plus two

January 4th, 2014 No comments
The Route

The Route

The Ship

The Ship

and the two youngest who are coming along!




Sat Jan 4 Fort Lauderdale, FL 5:30pm
Sun Jan 5 At Sea
Mon Jan 6 At Sea
Tue Jan 7 St. Maarten 8:00am 6:00pm
Wed Jan 8 St. Kitts 7:00am 5:00pm
Thu Jan 9 San Juan, Puerto Rico 7:00am 2:00pm
Fri Jan 10 Labadee, Haiti 10:00am 6:00pm
Sat Jan 11 At Sea
Sun Jan 12 Fort Lauderdale, FL 5:30am
Categories: family, Travel Tags:

She’s 25 already

December 18th, 2013 No comments

It was just after 0100 in the morning that Ms Daniela (aka Ms Soprano, Ms Journalism) decided to make her entrance 18 Dec 1988. Over the years I have watched her grow from an amazingly determined toddler into a smart but shy with others school girl to self confidence in her musical abilities. She is perhaps harder on herself than anyone else and I am afraid has picked up too many of my traits (which is not always a positive if included on the list are not suffering fools and procrastination). Dani is loyal to a fault which can and has been taken advantage of by friends.
This year is a rough one for her – she is involved in a demanding and intensive broadcast technical course while managing apartment, dog and life. Her boyfriend is in NYC in the middle of his first round of chemotherapy. She was there over Thanksgiving with her next visit over New Years. Unfortunately, she can’t take a break from her course without forfeiting the entire year.

If you have her email from last year, send her a birthday greeting or else I will gladly forward (says the proud mom).

Categories: family Tags:

and starting another year

October 2nd, 2013 18 comments

which makes this my 63rd birthday in sunshine. I was going to say that I was starting my 63rd year, but realized it would be my 64th since the birthday celebrates the completion of a year, rather than the start.

Now that I have you totally confused let it just be that I am in Maui with sunshine, sand and surf. Specifically we had an overnight here anchored off Lahaina.  Symbolic of the town is the Banyan Tree



It was a lovely day for a walk around, a look at some of the historical sites

and a laugh

which is not a submarine

which is not a submarine

I don’t feel any older today than yesterday but that should not surprise me or anyone else. What I do know is that I am skipping the main dining rooms tonight in favor of the buffet to avoid stupidity and embarrassment on the part of the staff not being one for public displays of cakes and birthday songs.

My best to all of you!

heading back to the ship

heading back to the ship

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Still to do

September 5th, 2013 10 comments

The suitcase is packed. All the various assorted gifts, yarn, books, hats and audiobooks are in the duffle. Cameras packed, documents all run off.

Even did the on-line check in.

I would pack up the computer early and head to bed except for this slight problem …. I have this external hard drive which is flaky so I started Data Rescue on it, and I have just noticed that is it going to be hours yet before it is done. And since there are mostly MP3 files showing up, it means I am probably salvaging audio books and music.

There is also the issue of communications in the US. I had a US cell phone. I have not clue one as to in which safe place it is languishing awaiting rescue. Meanwhile,


so the next step was identifying a cell phone that it would fit. Turns out we have two Samsung with the right size slot.

one black, one white, no clue which works!

one black, one white, no clue which works!

After a search of several cupboards, bags, storage bins and the like, I finally located a charger with the correct proprietary connector.  Then I had to find the UK-> EU adapter plug but I remembered it being attached to something in the kitchen so it wasn’t as hard as it could have been.

see that thing? the one between the plug and the wall?

see that thing? the one between the plug and the wall?


Otherwise, have been organizing, hanging out, knitting and watching the first season of Phryne Fisher.

Early train to Frankfurt and flight to Calgary in the morning…..

oh, and there are the dishes and the garbage and ….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

New Pages

August 26th, 2013 No comments

Today’s adventure started with my phone alarm waking me out of a drooling sleep at 0400. It is dark at that time in the morning; just thought I should mention it. I should get up promptly but it took two warnings before I dragged myself out of bed and got organized. I did manage to get out of the house by 0500 and to the train station in plenty of time to score a cappuccino and a bretzel (don’t ask about the combination – not good. A croissant would have been a much better choice.) The rain was just enough to make our stairs slippery with slugs and require the use of an umbrella.

