Adhesive Ducks, Decorating, and the Pretzel Quest

Ciao,

Any Big Bang Theory fans in this group? If not, you should give it a try, honestly the episodes are under a half hour and great for a quick break from homework or work. Unless you are a binge watcher but that’s your problem. So anyway, one of my favorite episodes is called ‘The Adhesive Duck Deficiency’. In the episode *spoiler alert* (3rd season, 8th episode) Penny falls in the shower and dislocates her shoulder. She must ask Sheldon for help to get her to the hospital. He informs her that she should get some adhesive strips for the bottom of her tub so she won’t slip, that he has added whimsical ducks to his tub and so on it goes.

Well, I had my own Adhesive Duck Deficiency today while I was trying to shave. FYI I am fine, no need to make an emergency room trip.

Now, I have been complaining to Will that the shower is too slippery and I need to get some kind of bath mat in the shower, and I would dearly love to blame him for this but since I have the car as often as he does (sometimes more) the fact that there is no bath mat in our shower is really only my fault. Humiliating to realize that, to quote Sheldon, “…it seems rather ironic that for want of 99 cent adhesive ducks we both might die in a fiery car crash.” Or in my case have a perfect four lined imprint of my shaving razor on the side of my chest. Yeah, seriously not kidding about that, oh and I apparently triggered the shower pull (an alarm in European showers that is on a pull rope that sets off a buzzer to summon help) not that anyone was available to come to my aid if I had really needed help. To add insult to injury as I was getting dressed with my gauze taped chest I slipped on a slick spot on our hardwood floor (too much pledge to clean with yesterday) and… yep you guessed it. My butt hit floor for the second time in less than a half hour. Not quite sure why the universe has it out for me today but I had to get my whining out of the way before I could actually write about my holiday (or momentarily lacking) spirit.

I told you that in my family we have an ornament tradition, well this was really the first time that Will actually got to see my ornament collection. I know, it’s crazy but we haven’t had a real tree, or our own tree since we got together. I really missed the excitement of unwrapping each ornament and trying to remember the year I received it. It’s not that easy, you might remember the feeling you had unwrapping it or maybe how you had hung it on this tree or that one but other than the ones that have a date already on them or the one I know is my first ornament I am mostly at a loss. The moral of this tale is that if you give an ornament as a gift consider putting a year (and potentially where it was bought or its significance) on the ornament in an obscure area so that the recipient can savor the memory even more.

But back to decorating the tree, I had a great time telling Will what I remembered about each ornament and he shared the history of the ornaments he had acquired. I can say our tree is very unique and I love it that way.

I took pictures of the reindeer and trees decorated but I admit the trees look all shiny when their lights come on at night.

The tree is up and the house is decorated. I have put lights and garland on the balcony, and festooned my reindeer and trees outside.

The house is even clean, now I am just two short days away from my parents arriving for a month! Yep, I am pretty excited about that!

So with the house ready for Christmas, I am just waiting for my mom to show up so we can do some holiday cookie baking.

First we are going to spend a week in Firenze (Florence) and while we are there we are going to have dinner with my dad and step-mom. Crazy to have all my parents together in one city on the other side of the pond but I am looking forward to it.

But after Firenze it is back to slave over a hot stove for a couple of days, just kidding there will only be a little slaving and lots of goodies. I will probably even make a batch of croissants and try my pretzel luck again.

Pretzels have been my newest obsession since we came back from Austria. It is so hard, no let’s say impossible, to find pretzels in Italy.

Pretzels are not as easy as one would think, I have tried several recipes and I have found the same lack of outer chewy crust while keeping the inner pretzel dough soft. They just go soft, like mushy soft, not even a good roll crust.

After additional research I have learned that to make pretzels you need to dip them in a solution of water and food grade lye.

Yes, you read that correctly. Food grade lye!

I didn’t know that lye could be found in a food grade, I just assumed it was for making soap and burning peoples skin and intestines if ingested.

Like many other strange inventions I would have loved to know who the first person to make this discovery was and why, for all that is holy, did they decide to dip their bread in a dangerous chemical.

Plus how many people did they have to feed it to before they realized that they had to neutralize the lye. I am, of course, speculating, pretzels probably have a fascinating history; history about lye, that is, the history of pretzels as they exist in shape and soft versus hard and all that pretzely stuff is easy to find.

Back to lye, it is not easy to obtain, you can’t ship it from the States and I don’t know if I dare try and find it over here because I want to make sure I understand all the directions. (My language skills have progressed nicely but not to the point where I feel confident about not poisoning Will and I by Pretzel digestion) Plus the rumor is that baking the bread neutralizes the lye but should I chance it? Yikes! Maybe not, at least not if I am reading the directions in Italian.

