Archive for the ‘home’ Category

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?

Categories: home Tags:

departing books

August 4th, 2013 6 comments

I made a trip up into the attic this morning before even my morning coffee. The temperature rises rapidly and I had every intention of beating the heat. The socks are as sorted as is going to be and the rest are going to become loopers as a friend needs some cat mats. Sleeves has been completed and only awaits blocking.

The attic stairs pull down from a trap in our kitchen ceiling.



As you would expect, the air is still and the space is criss-crossed with spider webs which might be why every decent horror story includes an attic. Failing an attic there is normally a cellar with a hidden room of evil. I just adore tropes.

its like that the whole way back

its like that the whole way back

Where was I? Oh yes, covered with dirt and cobwebs ready to sacrifice more books of books to the ravening hordes who descend on the bookshelves of Neuegasse like the starving. Staging the boxes on the stairs provided a bit of short term entertainment and limited the amount of time I had to endure the moth and spider infested place. Mostly the boxes are small; eliminating the strain on my back but increasing markedly the trip. On the other hand, it sounds more impressive to say that I emptied a baker’s dozen boxes of books than 3.

and feels more like progress

and feels more like progress

Armed with pre-printed labels, scissors, strong coffee and clear tape it looks like I will be mostly labeling series romance today. Unfortunately I accumulated an excessive amount when we lived in Munich. Depressed, turning 50, living where I knew no one outside of the family, reading provided the perfect escape. No thought, no brains, not at all current reality.

After spending most of the day on the terrace, I relocated inside when the sun became too hot.

organized, stacked and still a lot of entry to do

organized, stacked and still a lot of entry to do

I have labeled almost all of this batch and have entered a goodly number into Bookcrossing. The ones on the chair have still to be entered but I am making progress. (We will not say anything at all about the three boxes still remaining on the patio). A number of the knitters are stopping by tomorrow so I am hoping a few books will leave with them. The rest will be dropped off at Neuegasse Bücherregal to find new homes. I am hoping they enjoy their journey.

Categories: Books & Tapes, home Tags:

quiet observations

August 3rd, 2013 6 comments

It was about 1900 when I started back toward home. Our Strikktreff had run late since it was so lovely sitting outside Red. Given that I hiked into town it is more than reasonable to assume that a stroll toward was in order.

I try different routes each time; it lets me see more of the city including the warren of little streets that make up the Weststadt. Houses, cafes, people and interesting architecture are mixed with a fine hand scattering smaller neighborhoods like small jewels. After crossing Kurfürstenanlage, strassenbahn tracks and the busbahnhof (which, with no surprise is just off Bahnhofstrasse) I headed down Häusserstraße.

This is dinner time for most families with small children. Since it is summer, the sun will not be down for a few hours. Stomping along the other side of the street from me were four young boys wearing t-shirts, shorts and sturdy shoes. They were pushing, shoving and bumping each other in the manner of small boys every where. A man, obviously their father was a few strides ahead of them with a young girl of about three skipping and swinging from his hand. I couldn’t clearly see faces since the papa and three of the four boys had baseball caps pulled firmly down on the heads. The fourth boy had the standard black velvet yarmulke perched firmly on the back of his head.

I looked up and realized we were a block short of the Jüdische Geimeinde so I think I knew their destination. And so you have the Germany of today where a family can stroll down the sidewalk on a summer’s evening. Headed perhaps to services and Havdalah on Shabbos.

Categories: home, Jewish Life Tags:


August 2nd, 2013 11 comments

Doing too much laundry in the heat (36°C in the shade) including running a couple of loads through the dryer before intelligence kicked in might just be my only excuse. I was sick of the pile of dirty things on the floor and the mess of the laundry room. Additionally I needed laundry baskets so I went hunting.

And that must have been when insanity struck. There were a number of partly full baskets stacked around my husband’s side of the closet. Consolidating them was simple. I had started with the thought that I might even put some of it away but the realization hit me with exceeding rapidity. The shirts were crumpled – it was going to be iron or re-wash. Duh – no decision there. The rest could be folded quickly. Almost, but not quite. Socks do not fold quickly.

