EXPATS AGAIN

EXPATS AGAIN! Experiencing other cultures while enriching our global view.

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ME

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Munich, Germany
I am married to the love of my life and am finally able to shower him with all of the attention he deserves. I am now retired and living the life here in Europe. I am an American, he is an Australian, and this is our second overseas address. The first was Shanghai, China and now Munich, Germany. Come along and live the life with us as we continue our adventure of discovering all Europe has to offer.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

We're flying out of Detroit on Saturday, Sept. 5th, for our summer vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It appears that we will be on the heels of Jimena!
Weather Underground forecasts the hurricane to hit ground in the Baja peninsula on Thursday of this week. Viewing the map at the right, Jimenas' path will pass right through Los Cabos which is located at the southern most tip of the peninsula.

I have never been in a hurricane, nor have I seen the devastation that remains after a hurricane has hit. I will be watching its' progress for the next few days to see if it looks imminent. The resort will probably have updates for us as well.

Looks like my husband will get his wish! "BIG SURF!"ATLANTIC OCEAN - AUGUST 19: In this satellite ...


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FREQUENT VISITOR

Black Persian Kitten Frolicking in GrassImage via Wikipedia

For days now we have been shooing off a frequent visitor, a black kitten. She has made herself quite at home in our attached screened-in porch off of the dining room. She purrs and licks the glass on the sliding glass window seeking someone to pay attention to her and let her in the house. When that doesn't work, she begins to claw at the glass and purr some more. She has found out how to sit atop of the lounge in the porch and peek inside of my kitchen window that is above my sink. Here she pleads for me to allow her entrance.

I made the mistake after ignoring her for two consecutive days, of putting out milk for her to drink. BIG MISTAKE! Now, she won't leave. She is adorable, but I can't take a pet back to Germany and besides, my husband is allergic to their dander. Still, in spite of being ignored, tossed off the deck, and starved, she keeps coming back.

I fear there will be a trip to the humane society tomorrow if she returns.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

SADNESS

It is every expats nightmare--a sudden emergency back home. Having lived overseas before, I have heard of expats getting a late night call and rushing to book the first flight back to the states. It is frightening to even contemplate.
Sadly, it was our turn to have a family tragedy and fortunately, for my husband and I, we were both back to the states for our first visit since moving to Munich.
Tuesday morning, around 1:00 am, I was awoke by my son to learn that his wife, my daughter-in-law, just got a call that her sisters' daughter, 16, was killed in a car crash. I rushed to my daughter-in-law's side and stayed with her until I was sure she was stable and able to sleep. I stayed awake for hours, and I know she did too. My son left to go to her sisters. Tragically, she had just lost her husband only months before.
We were not aware of it at the time, but her daughter had been despondent over her father's death and according to a newspaper report, unconfirmed, she left a note saying she wanted to be with him. However, she drove on the wrong side of the interstate into an oncoming semi and died instantly.
Today was the funeral.
My heart goes out to my daughter-in-law, her sister and her two remaining children, their parents and siblings. Words fail me at this time. It is unnatural for a parent to outlive their children. I cannot imagine the sheer enormousity of this for my daughter-in-laws' family. Other than be here for comfort and offer to babysit my grandchildren, I know of nothing else that will suffice to bring them peace. I pray that our Lord and Savior will be able to strengthen them at this most challenging time. May they be blessed with His presence and may He bring them the care and guidance they need. May God bless this family.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ABSENCE

MotherhoodImage via Wikipedia


One of the sayings that my mother always pounded into my head as I was growing up was, "If all of your

friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?" She had many more like, "You have champagne taste and a beer pocketbook," which meant nothing to me as a young teenager other than I wasn't going to be able to get whatever it was that I was begging her for in the department store. She was a colorful communicator, yet she often resorted to popular phrases when she had an important point to make. She didn't always have to use them. She had the unique ability to create her own sayings to make illustrate or teach us a lesson.

For example, when the twins were very active and very small, they would race around the house. It was at times like these that she would yell, "Do you two always have to go racing around the house like mad-ass ducks?" For years we kids wondered what a "mad-ass duck" looked like

The one phrase that I hated was, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." To a teenager this meant one of two things:




  • You are hanging out with your friends too much and I need you here to help with the chores.