After much research by Will and I we have learned that we can bake the baking soda and make it more lye-like. So that will be my goal for the holidays, to make pretzely-pretzels and other tasty goodies.

I might even take pictures of everything… because let’s be honest, I wasn’t so on the ball this last week!

Until then Ciao miei Amici

Austria, Munich, and Christmas Markets

Ciao,

It has been a busy weekend. Back in America I know everyone was gorging themselves on too much food followed by too much dessert, followed by days of leftovers and which way to eat turkey tonight! Will and I decided against the too much food route, partially because I am unsure if my European oven can fit a turkey and partially because we took time to travel. Hey, it’s what we do!

Where did we go you ask?

We grabbed a friend and headed up to Innsbruck Austria to visit the closest Weihnachtsmarkt (German for Christmas Market) that was already open. While in the German/Austria region we did eat a lot of good food.

My father will disagree with the next statement but I quickly get tired of Italian food. Which isn’t completely fair. I need to expand my Italian repertoire beyond pasta dishes and pizza and it would probably open up a new love for Italian. Then again, maybe not. German/Austrian food is so hearty, it sticks to your ribs in a warm you up on a fall/winter day kind of way that Italian just can’t match.

But on to the weekend…

Innsbruck is a beautiful town with history that dates back to pre-Roman, plus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart also lived there for part of his childhood. But honestly we didn’t go for history we went for Gluhwein (mulled wine) chestnuts, street food, shopping, ambience and friends.

The Christmas market did not disappoint, as always, when I walk into a Christmas market be it big or small something just makes my mood lighter.

On the not light side of moods, Friday morning we made the drive into Germany and went to Dachau, it was the first and last concentration camp set up in Germany. It was around quite a while before World War II. It was created in 1933 to hold political prisoners as Hitler took control and the war began the camp was expanded into a forced labor camp. It eventually became a place to house prisoners from other religions and nationalities. Dachau was a training ground for the SS and the plans for Dachau were used in almost all other camps. Dachau was not a death camp per se but that didn’t stop tens of thousands of prisoners from dying there from starvation, disease, torment, and medical experiments. In fact, so many died there (over 32,000 documented and many more that were not) that they built additional ovens to burn the bodies of the dead. As with Auschwitz and Theresienstadt the prisoners entered through a gate with the saying “Arbeit macht frei” which translates into “Work will set you free”. Today visitors to the camp walk through an exact recreation of the gate, stepping onto the area used for roll call. From there one passes two monuments dedicated to the those that lost their lives and those that survived. The museum is housed in what was part of the prisoner intake area and the audio guide lets speakers tell their story in their own ways in their own languages. The museum leads you through the entire history of Dachau and then one can visit a recreation of the barracks as the evolved over the years for the prisoners of the camp.

Set towards the back are five different religious chapels or memorials, and next to them are the crematoriums. The place is a sobering reminder of the atrocities that can visited on another human being. It is hard to walk the grounds, one feels the darkness and despair that must have been part of daily life, the whispers of those that lost their lives and those that suffered because of another’s hatred. The visit to Dachau was not the best part of our trip but a reminder, a lesson in history so that we as a race will hopefully never repeat those atrocities.

Not to take away from the grimness that our morning held but to lighten the feeling in our hearts we headed into Munich to wander through town. We missed the Munich Christmas market (it started today) but we enjoyed the lively crowds as they set up their stalls and had a good lunch before heading back to Innsbruck. (Oh, and Will and D found a guitar store, of course they did!)

The next day we were joined by another friend and the four of us went up the mountain on the Hungerburg Funicular. A train that goes up but the cars are on pivots so the passengers stay level. At the top of the train in Hungerburg we got out and visited a small section of the Christmas market that had opened up that morning. We did not take the cable cars to the top of the mountain (it was roughly 35 euro per person). That will have to be another adventure. We (maybe me, maybe someone else, I am not saying) got the brilliant idea to walk down the mountain, you know instead of take the train.

It turned out to be a beautiful walk and took us on the back side of the Alpen Zoo, where we saw a buffalo and some boars hanging out enjoying the cool weather. A couple of covered bridges later we made it down and back into town for some late lunch.

Then we took a small siesta before heading back up the mountain, it was dark by this time and the view was as spectacular as before but all aglow with lights.

