Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving in Germany

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. I had ribs and fries at a local Irish type pub, and they were showing NFL football, so I did have a small taste of home on Thursday evening.

We had our Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. We had four of Gisi's friends (Angela, Christian, Klaus and Martin) over for a traditional Turkey dinner, which none of them ever had. The menu was Roast Turkey Breast, Mashed potato, Curried sweet potato, Green Beans in Olive oil and Garlic, Mixed Mushrooms with Shallots in Butter and Wine. And I made a Pumpkin Pie, of course.
After searching all the butchers in town and market, we could find no turkey. We finally located a Turkey farm (Truthahnhof) in Ihringen. Having placed our order on Wednesday, we drove out to pick up the breast on Friday evening. The farm, Martinshof, was located at the edge of town and we got to see all the large white domestic turkeys as they were put back into the turkey house for the evening feeding. They run around freely in fields on the property, and they were quite large. We went in with the owner to get the breast, which weighed 3 kilos, about 7 pounds. I was excited.
As you can see, the kitchen is tiny. So I really planned out the sequence of prep and cooking carefully and I prepped a few dishes the day before. It actually went very well. I started Saturday cooking about 3pm and by 8 we were sitting down to eat.
The Turkey looked fantastic as I removed it from the small oven, at just about 158 degrees. I let it rest while I finished the beans, mushrooms and sweet potatoes.
The result was great. Everyone loved all the dishes. The Turkey was super moist with crispy skin, this is the way to go for ease and tenderness. The curried sweet potato was a big hit, savory and not too sweet. Klaus said my mashed potatos were as good as his mothers, so I took that as a huge compliment. Everyone had at least 2 helpings, so in the end there was only about a pound of turkey left, we'll finish that with a salad tonight. We finished with espresso and pumpkin pie, which was delicious. You can see the photos here.
We sat around talking, and in some instances me listening to German conversation, for several hours. By midnite, everyone left. It was a great experiance, and I was happy to cook for Gisi's freinds and share our Thanksgiving tradition. Sunday will be a day of rest. Now, onto Christmas!!!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. Not here, it's just another day. It seems strange not to be getting ready to spend the day with family and freinds, eating massive amounts of food. It is the first time I've not been in the states, and only the second time not being in New York on this day.
The sky is cloudless and blue today. A beautiful but chilly morning. A good day for a parade!
We will go for a walk in a few minutes, stop at a church and give thanks for all the beauty in our lives. I have a lot to be thankful for this year, even though it has been one of the most stressful year of changes. But all is good.
I will be making a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday for some freinds, so I will join the festivities then. Today I will have all of my freinds and family in my thoughts.
I wish all of you a happy and safe Thanksgiving day!
Peace and Love

Monday, November 24, 2008

First Snow in Town, and Käsespätzle

We had our first snow here in town on Saturday evening. It was real pretty, and a bit of a surprise. We spent part of the day in Colmar, Alsace, France. A very picturesque old town, it is the capital of Alsace. As we left Freiburg at noon, it was quite cloudy, with a forecast for snow flurries, but when we got to Colmar, it was sunshine and blue skies. And cold. Friday was the last of the 50 degree days I think. It dropped down to the low 30's overnite. As we drove back, the clouds moved in again. We went out for dinner at 8, and the snow had already started. By the time we got back there were a few inches on the ground. See the photos here.
Sunday was cold and we stayed in for the day. Gisi made Käsespätzle, it was really good on a cold Sunday afternoon. It reminded me of when my mother would make Pirogies in the middle of January.
This week I will prepare to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for us and some freinds. If I can find Turkey. It's hard to find whole turkey or even whole breasts, but I think I have a lead! Rumour has it there's a turkey farm in Ihringen. We will have our Thanksgiving on Saturday as everyone is working Thursday. Gonna make a Pumpkin Pie too, from scratch (thanks to a fellow expat's recipe). And I need to find some cranberries to make a spicy cran relish my friend Donna told me about. Along with the usual array of side dishes, we'll show them how it's done in the states! This should be fun.
I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Enjoy.
Or as my mother used to say...Happy Bird Day!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some Sunshine for a Cloudy Day

Here's a great bit of New Orleans. Clint Maedgen and the Preservation Hall Band...this should brighten your day! A cover of The Kinks' , "Complicated Life"......

