Sunday, November 25, 2007

A day in Dusseldorf

I had to go to Dusseldorf to buy some clothes at the Tommy Hilfiger Denim store there so that I won't look so terribly out of place at their Fall/Winter 08/09 line opening in January. Daniel and I decided to make a day trip out of it, taking the opportunity to look in a few other stores as well - it is a great city for shopping. We had a delicious lunch at an Italian place on the Koenigsallee and went to the K20 art museum which has an awesome collection of Paul Klee's work (in addition to other 20th century artists).

The Christmas market was also already in full swing. Daniel got his favorite - roasted chestnuts and I got mine - cinnamon stars.

Heisse Marone - get 'em while they're hot

Zimtsterne fresh from the oven

The mulled wine stand lights up the night

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving thanks for thanksgiving

Tracy and Marshall had us over for the 4th year in a row. This year, Marshall's mother came over from the states and we still had a full table despite many of the regulars leaving this past year. We have always been really thankful to have a place to go on Thanksgiving - and this may be the last year as Tracy and Marshall will most likely move next year.

Daniel did placecard drawings for everyone again this year.

And there was a feast! Marshall makes a great Turkey (coated with bacon) plus there were all the other thanksgiving staples like stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, biscuits, pumpkin cheesecake, and my contribution - the sweet potato casserole.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A strike, a new chair and free rice

Well, I think I am finally over my jetlag (they say it takes one day per time zone crossed). That is one of the things I don't look forward to on my trips!

Friday we were supposed to go to the dentist. I saw beforehand that the train strike would affect our route so I picked a train that was supposedly still running. When Daniel and I got to the station, we got our tickets and went up to the platform only to discover that our train was not on its full scheldule and our train wasn't coming. With no alternate way to get to the dentist (Florian had borrowed our car) we had to cancel. Surprisingly we were able to sell our tickets to some Swiss guys - so at least we didn't lose our 4 Euro.

Saturday I finally bought a decent chair for my home office. It's an Aeron chair by Herman Miller - stylish and super comfortable. My cheapo IKEA one was breaking my back by the end of a long day.

Last night we went to Turm Palast, the only English movie theater in town, to see Atonement. I really enjoyed the novel so I was quite excited to see it. BUT, the Turm Palast really knows how to put a damper on your movie going experience though. The staff is usually surly (not uncommon in Germany to be sure), many seats are broken or have gunk on them (the last renovation must have been right after WWII - ha!) and last night the print had a big green line down the middle and the sound was ear-piercingly loud. There is always the rumour that they'll finally tear this junk pile down and rebuild which is sorely overdue. Of course where will we see films in English in the meantime? I don't want to have to resort to seeing dubbed films.

And finally, let me introduce you to my current Internet addiction:
For each vocabulary word you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to help end world hunger. I always hover between a vocab level of 43 - 46. Some of the words in the upper levels are insanely obscure.

PS - Happy birthday Florian (Daniel's brother)!! Scoot on over to Daniel's Daily Drawings to see the wonderful present Daniel did for his dear brother.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

VIP Tori Amos experience: Lawrence, KS

One week ago, Nick and I had the pleasure of meeting Tori Amos for the first time after being fans since 92. I was lucky enough to snag Platinum VIP tickets (only 24 total available) so we got to sit in on a portion of her soundcheck & meet her and have something signed (+ we had 8th row center seats and got a VIP bag, hat and tour booklet).

This is what went down: we arrived at 5 pm and got wristbands and our loot. Tori was running late so she had just started soundcheck when we got there. The doors were so heavy that we couldn't hear much through them but we did recognize that she was doing Clyde (introspective doll)'s songs so we knew we'd get her (a relief for me since I did not want political Isabel for the third time out of three shows). I also heard a bit of Sugar which was exciting and gave me hope that I would finally hear this favorite live.

It was after 6 pm before we were finally able to go in. Nick and I got seats in the front row and then she came out. She explained a bit about soundcheck and then played Spark and Concertina for us. She messed up on Concertina, but otherwise it seemed more like a private concert than a soundcheck - very cool.

Next, we were ushered into a back room to meet Tori. By this time my low blood sugar was kicking in and I felt faint from not eating anything since a light lunch. When she came in with her bodyguard, we also got a glimpse of her 7 yr old daughter Tash. Tori asked Tash if she wanted to say hi to us and she got a little shy. She gave Tori a hug and skipped away. Tori then turned her full attention to us and people went up 1 or 2 at a time to talk with her. Nick and I were mid-way through the line so we snapped a few pictures while we waited. Here's one (that is a wig btw):

Finally we were up. We talked with her for a few minutes about her music (I told her Winter had been our father/daughter dance at my wedding) , that our first concert had also been in Lawrence back in 96 (she said "You seem really young to have been going to concerts back then"), about Neil Young (apparently he wants to tour with her) and then I requested Beulah Land and asked about Velvet Revolution (she wrote them on her hand and said "Well, they can come out again"). She then signed my copy of her book Piece by Piece and Nick's tour booklet. We also posed for this picture:

Before the concert, Nick and I just had time to go out and grab a pear (me) and granola bar (Nick) and check out the Phelps protesters (they claim Tori Amos is a "gay enabler" because she has many gay fans).

