Monthly Archives: June 2014


The World Cup progresses. I was invited to watch a Germany game at one of my brother’s friends’ house in a small village nearby last week. When I arrived with Moana, I met him at the BBQ, where he was grilling sausages (what else?) with his youngest son. In the spirit of the soccer game he had painted a small red, yellow, and black stripe in the color of the national flag across his head to support Germany (in this case a bald head can be quite practical) much to the amusement of the kids. My middle brother had done this once with his dog too — for a prior World Cup. A patriotic canine, and in this case also less work, as the dog’s fur is black.

A projection screen was set up in the barn, the pre-game chatter was on, and Armin’s kids as well as about half a dozen neighbor kids were playing soccer in the courtyard between the barns and the house. A girl — about nine or ten years old, was in the wooden goal where she bravely fought off kicked soccer balls from the overenthusiastic boy ruffians. It reminded me of when I picked up my snow leopard from a summer camp in Yosemite one year, where she had to put up with a lot from her riff-raff compatriots. Easy there with the soccer ball boys — not so hard, she’s a girl. Moana (tied to a post on her leash) was of course constantly barking at the ball, but since there was so much yelling going on, it hardly mattered. That dog considers every soccer ball in sight her exclusive personal property. Not only that, but she is also a retriever that retrieves — and then keeps.

One of the older girls took me inside one of the barns and showed me a kitten and a mom cat, both of whom I got to pet. There is nothing softer in the world than a kitten I believe, and it’s that time of year again, when kittens abound in the rural areas. I found it very hard to leave the barn.

Have a blessed week

First Day of Summer

imageWith all the hoopla of the World Cup, the first day of summer almost got overlooked. The red currants are getting riper by the day and the gooseberries are starting to get a little plump and fuzzy too. I saw a bounty of blackberry blossoms and even some small green plums, so yes — summer is here. Butterflies are starting their graceful dance. For weeks the smell of hay and grass has lingered in the air. It always gives me quiet joy to see the hills and fields in this rural part of Germany. Barley and wheat are growing taller and the cornflowers are more abundant now. As I picked some stalks of wheat today at the edge of a field, it reminded me of The Book of Ruth.

Have a blessed week

Ominous Skies

The other morning I awoke to dozens and dozens of lightning strikes, followed by waves of thunder. The days before had been hot and humid, and as is so often the case, this then leads to thunder and lightning. It made me think of the book of Job, where God declares his mighty power, when questioned by Job. Thunder and lighting in all it’s fury (so prevalent in Europe in the summer) humbles our little human existence.

Unable to sleep anymore, I made my way from the barn to the house to get a cup of tea. My brother’s golden retriever Moana as usual was overjoyed to see me, forgetting the turbulence all around us. It was now nine o’clock in the morning, and the sky was such a menacing black that it felt almost like it was night. I filled the kettle with water and set it on the stove to boil. Looking out the window, I could see the shadow of the ancient apple tree, a dark silhouette against an even darker sky. It was pouring rain now, and the little stream that flows by the house had turned into a raging torrent, tussling small branches in it’s path.

I gave Moana a “cookie”, as the kettle started to boil. She was completely oblivious to the weather by now, as her focus was on her treat. As I sipped my cup of tea, I opened the front door and standing in the door frame smelled the sweet smell of rain, as I watched it cascade down in sheets. This little valley seems to collect thunderstorms in the summer — they linger, but then finally move on.  As the rain softened, the black sky turned a lighter shade of gray, painting the land peaceful once more.

Have a blessed week

The World Cup in Brasil

The author will digress a bit now: it’s time for the World Cup, the most exciting, and globally beloved sports event, held once every four years. I always love seeing the different countries and their kaleidoscope of fans participate. This cup should be a lot of fun again, just like the last one in South Africa in 2010. During that one, I had my neighbors from Brazil, Uruguay, Greece, and of course the US, and Germany assembled in my loft in Oakland, California for several of the games — a diverse international audience. At the top of the hill, I saw a huge South African flag flying — soccer fans everywhere during that time it seemed. Deservedly, with a beautiful game on their part — Spain claimed the cup.

