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Category Archives: Family

Keeping things simple

My good old jet lag made itself welcome at about 3:30 am this morning. We’re back home in Munich, which feels…like home, even juxtaposed next to a 10-day trip to California, which also still feels, and will always feel, like home. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up moving back there one day. I don’t rule anything out. I’ve given in to the jetlag with little reluctance and just gotten up. To stretch out the feeling of home, I’m drinking jasmine tea out of one of the beautiful little cups my mother gave me on this visit and flipping through a Korean cookbook that my dad let me take with me from his shelf. I’m wearing a favorite cozy sweater. The cats are bouncing around me, waiting for their tuna. I’ll make some breakfast in a few minutes and then go for my (almost) daily run before work.

I have to admit, I like this routine. A lot. It makes me feel sane and settled. I had a long talk with a friend back home about how I like living in Germany compared to the USA these days, about how I like my life these days. It’s the best feeling to be happy for the most part. I confided in her that the USA feels…too fast, too crazy, and even if Germany is only a little behind it, it’s still so very different. Maybe I just am better able to cocoon myself here, away from the awful political situation there (I know, not so very much better here, I don’t have blinders on), the environmental disasters, the changing social/cultural/economic landscape, the total weirdness around the new legal marijauna culture (wtf? am I just too old? I’m just too old). Actually, just re-reading those sentences makes me feel like a bit of a naive, sheltered fool with her head in the ground.

At home home, things were sometimes hard: confronted with the smoke of the Campfire disaster, wearing a mask to go outside, it’s like a slap in the face…you can’t ignore the environment for the next 20 years and cross your fingers that everything will work out if you do your part and recycle, take shorter showers, drive less, consume more responsibly. Over there at least, it felt like a call to action. Over here, I will try not to descend too far back into the cocoon, it’s time to look for ways to help more actively.

Thankfully, yes, that’s a rather season-appropriate word for an American, our visit wasn’t all about the smoke. We saw a great deal of my family, which was wonderful, got spoiled by my parents, who know how to throw the absolutely best Thanksgiving dinner parties, even if they’re a little backward and old fashioned about how one should roast a turkey. Thankfully (oh, there’s that word again, but that’s my feeling), I was there to set things right. (To spatchcock or not to spatchcock? Spatchcock, of course!)

We had plenty of time to hang out with our nephews, playing new board games, which frankly made me want to play board games a lot more.

We saw best friends, who remain close, even when you haven’t seen them for a year and a half.

We made and ate healthy food (my favorite breakfast down there: buckwheat, sauteed greens and a boiled egg), and probably talked about low-carb eating a little too much, although just thinking about my sister’s caramel (crack!) pie is probably enough to force me to spend 10 extra minutes on the treadmill this morning.

I took (more than) a moment to smell the meyer lemons on my parents’ tree. On the way back to the airport, we stood next to a family on the air train to the terminal. The woman of the family held a giant lemon in her hand, pressed to her nose. I smiled. She made a comment to her husband about how good meyer lemons smell. I turned to her and admitted I had 15 of them packed in my suitcase. She said she had done the same.

The smoke finally cleared for our last two or three days and the beauty of the east bay hills returned to breathtaking (in the right way of breathtaking).

It’s a moment in time perhaps, this feeling of home and happiness. That’s where I’m at. I wish the same for you.

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When it rains in Spain

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I will be the first to admit that the vacation in Spain did not go as planned.

Although, the rain, when it appeared very infrequently, was rather a lovely break from the hot sun, and only once a small inconvenience that can hardly even be called that as the night was over and no one gave a hot damn anymore about if my hair frizzed in the humidity. If they ever did. ;-).

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I guess I could run through the long list of disasters that befell us all, although our stolen luggage was certainly the biggest unexpected blow.

So…for the record and posterity, I will allow the stolen luggage story and all the aftermath of that to simply exist as a “big and very expensive lesson learned,” not unlike the Prague wine story of 2002, thankfully a full dozen years in the past now and continuing to live on through the power of story telling. The upside is that I have a bunch of new clothes, desired or not. Hmm. Anyone ever told you never to leave suitcases locked in a car in a parking lot at a Spanish beach – even for just a quick lunch – take this advice and drag the suitcases into the restaurant, regardless of how ridiculous you might think you look. Your insurance DOES NOT cover much.

But moving on to more important reminiscing.

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The house (thank you, Mom and Dad!) we stayed at was gorgeous, and so wonderfully cool during the day when we were there.

And the horse in the front yard, whatever its name was, provided some great comic relief, as he galloped to greet us every time we got back to the house. Or at least the smell of him did, if he didn’t himself.

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And as we always do, we figured out how to deal with a kitchen that could plate up dinner for 50 if you needed it to, but which sorely needed a coffee maker and some fly screens on the window. But hey, we all learned how to be pretty inventive with a single espresso maker and pots of boiling water. 😉

We did manage to cook one Spanish recipe while we were there (thank you, Amy, for bringing the cookbook).

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And I really enjoyed cooking the few nights we did. Spanish recipes or not. California bay leaves, direct from California, made the stews we made heavenly. (Again, thank you Mom and Dad.)

Going out was also largely successful, and I think my favorite meal was the mid-day beach lunch of razor clams, spinach salad, and of course, Paella.

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I was not sorry that I decided against tasting the original ice cream flavors one Gelati store offered up. (Tomato, salt and olive oil ice cream? Hm, no thanks. I’ll stick with cucumber.)

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A tasty finish, even if my sisters were not overly impressed, was the octopus we ordered on the last night. Damn it, maybe wasabi isn’t a Spanish ingredient, but we just don’t get octopus like that in Germany, so I’ll remain happy. 😉

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Of course all the eating had to be balanced with exercise (one of the first purchases I insisted on when we started to buy the contents of our stolen luggage was running shoes…which ultimately made me really happy.) Today’s run back on the banks of the cool and shady Isar proved to me that it makes sense to challenge myself more on occasion. Five days of running gentle slopes up and down the Spanish country roads in 33 degrees made today’s jog feel like flying. Hoping the feeling lasts a few more days. (Ok, I know it looks flat, but trust me, there were plenty of non-flat stretches.)

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Best of all, of course, was getting to hang out with my family and see how much all three of my nephews have grown, and how crazy they all are. 😉 (Or at least look…in my sunglasses.)

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I wish we’d had a little more time to explore a few towns like Girona. Walking the narrow brick streets was fun, and I look forward to doing it again at some point, after I’ve slept in my own bed for a month at least.

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And that is all. So good night.

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