June 21, 2014

Jerusalem Ramparts Walk, and Flora/Fauna Count (Day 6/6)

13 June, Friday: Jerusalem Ramparts and flew home midday

Israel 20140613-504 Israel 20140613-511 Israel 20140613-477 Israel 20140613-514Walked on walls/ramparts of Jerusalem, from Jaffa Gate to past Zion Gate and back again.

Had a 2nd Jerusalem Bagel with Hyssop.

Drove in taxi down, down, down from Jerusalem high country towards sea level at Tel Aviv.

Plants seen during our whole trip:

- mango, banana, avocado, fig, olive, papaya, carob, pomegranate, date palm trees (50% of Medjool dates in world from Israel).

- bougainvillea

- oleander

- jacaranda

- eucalyptus

- tamarisk

- Ceylon trees (red flower)

- amaryllis farm

- "salt plant" - can lick leaves to get salt

- caper plant, purple flower

- Christ-thorn tree

- Sodom apple plant - poisonous

- Acacia tree

 

Animals seen:

- mongoose scurrying across the road

- Bedouin sheep and goat herds

- ibex (male and female)

- desert gazelle

 

Birds seen:

- Desert Bee-eater on a palm tree

- White-breasted Kingfisher

- Myna bird

- Tristam's Starling "a species of starling native to Israel, Jordan, northeastern Egypt, western Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman, nesting mainly on rocky cliff faces." (e.g. Masada!)

- Desert partridges

- Nun flycatcher

 

Some Things I didn't know before my visit to Israel:

- Arabic is an official language of Israel, along with Hebrew. School children are additionally required to learn English.

- Israel is 21% Muslim. Or it may actually just be 21% Arab, most of which are Muslim, but some of which are Christians, and some of which are Druze. (Israel is the only country in the world where a majority of citizens are Jewish.)

- There are about 20,000 Messianic Jews in Israel, and about 300,000 around the world.

- The center of the Bahai religion is also in Israel (Haifa).

-  Israel is one of the world's major exporters of military equipment, accounting for 10% of the world total in 2007.


June 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jerusalem and Bethlehem (Israel Day 5/6)

12 June, Thursday: Jerusalem and Bethlehem (mostly on foot; saw lots more than this but I didn't have time to write it all down as we were always on the move on foot)

Israel 20140612-318 Israel 20140612-372 Israel 20140612-378 Israel 20140612-407 Israel 20140612-421 Israel 20140612-450 Israel 20140612-469- Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock)

- Lion Gate

- Bethesda (pool down deep at St. Anne's church; traditional birthplace of Anne/Hannah, mother of Mary)

- Via Dolorosa (Roman soldiers etched games on the stone floors)

- Damascus Gate, Garden Tomb, Jerusalem bagels with dry green hyssop salt!

- Austrian café/hospice - had apple strudel

- 14 stations of the cross

- Muslim strike - shops all closed. Jewish ones open.

- Jewish Quarter Café for lunch.

- Cistern under Queen Helen Coptic Orthodox church - huge, wonderful echoes such that you can make chords with one person's voice, three notes. Also an Ethiopian church.

- Mt. Zion - King David's Tomb (not really) and Upper Room (not really)

- Wailing Wall - men's and women's prayer areas at the Western Wall; also archaeological area of Western Wall where men and women can go together. K went to Women's Section Tunnel to come out by men's section under arch, closer to former temple area...

- Saw entrance to Oskar Schindler's grave site, but didn't have time to stop

- Bethlehem in West Bank

 

June 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hezekiah's Tunnel, Dead Sea, Masada (Israel, Day 4/6)

11 June, Wednesday: Hezekiah's Tunnel, Dead Sea and Masada (8 out-of-the-car stops, including those three long interesting ones!)

 - Seen in passing: Armenian quarter; Zion Gate, Mt. of Olives, Kidron Valley (burial caves)

Israel 20140611-169

Israel 20140611-210 Israel 20140611-233 Israel 20140611-254

Hezekiah's Tunnel: totally dark, little LED torches, came out at Pool of Siloam

City of David - original walls below. Where Jebusites lived.

Mount of Olives:

• cemetery, view of city of Jerusalem

•camel ride on "Kojak"! with Camel driver Ali.