  • That boyfriend of yours is bad news, get rid of him.



It wasn't until the 19th century that the phrase began to be used more widely, with Thomas Haynes Bayly's (1797-1839) song Isle of Beauty, published posthumously in 1850:
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder, Isle of Beauty, Fare thee well!"


I hated that saying and I just knew that whenever she spoke it, something bad was to follow. How could staying away from a person you like to be around be a good thing? How could you be around them too much? Would being around them too often make them not want to be with you anymore? It was all too confusing and all too elusive for a young girl to conceive.


Through the years I have experienced the wisdom of this common saying, but not in the way that my mother had intended. When applied to a place, rather than a person, it becomes unbelievably clear to me. When I am in Munich, I so much want to be back home in the states. Now that I'm here in the states, I really want to return to Munich. It's such a contradiction!


What is it about not being somewhere that makes you long for it even when you're perfectly content where you are? I am so longing for the German simplicity of life. All I had to do there was decide was what time I wanted to exercise, go to town to do shopping, get a manicure or pedicure, work on my German, see friends, or play. Yet, when I was in Germany and doing these very things, I longed to be back in Ohio where I could see my dear friends, visit my beautiful grandchildren, visit our extended family, and catch up with some unfinished business back in the states.


Now, I absolutely know that I won't be back in Munich for less than 24 hours and I'll be wishing I was right back here...... where all of my loved ones are. But, I have to be truthful, with Germany comes a lot of "me" time and "us" time that equally fulfills me and strengthens our marriage.


I now believe that absence does make the heart grow fonder.... I do miss Munich.


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Sunday, August 23, 2009

LIFE WOULD NOT BE THE SAME

Rose-loveImage by johnb/uk via Flickr



My sister, Vicki, is here to visit me while I'm home from Germany for a few weeks. She lives in Florida and I live in Ohio. We are five years apart (me being senior to her). But, for all intents and purposes, we are as close as two women can be. Our mother passed away about ten years ago, so there is just us two girls in the Smith family. She has a twin brother who lives in Florida also, but for years now, us girls have looked to one another while being married, raising our children, surviving divorce and remarriage, and working on our careers.


We don't have much time together this trip. Only three days. Vicki has two girls and a boy. I have two boys, no daughters. It is nice to have another woman in the family to confide in when you need an ear to listen. Her two daughters have grown into women and now we have expanded to five girls in our family. Actually, considering the fact that she has one grand daughter and I have two, I guess you could say we have multiplied the girl factor now to 9 of us. If we include my two daughter-in-law, it brings the female population of our family to a respectable 11! I am so thrilled about the
fact that the girls reign strong in the family now. For so long, it was just the two of us and my
mother.


Vicki and I are opposites. She is gregarious, wears a lot of bling, and is a real p

The Smith FamilyImage via Wikipedia

eople person. I, on the other hand, am more reserved, much more conservative when it comes to fashion , and love my alone time. Yet, when I think of who it is that I want to be with as much as my husband and family, it is my sister. We have shared so much throughout the years in spite of the fact that we have mostly lived a great distance from one another. She is the one I would most like to travel with, other than my hubby, and the one I would trust to give me solid advice if I should need it. She looks after my back, as it were, a
nd I look after hers.


We don't have to talk on the phone daily, weekly, or even monthly. We both know that we are just a phone call away. We don't always agree on everything. In fact, being the older sister, I usually end up giving her far more advice than she ever wanted or needs. We have a great time laughing, hanging out together, and just being sisters to one another. We love to shop, sunbathe, watch movies, bake, and have cocktails together. One of the most favorite things we like to do is wake up in our pj's, have a cup of coffee or tea together, and just while away the morning hours chatting. I don't think we could

{{Potd/2006-08-30 (en)}}Image via Wikipedia

ever get tired of it and the hours just slip on by.


I don't know what life would be like without my sister. She is an extension of me. She has always been there for me and I have been there for her. We share the family history and so much goes unsaid and yet we both nod together knowing what the other one is thinking. I know I take it for granted that she will always be here for me and yet, as we age, it is clear that this might not always be so. I have made a promise to myself to spend more time visiting with my sis when I get back to the states. I really need to take advantage of the fact that I am in the same continent and make seeing her a priority. Life would just not be the same without her. I love you sis!