Opening guy was Yoav again who is growing on me - I do like the song Club Thing quite a bit.

Then Tori as Clyde comes out with

Bouncing off Clouds
Little Earthquakes
Juarez *
Little Amsterdam
Beauty of Speed *
Girl Disappearing *

Tori as Tori's set was
Big Wheel
Sugar *
Cornflake Girl
Mother Revolution *
Caught A Lite Sneeze
Frog On My Toe *
Mother *
Virginia *
A Sorta Fairytale
Code Red
Precious Things
Hey Jupiter

* Songs I heard live for the first time!! Amazing considering this was my ninth show, 3rd this tour. She really does change it up.

Nick and I both adored this show - definately the one I enjoyed the most this tour. A lot of fan favorites plus a couple of rarities and FINALLY hearing Sugar which totally rocks live.

Got the bootleg ( already!

Friday, November 16, 2007

once again in Wichita

Sorry that I haven't managed an update in two whole weeks! I am back in Frankfurt now recovering from jetlag and my Wichita visit was such a whirlwind. A week just isn't enough to catch up with family, friends, American tv and Tori Amos (more on that last one in an upcoming post).

This trip I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Grandma Billie - she was the first one I visited after my dad picked me up from the airport. I also went over two other times and met her and the most of the rest of the family (Aunt Marilyn couldn't make it) for lunch at On the Border on Sunday afternoon. Aunt Linda has great pictures of this event over at her blog.

Plus one of mine for those of you too lazy to click over:

Dad and I also had our quality time together - we looked at laptops (I bought a new one), used books (one of our favorite activities) and spent a lot of time downstairs in front of his huge TV with Sandy and the wild dogs. I watched NCIS for the first time, House in English for once and the movie Shooter.

Speaking of TV, why is it so much better in the US? I hardly ever even bother to turn on my set here. And it is sad that I can't take advantage of all the Internet streaming of episodes over here ("this service is not available in your area"). I streamed two episodes of Lost from last season (all I had time for) and two of new show Chuck with Nick.
An evening at Rachelle and Josh's was also capped off by my first ever viewing of the Office and 30 Rock. Josh cooked an amazing dinner which I can't praise highly enough: butternut squash soup, chicken and potatoes. Yum!
I was also up in Topeka to visit Grandma Dugan (who knew she knew us and pretended to know our names - I think she thought I was her Aunt Lenore) and in KC to visit Andi. We tried out Le Peep for lunch and her kids, Phoebe and Eliot, certainly enjoyed their Chunky Monkey smoothie:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Delray Beach, Florida

3 1/2 fun filled days in Florida. Great friends (Sommer and Will and kids Eleanor and Harriet + 1 on the way), perfect weather (warm and breezy, not too hot), and delicious food (home cooked meals + great little Italian place on the boardwalk for girls night out + Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream).

Som and me

In addition to frolicking on the beach and experiencing a Pastor Will sermon, I also got to attend 2 of Eleanor's softball games. The first game they won with only 5 girls against 10 and the second game... well let's just say it wasn't their night.

El in her uniformTabby treasuring his secret garden

Friday, November 2, 2007

The D.C. experience

On Saturday morning, Heather and I went to brunch in Georgetown (crabcake sliders!) and looked around in the shops a bit before Kelly and Steve came to pick me up. When they came, we went for a short hike on Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Kelly and I next to the fountain on Roosevelt's Island

I hung out with them until I had to take Kelly to the airport on Monday at 5 pm for her diplomatic trip to Sri Lanka. We had a blast. I loved seeing their highly-closeted new apartment, marveling at the planes flying taking off right over our heads at Gravelly Point (Reagan national airport), going to Kelly's church to hear Tommy (who I met at her wedding) preach (we chose church over the Spin Doctor's who were playing for free in Crystal City at the same time) and engaging in a professional level pumpkin carving.

After dropping Kelly off at Dulles, I drove two hours south to Charlottesville to visit college pal Gina and her husband Curby. I hadn't gotten to see Gina in years so it was a real treat. Both Gina and Curby were such gracious hosts despite her being 6 months pregnant with twin boys and sort of on bed rest. Curby made some delicious meals and we compared notes on Ecuador. Gina took me on a University of Virginia tour and to Jefferson's residence (Monticello) - both are UNESCO world heritage listed. Edgar Allen Poe's dorm room at the university is still preserved - here's a picture -

For Halloween, I was back in D.C. at Heather's and we went out to a great mexican restaurant (I will look up the name and post it soon) that serves the best guacamole ever. They prepare it fresh in front of you with big, ripe avocados. I am still thinking about it days later.

We also went to Mt. Vernon and saw the movie "Michael Clayton" (we went to movies a lot together in Frankfurt - just like old times). And so, after a very social and activity packed week in DC, it was off to sunny Florida...