• Muslim moque at peak of Mt. of Olives - site of Ascension? Just parched dirt, not a single flower or tree or plant.

- East Jerusalem: Muslim neighborhood. Saw Bethany on a hill in the West Bank

Good Samaritan memorial spot, mosaic museum on the Road to Jericho (Yeriho). Beautiful bougainvillea!

Bedouin boy Mohammed guided us on a little hike (keffiyehs on head) along ridge by gorge with St. Gregorius/George monastery (4th century AD - maybe at cave where Elijah found refuge), goats below in desert on other side; chalk, lime, flint rock. Saw man riding donkey.

Entered Jericho and drove through - didn't stop at archeological site - apparently hardly anything to see. Saw a sycamore tree like the one Zaccheus climbed in this city (not old enough to be the one). Chewed on carob pod.

- Passed cable car to Mt. Temptation (where they think Jesus was tempted.

Caves of Qumran! (+ "Two Moons" i.e. one reflected in the Dead Sea). 11 different caves.

Dead Sea is 430m BELOW sea level. 34°C. Cooler than normal. Blessed! Huge sea. Small fish in the fresh water area where fed by springs. Mineral beach. Mud applied and dried, then floating in sea like corks! Fun! Lunch: tuna wrap & banana ice shake. Saw Arnon Gorge across the Dead Sea in Jordan.

- Passed En Gedi Kibbutz (Mt. Jesse above)

Masada

 - Desert Safari on way back; Wadi (= dry river bed; in Arabic = river) Arugot - went through in Range Rover - amazing! 36°C (signs to Wadi David but we didn't go there)

Crazy dusty, steep rock road

Darna Moroccan restaurant for dinner in Jerusalem; outside; cat by table! Dessert: "Toubkal Delight" (sweet pastilla [phyllo pastry] with soy milk, orange blossom water, cinnamon and almonds - also honey?)

 

June 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 20, 2014

Tiberias Region (Israel, Day 3/6)

10 June, Tuesday: Tiberias Region, then ending in Jerusalem (11 out-of-the-car stops!)

Israel 20140610-74- Tiberias & Sea of Galilee / Lake Tiberias / Lake Kinnereth

- Tabgha - Franciscan (Catholic) Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the Lake. We put our feet in the water. 2000-year-old dock, and church memorializing the spot where Christ told Peter about building His church.

- Capernaum - Peter's mother-in-law's house, where Jesus healed her from the fever and she served them. Village. Jesus' synagogue.

- Bethsaida - ruins from 300 - 586 BC (1st temple period). Only people around were active archaeologists working, and us. Completely ruined (cf Jesus' woe statements, Mt 11, Lk 10). Former Syrian military post. Near the Golan Heights. Saw Upper Jordan River Valley - green surrounded by dry tan land. Last rain had been May 8th (a month before). Oldest city gate from 1st temple period.

- Tabgha Benedictine Monastery (commemorates the Loaves & Fishes miracles). 

Israel 20140610-122- Mt. Beatitudes Franciscan monastery & next to it, we read the beatitudes and some more of Jesus' sermon on the Mount (which would have been around there).

- Ginosar/Gennesaret - Jesus Boat Museum (Pier, saw girls' student group with female bodyguard with gun, ex-military)

- Magdala/Migdal (where Mary Magdalene was from). Saw young camels and a donkey by side of road (near Bedouin village). Mexican Catholic church - new excavation, not even officially opened yet. Mikvot (ritual bathing pool). Boat altar with chapels with mosaics.

- Tiberias Jewish synagogue ruins (Hellenist influence, images of sun god in mosaic floor!), with hot springs water running down a gutter (warm). Turkish hamman ruins. 33° out.

Israel 20140610-129- Yardenit - lunch spot by Jordan River baptism spot just below Lake Tiberias. Ate big St. Peter's fish (tilapia), then fed some baby tilapia in the Jordan river with pita bread from lunch (with our feet in the Jordan). Lunch: hummus, pita, eggplant, kohlrabi, tahini, along with the tilapia.

- Former "Peace Island" at border with Kingdom of Jordan.  Drove on dirt road close to barbed wire fence, not allowed to get out or really supposed to take pictures. Signs for land mines.

- Passed Beth She'an (Roman ruins), Mount Gilboa (where King Saul died), Samaria; didn't stop.