It was quiet, walking in the dark and I chose the overland route rather than visit the trolls under the bridge. It would have been most likely that they were wrapped up like mummies in a row on their mattresses in order to keep out the glaring pathway lights. But still. It is early, I am older and don’t feel like jogging in good clothes.

Once on the train I discovered once again why, when I can afford it, it just might be worth wasting the extra 6€ more on a first class ticket instead of 2nd since my bahncard covers both. It is not that the seats are more comfortable or the passengers all that differently dressed.Admittedly, that difference today bought an all day pass on Frankfurt’s public transportation network.

Where was I? Oh, yes. In the train car with the people who just wouldn’t shut up. At 0600 in the morning? I guess when you are the one expounding to your fellow traveler and raising your voice so that everyone else can hear how important you are [not]; you don’t hear how obnoxious and annoying you are to the people around you. If it had been just two people nattering, it would have been one thing, but when it is 6-8 different sets talking to each other or on their cell phones about traffic getting to the train station or the content of their suitcase…. I would plug in and drop out if I could.

Which leads me to my next issue – lack of electronics. The US Embassy was very specific – no electronics inside the Embassy and no storage lockers. Specifically this meant no cells phones, computers, iPad, iPods or electronic games. Now I have real books and knitting so I am not completely lost – but ear plugs would have been wonderful.

What also would have been wonderful would have been updated instructions on finding the place on their website. There was this slight matter of construction on the U5 meaning that you had to change to an Ersatz bus to get the rest of the way. Not having a GPS (see no electronics above), I meandered along for a couple of blocks after the streetcar dead-ended. Managing to finally get information out of one of the bus drivers – I took the long way around to what turned out to be 3 blocks from where I had started.

The Embassy opens promptly on time. As it turns out, to get inside you have to have an appointment. Once you have an appointment, then it is first come first served as long as you are not late. End result? I was out of there by 0830 for a 0930 appointment.

What was I doing? Getting new pages sewed and glued into my passport. Some places (read South America) want you to have a whole page just for their Visa. Since I was down to only two blank pages, there was no way I was going to make it to expiration in 2021. Now $82 for 48 sheets added or $190 for a new passport? Duh!

So there I was, back home by noon and ready to tackle more chores: books, cleaning, kitchen, knitting…..

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

So glad

August 25th, 2013 2 comments

to be home last night that I didn’t even care that all the left over socks were still on the terrace table or that the mailbox was stuffed with sale leaflets. Or, for that matter that the fridge didn’t get emptied or the garbage taken out.

Why am I not up in arms? Because the dear man got started on the family room downstairs AND schlept my goodies back from the US. The first season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the yarn I had ordered from Harrisville so that I can finish the Rainbow Jacket that has been languishing over a year and my Signature Knitting Needles in sizes 3,4,5,6 of the new stem and swapable cable construction.

So my day was occupied with the simple tasks of being home:

    Clean out the fridge
    take out the garbage
    do laundry
    sort out the mail
    double check all the on-line bills
    send email to a lot of people
    back up all the photos from my hard drive

Oh – yes – and try out the new knitting needles!

Categories: home Tags:

what time is it?

August 8th, 2013 4 comments

The problem, or should I say challenge, with waking in the middle of the night is two fold. First you have the confusion of ?huh? why am I awake. Secondly you need to go back to sleep. If you have a sudden wakefulness and wonder why – you have a serious issue and mentally have to go through the list: no, not a burglar; not a bomb, the house deciding to self-destruct or any of the infinite number of Armageddon options. Most certainly it was not the phone which is sitting there minding its own business with dark face. It is sleeping, so should you. I have no pets, and the siebenschlafer exercised so much during the day that they are quiet now.

While I am going through all of these options the exit to sleep spins past on the drive down the road back to oblivion. Putting ones head back down and ordering oneself to sleep works about as well as you would expect. Not. at. all. Faintly  perceptible sounds take on ominous significance. If you start to speculate then all hope is lost: just as  you hit that drowsy point a forgotten watch alarm sounds. Set the last time you had to rise early for the last direct train to the airport it doesn’t help this morning being a day to early and several hours before any reasonable suggestion of outside light. 

So there I was. Before 0400 in the morning and unable to sleep. I could read, play computer games or think about cleaning up something around the house. Right – not. Instead I cleaned up computer files for a few hours, dropped off books before 0600 again and started on the packing and organizing.