Monday, November 17, 2008

James Booker

I got this from a freind of mine..Here is one of the all time great New Orleans piano players. If you dig New Orleans piano, find everything you can by him. Here's some info on Booker. His left hand is legendary.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nathaniel Mayer

While talking to a friend here today, I found out Nathaniel Mayer passed away on November 1. I was turned on to him in New Orleans at the Ponderosa Stomp, where he did some killer shows. Mayer was a great soul singer who had a regional hit when he was 18, in Detroit. Then faded into obscurity for the next 35 years or so. If you like old school soul, check out his music here.
When I saw him in New Orleans at the Stomp, he was dressed as a true soul man..white pants, white shoes, red satin shirt, a girl on each arm. He was powerful and energetic, and it seemed he was relishing the his time back in the spotlight, on stage. I'm glad he was able to have that time. I'm glad I got to enjoy his music and see him sweat, and entertain a roomfull of new and old fans.

Here's a site I found with music and video.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mitch Mitchell-9 July 1947 – 12 November 2008

Well now the band is united once more. Mitch Mitchell left this world yesterday, to join Noel and Jimi. And I was thinking about all the great music he created with Noel Redding and Jimi Hendrix, who is my favorite musician of all. Mitch was on par with Jimi in his musicianship and creativeness. A perfect combination.

As my friend Joe F. commented,
"Those Hendrix Experience albums are a cornerstone of my musical consciousness". They are for me too. I was 12 years old when I first heard "Are You Experienced", it made such an impression on me. "Axis: Bold as Love" really blew my mind. I had never heard anything like that before. I was converted to the religion of Jimi forever. "Bold as Love" is tattooed on my arm. I remember when "Electric Ladyland" came out. A double album! It was so special. And listening to Jimi on acid could just send you to the next universe!!

Listen to the drums on "Love or Confusion", or "Waterfall", or "Manic Depression", "Crosstown Traffic", "Bold as Love", "Voodoo Child" or dozens of other songs they one played like that in the rock world. My friend Martin, here in Germany, put it right, "
the experience played with a lightness and swing like a jazz combo". That was Mitch who added that touch. His cymbal flourishes and syncopation were unique in rock and roll. He obviously listened to the great jazz drummers, and found a way to fuse that with rock.

I had the oppurtunity to see Mitch along with Billy Cox, on tour last year with the "Experience Hendrix" show. It was the only time I ever saw any of the original band, and Mitch was as good as ever.

As I sit here listening to his music, I'm very happy I was lucky enough to grow up during the period that produced such fine music, and such dynamic musicians. No one ever broke ground like the Experience did, and I believe no one ever will...

Here is another comment by Martin, "it's a pity, that so many younger people (starting beeing as old as Gisi...) learned to hate or to disrespect Jimi Hendrix. they are notable to see what he and the members of his groups did to music, and Jimi especially to guitar playing. Before him People just played an amplified loud guitar. He invented a complete new instrument and a complete new way of orchestral playing". Ja, genau.

And he couldn't have done that without Mitch. Thank you Jimi, Noel and continue to inspire and awe me, and will forever.

"have you ever been experienced?...not nessicarily stoned, but beautiful."

An Interview with Mitch here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Jura, Neuchatel, Montreux, Chamonix, Hochblauen..a weekend in the mountains

Greetings...This past weekend we went to Switzerland and France. We originally were going to go north, but the weather seemed right and we thought it may be a good time to explore some of the mountain regions we have not seen yet. So we decided to go to the Jura mountains, from there head south to see the town of Gruyere and onto Montreux and Lake Geneva. The Jura seperates France and Switzerland, running north-south for about 150 miles. It's northern end is only about an hour + from here. It really seems like an extension of France, it is totally french speaking...and they have many farms, tons of cows and, therefore, great cheeses too. We looked to see which city/town we could stay overnight in and it seemed Neuchatel would make a good point to explore from. This is the traditional center of Swiss clock making, and Neuchatel is on a lake of the same name. Read here to find out more. And here. Since it is not exactly tourist season, we were able to score a room in a hotel right on the lake, very cheaply. Photo. And there was no traffic to speak of on the roads. We checked out the Old Town, then found a place for dinner. Fondue rules!

In the morning, after exploring the town some more, and going to the weekly market, went on to drive through some of the mountains and towns nearby, with Ste. Croix as our destination before heading to Montreux. As you can see from the photo's, it is a very beautiful area indeed.
After leaving Ste. Croix, we headed south east towards Lake Geneva. As we drove on, we came to a spot where we could see the Alps clearly, it was getting near dusk and and we were getting excited to get closer. Something about really big mountains is very enticing. We knew Mont Blanc, in France, was not very far away. It is the highest mountain in Europe. I had seen it before. In 1990, I went on a ski trip with some freinds, to the Italian side of the Alps, at Breuil-Cervinia. Cervinia is the Italian name for the Matterhorn. From the top we could see many peaks including Mont Blanc, just a few kilometers away. It felt like being on top of the world. Look here.
We arrived at Lake Geneva just in time for a brilliant sunset. In the hills above Vevey, on terraced vinyards, we stopped and took in the view. Montreux was only another fifteen minutes. We arrived at the hotel, again right on the lake. We had booked a cheaper land-side room, with the hope that they may upgrade us to a lake side room, gratis. They did! Look here.