- In West Bank for the first time ever! Lots of trash around. Jewish settlement in West Bank - two layers of barbed wire around it. Caves in the hills. Desert! "Judean desert" even though in territory of Benjamin.

- Jericho - red signs saying no Israelis allowed.

- Saw across the valley, Mt. Nebo (dark top of mountain) - where Moses died and was buried by God. Ammann, Jordan, in the distance on a hill (capital).

- Qasr el-Yahud - possibly the site where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist (and crossing of the Jordan by Joshua & Israel). Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Romanian and Ethiopian churches - golden domes. Military zone - mine fields on right and left. Country of Jordan just on the other side of the water. K dipped toes of right foot in the water, but guide said filled with pesticides & dirty. Crossed border system to river, which is actual border.

- Drove down patrol road - mines of other side of fence. Licked leaf of "salt plant". Flour-like dry soil.

Israel 20140610-156- 1,500 year old monastery - originally a hermit, solitary St. Gerasimos. "Beth Hoglah" - Joshua 15 (dividing of the land). House of the Partridge! Myrrh incense smell in gift shop - smelled good.

- Crossed out of West Bank into East Jerusalem at 5:15pm. Rain shadow desert. Dividing wall near populated areas - Jerusalem.


June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mediterranean Coast of Israel (Day 2/6)

9 June, Monday: Mediterranean Coast of Israel (Jaffa to Akko), then ending in Tiberias (7 out-of-the-car stops, including long interesting ones at Caesarea and Akko)

- Our private tour guide would prep us on what to look at and take note of, where to take pictures, and then let us out of the car saying things like, "You have a mission. 2 1/2 minutes." Or "Take your time: 7 minutes." It was funny and very helpful in allowing us to see so many amazing things in such a short time. He was really organized, strategic, and no-nonsense, at the same time reminding us that "your wish is my command." Need a private tour guide in Israel? We have one to recommend.

Israel 20140609-12- Jaffa/Joppa/Yafo

• Statue of Jonah's big fish

• Statue of Napoleon

• Egyptian cartouche

• view of Tel Aviv

- Tel Aviv: Hall of Independence (where Declaration of Independence was signed in May 1948).

- Caesarea

Israel 20140609-44• Herod's amphitheatre, hippodrome, palace, aqueduct and freshwater swimming pool by the sea

• climbing sand dune to stand on the aqueduct

• Range Rover driving through the sand to come out at...

 - Village of the Blue Bridge

- Zikron Jakov (walked a block through craft shops, etc. Wine-making village)

- Haifa:

• Arab restaurant on the sea (eggplant tahini, hummus with olive oil, warm pita, rice & lentils ("Majadra"), chicken kebab, beef-lamb sausage)

• Bahai gardens

• Carmelite Monastery (pretty ceiling)

- Akko/Acre:

Israel 20140609-55• tunnels and halls underground

• mosque

• layers of excavations from different eras -- Crusader, Byzantine, Ottoman, etc.

• religious tension between Arabs and Jews (5 days of violence in 2009)

• Souq market with Kanafeh ("Knafeh") delicious orange-colored pastry with goat cheese, many kind of Baklava, Croquante (nuts), Bird's Nest

• Fresh orange juice squeezed on the street
Israel 20140609-60• Arabic Coffee with cardamom

• boys jumping off the tall walls into the sea and climbing up again

• Napoleon with Israeli flag - his first defeat was here in 1799.

 

 


June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tel Aviv Sunset (Israel Trip: Day 1/6)

8 June 2014, Sunday night: Tel Aviv

Walk and dinner on the beach in Tel Aviv, with our bare feet in the sand. Perfect temperature.

Israel 20140608-3 Israel 20140608-6Israel 20140608-7


June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 15, 2014

How my daily Bible readings came to life as we visited Israel this past week

Israel 20140612-422Preface: I am reading the whole Bible this year in an interesting different way: chronologically through the New Testament, with relevant Old Testament passages added each day. I made my first visit to the Middle East this past week (David's second trip to Israel - first was on business). This photo is at the Wailing Wall - a section of the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I'm in the middle in the green shirt with the tan hat, making my way to pray at the wall.