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Saturday, August 22, 2009

THE TAI TAI SISTERHOOD

Friends. In this case, expat friends from our Shanghai posting in 2003 -2005. These are some of the gals that were my "family" abroad. We met this week for a Girls Get-a-Way at Phyllis' Beach House in Canada. It was a fun-filled week of sharing, laughter, and light-hearted stories. These women were my closest friends in Shanghai during our posting there. In many ways, they were my family abroad.

These girls invited us to share their holidays with them in their home in China while our family was celebrating back in the states. We golfed together, played mah jong together, went to spas, had facials, shopped (boy, did we shop), and lunched together. We took trips to Guilin, the Silk Road, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Viet Nam. We could as easily have told you how to barter at the local markets as told you what a string of pearls from Lilys should cost or how much to pay for jewelry from Chesters. Jewelry was our specialty, much to the chagrin of our hard working husbands.

Amazingly, our guys would laugh and jest that they slaved while we spent. It was a magical time, in a budding city that never slept. Our years together were chock-a-block with activities. Together, we hardly left a store unshopped in the whole of Pearl City or all of Hui Hai Lu. Passionate about exploring all of our new environs, we set out to discover all our Asian hosts had to offer.

Hours were spent swapping stories about our Ayi's (maids), our drivers, and our (shush!!!) husbands. Advice was handed out at will and we basked in the knowledge that others before us had paved the way so that we would be able to garner the fruits of their labor. Nothing was too frightening or too odd. We were invincible.

Together we welcomed, with open arms, the new expats as they came, wave after wave, eager to explore. New friends were made, old friends moved on, and memories were made.
Expat women know the names of all of their friends' children, the colleges they attended, and where they finally landed their new jobs. We filled the days with trips to art colonies, Chinese water towns, calligraphy studios, and too many antique furniture stores to mention. We discovered where to buy ancestor paintings, have our jewels reset, and how to design floral arrangements. We made Chinese dumplings, stayed up all hours of the night playing Tripoly, and learned how to make quiche from Shau Woo.

My friends know how to play bridge, model for the Australian Melbourne Cup Hat Show, dig for opals in Australian opal mines, captain sailboats, organize balls, run charity events, and get the best prices for airline tickets all over the world. They are skilled at selecting fabrics of silk, cashmere, or cotton while securing a seamstress to fashion the latest styles. They keep files of holiday destinations and generously share their bounty with other expat travelers.

These are the women who have held one anothers' hands when loved ones have been ill. They have cheered one another on when contracts were closed or promotions were due. They supported one another through life's toughest moments and laughed together until tears have run down their cheeks. Friendships forged in a foreign land are necessary for survival and grow slowly, but tenously, until their bonds are unbreakable.

These women are my forever friends. And although we now reside all over the globe, we meet at least once a year to renew our special bond of friendship. Last year we gathered in Las Vegas. This year it was at Phyllis' beach house on the lake in Canada. It was a girls get-a-way, this time, but it could easily have been a couples cruise or a villa in France. No matter how we gather, we know that we are linked by a very unique experience; that of being a Tai Tai in Shanghai!

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOMB

'Image by Toban Black via Flickr

I just read an article in the International Jerusalem Post entitled, "Managing anti-Semitism in Germany," written by Henryk M. Broder a leading commentator and writer for Der Spiegle and Benjamin Weinthal, The Jerusalem Post correspondent in Germany. In the article, largely disparaging, the writers summarized their points with these three short-term remedies:
  • "Academics, journalists, NGOs and politicians should attach a human face to modern anti-Semitism (anti-Israelism)."
  • "The myth that the accusation of anti-Semitism is as lethal as anti-Semitism itself ought to be dismissed for the nonsense that it is."
  • "And insulating oneself against the charge of anti-Semitism by employing hard-core anti-Zionist Jews should be recognized as a mixture of cowardice and anti-Semitism.

They went further to say that, "Wallowing in meaningless resolutions and a fluffy anti-Semitism parliamentary commision represents the path of least resistance; it means managing anti-Semitism instead of confronting it when it comes disguised as criticism of Israel."

A call to more activism by critics of Germanys' battle against this disease is the

Henryk M.Image via Wikipedia

plea by these

Jerusalem victoryImage by afagen via Flickr

writers. As the United States deals with similar issues while a new president prepares to put his own stamp on U.S./Israeli issues, it will be interesting to see if we can come to a common understanding of this complex issue.



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Thursday, August 13, 2009

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Yummy!Image via Wikipedia




One problem I am facing while living in Germany is not knowing if a special sale or bargain is being advertised since I don't speak or read German, yet. So, although there may be a sale or a discount, I would have a difficult time recognizing it.


According to my constant companion, LEO (the English to German online translator), here are some German words that apparently mean "on sale:



der Kaufvertrag


KEEP THIS COUPONImage by striatic via Flickr




Kauf und Verkauf


notarieller Vertrag



der Ausverkauf


der Gelegenheitskauf





g√ľnstige Gelegenheit


Exactly how they differ with respect to connotation, I'm not quite sure, but they are words that I should remember so that I might take advantage of any savings while shopping. I'm not aware if the German retail market offers coupons or savings incentives as the American retail market does, but I intend to learn.


This week, back in the states, I was presented with a free oil change from our Honda dealership when I took my CRV into the service repair shop and received the third punch on my key card. That was at least a savings of $29.99! Also this week, when I called Seagate Technologies to order a power cord for my external hard drive that was lost in our move to Munich, I was told it would be sent to me free of charge. Probably at least another $10 saved. Last week I took the kids to see the movie Aliens in the Attic and before it finished, there was a brown out. Guess what? We were given three free tickets to the theater to see another movie! I'm guessing the tickets were easily $30 in total. (I still don't know if the aliens or the humans prevailed, however...).


Here in the states we enjoy free refills on soda, free fresh produce from our church praise garden, and the same Honda service center offered me a free car wash after the free oil change. Do these things happen in Germany? Hard for me to tell.


After five months of living in Munich, if there are bargains to be had, I'm not yet aware of them. Comparison shop? At the moment I'm using my i-phone camera to record the prices at various shops in the hopes of finding out where I might make the most educated purchase. Short of that, I'm at a loss.


It's a learning curve, that's for sure. I'm not saying I'm the queen of 30%, but I would like to have the advantage of getting the same savings offered to me as the next customer. However, without knowledge of the language, I'm really at the shop keepers' mercy.


Another phenomena is that some of the retail clerks just assume that I'm an American tourist and I won't ever return to their place of business. I know this because I have heard them say to me,"Thank you, and I hope you enjoy your visit to Munich," after ringing up my purchase. This assumption might also prevent them from presenting me with information about specials, sales, or future bargains.


Shortly after I arrived in Munich, my husband and I approached a produce vendor about purchasing white asparagus and I learned something else about being a foreigner. At the produce stand, I reached out to select what I determined to be the freshest asparagus spears, but the clerk swiped my hand away and indicated that she was responsible for selecting the vegetable for me. I watched as she chose the less fresh, older spears. Unable to communicate with her, I just shook my head and wondered if she thought that my being an American meant I didn't recognize fresh produce? I'll never know.


The good news is that being uninformed as a result of a language barrier is easily remedied. Just one more reason to learn German!




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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PASSION

Lately, I've been giving some serious thought to this question, "What is your passion?"

Robert Frost ( March 26, 1874 – January ...Image via Wikipedia

Being recently retired, I have heaps of time to devote to my "passion." I'm passionate about travel and I've managed to visit many countries over the past ten years. I've graduated from enjoying large cities to wanting to experience more remote locations. I've moved from the tried and true tourist spots to digging deeper and finding hidden gems; places that only the locals know about. We have been so far off the beaten track that we have never wanted to return to it. The deeper one goes, the greater the experience, we believe. It isn't necessary to travel great distances to find locations such as these. But it does require, to some degree, going where others fear to go. Taking the longer way, the way less traveled. As Robert Frost said, "And that has made all the difference."