By the time I had them all gathered up, those sucks socks had multiplied into dozens and dozens of single smug individuals daring me to make a fuss. So back I went to the laundry room to gather up all the orphans and give them a wash in the next load. If I was going to do this – might as well maximize the results and toss the rest.

months and months - or years? of socks

months and months – or years? of socks


So I informed the socks who were trying to slither out of sight under the couch or inside pairs of jeans. Match or be discarded, I informed them. They sneered at me in their multi-sized, colored, and shaped glory. Make us!

So I started the division. It became rapidly obvious that there were far fewer of white, or had be born out of the package originally white

in at least three lengths

in at least three lengths

Where as the black/brown/grey/navy crew had proliferated exuberantly and had no interest in being made to function in sedate pairs.

instead holding a football scrum in defiance

instead holding a football scrum in defiance

Even an attempt to line them in orderly ranks dissolved in the face of variety of size, shape and design much less position as displayed. Do you know how many shades of black exist?

If I line them all up, they pitch fits and throw themselves on the floor.

If I line them all up, they pitch fits and throw themselves on the floor.

I won a partial battle

and so declared victory.

and so declared victory.

I am going to do a last sort tomorrow in strong daylight before tossing all the excess in the garbage. Wonder how smug those unrepentant partnerless socks are going to be then …..

Categories: family, home, socks Tags:

itchy bumps

August 1st, 2013 4 comments

It has been an extremely wet year which may explain why I woke up covered in mosquito bites. Well, no, the reason I have been bitten has something to do with the current German temperature and the appauling ignorance of screens in basic home design.

For a people who are so meticulous about everything else, I just don’t understand why there are no screens on the windows.

I thought of a few possible reasons starting with traditions – we don’t put on screens because we never have put on screens. Now admittedly, most of Germany was never the swamp of the Netherlands and home grown malaria was not the issue here that it was in the low lands (last cases in the 1950s). Many more people lived in cities, but that would to me say flies which are also not pleasant company besides being such excellent disease carriers in all those years before completely modern waste disposal.

So I went looking for other reasons. It is hard to air your bed linen out the second floor windows if you have to deal with screens. Now shutter which close at night? Those might help but how do you breathe in the stifling heat? Harder to water your window flower boxes perhaps? Or there might be the simple issue of screens being a relatively modern development. There might be the small matter of double hung windows which slide up and down vs whole window assemblies which swing in or down. See comment about bed linen airing, wash hanging and window boxes above.

This year has been the worst in my memory which admittedly only includes most, but not all of the German summers of the last 32 years. Stray wasps, bees from the hives next door and the occasional fly, but I don’t remember ever being this badly bitten. I guess I should be glad that thus far malaria has not reinvaded Western Europe although Dengue has gradually been moving north from the Mediterranean. Mosquito born diseases are so not much fun. But then again, at least they are not the size nor are they numerous as those I grew up with in Minnesota, the monsters of Alaska or the disease ridden dive bombers of Kenya.

But, as I tripped over it on the way out of the bedroom this morning, I now understood the small bottle of Bullfrog insect repellant kicking around the floor.

Categories: home, yarn Tags:

Household Oddities – the year was 2008

July 30th, 2013 9 comments

or maybe earlier? In any case there are some people who go dumpster diving for starvations, some for salvage of interesting things and others probably related to investigations.

I don’t do dumpsters (see yesterday’s comments) but I wind up going cupboard diving. Every once in a while it is useful to note what is on hand. Like in the baking cupboard. After tossing out the partly open and strange I was still left with

grains, spices and ?

grains, spices and ?

I thought I recognized some of them, but then I lived in the UK from Jan 08-Aug 10, Afganistan Sep 10- March 11 before returning here for about 4 weeks. Then I started my repetitive departures for other parts of the world, cruise ships or any other excuses I could find (medical conferences and continuing education are always good excuses, right?)