This time we took the train back down and headed into the main part of the Christmas market for some Gluhwein and just to be. Ending the evening with a Kiachln (which is a lot like fry bread but covered in sauerkraut or if you want it sweet preiselbeeren and powdered sugar). Then we walked our friend L to the train station and walked back to our Airbnb for some sleep. Sunday we ran back to the market to pick up the things I had decided I wanted. After that we took the long drive home (really it was not quite four hours). It was a great weekend, some sobering reminders, but friends and laughter too.

This next weekend I am going to set up Christmas, if you read last weeks blog you know how excited I am about that. I need to finish wrapping presents and get them shipped out too. So that is what is on my agenda, I hope you are all happily preparing for your holiday season in whatever way you celebrate the holidays.

Until we meet again

Ciao miei Amici

Getting Ready

Ciao,

It’s been awhile, though part of me is getting prepared for the start of next term when I am hoping to get 1-2 blog’s in a month I wasn’t quite anticipating starting the slow down just yet.

No excuses really, just life, travel, exhaustion, a little sick time and the holidays coming up. This post isn’t really about any grand adventures (shocking, I know) but more just “hey, life and all”.

I have been anticipating decorating for the holidays, it will be the first time in years that I have been able to have a tree with all the ornaments I have collected from childhood (it is a long standing tradition in our family that each year my mother gives us an ornament, I have passed on this tradition to my own child and now also my grandson). That means I have at least forty something ornaments, but honestly I have a lot more ornaments than forty. Will and I voted for a fake tree, sad I know but we will be vacationing in Florence for a week just as the tree is supposed to be receiving its daily doses of water and I don’t want to come home to a dead tree just days before Christmas. I also want to have my tree up for longer than 3 days. Soooooo non real tree it is.

I also have outside trees and wooden reindeer that I have been dragging from state to state and country to country for roughly ten years. I haven’t had them out since we moved across the ocean and they might be a little worse for wear (plus the reindeer really need new antlers, otherwise known as twigs). I think I can get them through this Christmas season but then I will need to at least pull some of the limbs from the trees and replace them with less shedding ones.

I have also learned that finding craft supplies in European countries is not as easy as going to Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann’s or whatever your favorite craft emporium might be. The crafting bug is not an American thing but America does make it easier for the aspiring decorator.

I have been piecemealing my decorations together from wherever I can find the items I need and I am pretty excited to get it all setup but not until after Thanksgiving. Not because the Europeans celebrate Thanksgiving, that is definitely an American only holiday, but we are headed up to Innsbruck Austria tomorrow morning. While America gorges on turkey and pumpkin pie I will be eating wurst, schnitzel, and waffles with a hot mug of Gluhwein in my hands. See, the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas markets) opens early in Austria and I can’t wait to go and start my holiday season.

Because we are in Europe I have been trying to finish up my Christmas shopping to send back to the States. Last weekend we made a quick trip to Venezia to see if the streets were still flooded and grab an item or two I had seen there previously. As we made our way over the main bridge leading us onto the true island I realized I had forgotten my phone. I surprised Will when I decided not to go back to the car and get it. He was less surprised that I kept asking for his phone to take pictures. Honestly, I only asked a couple of times, hence why there was no posts up about our quick Venezia run. It was still a good day, and yes, despite the cool weather we hit up Suso. Our favorite Venezia gelateria. Packages purchased and some of them even ready to mail off I finally feel like I might be getting a handle on the season. Though I am still looking for a couple small things before I send other boxes in to the postal system.

I also made almond croissants. My dad has requested them, though I have no idea how to keep croissants crispy and fresh for more than a couple of hours (this is that moment where suggestions would be welcome. Seriously, if you have any croissant insights let me know!!!)

I think over all my croissant skills are improving but since this is only the third time I have made them (because croissants are really labor intensive, well not so much labor intensive as time intensive and patience intensive) I probably need to make several more batches before I can make that claim. It is okay because my neighbor doesn’t like to bake and her kids and husband lie treats (all my extras go next door and in return they supply me with eggs, plus they are just awesome neighbors)

Yesterday, I began a deep clean of the house in anticipation of my mom and stepdad arriving in December. As I told my husband, cleaning is my own way of procrastinating. He told me most people procrastinate so they don’t have to clean and that I don’t understand how procrastination works. I tried to explain that if I procrastinate by doing something I liked I would feel guilty. He ruefully shook his head at me but there you have it; we have a clean house but I didn’t get the blog out yesterday.

All in all it has been a good November and I am sure I will have adventures to tell you about after we have a weekend in Austria and Germany, so until then.

Ciao miei Amici

Fall is Here

Ciao,

I would love to be giving you all a great glimpse into what I have been doing but the reality is I am not doing anything. Will and I have both been fighting off the crud of Italy and I can definitely say it is not fun. Every time we think we are recovered it comes around and socks us for another loop. So, I will be taking a small hiatus until I am recovered. 

If nothing else, we are going to Austria at the end of the month and I am sure it will be an adventure.

I wish you all great adventures of your own and will be back when my nose stops running.

Ciao miei Amici

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Ciao,

It seemed appropriate to use a quote from Harry Potter about adventure since we spent the last weekend in London. My wonderful husband turned 50 and I wanted to give him a birthday to remember. Even though he has visited London in the past we had a fantastic adventure filled weekend.

As so often happens when we have these monumental weekends I am going to have to give you all the highlights.

A quick note of full disclosure, Will’s sister sent him a rubber chicken for his birthday. Will named him Charlie and we took Charlie to London with us. Charlie had a wonderful time!

Some of you may know that I have a degree in history, which means a couple of things, first I love to research, mostly anything but I do have specific times in history I like more than others. Secondly, when we go on vacation I tend to bring back books as my souvenirs. Admittedly not the lightest souvenir but I do like bikes an awful lot. If you are wondering what this has to do with the people who read my blog, let me tell you. It has occurred to me that because I give such quick highlights on many of our adventures some people might want to know more about a specific place or adventure. If so, just comment below my link (or photo, depending how you are getting to my blog) and I will see if I can write a blog about your interest. I have not opened up my blog site for comments yet due to some issues in the past but maybe in the future it will be available for comment right on the blog.

Now… on to London (with Will and Charlie)

We flew in Thursday evening and back home late Sunday night. We had roughly three full days to poke around London and we only pre-purchased tickets to The Tower of London and the Hop on and off bus. We knew that we wanted to see the changing of the Queen’s Guards on Friday, I wanted to go to the National Gallery, and Will wanted to stop by Denmark Street. Other than that, which already seems like a lot, we played everything by ear.

Friday we were up early as often happens when you are sleeping away from home. We ate breakfast at the hotel because when they offer breakfast and you are traveling you eat it, one less meal to buy. The coffee was beyond horrible but by the time we left I had embraced having baked beans with my eggs.

Then we set off by tube to Buckingham Palace to get a good spot for the Changing of the Queen’s Guard!

We were there roughly two hours before the pomp and circumstance began but that was a good thing, within a half hour of us deciding where the best place to be was the area around us filled, and filled, and filled. Until there seemed to be a sea of people all waiting for the pageantry. (Charlie spent the waiting time talking to all the city chickens he could find.)

The guards were all very regal and marched with much aplomb. We were too far away to see the passing of responsibilities as it was and should I go again I would position myself differently. However, it was a very memorable experience and I tip my hat in respect to the men and women who have given so much to guard the Queen.

From Buckingham Palace we wandered down The Mall towards Trafalgar Square. We found a great pub restaurant to have lunch called The Admiralty. Our waiter was in love with Charlie and patted him on the head as he would walk by. After my first real taste of English pie and pint of cider I was fortified to make my mad dash through the National Gallery.

I have specific artists that I like very much and others that I will bother to see if I have the time and then, honestly, I don’t much give a rat’s rear end about the rest. That being said the list of those I will pop my head in to look at does get updated from time to time, I learn about an artist or see a piece of work in passing and take a fascination to it but again, if I don’t care I have other things to do besides wander around looking at someone I don’t know about. That all said Caravaggio is always at the top of my list and I plan all museum visits (The National Gallery has a great app, Charlie concurs) with him in mind.

Will is pretty indulgent of my mad museum dashes and has mostly similar taste in artwork so we make a good team. After the Caravaggio room we moved to see Monet, Van Gogh,  and Degas in the impressionist room. Hopped over to see a Vermeer or two and then dropped in on Seurat. Due to time I left off there and we made our way over to the British Museum for a quick view of the Rosetta Stone and the Egyptian wing. The British Museum artifacts are housed by beautiful architecture and the building itself is well worth a visit.

On our way to the British Museum we stopped on Denmark Street. When I say we stopped I mean we went into every store on Denmark Street. (Charlie even found a couple friendly faces.) Will is learning to play the guitar. I think he is much better than he thinks he is, I mean he hardly ever sends me screaming from our house, unlike my singing, which sends everything with ears on a dead run far away from me. (Even Charlie and all he can do is squawk.)

Will received a Boss Katana amp for his birthday and was interested in a couple of pedals to go with it. He hemmed and hawed but on the way back from the British Museum he finally found a couple he was looking for and I encouraged him to get them. You only turn fifty once. Which, is also true of every age but somehow milestones should be celebrated with a few extra perks.

Our good friend J is a lifelong Londoner but was unable to meet with us this visit. We will definitely hook up next trip. She did send us a snippet letting us know that they had created and lit the wands from Harry Potter to celebrate the release of the new Fantastic Beasts movie coming out this winter.

So we took a side trip to St. Pauls Cathedral and walked the Millennium Bridge to get a good view of the wands and the city at night.

On the other side we stopped to admire the Globe Theater, found some dinner and headed back to the hotel.

The next day, Saturday, feet already sore we headed out again to take in The Tower of London. I will pause here to apologize for every time I have called it the London Tower, totally an oversight and no offense intended.

We were early enough that there was no line at the Crown Jewels and we popped on through to see them. From there we walked part of the wall, took in the information on the Royal Menagerie (Charlie thought i was going to leave him with the Royal Menagerie and was happy to learn that other than the Royal Ravens, and a couple of city chickens) there are no beasts left at the Tower) and then walked through the actual Tower of London. They have turned it into an armory museum though you can wander through and see some of the areas where prisoners were kept.

We met up with our Yeomen Warder for his informational guidance. Though he acted as a guide, he is in fact a Royal Guard, his job is to guard the Tower of London. (It is an elite group of men and women, deserving of respect. More people have been to space than have been admitted to this job.) He explained more of the history of the grounds and the Tower. He explained that only ten people were executed within the walls of the Tower. Three were shot and seven were beheaded; of those beheaded three were Queens. Their remains were interred in unmarked graves beneath the floors of St. Peter ad Vincula Chapel. As our Yeomen pointed out, whatever history has made of these people today they died traitors to the crown and were undeserving of a better burial.

After we parted ways from our Yeomen we stopped in Beauchamp Tower and looked at the intricate carvings, or graffiti, left behind by some of the prisoners of the Tower.

It was almost noon and the tourists were out in force so we left the Tower of London and headed over towards Winston Churchill’s War Rooms. We stopped for lunch and when we walked out, we found ourselves in the midst of a very large number of people protesting Brexit. We have heard various reports but some said there were as many as a quarter of a million people protesting. It was a little overwhelming but we pushed through to the other side and made our way to the underground bunkers of Churchill.

It was a great tour, a side of the war that can only be felt by walking through the bunker and listening to audio narration. The bunkers also house a large collection of Churchill’s life that they have organized into a museum. The information was overwhelming but there is no doubt he was a great man and exactly what Britain needed to see them through World War II.

After we came back above grounds we wandered a bit and debated what to do but eventually decided we were tired and headed back to the hotel. We ate dinner at great restaurant named The Narrows where they served a phenomenal burger. Then it was time to get some sleep before Sunday came.

Sunday was supposed to be a Hop on Hop off kind of day but we had decided the previous evening that we wanted to make a quick run to Baker Street to check out the Sherlock Holmes museum. Now if you are like me and haven’t read the original stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but have only watched the movies and tv shows produced in the last 15 or so years than some of the museum will be lost on you. However, if you are a true Sherlock enthusiast then you will appreciate the detail they have gone to recreating the 221B Baker Street. (Charlie was very impressed with the museum and wanted to hang out a bit longer ut we rushed him on)

We did eventually get on the Hop On Hop Off bus but I quickly found it not to my liking. (Though Charlie enjoyed a birds eye view.) It was a great way to see the city and I might have enjoyed it if we had done it the first day but I had already tubed all over the city, popping up here and there and taken in most of the sights which we seemed to zoom past on the bus. We made it down to the London Eye (which I did not ride but I will try and do next time) and I had enough; the final blow being when we realized that Big Ben was under repair until 2021. So, we hopped off, never to return to the bus again. Lesson learned I suppose. From there we popped over to a restaurant called the Duck and Waffle, yes, I had duck and waffle. (No, Charlie was not impressed that we were eating his cousins.)

We did a little bit of shopping, stopped back at the Admiralty for a cider and apparently made this guy’s day. (He loved Charlie, his wife said it was the first time he had ever smiled for a photo.) Found a bookstore or two and then finally it was time to make our way back to grab our luggage and head to the airport. I have no idea how three days went so fast, I also have no idea how we did so much. I do know we walked a lot (10 miles a day) and I became quite proficient at navigating the tube. (Charlie popped up now and then to make people smile or freak them out, whatever worked.)

We had a great weekend and I fell in love with London!

I know this was the down and dirty of our trip but I have a couple of slow weeks coming up (I mean I could find some adventures but Will needs to recover from his birthday) so if there is something you want to know more about just let me know and I will do my best to write about it.

Until next time, thanks for sharing my adventures,

Ciao miei Amici