I have a friend who used to own a Brazilian restaurant in San Francisco, so the current tournament made me think of her. Café do Brasil (which during games was packed) has been closed for quite some time now, and Elvia is retired (sadly, I don’t know where — a book I sent to your last address I had came back). I hope you are doing well. We sure had a lot of great food there (our favorite was the Brazilian national dish: feijoada). Obrigado.

On a musical note (if that term may be used) one does hope the upcoming cup will be without Vuvuzelas. En masse, the do tend to be a bit abrasive, as South Africa clearly demonstrated.

While grocery shopping the other day, I saw displays of World Cup merchandise: glasses, flags, musical instruments, and this may be unique to Germany — a garden gnome dressed in the national team garb. Who would put this eyesore in their garden is beyond me, but they do exist, just so you know. The television coverage here in Germany has been delightful, including the roving reporters covering the various locations in Brazil.

Juntos num só ritmo™ !

Bach and Pommes

imageI had forgotten that Ascension Day (Himmelfahrt) is a state holiday in Germany. Because it was drizzling that day, the outdoor Service that is normally held in the nearby castle was relegated to a huge tent, that also serves for the village festivities afterwards. Never having been here in May, this was new to me. What made up for the confinement to the tent, was a brass band playing some beautiful hymns. This made me think of my friend Gary, who besides being a composer and pianist, also plays trumpet and trombone. Some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard, are Bach cantatas played on the trumpet.

On to matters of the table: My brother Christian’s daughter Jacqueline had suggested Pommes (French fries) for lunch to go along with the BBQ chicken that my brother was marinating in Marburg and bringing with him. When they arrived, the search with Jacqueline for frozen Pommes in the freezer proved fruitless. So, I suggested making some, at which she was very surprised, that this could be done. Apparently, she must think that they are harvested in supermarkets. So I showed her, that potatoes could be peeled, sliced, and diced, to look like Pommes. She then went into the basement, and this time I was surprised, that she knew how to turn on the deep fryer — but then again, this girl loves to eat (or devour things). Unbeknownst to me however, the temperature setting (there are two) she had set it to, proved to be nonfunctional, so when I came in to check on matters (she had put the fries in by herself), I found our Pommes sitting in cold oil. Well — we then heated them on the other setting, but I will leave it up to your imagination what they tasted like after soaking up all that oil. Luckily we still had the BBQ chicken and a cucumber salad I had made. Both dogs were also grateful to lick said plates afterwards, as well as some spilled mayonnaise from the cobblestones. Convenient clean-up!

By the Numbers

NumbersIt always takes a bit to adjust back to the culture and language when I’m visiting my brothers in Germany, but after a week or so now, progress has been made. I do get funny looks though once in a while, so I must be expressing myself with California mannerisms or using American expressions. Some years back, I sent a sales girl in a bakery into conniptions when I asked her for half a dozen Brötchen (rolls). Apparently Brötchen are counted in specific numbers here, so one orders them in increments of two, or four, or six, or eight (depending on ones appetite or the number of people in your household). I’m also not sure if odd numbers of Brötchen may be requested, I shall look into this. As for eggs: they are packaged in cartons of either six or ten. They taste just as good though — in case the reader is wondering. The rural area where I am staying is densely populated with free roaming chickens and the occasional roster too, so the quality of the eggs (and presumably the chicken and rooster) is superb.

OK, time for some grocery shopping. A slight drizzle notwithstanding, I make my way to my favorite Italian ice cream store. Having been absent for years, I am recognized nonetheless (loyal customer that I am) and am promptly attended to. Repeat visits in the near future are stated. Yes, I do consider that part of grocery shopping, in case a few eyebrows were raised.

I look in three different stores for a specific type of tea that has been requested by my brother, but come up empty. He did tell me the name of the store where it could be found, but I will joyfully blame forgetting the name of the store on jet lag. I do find some apple tea though, much to my delight. Walking by the Gummibärchen store, I think of the girls.

Last stop on the culinary tour: a butcher store in order to pick up some Mettwurst (a type of pork tartare). I also inquire if they have any sausage ends, but this is met with a no — they no longer do this for so called sanitary or freshness reasons — I am told. Perhaps some kind of new EU regulation. I will have to be the bearer of bad news for Holger’s dog Moana. Along with others of her species, a formal protest at the EU seems in order.

Have a blessed week