So I have these packages of grains, rice, seasoning all of which seem to be US in origin or US procured. Except fot the coconut flakes which had to have come from Rewe.  The spices I brought back from Conference trip to Albuquerque.

There are also all these bread mixes

at least they are all German

at least they are all German

which places them possibly after I retired but before the bread machine paddle went missing. I was so fascinated by the process that I started checking dates on other packages, cans, bottles, containers.

dating from 2000 on.....

dating from 2000 on…..

US packaging is easy – there is an expiration or best used by date on everything. German packaging gives you the production date and assumes you are smart enough to figure out if it is still good. Most of the UK origin goods had no dates what so ever, but since I know when I moved the household goods back, this doesn’t prove to be an issue. A total surprise was the expired ketchup; but without College Guy at home it no longer flows like water.  Let me close this section by saying that the biocontainer will be well used in the morning.

The absence of school children in my life means a lack of brown paper lunch sacks. Given that everyone in Germany brings their own bags to grocery stores, I don’t have a source there either. Now at this point you are shaking your head. First the cupboard, then all those interesting but not safe to eat items and now brown paper bags? Perhaps she has completely flipped her cork?

No, the whole search was actually quite practical. A desire for a bowl of popcorn started me off on the exploration. The bag of kernels was, of course, in the very last of the cupboards.

the reason for the evenings adventure

the reason for the evenings adventure

The ack of paper bags eliminated microwave preparation and forced me to improvise with pan, oil, stove.

what an insult to the cookware

what an insult to the cookware

But I had my popcorn!

much healthier than Gummi Bears

much healthier than Gummi Bears

Categories: home Tags:

Household Oddities – a place for everything

July 29th, 2013 9 comments

There is an backwards L shape where the counter meets the stove top extension. A vertical line of drawers on the right hand side of the sink holds the type of things you would expect: the top drawer originally was the knife drawer. A handy location for all those odds and ends which just don’t fit into the knife block. The one below it was where I intended to house all the smaller measuring devices. On the counter reside two containers for all those stove top mixing and stirring utensils.

This evening I needed a pair of kitchen scissors or, failing that, an old knife. Opening up the drawer …



Ok, absence of scissors but presence of knives. plus an obvious accumulation of not an inconsiderable number of other items.

say what? this is the knife drawer

say what? this is the knife drawer

I started carefully fishing and pulled out some measuring cups, a tea-strainer, and three of those delightful sharp little skewers for ears of corn.

and corks. More corks than anything else

and corks. More corks than anything else

Now, even the presence of four different kinds of corkscrews doesn’t explain those corks. Since the total consumption of wine around here amounts to an occasional glass in the evening consumed by George on those nights when he is in town, I an only postulate them being dropped in the drawer or rolling off the counter when the final glass of wine has been poured from a bottle. I have a sneaking suspicion that it has taken a significant number of months to accumulate

a dozen corks?

a dozen corks?

Suppose anyone is going to be upset that I moved them all of 1 meter – into the trash?

Categories: home Tags:

Sticky Floors

July 28th, 2013 5 comments

Normally I don’t deal with kitchen floors. It is part of my “I don’t do kitchens & bathrooms” deal that my DH offered along with marriage over 35 years ago. At the time I was being stubborn and working about 80 hours a week. I don’t think that he really thought that I would take him seriously; certainly not seriously for the rest of our lives.

But why should I do kitchens or bathrooms if I don’t need to? Obviously, I have been known to take out garbage when it becomes too terrible or empty out the fridge. But mostly I really believe in clean it up as you go (toss out, wipe up, put in dishwasher, toss out empty shampoo containers, etc) which really reduces the amount of maintenance cleaning that is needed.

None of this made any difference when a bottle slid out of the fridge and landed upright on the floor. The height was only a meter which didn’t make a bit of difference to that brown glass which gave a fractured cry, shattered and promptly dumped its contents all over the already dingy kitchen floor.

just the bigger pieces

just the bigger pieces

I mopped up the worst of it and decided I would cope better in the morning. I am the only one home. I set my mental clock to don’t walk barefoot into the kitchen and went back to knitting while listening to Murder in the Dark by Kerry Greenwood.