There are not wonderful enough words to describe our trip to Israel and Palestine, and how it impacted my experience reading the Bible (passages that had been chosen and scheduled back in the summer and fall of 2013 before I even knew I would be making this trip). I will try to mention a few ways the Bible came more to life as I read it in the Holy Land.

We were able to identify with the Scripture as we saw Israeli oak trees (Gen 13:18), tamarisk trees (Gen 21:33), used shekels (still the currency of Israel, Gen 24:22), needed to wash our feet when getting back to our room each day (Gen 24:32), mounted and dismounted a camel (Gen 24:61, 64), dipped our feet in the Jordan river at the likely spot of Joshua's crossing (on the very day of the scheduled reading of Dt 27:2! God knew!), drove up the long, steep hill towards Jerusalem from the lower country (2 Ki 16:5 "up to Jerusalem"), saw a blind person on the road in the old city (Dt 27:18), heard about people accepting bribes (Dt 27:25), and walked on Jerusalem's city walls/battlements and through its various gates, touched the stones and saw the various foundations (Is 54:11-12).

"Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 2:4) - we saw the contrast, the bondage of being stuck in sin and under the law, with no hope, because the Jews don't think the Messiah has come yet, and in the meantime they can't offer sacrifices anymore because there is no temple (the Temple Mount is under Muslim control). We also saw the bondage of man-made traditions and religion that has been added on to what God actually says in the Bible (excessive Sabbath laws like not being allowed to press an elevator button, and excessive food laws like not being allowed to have meat and dairy in the same meal or kitchen, separation of men and women, no enjoyment of sex allowed by ultra-orthodox Jews, only as a duty).

"No Jew nor Greek... male nor female... all one in Christ" (Gal 3:28) - we saw the separation of the 4 quarters in Jerusalem - Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. We also saw the separation of men's and women's sections at the Wailing Wall and the memorial site of King David's tomb (unfairly disproportionate with much more room and nicer conditions for the men, while the women are crowded in a small space). These could all be one in Christ. There is still a huge division in Jerusalem, so visible. It made it very apparent why this verse is needed.

"Justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1) - this is so needed in the Middle East - so much evil has been done, and the divisions are so deep and long-lasting. Jews, Christians, and Muslims who all feel oppressed and have suffered so much...

"The coastlands" (Is 42:4) - we drove all up the coast of Israel along the Mediterranean, so this is now a beautiful picture in my mind.

"...nor My praise to graven images..." (Is 42:8) - we saw people kneeling down and kissing objects and lighting sacred candles to immediately extinguish them and bring them home to relatives in other countries, and basically worshipping buildings, spots on the ground, or icons (these were all in orthodox Christian churches)... Churches are full of images and pictures of people, but synagogues don't have any. Simpler seems better...

"the well-watered valley of the Jordan" (Gen 13:10) - yes, indeed - brown and tan dry desert ground all around, but contrasting lush greenery along the Jordan River, very clear.

"the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free" (Gal 4:25-26) - Jerusalem did seem in slavery a bit, to the conflict between nations/ cultures/ religions/ languages/ traditions, the divisions and hatred and enmity (even between different "Christian" factions), the uneasy peace specifically for the sake of tourist money flowing in. I do so look forward to the Jerusalem above, which will be united in Christ and free of hatred.

Gen 21:14-19 talked about the need for water in the wilderness for Hagar & Ishmael - it's life or death. We saw the very, very bone-dry Judean desert. Water is life.

The deeds of the flesh: enmities, strife, disputes, dissensions, factions --> not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21) - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a prime model of all of the above, just horrible - various "Christian" denominations are in charge of distinct portions of the church (where they say Christ was crucified & buried, but it actually doesn't make any sense (to me); it was more likely near the Garden Tomb site), and they can't agree together on anything, because none of them want to give up an inch of their space and a war would start if one of them swept a bit of the other sect's floor or someone moves a chair or ladder. Some of the monks have put each other in the hospital (Armenian, Greek, Ethiopian, Syriac, Coptic Orthodox, Franciscan Catholic).

"They will fight against [Jerusalem], take it and burn it down." (Jer 34:22) - there is a layer of the city, 6 metres under current street level in the Jewish Quarter at least, that excavations show was burned.

"Peace and mercy upon the Israel of God" Galatians 6:16) - it needs it so much. The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah's first coming, or have given up and decided not to believe in God after all... both because they did not recognize Jesus' first coming, the One who IS our peace...