By mid afternoon I was packed, the living room cleaned up and the bedroom floor rediscovered. Files are downloaded, blueberries eaten, patterns printed, the car safely garaged and the backpack ready to take on the computer before being hoisted on my back for departure.  In my effort to also be a responsible member of the household I dealt with most of the laundry (left George 3 baskets of his clean stuff + linens/towels), took care of the worst of the dining room, made the kitchen presentable and stacked up all the books that will go out when I get back.

Oh, where am I going? Civitavecchia tomorrow, Legend of the Seas the day after. And, I will even get to have lunch with George! Hopefully anyway. His plane is due in ~1145 and I don’t leave for three hours after that. If his plane is late, well I have my iPad and knitting…….


I don’t even have to catch a train before 0915!


Categories: home Tags:

At dawn

August 7th, 2013 4 comments

Before 0600 in the morning the streets of Heidelberg are almost silent. Street parking along the Ploch is still legal which explains why I find it easiest to drop off heavy bags of books by car at this insane time of morning. If it would be just a couple of books, I can stick them in my backpack. Or, like I did when Brad came through for a visit – filled both of our backpacks for the hike into town.  But 35-40 books a mix of paperbacks and hard covers? No, not the 2.6 km hike (distance according to Google Maps).

Wednesday is bio/blue pickup followed by the gelbetonne truck almost immediately after. I don’t mind waiting for the trucks since all I am doign today is errands. From Heidelberg it is Landstuhl where I manage to pick up prescription renewals, find the ATM, Tri-Care and stop at the VA admin office. It is here that I discover that they happily scanned all my paperwork last summer into the system, but didn’t notify anyone that they had done so. I now know how to ask on line (required 5 day business response) with an email address that actually goes to a live person on the return.

Back home before noon I hiked back into town. Seems like a package that I had passed along to family members to mail in Feb became seperated from the address and never went out. So I went to the Post Office, mailed off the package, bought post card stamps and headed back home.

The rest of the day I would like to say I spent organizing, but to tell you the truth I read 1/2 through Broken Homes – Book 4 in the Rivers of London urban fantasy by Ben Aaronovich. The series is excellent. Mostly a police procedural focusing on the weird it manages to be funny, entertaining and avoids the stereotypical romances, vampires and werewolves. I read the first book while in the UK, then bought all three in audio. Now, reading the fourth, I can hear Kobna Holdbrook-Smith in my head with his wonderful interpretation and character voices.  Publication in the US looks to be about 6 months behind the US which means I won’t be able to get the audio till next spring.

Now all I have to do is get organized, pack, finish picking up and maybe get in a bit of reading or knitting.

Categories: Books & Tapes, home Tags:

Flash Bam

August 6th, 2013 6 comments

It is 1600 in the afternoon and I was about to step foot out the door, headed downtown to pick up a book. While I was at it, the plan was to off-load another backpack of books at the free bookshelf. It is a nice, pleasant walk in spite of the summer heat wave.

Suddenly it seemed much, much darker and a whirl of leaves blew in the door. I had to run and close a few windows which started smashing in their frames at the sudden blast of wind. I realized that the temperature must be down at least five degrees in the last fifteen minutes and the sky has turned a sickly green color. If I was in the US, I would be looking for tornados, but we simply don’t have them here.

greenish roiling sky

greenish roiling sky

I went and rescued the newspapers which had blown all over the terrace to the sound of rapidly approaching thunder. I am now looking out the terrace door with thunder cracking as the lightening finishes with peal upon peal deafening in its intensity.

the start

the start

The rain is sheeting across the terrace and pouring off every horizontal surface.

but no hail

but no hail

It is icy and I shiver just watching it and imagining if I had finished and left even ten minutes earlier.

raining hard enough to photo

raining hard enough to photo

I am warm, with my computer, knitting and cup of cocoa. My iPhone weather apps are all reporting 29*C with 70% chance of thundershowers. I think someone needs to insert some manual sense. It is raining those winds are certainly blowing harder than 4km an hour.

Ah, as I watch, TWC (the weather channel) drops the temp to 20* but the rest of them are still letting me it is 30*C. Go figure, I don’t get it.



At 1700, the storm is over and I head out to run my errands. The pavement is already starting to dry and the sun is shining. Ok, so maybe I still have to wash the car?

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