I would say that along with travel is sport. I'm particularly
passionate about golf. If I had my way, we would be sitting pretty on on

0% cake, 100% ice creamImage by lotusutol via Flickr

e of the countries' premeire golf courses and spending our days chasing that elusive perfect score. But, back to reality. My husband has introduced me to biking, and although I'm still struggling with the finer aspects of manuevering the darn thing, I have to acknowledge that it has taken me places that I never would have seen had I not been on the seat of a bike. (And the bottom of the lake does not count!)

One of my new passions is drawing great chuckl es and jokes from my two sons--crocheting and knitting. They somehow find the idea of their mother becoming crafty just too grandmotherly and are trying to shame me out of continuing. Too late, I'm hooked. (no pun intended).
Having a degree in Art is no guarantee that you'll be an artist, but now that the kids are grown, I'm retired, and money for supplies is not an object, I've begun to dabble in oils, watercolors, and sketching. My real passion has always been clay sculpture. So, I foresee a studio in my near future and a kiln to fire the objects that I'm working in my head and sketching at the moment. I'm also planning to invest in a potters' wheel for throwing bowls, cups, plates, and any other kind of vase or pot that strikes my fancy.
Being in Europe has opened a whole new opportunity for my creative juices. I see promise in following the culinary arts of some of the countries we've visited. I've already perfected the sopska salad we so enjoyed in Bulgaria, to my amazement. I'm anxious to join the e

Kolapore Ski Trail Through the PinesImage by Bobcatnorth via Flickr

xpats in the German Cooking Challenge and give my hand at some of the interesting recipes posted each month. Then, I'm keen to try cake decorating and I'll be inquiring at the local community center for lessons in this skill.
Lets see, there is skiing, alpine walking, yoga, pilates, and cross country skiing. There is German Language lessons, book club, and theater. I could go on and on and that is the problem. Where does one find the time to follow every passion? While I'm going to try them all, I'm sure that some will strike my fancy more than others. But what a wonderful time in your life to try all that you've been wanting to try! I have to tell you, I am loving life!



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Saturday, August 8, 2009

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY!




While I'm here in the states visiting, I'm staying at our home where my son, his wife, and their three children now live (pictured above) while my husband and I live overseas in Munich. They have taken over the homestead and have diligently looked after the yard, the gardens, the plumbing, the electrical, and whatever else needed looking after. It's a wonderful feeling to to live abroad and come home to visit, rather than rent a hotel room or rely on relatives or friends for accommodations. Although it is our home, it is now their home to enjoy and raise their three little ones. While we have been living in Germany, they have filled the home with their furniture and possessions. It is a warm, inviting, and comfortable place to live. They have even re-hired my housekeeper to spruce up the place while we've been gone so that when I entered the home a few weeks ago, it was spotless. What a beautiful homecoming to know your home is so well looked after. What a peace of mind we will have when we return to Bavaria in a few weeks.


We've enjoyed these past few weeks together whilst I've been re-connecting with friends and relatives. For me, it feels like our time in Germany was a big dream; except when I receive phone calls, texts, and emails from my husband who's holding down the fort at our second home across the Atlantic.


Berlin Zoo: polar bear knut 15.936.09Image by Juergen Kurlvink via Flickr


I've been invited to many of my sons' family's outings and today was no exception.

Today, we all had plans to go to the zoo, but Mother Nature had her own plans..... rain. They had invited friends, who also had three small children, to come along. Since it was raining, they quickly altered their plans and decided to entertain their friends here at the house. All six children played while the five adults (counting me) enjoyed their time together.



Watching the two young families interact with their little ones took me back to the time my children were young and dependent on their parents. Although I only have two children-- spaced five years apart-- the dynamics of a family with young children remains the same--hectic. Listening to the fathers relate their weeks' agenda filled with swim lessons, trips to the park, getting the children ready for school and so on, it was all too evident that both families were caught up in the seemingly never ending job of parenting. The men even remarked to one another how it "used to be" between the two couples, pre-children, when they were able to go out together to a nice restaurant and have quiet conversations between the four of them. Now, they declared, it's all about the kids. Much of their day is spent feeding, clothing, bathing, and disciplining their children and they both sighed about the fact that they couldn't remember the last time they had time alone with their spouses.


I remained quiet, just taking it all in, as the two young fathers were commiserating. I thought of how typical this feeling is with young families and how most young parents get caught up in devoting all of their time to their children, their children's activities, and their children's needs. Fine for me to sit back and say, I've been there, done that, but they are in the thick of it and in their words I empathized with them about the stress that comes with parenting.