The Bible is true!!! Visit Israel if/when you can... it's an amazing experience. We know a truly excellent private tour guide, if you can go that route. Expensive but oh so worth it.

June 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 02, 2014

Momentous Week: Swiss Naturalization Interview, and more

It's been such a significant week that I am driven back to my poor old blog. Hello, there. (It's just too much to write on Facebook.)

To keep a record for posterity, here are some of the wonderful and exciting events that have taken place in our family, all within a few days' time:

- Wednesday, January 29th: Einbürgerungsgespräch! 

David and I finally went in to our local Gemeindehaus to have the much-dreaded Gespräch (Interview/Conversation) with the local authorities about whether we are suitable candidates to receive the Swiss nationality and passport. We had sent in our application back in July 2013, when we finally qualified due to having lived in our village for 5 years (plus my having lived in the country for over 20 years total, due to my many years in Geneva as a child; David and Emily qualify as members of my family who have also lived here 5 years in this village). Then we waited. In August they wanted to know a few more details from us, and to have our sworn statement that we really are married and have no intentions of changing that in the next few years. If the cantonal officials only knew us. Married 21 years and blessed out of our socks by each other. At least, I am, and David tells me it's true for him, too (there's no accounting for taste). Then on January 14th, we got the long-awaited letter telling us to come in 15 days later for The Conversation in German and Swiss-German about Swiss politics and our integration into Swiss society.

- Thursday, January 30th: Jason's residence permit extended and Emily's post-cancer theatrical début!

We had been waiting for a while to hear about the status of our son's residence permit, because although he is our dependent and he is studying, and has no other home, the location of his studies is abroad, so there was some question of what kind of permit they would allow him to have, if any. We had been waiting since last July on this issue as well. But Thursday we received word that his permit has been issued and is on the way to us, arriving within a week. Fantastic! So pleased. It remains to be seen which kind of permit they are giving him, but that's in God's hands.

Later that day, we had the pleasure of seeing Emily perform in the opening night of a classic play at her high school, her post-thyroid-cancer re-début! Hallelujah! She had had to bow out of her role at the beginning of rehearsals for another play in September due to being in and out of the hospital three times and in a long recovery period which kept her away from school for a total of almost 8 weeks of 10th Grade. So this is a victory indeed and a joyous occasion. We thank God profusely that she is 100% back to health (just relying on daily thyroid hormone supplements since she has no more thyroid gland of her own).

- Friday, January 31st: Visit from a dear old friend. My most constant friend from the first day of Kindergarten all the way through 12th Grade came to visit for the weekend to see Emily's play (of which there were three shows)

- Saturday, Feburary 1st: Summer Internship News. We Skyped with our son Jason for the first time since he went back to college for the 2nd half of his Junior Year. It was so good to catch up with two weeks of his news. He shared with us that he was just offered a prestigious internship for next summer. Yay! Thank You, God, all over again, for how you provide so wonderfully and keep blessing us. It's all Your grace!

And Next Up:

- Tomorrow: our very first pastor family ever arrives in Zug! Wow! Our church has been completely run by volunteers for the past 9 years, with a team of elders and "servant leaders" taking turns teaching and leading. This is historic, to have someone taking full-time responsibility for shepherding our ever-growing church family (we need it at this point of growth). Have I mentioned that I'm really thankful to God for His provision?

- In six days we're off to Colorado for Emily's school break, and meeting up with my mom, still skiing at 69! It's just a very exciting two weeks. Glory to God, our Rock, our Shelter, our Provider and Shield, and Lover of our souls.

February 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 31, 2013

21st Edition of my Christmas Stamp Collage - 2013

For the background on this annual stamp collage project of mine that has been in progress for the 21 years (minus 9 days) we have been married, see the previous editions: 1993-1997199819992000-20022003-20042005, 20062007, 2008, 200920102011, 2012. Those posts have links to close-ups of all the other years' collages. 
20131231_173500

 

 


And the whole collage to date; always amazing to see such a collection of pages each representing an entire year of marriage - David just keeps on getting better, as we both keep our hope centred on Jesus our Good King:

DSC_0006

 

 

 


December 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2013

Blog & Life Chaos

So my 15-year-old daughter gets papillary thyroid cancer, has a hemi-thyroidectomy under general anaesthesia 12 days after the first visit to a doctor, another hemi-thyroidectomy 11 days later, and radioactive iodine therapy on the way, and THEN I discover that all the  photos on my blog from the past three years are reduced to ugly broken links because they were posted via Posterous, which shut down earlier this year and didn't really send the actual photos to Typepad as it had appeared? What a blow!
;-)

I have a zip file with the posts saved from posterous before it shut down, but how to take that and fix the Typepad blog with it... would take some research, time and work and I might not bother. As any K's Café erstwhile reader knows, I don't blog anymore anyway. (This is an exception. :-) )

Interesting, though, to see how Typepad has evolved since I've been away the past three years. Kind of cool how it can now automatically add links for you (all the links in this post [except the soccer one] were automatically suggested to me... and approved manually by me).

To add value to this post, here is a fun-looking new way to play football/soccer encased in big plastic bubbles.

Flumserberg August 2013

Flowers on Flumserberg August 2013

And to redeem the blog photo situation just a tiny bit, here are two non-broken photos, from a lovely mountain excursion to Flumserberg (about an hour from home) with my 18-year-old son last month before he left for a semester in Paris at La Sorbonne.

 



September 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 27, 2013

Testing out posting on my blog by sending an email



I used to use Posterous to blog before they shut down. I liked just being able to send an email to a memorable address (post@posterous.com was pretty easy to remember -- see, I still remember it).

Typepad also now has a feature to be able to post by email, but each person has their own "secret" address they have to send to -- NOT memorable in the least. It's 16 random characters before the @, a mixture of numbers and letters. Oh well, I'm thankful for my address book which will remember it for me.

Anyway, I'm just checking out this feature with this post.

I think it said it doesn't keep the formatting, sadly. So that means this will not turn out bold, italic, red, blue, green, yellow, pink and purple like I am seeing it now in my email application, more's the pity.

However, you are supposed to be able to send photos, like this flower in my garden two days ago, and this cake I made last week (I never get tired of looking at purple flowers and chocolate cake, I don't know about you, but they seemed like ideal test photos):

June 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 26, 2013

Thoughts during Swiss-German Zumba dance exercise class today (my fourth one ever):

1. Can I make this water bottle last to the end of class?

2. A Swiss cultural thing: we open the doors between each song to let in cool air from outside, and close them during the songs so as not to disturb anyone outside with the loud dance music. Even though we're between a forested river and a busy road & train track and open field. I see how I grew up not wanting to bother anyone. It has stuck with me.

3. I can see the trees at the top of the Albis mountain from the window. Lovely.

4. Sort of a shame in this situation that I understand Spanish and German. I'd rather not know what the Zumba song lyrics are saying, since the Spanish-language ones seem to be mostly about lust & and the German-language one today sounded to be mostly about bribery. I'd rather hear about faithfulness and honor and honesty, personally.

5. Was that left hand, right leg, or right arm, right leg, wait she's already three steps farther on... just give me eight more classes to pick up some of this stuff...

June 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 13, 2013

A really fresh baguette story from Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France

After our three-hour ramble up hill and down touring the three abandoned, ruined medieval castles in around-freezing fog, some of us were hungry and some were thirsty, and all chilly, so we looked for a place to eat. Problem: the time was almost 4pm. Not a meal-time in France. We stopped at an auberge with lights on. The bartender was standing outside in his apron, smoking. I asked him doubtfully whether we could eat. He wasn't scornful at all, only discouraging: he flatly stated that it was a "ville morte" (a dead town) and we weren't likely to find anything to eat, especially at this hour. He said it had been very busy at noon, but as of 3pm it had been empty, and wouldn't serve again until 6:30pm. He suggested perhaps we might find a boulangerie or somesuch back in Colmar.

 

We kept our eyes open as we headed that way, and spotted a boulangerie not two minutes down the road, still in Ribeauvillé: La Renommé, a boulangerie at 3, route de Colmar, sister to this one elsewhere in the village. The branch we chose is too small (and new) to have bothered to make a website for itself. David turned around to go back, as we had passed it in our zero-expectations for the town. I hopped out and ran in to check what they had. A very friendly redhead with a tattoo on her lower back where the baker's apron had scrunched up her shirt greeted me and assured me she could make fresh sandwiches for us on their baguette bread. There were other assorted pastries in the glass cases. The family agreed to come in for chicken or ham and cheese on fresh bread. Once inside, however, we decided on sharing around merely some warmed-up curried chicken quiche (to which our hostess happily added tasty salad), an family-sized traditional Alsatian brioche with raisins inside and almonds & powered sugar on top (called a Kugelhopf), a pain au chocolat, an éclair au chocolat, a slice of blueberry tart, an apricot juice, three hot chocolates, an espresso, and two bottles of still water. We thought that would do it.

 

There were exactly two two-seater tables, i.e. four chairs, perfect for our family. Our happy redhead quickly wiped off the two little tables for us, which were on the edge of the kitchen. Two of us were really sitting in the baker's area, and two in the store front. The right number of chairs notwithstanding, there were only one little spoon and one hot chocolate mug in the whole establishment, so the kids received their hot chocolate in bowls with large soup spoons. David lucked out in that they did have an espresso cup, but the lady couldn't find a second small spoon, so she was going to take my hot chocolate spoon and wash it for him, until I explained we'd been married for 20 years now and he wouldn't mind re-using my spoon :-) Indeed.

 

As we were delighting in the fresh fare, the baker lady went about her business and laid 20 baguette dough lengths on a special contraption that then deposited them into an enormous oven near our tables. We overheard her inform another customer that they would be coming out in 20 minutes. Light bulbs went on in our heads. We came up rather easily with the determination to stretch out our visit for another little bit, and when the loaves exited the oven, our new friend picked one up off the conveyor, dropped it into a bag, and handed it to us, all warm, fragrant, crispy and soft at the same time, and we were on our way (but not without an emergency fresh chocolate chip cookie in another little bag; you never know, the bread might not be enough). By the time we got home 2 hours later (having passed from France, through Germany, back into Switzerland), there were 2 centimetres of bread left. We forgot all about the cookie until we reached our garage.

 

Here you see the conveyor-to-oven-and-back. Ingenious. The 19 other loaves ended up in the lady's wicker baguette basket for sale for locals' dinner tables (last bread baked at 5pm daily). Ours bypassed the basket completely. And the dinner table.
46787800-IMG_3121

 

Vive la France! And thanks be to God for a wonderful overnight in Alsace; for special, unexpected treats; and for fun family memories created.

January 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 12, 2013

Castle #3: Haut-Ribeaupierre (closed for safety reasons). Alsace, France

The final castle, at the top of the hill, had danger & closure signs.

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It was really very Brigadoon-ish on this foggy day:

But with some impressive moss:

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January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ruined Castle #2: Château Saint-Ulrich (Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France)

Next up: Château Saint-Ulrich, just a little farther along the path. There's a legend about two brothers lived in these two castles, an arrow's shot away from each other on the same hill (for those who speak French). It has to do with hunting, arrows, crossbows, window shutters, and getting up in the morning at the wrong time.

 

Anyway, in the fog, this castle looked remarkably like the previous one, at first glance:

 

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But it was actually much bigger, with more to explore and see. Though the kids disdained the modern additions of some rough wooden stairs and metal railings for safety. They determined not to touch anything but rock/stone. The fog was particularly impressive here. We couldn't see from one side of the castle to the other. Emily was calling to us from across the way, and we asked her to wave her arms so we'd spot her location, and she replied that she was practically doing jumping jacks already. Thick fog, I tell you.

 

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Again, a very white view from the top of the tower, over the lovely valley and farmland below (I suppose):
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Emily found a nice perch:
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Jason found some ancient floor supports to conquer:
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January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Le Château du Petit-Ribeaupierre, Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France

After our morning pastries in Colmar and a look around the town, we drove 20 minutes north to Ribeauvillé (I wish I knew if it is pronounced the way it looks or has some special local pronunciation-rule-bending, but I forgot to ask while we were there), because it features a hill with three ruined medieval castles: Petit-Ribeaupierre (or Giersberg or Girsbourg); Saint Ulric (or Saint Ulrich); and Haut-Ribeaupierre (which is officially closed to tourists because it's unsafe in some way, but you can apparently go in a little way without repercussions).

The day started with clear blue sky and 1 degree C (33°F). However, by the time we got to the castle village, we were in THICK fog. We parked and hiked up the hill on a muddy trail through the woods, not really sure we were heading the right direction, because there was poor signage, and we couldn't see anything for the fog. I kept thinking I saw the start of a castle, only to discover it was merely more trees or rocks emerging from the mist.

We did eventually get to the first castle, however: Le Château du Petit-Ribeaupierre: 

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The view from the castle, over the beautiful Alsatian valley & countryside:

 

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(well, not quite visible today; maybe next time)

The only way into the castle:

 

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A fun place to scramble around (though I prayed hard for safety climbing up and down (narrow ledges on a steep rock face in the fog), and was thankful for safe passage granted, by the Designer of gravity, hands, feet, and rock - thanks again).

January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colmar, Alsace, France

Our first visit to Colmar in Alsace, northeastern France. Nice place. I would go back. So many things we skipped entirely. We did wander the charming streets a little, first night and then day, peeked in a calming medieval church from 1250AD, ate some excellent morilles (morel "not all mushrooms are created equal" mushrooms as the link says; in this case I had them with filet de sole in a fantastic sauce), enjoyed speaking & hearing French, and poked around a few interesting shops.

 

Here's the Église des Dominicaines, which is "closed in winter" - hmmm. The outside was still nice.
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Fortunately, the Collégiale Saint Martin (below) was open, and we had a few nice moments touring the inside. 

 

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In the middle of one of the roundabouts in Colmar (opposite the little airport), there is a 12-metre high replica of the Statue of Liberty, because the sculptor of the NYC statue was born in Colmar. For his 100th birthday, another sculptor erected this one:

 

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January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 10, 2013

20th Edition of my Annual Christmas Stamp Collage

For the background on this project of mine that has been in progress for the 20 years we have been married, see the previous editions: 1993-1997199819992000-20022003-20042005, 20062007, 2008, 20092010, 2011.Those posts have links to close-ups of all the other years' collages. 
This year, it's the letter T, and I had so many nice stamps I had to make the crossbar rather thick. Still clearly a T. The completion of the sentence is becoming imaginable. It is amazing to look back at the first letter, J, that I made in 1993, and to think that my son Jason is now only two years younger than I was when I made that collage!!! Crazy stuff. I was 20. Wow. Thankful for experience and time passed with love, grace, mercy, health and hope. Praise be to my Maker, Sustainer, Rescuer, and Purpose-Giver.
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And the whole collage:

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January 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

20 Years Married to David and unspeakably thankful

All credit to God for bringing us this far together, and we walk forward holding our relationship as a precious gift never to be considered lightly. David and his love for me are treasures to be cherished and nourished daily. 

For our 20th Anniversary dinner, we went for the first time to Smolinsky's Sihlhalde Restaurant in Gattikon, which has a Michelin star, and is only 5 minutes from our house (somehow we overlooked it until now, as it is tucked away at the end of a dead end street between cow fields. http://www.smoly.ch/ No more to be overlooked! The perfect place to celebrate something special like this!
Complimentary appetizer: Pulpo (octopus) with a vegetable medley and fresh dill 

D: Scallops with caviar & spinach in a lemon butter sauce
K: Fresh sautéed Entenleber (duck liver or foie gras) with a balsamic reduction and wild figs 

D: Veal with polenta
K: Filet de sole in a saffron sauce with fettucine, spinach and carrots

D: Crêpes Suzette with fresh citrus slices
K: Flourless chocolate cake with garnish of passionfruit, physalis, chocolate arcs, and a tiny meringue

Complimentary final friandises: mini lemon cupcake (so cute), chocolate truffle, walnut cookie, strawberry jam sandwich cookie, and some kind of layer cake

We had lots of fun getting fancied up for this milestone occasion. 21 items held my hair together, one for each year and one to grow on...

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January 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2012

Beatenberg, Bern, Switzerland this weekend

Amazing place, this, that the Creator produced out of nothing, and lets us marvel at. He's mighty, inventive, generous, and patient.

The lake is the Thunersee (between Interlaken and Thun). The biggest mountains are the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The last photo is the Eiger. The best photos in the set are courtesy of my husband David. The red geraniums are courtesy of the Seminäre für Biblische Theologie, where we stayed this weekend with our church's first family retreat weekend (about 80 people).

 

 

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September 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)