It is now morning and things don’t look a whit better.

in fact it looked worse this morning

in fact it looked worse this morning

Before getting started on the scrubbing the vacuum seemed in order. No sense getting all those little pieces of glass off the floor while leaving grandma spiders webs intact -right? Also that old candy, the birthday paper, two pens and some cloth bags suddenly decided that underneath the table benches were no longer a safe hiding place. I considered anything up to eye height as fair game. After hunting down and killing my very own sponge, I set to work.

tools of the trade

tools of the trade

Four buckets of hot soapy water and some elbow grease later I sat back and admired my work thinking those tiles had not been that clean since right before they were installed.

I looked around the rest of the kitchen and sighed. Then firmly throttled any further impulse to do something completely out of character and headed to the livingroom with coffee cup in hand. This, of course, is after hanging up rags, emptying mop bucket and returning the vacuum cleaner to their rightful [out of my sight] locations.



No seriously, I did do a little bit more.

and after

and after

Another Baby Hitchhat

1/3 of the new hat

1/3 of the new hat

Categories: home, Prose Tags:

she doesn’t need to be art

July 26th, 2013 1 comment

For the last decade she has been sitting quietly on the top shelf of the bookcase watching over the back hall. For reasons that I have never examined too closely, I never felt comfortable having her on display in the living room nor that it might be necessary to do so.



I vaguely remember her creation – I was youngish. Maybe about 6-9? But certainly long before my teens. I don’t spend a lot of time remembering that portion of my life. There was reading, there was home where I did a lot of reading and school which I detested with every last fiber of my being. The only thing worse at that time of my life was riding the school bus. Which means, if I want to narrow down a time frame, it must have been when we lived in Hopkins on Drill Lane since I don’t remember my mother doing much sculpting after we moved out to Excelsior. It is stunning to realize, when I count back that this means my mother at the time was about the age that our Eldest is now.

Never seeing a likeness nor understanding her slightly asymmetrical face I had relegated her possession to somewhere in the back of my mind. Even when Maus created a self-portrait bust I didn’t see a resemblance. Stubborn set to the chin – no question but to me the face/head are generic. I also don’t remember exactly when she came into my possession. I know that my sister managed to get Atlas to me after we moved to Heidelberg. I am still wondering what happend to the Giant in chains who I always appreciated- but the Lady?

Then today I had hats to photograph. After doing various assorted standard flat things, it occurred to me that a bust might be just the ticket.

Cleaning off a thick layer of dust gave me an idea of exactly how long she has been ignored and neglected. Both the block of the base needed careful tending. She is porcelain clay with a glaze.

Then I tried on the hats!

Categories: family, home, Knitting Tags:

Ok, guys –

July 23rd, 2013 No comments


how many blue shirts are enough?

I mean, really. I do understand that for your average heterosexual male, shirts come in only about three colors (blue, white, and maybe natural/yellow). But seriously, how many is enough?

door 1

door 1

I went and counted my shirts: I have six fancy blouses (navy stripe, red stripe, grey stripe, two white various and one black). I have for the rest of my existence: two black, one white, one red check, one purple check and one plaid. All of the later are the sports/wash-n-wear with the sleeves that can be rolled and buttoned to imitate short sleeves.

I counted just what was on hangers: 49 shirts that are blue. blue striped or blue as part of the plaid. Amazing! Not including whatever he is currently wearing or has in the closet in Switzerland it means that my dear husband can go at least 10 business weeks without ever wearing the same shirt twice. Longer if I add in the white ones or the rare shirt with some other flavor (green, grey, red).

door 2

door 2

In case you are wondering what started me on this rant it is actually quite simple!

