Vyv Does Oz: Cold Feet, Warm Hearts

My great-grandparents had on their wall a framed piece of embroidery with the lines “Wo man singt, da lass Dich ruhig nieder, /böse Menschen haben keine Lieder” (roughly: where there is singing, gladly rest your head /where evil dwells, no song is to be had). Taking this as my motto for the upcoming trip, I couldn’t be safer anywhere else. Most of my friends on the other side of the world are musos. Phew!

At least for a few days I’ll be staying at a fabulously beautiful place in Bassendean, nearly exactly opposite to my pad in Swanbourne. If you’d like to take a peek at Cook House yourself, feel free.

In order to provide you, my three-and-a-half readers, with the most bang for no buck, I have unearthed my old Flickr account where I will post trip pics as I go along.

My schedule is beginning to be occupied with gigs and barbecues and theatre visits and coffee meets, all of which is certainly giving me the warm and fuzzy. And yet, the first bell that rang in my head when I woke up this morning sounded an awful lot like “Idontwannago, I dontwannago!” Considering there are still five days left until departure, this does not bode well. Not that the sudden case of cold feet is entirely unexpected; I suffer from a minor version every time I’m going anywhere, and if it’s just to a local event. Even if I’m really, really looking forward to it. Not sure why it gets that way, but there isn’t much I can do besides talk myself down and carry on with life.


Countdown to Christmas 2013, Week One

I’ve been posting a kind of advent calendar on Facebook where it is not very much appreciated, sadly. Then it occurred to me that there are more people who might not appreciate it, either, who cannot be reached via Facebook, and I decided to do a weekly summary of the advent goodies so far. This year, I have attempted to dig up some rarities and inspirational items. They’re all well worth a look or listen. Enjoy!

Sarah Brightman starts us off with a traditional tune from her beautiful Christmas album, “A Winter Symphony

I apparently forgot to post something on the 2nd, or it was removed without notifying me, but I did change my profile pic to this lovely Victorian greeting card


Back to the music with a selection of joyful ruckus by Phil Spector

I had no idea that flashmobs were still done, but this one assembled at a mall and surprised shoppers with carolling

Behind the next door, we find more music, this time from guitarist John Fahey, who plays a medley of Russian music

St. Nick regals us with the reading of a poem. I had previously thought of Charles Bukowski as that dirty old man who wrote weird books, but it turns out, he also composed beautiful poetry. In this video, “The Laughing Heart” is read by Tom Waits. For those who don’t understand English too well, the video has German subtitles.

Which brings us to door number seven, behind which hide The Monkees. Yes, really! They also had a lovely Christmas episode on their television show, from which this Spanish traditional is taken.

To see the videos, just click the highlighted areas of text. Videos will open in a new window.


Supporting the Local Artists

When someone mentions the word “renaissance” in conjunction with a place name in the U.S., one should take that with a grain of salt. When I first learned of A Renaissance in Roanoke, I had visions of people in ruffled costume, chamber music and lots of sugary delights. Kind of an interesting idea for a place that boasts a mural like this one

Roanoke Mural


As it turns out, however, renaissance really means street fair supporting local artists, which is much cooler anyway. First of all, there was music. At the time of our arrival, we just caught the tailend of the performance of the J Taylors, both of whom have great voices for the type of music they sing. Check out their website for upcoming dates.

A street fair without food is just pointless, but luckily, Roanoke catered to your hunger, whatever it may be for. There was a stand by Naked Tchopstix whose fare looked a bit bland, unfortunately, and was probably overlooked because of that. Or it may have been the taco stand next to it, which served a big variety of freshly prepared taco baskets. The Ragin Cajun Food Truck also offered blackened chicken tacos, along with other undoubtedly tasty selections, but we saved our appetite for the lunch offerings at the Joseph Decuis Emporium: the Wagyu burger and pulled pork sandwich. For those with a sweet tooth, there were also French crepes, cookies and cup cakes from the Rolling Pin Bakehouse, fabulous pies and apple dumplings from Grandma Sue’s Pies and More, Inc. or gelato at Moose and Mollie’s. I know there were other places that I’ve simply not written down, but suffice it to say that if you had a hankering for something, you were likely to find it.

Art lovers and connoisseurs of fine things were presented with more options than any one wallet could serve, and the tiny selection of stalls I grabbed business cards from is merely a fractional representation. I won’t even mention the silversmiths, leather works, photography stand, caricature booth, barbecue and spice vendor and many others with beautiful and original items. Robin Satterthwaite’s gorgeous jewellry share a space with the amazing fountains crafted by Julie Lahr; each piece is unique. Sadly, neither of the ladies has a website, so you’ll just have to take my word for it or ask me for their email, if you are interested in what they make.

Cherie Droege’s stall was filled with beautiful paintings. She specialises in watercolours and pastels and also gives instructions, if you are interested in painting. Again, no website. Other booths that stood out for me were Art Work by tPulley and Brenda Mann’s Mann’s Best Friends, which has given me a neat idea. If I had any actual drawing talent, I’d love to create greeting cards like those found at Tammy Hyndman’s stand, Working Mom Productions, Inc. But my absolute favourite were the gorgeous flowers by Michael “Hap” Hapner which are made from… recycled vinyl albums! I just had to have one of those (look for mine on Facebook soon!). Hap’s assistant gave me his Facebook to contact him, but as usual, I can’t seem to find anybody.

I’ll leave you with some general impressions of this warm and sunny afternoon and hope you had a great weekend!



Local Yokels

Sure I like Applebees. Who doesn’t? But then again, food chains are like clothing store chains: it’s the exact same fare everywhere. That’s what makes them reliable, and it’s also what makes them boring after a while. On our various shopping outings, we have noticed again and again just how many different small restaurants are around here. And as people who love a good brekky out, the ones advertising breakfast tend to catch my eye with more staying power than those who don’t.

Now, Atz’s may be a Fort Wayne institution, but it’s hardly known best for its breakfast menu. Rather, until fairly recently, they made their own scrumptious flavours of ice cream and were famous for a concoction called the “Mad Anthony”, an ice cream goblet boasting something like ten scoops of ice cream (and hence best devoured with a mate). They no longer make their own, but the Mad Anthony endures. We, however, decided to settle for something a little less daunting…

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On our recent outing to Bluffton, our county seat (= capital of Wells county where we live), we spontaneously decided on lunch at one of the tiny cafes lining the streets around the courthouse. The special of the day was beef and noodles over mashed potatoes and salad, a filling dish after a recipe by the mom of the lady who served us.

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The café was cute to boot, just like the rest of “downtown”:

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The real surprise was this beauty, sadly out of commission and awaiting repairs at the moment – can’t you just smell the aroma of the coffee?

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Normally, though, we prefer eating at home. Although I’m sure nobody would accuse us of being the most conscientious of consumers, we actually do care where our food comes from, and we like supporting local businesses. Which is why we’re investigating places like Seven Sons Farms for our meaty needs which are admittedly few.

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For a quick stop where the check book isn’t a necessary tool (and I remain amazed at how many people still cling to this archaic form of payment) I like the Fresh Market . They also sell wonderful fresh salads and huge, tasty pizzas you just toss in the oven and enjoy.

I already showed you the Sugar Shack where we get our local maple syrup, although it’s come to my attention that Indiana maple syrup is readily available in quite a few places for purchase. If only they would start offering locally grown walnuts instead of California walnuts! I have never seen so many walnut trees as in this area! Once we test the ones gathered from our own yard, we may never spend money on them again. That would be nice.

After years of considering it, I’m finally getting my weekly box of veggies: we signed up for a new winter salad CSA with Hawkins Family Farm. Every Wednesday for 13 weeks, we pick up a cooler full of locally grown, organic seasonal veggies like this one:

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An easy way of getting back into eating our greens!

It IS the End of the World As We Know It

Much as I loved my decade, I’ll be the first to admit that the Eighties produced a lot of things that are better left forgotten in the mists of time. You know what I mean: shoulder pads, neon makeup, Pia Zadora. Sure, we all participated gleefully, because it was part of growing up in a decadent decade. But then you did grow up, and as you emerged from the candy-colored tunnel of frivolity, you were suddenly faced with adulthood and people like Midnight Oil. Or REM.

When I first encountered REM, there was no such thing as “college music” in Germany (and how could there be? Universities didn’t start converting to a similar system until 30 years later!), MTV still played music, and the main categories of music were rock, pop, heavy metal and alternative. If it had not been for the Irish Pub in Sachsenhausen, I would have missed out on a very large part of my musical education. At the time I started my brief stint as party girl, I was still contemplating how I might go about getting to Australia or living in the UK, but then along came the Americans with their weird mixed tapes, and suddenly, The One I Love wore a Hairshirt, drank Orange Crush and sang in unintelligible mumbles about things only grown-ups should know about. Michael Stipe didn’t begin to sing in a more understandable fashion until much later, and I feel vindicated that none of our American friends truly understood everything he murmured into the mic, either.

Over the years, REM became part of the soundtrack of my life. I remember very well sitting at El Torito’s in Monterey with some friends, sharing strawberry daiquiries and loudly singing along to “Man On the Moon.” “Losing my Religion” set new standards in story-telling in music videos, and “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” was the sole reason we queued up at the music store in Laurel in the middle of the night to be there for the debut of “Monster”, an otherwise woefully mediocre album.

Once, when we moved across the continent, we actually took a side trip to Athens, Georgia, just so we could see where REM came from, what inspired them.

In all those years, I only managed to see them live once, just before they rocketed into superstardom with the release of “Green” in 1989. They were playing the Kongresshalle, a relatively small venue near Frankfurt’s main train station. The place was packed. The stage was tiny and hardly elevated above the floor. Had I not feared the masses up front would crush me to death, I could have reached out and touched… someone. It was all wild, frenzied fun. I didn’t buy the t-shirt, but I think I still have the tour book.

In the last decade, the band seemed to lose steam. When I look at the track lists from “New Adventures in Hi-Fi”, “Reveal” and “Around the Sun”, I feel at a loss. But “Accelerate” was soon hailed to be REM’s return to form and a splendid comeback album, so it’s a bit sad to see the comeback only lasted three short years (and spawned another album, Überlin). Just when it appeared that REM might be the one band from Out of Time who might manage to become everlasting legends like the Rolling Stones, they decided to do it their way and bow out of the game gracefully, on their terms, while the love of the fans was still warm and the music still played in our heads.

For me, saying goodbye to REM is not just saying goodbye to an iconic rock band, it truly is the end of an era as it erases the last of the echoes of great times at a pub long gone. To quote another great band: Thank you for the music! At least, we’ll always have Frankfurt…

The Clean Green Experiment: Oven, the First

One of the nastiest cleaners, IMHO, is oven cleaner. It is a stinky, foaming cocktail of chemicals that still requires scrubbing, no matter how diligently you follow the label. On top of that, it produces unnecessary trash. On the other hand, my oven has been looking, well, kind of baked, if you know what I mean. So today seemed like a good day to try a homemade cleaning solution.

What I used: equal parts hot water and baking soda, in this case, 4 tablespoons of each. I applied it to the inside of my oven and the door and let it sit for about five minutes while I took care of something else. Then I used a soft scrub to work the insides of the appliance, wiping clean with a moist sponge.

The result: it’s not perfect, but pretty close! All but the hardiest black marks have disappeared. This definitely compares well to the commercial cleaners I’ve tried in the past, for a fraction of the cost.

What’s next: this cleaner does not get rid of the burned smell, and I want to see if I can get the rest of the ick out, so when I get in the oven cleaning mood again, I will try the solution for hardy stains. This involves salt and lemon juice, which should also bring a more pleasant smell to the kitchen.

Catching up With the Renners: 12 and Holding

When the cat’s away, the mouse will watch old movies, so here’s a lovely movie about death, love and growing up from 2005, co-starring my NSSCC (not-so-secret celebrity crush) Jeremy Renner as an ex-firefighter with a nightmare-inducing secret. Secrets and dreams play a big role for all the major characters in this well-woven tale, some of which result from the tragic death of a young boy, some of which are brought to light by the same event. A few of the reviewers on Netflix likened “12 and Holding” to “Stand By Me“. Granted, the two are connected by similar themes, but the pitfall of comparing a film to a classic is certainly that the newer film kind of falls short. Three friends must deal with the sudden death of the boy, but their stories begin to grow apart as each child takes a different approach, and although each storyline finds its own conclusion, we end up with three separate threads instead of one all-encompassing finale.

One thing I noticed last night, which holds true for pretty much all Renner films I’ve seen so far, is that JR can go two ways: either he ends up wearing a uniform of some kind (“28 Weeks Later”, “The Hurt Locker”, “The Town”) or he takes his clothes off (“Dahmer”, “12”, “Neo Ned”). I almost dare say that the more dramatic the role, the less he wears. Not that I’m complaining… 😉 Two notable exceptions are actually “Hurt Locker” and “The Unusuals”: we get JR in uniform and out of (most) of his clothes. So, I’m a big proponent to the idea that nudity is a good thing when it furthers the plot development…

But I digress. “12” was never high on my list of films to watch, but I do recommend it. It contains a few truly heartbreaking moments and a wonderful cast of people we don’t get to see like this very often, like Annabella Sciorra as young Malee’s psychotherapist mother or Linus Roache as the dead boy’s bereaved father.

Favorite Renner moment: oddly, I don’t have one. It feels inappropriate to reduce JR to mere ogleworthiness in this, because for once, all the nudity DOES further the plot development.