"We all came out to montreux
On the lake geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didnt have much time"

Remember that song? "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple. One of the first riffs any guitar player learns. I must have heard it a million times, now I was standing on the spot where it happened. It's a great story. Read about it here. See a video concert version here. ( I just discovered how to do this link thing, and I love it!)

We walked around town that evening, had some dinner and made a plan for the next day. We were going to go to Gruyere, but the mountain bug got us. We figured we weren't that far away from Mont Blanc, so we thought we would drive a little further south, up a mountain pass, and we could get a good view. So the next morning we went down to the lake front for a walk, and came across a statue of Freddie Mercury. Seems he had a studio in town, and stayed there frequently..after his death, a memorial was installed. We then went to tour Castle Chillon, on the shore of the lake down the road a bit. Like 1,000 years old. Pretty awesome.

We mapped out a route to a 1500 meter high pass, figuring we would see Mont Blanc from there. Well we didn't. Too late to turn back now. We headed to Chamonix in France. Up some spectacular mountain roads, we were there shortly. But as it can be in this season, the fog had settled over all the really high peaks. So we got to see some of it, and some glaciers and a lot of lesser snow capped mountains. All very impressive and beautiful. We strolled around Chamonix, bought some super chocolates and had coffee before heading back. Needless to say, we never made it to Gruyere. Another weekend for that. Great trip, beautiful sights, a lot of history, and some really good food. I must say though, Switzerland is an expensive place, compared to some of the other countries we've been in. Except for gas. Much cheaper than Germany, go figure. See the photo album and all the pix here.

On Monday, Gisi had the day off so we went to the last of the three major peaks here in the southern Black Forest, the Hochblauen, or just Blauen. We were able to see the Swiss Alps from here too, and a 360degree panorama of the Rhine valley, south to Switzerland, west to France and north and east over the Schwarzwald. A gorgeous day, in the hi 60's, but windy on the mountain. Luftig!!! Check out the pix here. Here's the Feldberg, and the Belchen.

Wednesday now, back to the normal routine. You know, house cleaning, going to the market, preparing dinner. The weather continues to be somewhat cloudy, patches of sun...sometimes..but not too cold yet. They're starting to put up the Weihnacht (Christmas) decorations and stalls, they sell Christmas items and Glühwein and all that good stuff. Should be fun to see. Hope all is well with everyone. I read some of the news , mostly about our declining economy. Not good. Better days are on thier way, they always are. Auf Wiedersehen for now!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama.

What an historic moment. I am so proud to be an American, more than ever. Thank God. Thank the American electorate. Hopefully, we can look forward to a deep and meaningful change that this country so desperately needs. I only hope all citizens rally behind our new president to support and work towards an even better future. Amazing. I'm speechless. God bless President Barrack Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day....Finally!

Well here we go folks. Today is the day of reckoning. I hope it turns out good. I cast my vote a few weeks ago. Guess who I voted for. I will be up late tonight and early tomorrow..I'm not sure when we'll see the results here...but I'll be watching CNN International and checking online.

We had an absolutely gorgeous day here yesterday. (photo on right, above) The sun was out all seems like it hasn't been for weeks. Today is back to heavy fog, real damp. This past weekend was ok, but what was interesting was how when we went up to the mountains on Sunday, it was warm and sunny. More so than here in the valley. We were on the Belchen, the third highest peak (1414meters) in the Black Forest and at the soutern end. Check out the pictures. We saw the Swiss Alps, the Jura and the Vogessen mountain ranges, it was quite beautiful. It was about 5-10 degrees warmer up in the mountains and the air was so clear. There was still snow around from earlier in the week. You can see the low layer of clouds hanging over the surrounding looked like the sea.(photo left, above)

This weekend, if the weather is decent, we are going to drive up the Rhine river valley to Saarland, and over to Nancy, France. Nancy was a center of the Art Noveau movement, and the capital of old Lorraine, so it should be interesting. We may even get up to Luxembourg.

I'm going to go watch history being made. One way or another......