I was recovered enough from yesterdays migraine to feel like I should do something useful. Laundry is useful and necessary especially when returning from a trip. So naturally it rained this morning. Of course, it was raining – I wanted sun in order to block some shawls and dry laundry. Sitting on the terrace I grumped around, then went and threw the first load in the dryer since waiting around or hanging it out in the non-existent sunshine seemed pretty stupid.

Finally about 1330 it penetrated my thick skull that the idiot chirping birds were now celebrating sunshine rather than warbling about the morning showers. After wondering why anyone needed fiver partly filled laundry baskets, I dumped two of his together and headed down to grab both the load in the washer and the one in the dryer.

clothes basket

clothes basket

Then I needed hangers. It was at this point as I found batch after batch of blue shirts hanging here and there on doorknobs and in the closet I realized that we were out of hangers because every last freaking one of them had a blue shirt occupying them.

door 3

door 3

I do have a right to say something don’t I? I mean after all, its not my fault that my favorite Jack Wolfskin hiking pants only come in black and I happen to seven pairs. They are all different …….

Categories: home Tags:

Major milestone

July 11th, 2013 No comments

65 has got to be one of those milestones that is so far in the future when you are a college student that you can’t imagine every being that old. Nor probably that life doesn’t end at the age of 30.

Some of us like to celebrate birthdays – others (like me) are more than pleased to have gained another year of experience but would rather skip all the excitement.

My husband is one who enjoys a party. What is more, it has become almost an annual event in July – on his birthday (the 11th which is why you are reading this) or as close to it as he can come given weekdays are not the best time for friends to hang around on the terrace, drink beer and BBQ.

Go ahead, wish him a happy birthday – grATaeris-capitalDOTcom

Categories: family Tags:

It is raining

July 2nd, 2013 1 comment

really, really raining. I knew it was going to rain. All my iPhone weather apps said that is was going to rain just about everywhere in the world that I track. Except Seattle – go figure, they are going to have 0% chance of rain for the next week.

Anyway, I was thinking about rain as I headed out.  I knew it was going to rain.

Now, do you think I had an umbrella or got wet?

Categories: home Tags:

Productive day

July 1st, 2013 No comments

I can’t say as that I made any resolutions on getting my act together. Non the less, looking around this disaster of a house I will have to admit having at least some of the responsibility. Can’t dust or vacuum if I am not here but that isn’t most of it.

Most of it is all the “stuff.”  I have mentioned before not really being horders, more like being packrats. Horders save everything, packrats save the [to everyone] useful items in case their time comes around again. Or if the IRS wants to go back 15 years or they might want to re-read a paperback or perhaps sew something out of polyester double knit. Ok, that last one was a free-bee; I got rid of the last of the really horrible fabric prior to moving to the UK. At least I think I did. Can’t think of any where it might be stashed.

But I will acknowledge that most of the books, yarn, craft supplies and fiber stuff belong to me right in the same breath as saying that George has the vast majority of movies, albums and files. We both have at least some clothes but not beyond what really fits in the closets. He has more shoes that I do, even if he denies it. I am just not a shoe person.

Anyway, I started today early with a train station run followed by an Eldest pick up/drop off. I then came home to coffee and a task list. On that list were a number of items including

    finish up registering and releasing another 50 books on book crossing
    finding the next batch of books to go
    contacting a number of people in follow up of Saturday including finding fiber and burning off a couple of CDs
    downloading and backing up files
    finishing, blocking and photographing the last couple of weeks worth of knitting as well as posting to Ravelry
    cut almost a foot off my hair to take it to mid back (last time I did that was a two years ago when I whacked it back to my shoulders. Not having to wear it up all the time is wonderful)

So it is now 2230 at night. I have a bag of books ready to be dropped off and about 50 more to be registered tomorrow. Ravelry is updated which means all that remains is some blocking), computer is up to date including weeding out files. Notebook is started for the next cruise. I also have personal cards printed and mailing labels for post cards. My bills are paid, the kitchen is still clean and I managed to sneak in a bit of reading in the sun.

Categories: Books & Tapes, home, Knitting Tags: