Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Monday, August 20, 2012

chasing nuns

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been having uncontrollable urges to be around a nun.  Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t want to be a nun, but just close enough to soak up some of their peacefulness…I’m thinking that it must work like osmosis.

I have received difficult news…which sounds so banal to even write.  I’m only hearing it, I’m not living it.  And, the last thing I want to do is to make this about me.  I want to be positive, as positive and full-of-life as my dear friend, the newsgiver.  My beautiful friend is a beautiful friend to me and to countless others and has impacted my life positively, with energy and wit, sarcasm and support. And, I want to feel like there is a purpose to all of our lives.  What is it?  Is it to impact the people around us positively; to focus on something beyond ourselves; or is it to plan for a life beyond?  That all sounds good, doesn’t it?  But, some people seem to embody all of this and seem to be confident and sure and peaceful.  Nuns.

So, I went running; running to where I know nuns hang out.  I ran and ran, trying to clear my head and trying to find a nun.  Through the forest, past stables with sweet-smelling creatures, down a narrow, gravel lane, along a field with four milk cows, past a chicken coup…and there was a nun!  She was doing chores, feeding the chickens.  I almost fell over as I screeched to a halt (okay, honestly, I wasn’t running quite that fast).  I stopped and stood there.  She had her back to me.  Then I thought, “what am I doing?”  I couldn’t think of a single thing that I could say to her, especially in German.  What was I going to say, “Hi, I just wanted to stand close to you for a moment, is that okay?” Doubtful. 

Few of us know exactly how much time we have here…and I think most of us waste it.  Don’t we?  We complain and fight and mope around thinking our world is crummy; wishing we had more or less or someone else.  We don’t see or feel or enjoy all that we do have. Do we?  We need to.  I need to.  Why do waste breath and energy on hurtful, critical or impatient words? What is the point of that?

A few days later, disappointed by my lack of nun-talking courage, I headed to Bretzenheim (which funnily enough, translated actually means ‘Pretzel town’…they even have a pretzel on their town logo).  It is a beautiful little wine town, nestled alongside the river.  There are vines, heavy with grapes, hanging across the small, cobbled streets.  And there is a hundred-years-old incredible, dilapidated villa unassumingly beached at the back of town, where…not a nun…but a Graf lives.  The Graf von Plettenburg.  This house is like out of a fairytale.  High, rusted, wrought-iron gates; wide, magnificent pillars laden with moss and vines; huge windows, dark and a little bit spooky.  As I stood there, peering between the iron bars, enthralled by the imagined stories of this place, a white-haired, creaky old man, slowly walked across the rundown garden and behind the house. The Graf von Plettenburg.

I didn’t talk to him either.  But, I think that I will start to ask a few more questions, to love a little bit more, to be kinder and more patient, and to try and figure out this rollercoaster ride we call ‘life’.  I’m challenging myself not to waste any more time.  And, I might even talk to a nun.

So, starting my new quest, I’m off to do yoga…I’m going to get positive and peaceful and calm…even if it kills me.  And I will continue to pray and pray and pray for my beautiful friend.  Namaste.

“If you get the idea that this is the moment you have-the only moment you have-then you live in the present and you move with the flow because this is the point, right now. “ – Deepak Chopra

“What I know for sure:  No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be.  The next road is always ahead. “– Oprah

And, one that I can’t stop thinking about,

"It is not what we say or feel that makes us what we are, it is what we do...or fail to do." - Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen


Monday, August 6, 2012

...and the recipes

Here, a few of the new recipes I tried out for the party:

Aioli - a great, garlic-y, bread dip, which is how it’s served in almost every restaurant in Spain, but also great alongside fish or veggies.

·         4 cloves garlic, minced
·         2 egg yolks
·         1 cup extra virgin olive oil
·         2 teaspoons lemon juice
·         salt to taste
·         ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, beat eggs well with a wire whisk. Stir in garlic. Gradually add oil in a thin stream, beating constantly until light and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate.

Zwetschgendatschi (Plum Streusel Kuchen/Cake) – I love this, and it’s surprisingly easy!  It's great for a bunch of people, and like pizza it tastes great the day after.

·         1 kg plums, washed and sliced in halves
·         250 g + 150 g butter
·         150 g + 150 g sugar
·         1 pkg. vanilla sugar (probably equiv. 1 tsp. vanilla)
·         Pinch of salt
·         5 eggs
·         400g + 200 g flour
·         1 pkg. baking powder (equiv. to 5 leveled tsps)
·         5-7 T milk

Mix 250 g butter, 150 g sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy.  Individually add each egg and stir.  Mix in 400g flour and baking powder and add milk as you stir.  Spread dough onto a greased cookie sheet or baking pan (35x40cm).  The place plums, closely together onto the dough, in rows, covering the dough.
For the streusel, mix 200 g flour, 150 g sugar and 150 g butter first with mixer and then with your hands until the dough is crumbly.  Spread streusel evenly over the plums.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 175 C (350 F) for 40 minutes.  Stand to cool.  Serve with whip cream if desired.

Basil Pesto Toasts – these little baguette toasts are so tasty even with nothing on them!  And the pesto topping is also great with baked potatos or as a dip.

·         Baguette
·         Olive oil
·         2/3 c. mayo
·         ½  c. basil pesto
·         2 garlic cloves, minced
·         Salt to taste
·         ½ c. parmesan, shredded

First, slice baguette in 1-inch slices, lay out on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 200 C (400 F) until golden brown.  Turn once.
Mix the remainder of ingredients, except the parmesan, in a mixing bowl.  Spoon mixture onto each of the cooled toasts, top with parmesan.  Bake for 6-8 minutes and then broil quickly until the pesto bubbles.  Serve immediately.

Spinat Blätterteigtaschen (Spinach Pockets) – so yummy!

·         1 pkg. (6 sheets) phyllo pastry
·         500 g. chopped spinach
·         1 medium onion, diced
·         1 clove garlic, minced
·         2 T. olive oil
·         Pinch of salt
·         Pinch of pepper
·         150 g. feta cheese, cubed
·         Flour for rolling the dough
·         1 egg for dough glaze

Add onion and garlic to heated olive oil and fry until glassy.  Add spinach, cover and let steam for 3-4 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  Roll out each phyllo sheets onto a floured surface and fold in half.  Into the middle spoon spinach mixture and feta cheese.  Brush the edges of sheet with egg and fold the sheets from each side into the middle, pressing the edges together.  Brush the each pocket with egg and place onto baking sheet.  In a 400 C (400 F) pre-heated oven bake for approx. 15 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm.

a new day

On Saturday night we partied.  It was a new day; a different day on which to celebrate great guy’s birthday...the first time he’s EVER had a party the day after.  It proved to be a success, as most friends could then make it.  The thirty odd revelers lounged, clustered and strolled about; making themselves comfortable on the various green spaces and terraces this odd property offers.  With the river flowing softly just metres away, and great guy’s music system streaming out George Michael to Dixie Chicks to Bob Marley to Adele, the atmosphere was groovy and chill (or as great guy kept saying, “chilly”…and after correcting him twice I stopped and just enjoyed the “chilly-ness” of it all). 

In the days leading up to Saturday, we spent countless hours clearing the river bank so that we could actually see the water; we mowed and mowed and mowed; we cleaned the now-outdoor, ancient, 1970’s yellow, GE refrigerator (it’s so big it deserves the full word) and stocked it with wine, beer, water, and apfelschorle…and I grocery shopped.

I really like to plan a party, if I have the time, and I just so happen to have a bit extra this month.  So, on the various wooden tables which we had set up, we laid out baskets of fresh-baked langen bretzen (big, salty pretzels) and baguette; plates of antipasti and French cheese; old, einweck (canning) glass jars filled with olives; and various dips, salads, kuchen and canapés.  We placed cutlery in antique, metal, measuring cups (which I’m sure great guy bought at the fleamarket a hundred years ago); plates were stacked in tall, white columns; and the glassware had their own table conveniently located beside the party fridge.  And, as party time came along, great guy fired up the grill and brated the heap of bratwurst (birthday boy’s choice) and guests began munching happily; snacking and mingling all over.     

The evening was softly breezy, but warm, especially because of the great friends who made their way down our path that evening; wanting to hang out and spend some time.  There were some friends who we haven’t seen for a few months like Gert and Dora; some like Max and Bärbel who we get to see often; and others who are new to us like the Kluck Clan (with their 4 über-sweet daughters…winning great guy over with their tiny, blonde charm).  And, many more wonderful people who make up great guy’s (and now mine) freundeskreis (friendship circle…man, that sound dorky in English).

Thanks for a wonderful party, friends; and thank you great guy for being born so many moons ago…it’s a great thing to celebrate.  To many, many more.

Some wise words which I have been thinking about recently…

Do not give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying. It is a fragile thread that binds us to each other. Do not be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn to be brave. (Pradeep Tripathi)


Marriage is not a noun, it's a verb. It isn't something you get, it's something you give. It's the way you love your partner every day. (Barbara de Angelis) ....To love and to be loved is to feel the sun from both sides. (David Viscott)
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