I also know a thing or two about stress and the toll it takes year after year, and I must admit to wanting to warn them about it. Would it do any good for me to tell them? Like them, at their age, I couldn't see the minefields ahead. Could I help them foresee the pitfalls that lie in wait?


Best to listen and not react, I told myself. Besides, my two grown sons still think I am overly worried about everything. So much so that they have even stopped opening my emails. Why aren't they concerned as much as I am about drinking iced tea with lemon from restaurants, storing the toothbrushes in a cabinet away from the flushing toilet, and leaving their car, with the garage door opener on the visor, parked in their driveway? Even my grandson has gotten into the act. "Mimi," he wrote on Facebook last week, "I think you worry way too much about such things." He said this after posting his phone number on Facebook for me. Why doesn't he think predators will find his family through his phone number? I do.


I wondered how I ever got to this place. The place where I bite my tongue and "not worry." A place where I recognize that my children's problems are theirs to resolve. I guess it's been happening all along, very gradually. I asked myself just when it was that I realized that they are all going to be ok. And then it hit me!


It started with my two amazing daughters-in-law!



How to describe them? They are two of the most insightful, bright and accomplished young women I happen to know. Both, very strong in their own convictions and equally strong in their love for my sons. My two daughters-in-law are both amazingly kind and generous to all whom they know. I see this in their actions, as well as their words. I watch them guide their young children and hold their husbands' hands in complete partnership. I observe them giving so much of themselves, supporting their husbands unconditionally, and displaying unending loyalty to them.


It has always been my notion that a good marriage happens when BOTH spouses look after one another. To my great appreciation, I have witnessed this in my sons' marriages. I am in awe that these two couples rarely think of themselves or their own wants or needs--it is all about what they can do to make their wives/husbands happy. Each of them are supporting one another and are helpmates to one another while raising their children. If they continue to bless one another in this way, no amount of outside pressure will harm them. It is for this reason that I have gradually come to rest and no longer worry about the stresses that lay ahead in their marriages. They are all on firm ground.

I cannot tell you how much I love both of these women. Because of them, my sons have grown into confident and loving husbands. Because of them, they are responsible and diligent fathers. I have much respect for each of the women in my sons' lives. They are beautiful both physically and spiritually. They are very intelligent and articulate. They are honest and truthful women. And, like their husbands, they are totally self-sacrificing. They are mature women who demonstrate their honor to serve God and their husbands who are doing God's work, daily. I know that it is because of them that my boys are the men they have become.

I have told my sons, as recently as last week when we had breakfast together, that they are truly blessed with wives I am both proud and honored to call my daughters-in-law. I reminded them to give thanks for their wives, but I already knew how much they value their wives because they both tell me, often, how very fortunate they are.

Now, I ask you, could any mother want anything more for their child? I watch as my sons look to their wives with admiration as she comes into a room. It is exhilarating! The girls and I give each other a wink. We know how much we are all loved by the men in our family and I can tell you that the feeling is mutual. Thank you girls. I love you both very much!


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Thursday, August 6, 2009

ADDICTED

'CoverCover via Amazon

Cascading lights, faux finishes, exposed brick walls, sleek countertops, window seating, and funky, sassy, prints. Functional, fun, and hot. The adjectives just keep coming. I'm addicted to HGTV.

During my visit back home I've become glued to
Design on a Dime, Designers' Challenge, Color Splash, My First Place, Property Virgins, Spice Up My Kitchen, and Deserving Design, to name a few. Vern Yip and Candace Olsen are now my idols.

From ceiling to floor, makeovers are stealing my time and causing me to lose my beauty sleep. Will it be Art Deco, Country, French Country, Contemporary, Asian, or Victorian? What will the fixtures look like? Brushed nickle, bamboo, wrought iron, or plexiglas? Will they be purchased from a high end retailer, a thrift store, or online? What will the color scheme be? Sage green and cream or butterscotch and cranberry?


Vern YipImage via Wikipedia


I have learned how to wire recessed lights, attach beadboard, hang dry wall, apply mortar, and install light dimmers. I could upolster an end table, a chair, and even a coffee table. Power tools have become less threatening and more friendly. Wall graphics can do amazing things for a room, lending ambiance and sophistication.

Accessories are in a league of their own. You can personalize a room with the proper accessories. Remodeling needs the final touches and finials, chandeliers, candelabras, and area rugs are all accessories that tie the design together.

I haven't found a German HGTV yet and in a way, I hope I don't. I would never leave the living room. Interior design is a passion of mine and viewing spaces being changed is totally addictive. I'd rather wait until I get back to the U.S. to watch these shows. That way I won't be spending thousands at Toom.

Bloomingdale's Book of Home DecoratingImage by nadja.robot via Flickr

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A wrought iron railing in Troy, New YorkImage via Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

NOT AGAIN!


There is no way anyone could have avoided the tragedy that took place in the suburban L.A. Fitness gyms' exercise class. Five women, at recent count, died as a result of George Sodini's (48) reported hatred towards women. It was reported that he had never spent a weekend with a woman and hadn't had sex for almost twenty years. Supposedly, he had a history of being rejected by women and had been keeping a blog in which he confessed to having tried once before to commit this crime, but "chickened" out. Evidently, he also struggled with alcoholism. He wrote on his blog that he suffered from depression. His neighbors said he was antisocial. On his blog he stated that he would die on August 4th, 2009. He did. He took his own life that day as well.

My heart goes out to all of the victims in this senseless massacre. It is a repeat of the Virginia Tech shooting in April of 2007. The perpetrator of this crime was a 23-yer-old student named Seung-Hui Cho. Cho was diagnosed with severe depression and a social anxiety disorder.
What is similar with both of these men, and in the case of the two young men who took the lives of 12 students and a teacher in the Columbine School shooting, is anti-social behavior and depression. In all of the cases they lacked control over their emotions and the ability to adjust to society and be accepted by their peers. Their final act of control over an otherwise uncontrollable life was to take the lives of others before taking their own lives.
I hope we can learn more from these disastrous events and that we can perhaps profile the type of individuals who might perform such a heinous act. In every case there is a history of trouble and a paper trail of previous early warning signs. Death threats on websites and blogs that reveal highly disturbed individuals are huge red flags and should be taken seriously. Authorities need to address these people and seek professional treatment for them and follow-up before they become deadly. By now, there has to be a checklist of criteria for identifying these criminals. It is difficult to read about innocent lives being taken by people who have clearly demonstrated the hallmarks of a mass murderer. I pray that schools, parents, law enforcement, therapists, counselors, and pastors, etc. begin to report anyone who displays these behaviors before it is too late.

Again, my prayers go out to the families of all who died or were injured.

Monday, August 3, 2009

BAVARIAN BEER GARDEN EXTRAORDINAIRE!

Near Nymphenburg Park, Munich's premier sightseeing attraction, the Schoss Nymphenburg, is a beer garden called the Hirschgarten. It is part of a 200 - hectare (494 - acre) park with hunting lodges and lakes. It's the largest open-air restaurant in Munich, seating some 8,000 beer drinkers .
From our home, it is just a twenty-minute bicycle ride to this beer garden. We ride through meadows and along streams to finally arrive at the Hirschgarten. Then our immediate problem becomes where to park the bike? As you can see from my photo of just one bike park, there are thousands of bikes in the park.

Steve, my husband, is standing at our table in front of a tree with a sign posted on it. The sign is common in most of Munich's beer gardens. It says that per government ruling, the people of Bavaria are free to bring their own food to the beer garden, but any beer on the premises must be purchased from the vendor. I love this about Bavaria. No one is excluded from enjoying the lovely shaded garden.


The customs that are practiced in order to run an orderly beer garden are interesting in themselves.



The first step is to pick out your beer stein from the thousands of glasses provided in shelves.









Next, the idea is to take your glass stein and rinse it out in a sink of clean running water in large stainless steel sinks.































Finally, you take your clean glass to the bartender and he fills your glass straight from the keg.


















The menu consists of sausages, rotiserie chicken, assorted salads, pomme frittes, and soft pretzels.













And, of course, there is plenty of beer!








If you should wander a short ways from the beer garden you will have a special treat. These deer make the Hirschgarten their home.