Friday, May 29, 2009

Taufe im Garten

Have you ever attended an event that was literally perfect from the time it began to the time it ended? Amidst the busyness of our show preparations, this past weekend was a welcomed and much needed time of rest with our family. The purpose of our gathering was centered around the newest of my four nieces for her baptism. Everything about the day seemed to be the fulfilment of a heritage passed down from generation to generation.

This momentous occasion was held at the family home of my husband... a house that is well over 350 years old with more personality and character than one can fathom. Currently my husband's grandmother lives in the lower half of the house and his parents in the upper part, as has been done for generations before them. Surrounding us were large antique furniture pieces that lined the open black and white tiled entryway, leading up the old stairs that creek each time one treads on them. At the beginning of the service, there was such an amazing stillness and peace that filled the room as the first note was played of an old German hymn.

The baptism dress, a family heirloom, has been worn by my husband's grandfather, his five daughter's, her three children, and two from this generation. Each child that has been baptised in the sweet, white linen dress has had their name and birth date embroidered by the child's grandmother.
I think no one can convince me now that weather cannot be custom ordered. A warm, sunshining day moved our celebration plans and champagne toast into the garden... we could not have asked for more beautiful weather despite the fact that we are in Northern Germany.
For lunch, the seasonal and traditional white asparagus, potatoes, salmon, smoked prosciutto, and hollandaise sauce adorned the table. Everywhere one looks in the dining room are reminders of those who celebrated and lived the same things before. Vintage china lined the table which were just as fantastic as the fresh flowers brought in for the festivities.

... and what would a family gathering in Germany be without an afternoon walk? Groups formed and disassembled and reformed all along the way like a bees floating from one flower to the next. Our normal round included a stroll through the woods with patches of warmth from the sun and cool from the large shading trees above. The well-worn path lead us to the cemetery of the family ancestors and hellos, goodbyes, and memories were are shared. The cousins ran through the wooded green laughing, playing, and making up games as they went.

So how does one conclude such a family outing?... why, of course, with "coffee and cake" time in the garden. The branches of a decades old walnut tree provided just enough shade, while allowing warm sparkles of the sun to filter in. I made sure to sit at the table adorned with my favorite tea/coffee china... a simple pattern with a delicate fern leaf and octagon shaped saucer to match.

What could be more fitting for such a sweet little girl than a cake dressed in white and embellished with the softest pastel accents... divine.

In the midst of all this, I realize... it somehow seems that I knew deep inside, long before I ever set foot in Germany, that this is what my heart had secretly longed for... family, rich traditions, laughter, gardens, and especially old things still remembered and cherished.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Corner View" Cityscapes in Germany

One of my first impressions upon "visiting" the U.S. after having lived in Germany for some time was... "wow, everything looks so new." I have always been fascinated with European architecture and it has been my dream, as long as I can remember, to travel and experience places that are older than my own country... I just never imagined that I would one day be living here.

One of my favorite "cityscapes" in Hamburg is the Rathaus, which was completed in 1897 after the old city hall was destroyed. Compared to other buildings in Germany, this is still relatively new. "Rathaus" literally translated means "advice house", or city/town hall. Located in the main downtown area and centered in the shopping district, the beautiful building is just minutes away from the famous "Alster" river, which runs through the city.

Inside shot (source Wikipedia)

I find more and more one of the things that I love about living in Germany is that it is so rich in traditions. One such tradition, only started in the 1950's, is that when a bachelor reaches the age of 30 and has no children, he is to sweep the city hall steps to keep from doing "extra work" after death. Usually held at the city hall, or some other public place, the steps are covered with sand, bottle caps, or sawdust and the bachelor is given an "unhandy" broom to complete his task. He can only be freed from his duty after having received a kiss from a virgin.

Starting in early December, the Rathaus is all lite up with the well-known Christmas markets held in front of the city hall square. There is just no experience like it. We have started our own tradition, meeting with the same friends every year for a tasty meal out on the marketplace followed by "glühwein" which is a spiced, warmed wine. It is invigorating to stand in the cold all bundled up soaking in the atmosphere and the season with friends and a warm drink.

This week we will be leaving the "city" to exhibit on a country, garden, and lifestyle fair. Unfortunately I won't be able to complete any "city tours" with you for this "corner view", but be sure to visit Jane as Spain Daily for more big lights, bright city action.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Life Freed

I feel like I am moving a little slow these days. After having gotten back from a 24 hour bed to bed flight, I immediately came down with a cold... I hate colds. They always seem to bring out the most unattractive side of a person, of which I unfortunately fall into this category. On top of that I have been trying to get back on some kind of schedule and prepare for our biggest show this year. I have so much going on, so many new things for my online shop, so many projects I have been working on, so much to share that I just can't stand it... there are just not enough hours in the day.

But before I leave you all for a while I wanted to share one of my "treasures" that I carefully and lovingly brought back with me from the States. I first read about Kelly Rae on Decor 8... if you aren't reading Holly's blog, you should. She has great decorating ideas, features fantastic artists and crafters, and since she lives in Germany half of the year with her German husband, she often blogs about her experiences here. I purchased this print that just spoke to me called "A Life Freed", found on Kelly's Etsy shop and have plans for her to adorn the wall just before you enter my office. Kelly's prints are inspiring, encouraging, and captures the emotions of a woman's spirit. Let's just say that it took some effort to get her here... WV, D.C., London, and Hamburg... all as a carry on item.

But I think she was well worth the effort...

See you for the "Corner View" on Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Corner View" Coffee in Germany

In 1773, exactly 200 years before I was born, colonists in Boston threw entire shipments of tea overboard in protest against high taxes that the British government had imposed on the tea. Some say that those events at the Boston Tea Party catapulted Americans into finding an alternative... coffee.

I would generally say that coffee is an equally as loved beverage in Germany as it is the U.S., but it seems to be incorporated into the culture quite differently. Traditional "coffee and cake" time in Deutschland is a far cry from the stryrofoam cups, travel mugs, and Starbucks "I'll-take-it-on-the-go"concept that seems to dominate the lives of coffee drinkers in the States.

In the summer, the cafe's in Germany are filled with people sitting outside enjoying coffee in every possible way... cappuccino, latte, espresso, regular... you name it. What strikes me as interesting is that most often coffee would be served in regular china or porcelain rather than styrofoam. This is not just at cafes, but also at bratwurst kiosks and even at carnival stands... for two reasons: Germans are very green and they also just like to drink out of regular cups.

At family gatherings, afternoon weddings, or parties one would expect that "coffee and cake" time would be observed. It is not so much that it is a specific time or an everyday thing, but many enjoy the afternoon pause of relaxation, enjoyment, and social time. I can remember my first such family gathering, I was so fascinated by the sweet little sugar cubes decorating the table that I could only reminisce about movies I had seen where the proper English lady hostess would offer her guests "one lump or two".

Should one ever travel to Germany, you would have the luck that most Germans are quite fluent in English, so ordering your favorite beverage would be no problem (unless you can't speak English) But if you would prefer to do it like the locals, the proper way to order two coffees with milk would be... "ich möchte gerne zwei kaffe's mit Milch, bitte"

... So how do I take my coffee?....

...I'll have just the cup and saucer (minus the coffee) since I am a tea drinker and do not partake of this morning pick-me-upper drink... but I do have a thing for the beautiful cups, especially espresso is served in.

Funniest conversation over coffee....
... "so tell me again, why do you have the mocha cup (and spoon) in front of you if you aren't going to drink any coffee?"... for more conversations over coffee visit Jane at Spain Daily.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Cutting Room Floor

For months now my husband and I have had picture frames stored in the basement just waiting for pictures to be put in them. The hallway that goes upstairs is longing to have a little artwork on them. I know this because there are nails already in place where pictures once were. So this weekend we have been sorting through pictures trying to decide what photos would bring the boring white hallway to life. We had thought about photos from our honeymoon or perhaps a more neutral palette with greens and whites. Since my husband insisted that the hallway just had to have color, I felt that it would be sad to not give a small tribute to those photos that made it to the cutting room floor...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Waiting to Exhale

Some of you may have noticed that I have not completely been here this past week or so, and with good explanation. After debating for months when we should visit home, and then doing nothing about it because we couldn't find dates that fit, ... spontaneously we decided to fly home to see my family. From bed to bed it takes 24 hours... this just means from the time we got out of one bed and fell into the other.

Our first night home my mom fixed a big "birthday" dinner for me, my husband, and my dad, who had all had birthdays within the last two months. The table was decorated with candles and wild dogwood flowers and grilled lamb made the menu followed by my favorite desert.

... ahhh, it was delicious! Much to our amusement, my dad is trying to teach my niece how to be a "real" country girl...

But despite jet lag, it was good to be home... where my family is... to see how my nieces have grown since fall.... to have quality time with them playing, creating, exploring...

... to visit my 82 year old grandmother and make sure that she is invited to every dinner and is well fed... to see all my aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered in one room like we have for every holiday since I could remember.... to stay in our pajamas and drink tea and just catch up... to pick wildflowers whose smell brings to memory what the "West Virginia" woods smell like... see my husband bond with two energetic girls that love it when he gives them "upside-down-kisses"... to eat ice cream with the sister-in-law who I now know as "sister"... to spend time with my mom and help her fill her flower bed with flowers that will line the front of the house like a red carpet... to continue the tradition to visit the local fabric store with a favorite aunt... to see the joy of kids laughing and rolling around on the floor as all the girls gang up on the only boy...

....EXHALE... yeah, it was good to be home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"The Great Outdoors" Germany

Having grown up in the mountains of West Virginia, "the great outdoors" has a completely different meaning from what one finds in Northern Germany. We live just North of Hamburg, a beautiful city with historical buildings, a large shipping harbor, and multiple rivers wandering through the area.

My husband calls the town where we live the "horse capital" of Hamburg because many of the city folks keep their horses in the fields around here to ride on the weekend
s and days off. We have a great wooded path that is directly behind our house and it is great to be so close to the city, but still have the opportunity to experience nature with just one turn.

This past fall and winter we were visited quite frequently by a family of pheasants. This was pretty unusual considering how close we are to the city limits.

My husband loves the flat fields of grains and crops that one finds in Northern Germany. He was so inspired by the Midwest prairies when he did a cross country tour of the U.S., and while he loves my family and our home, he still insists that his heart remains with land that goes on as far as the eye can see rather than the soaring mountains.

There are several wooded areas (although they are all still relatively flat) around my in-laws farm. It is great to venture out into the green canopy and just soak in the sounds. In the fall hunters fill the woods with their hunting dogs to take home wild boars, deer, hares, and foxes as trophies. But I find that hunting in Germany is very traditional and full of rituals that still honor and respect the life that was given.

But my heart often longs for the mountains that are so vast and tall, and are bursting with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows in the fall and then come to life again in the spring with colors of green that sing new life. "Take me home, country road, to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home country road"... fact,
we are flying from my beloved mountains today and I will be joining all you other "great outdoors" adventurers only on Thursday, which explains my "absence" these last several days. For more outdoor explorations, visit Jane at Spain Daily... enjoy the hike.

Friday, May 8, 2009

April Showers, Bring May Flowers...

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