Letting it All Hang Out

This year, I will tell you honestly, has surprised me. Whether we believe in the transformative power of dates or not, I think that many of us harbour secret hopes every New Year’s Eve that things will magically change overnight, that the worries and sorrows of the old year will somehow stay behind us and we can start over with a clean slate. Just as many of us have been disappointed that merely turning to a new calendar leaf doesn’t really change anything. But sometimes, just sometimes, the whammy comes out of the blue when you’ve given up expecting it, like some mythological Deus ex Machina, to grant us the reset we’d all but given up on.

That’s exactly what happened. Since January 1st, I have been in an inexplicably good mood. Sure, I’ve gotten cranky a couple of times, but each time it utterly failed to ruin my day. I’ve had two days of semi-depression, and even those weren’t as bad as they could have been. My long-buried and half forgotten creativity has pushed to the surface with a vengeance, and I am so swamped with ideas that every day is at least 12 hours too short. There is reading to be done, words are waiting to be put to keyboard, paint to paper; one idea is not quite finished before it yields another and yet another, and so on it goes. And above -or beneath- it all burns that joyful flame that tickles my belly like a swarm of lovey-dovey butterflies.

I’ve tried getting you, my dear readers, involved in the process but you’ve once again proven resistant to the effort. Perhaps you are shy and don’t want to share your ideas. Perhaps you think you don’t have any. And perhaps some of you do have ideas, but you’ve unlearnt the process of letting it all hang out. This year, no matter what turns may come, my creative hair is down. The cork is popped. The genie will not return to the bottle. When we suffer hard times, we tell ourselves to hang in there and ride it out. Well, the time has now come to surf this wave and enjoy it while it lasts. I appreciate you coming along.

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Februart

Today, I would like to invite you, my dear readers, to join me for a little art project during the month of February. It’s easy and takes neither time nor talent, it’s for fun and the only commitment required is a tiny moment for 28 days. Here’s how it works: on February 1st, take a sheet of paper and put something on it. It can be a sticky, a line, a dot, a doodle, a word, anything that tickles your fancy. For the next 27 days, once a day add or erase something from your paper. If you feel like it, document your progress. On March 1st, take a photo of your final product and share it. Go wild. Use different materials. Let other people help. It doesn’t have to pretty or perfect, it just has to be yours. Who’s in?

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!

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When the Postman Rings Twice

We’ve barely skated into an unseasonably warm and humid October, and here I am talking about Christmas already. Yes folks, consider this an early warning system because I am at it again! Last year, I unveiled the Christmas Card Project (CCP), which is a no-strings-attached reciprocal idea for those of us who enjoy receiving real mail once in a while (for you youngsters: we’re talking snail mail here). “Snail” being the operative word because I hope for lots of participation which does require a little planning on my end. Here’s how it works: you send me your address. Please don’t leave it in the comments, I’d hate for you to have to expose yourselves unnecessarily! If you are not connected to me on Facebook and don’t already have my email addy, you can email me at vyvienn@gmail.com. I will then compile a list, add you to it and send you a Christmas card. Easy peasy! Caveat, though: if you do send me your address, I’ll return you mine, and yes, I’ll be just a touch cranky if I don’t get a card from you. After all, this is all about the joy of a raised flag on the mailbox, to employ an American image here.

Don’t celebrate Christmas?  No worries, you can still participate. I’ll let you in on a secret: I do, but I’m not a Christian. Paradoxical? Sure, but not if you know me. 😉 Just let me know you’d prefer to get a secular mailing instead. I’m not someone who condems “Season’s Greetings” as a sentiment.

Can you invite your friends to this shindig? Of course! The more, the merrier! As long as they understand how this is supposed to work.

A final note: you, my darling friends and relatives from back home in good ol’ Germany don’t need to do anything. There’s no way for you to escape the card, sorry. So get those ink bottle refilled and print yourselves some cardstock, because I WILL be extra cranky if I get nothing from you. 😛

Oktoberfest

There’s no denying it, Germans are everywhere. And wherever there are Germans, there’s the inevitable Oktoberfest. Fort Wayne has had a German men’s choir, the Männerchor, since 1899. I don’t know if they did Oktoberfest then, but they host it now, and have done, for the last 30 years. It is held at the inevitably named Park Edelweiss not too far from our house. Saturday was a beautiful day, so we ventured over there to check it out and catch up with friends.

The area surrounding Park Edelweiss features a lovely pasture, a lot of woods and a large pond. I mention this because I recently learned why there are so many ponds around here all of a sudden (there weren’t back in ’89): when the highways were built up, the State needed dirt and basically dug a pond in exchange for the dirt for anyone who applied. Lots of people took advantage of this, and thus we’re becoming a Land o’ Lakes (not to be confused with the butter).

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The building itself is a giant barn. Not that we don’t have barns back home, but this is a very distinct style not normally found outside the U.S. Of course, I didn’t take a picture of that, but I do have some shots of the outside of the barn, including the little Biergarten.

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The menu for the event promised Schnitzel and Spätzle, but instead, we got potatoes (not bad, but very far from Spätzle, commonly advertised as Swabian noodles). There was, however, German beer, Köstritzer from East Germany and Warsteiner for the pilsener fans. See if you can guess which one DH favoured:

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Incidentally, amongst all the non-German cakes and desserts, I found a very tasty piece of Zwetschgenkuchen (plum cake)! It was too small to photograph before being devoured, but I’m glad it was there nonetheless.

After dinner, the men’s and ladies’ choirs put on some live music upstairs.

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When Americans think of Germany and particularly any kind of fest, they think of Bavaria and its original Oktoberfest, hence I was a little apprehensive when the conductor announced “traditional German fest songs” (DJ Ötzi? Wolfgang Petri?) Undeterred, the ladies launched into… the Lorelei?? The infamous mermaid vixen of the Rhine valley hardly qualifies for the occasion, I should think! Next up, there was a rendition of Muss I Denn, made famous in the 50s by GI Elvis while stationed in Friedberg. The farewell of a Swabian carpenter to his sweetheart isn’t what I consider Festmusik, either, but what really got me was the following Sah’ ein Knab ein Röslein Steh’n, which is neither Bavarian nor even remotely related to anything that should be played at a party. By then, I had a huge headache (unrelated to the festivities) and horrendously itchy eyes (possibly caused by something in the barn) and had to flee the scene of the musical crime.

Still, it’s a nice little event if you enjoy plausching with older people who are real Germans or possibly trying new foods which remains reserved for October 13th and the Edelweiss’ Taste of Germany foodie event.

Intermission 1

Meanwhile, back at the pad… I am very excited to bring you the following news: we have selected, purchased and signed the contract for our new flooring, which should be in by the end of October! The kitchen and master bath will have some lovely tiling done, most of the rest of the house will get a gorgeous laminate laid. And the bill was exactly what DH had expected, so that worked out great. While hanging about at Lowe’s, we started looking at doors, as well, as our back door is in sorry shape indeed. So you see, things are progressing.

We’ve also ventured into supporting local businesses. Our previous tenants run an antique/general store (can’t seem to get away from that unbeatable combo) in an even smaller town near here, where amongst other goodies, they sell a fair trade coffee that is roasted locally. It’s actually a nice, robust blend that gets me going in the morning, so I’d mark that as a good decision.

If you know about our passion for pancakes, you can guess that we need maple syrup. Lo and behold, one of our neighbours makes his own! You can purchase it in various sizes at the sugar shack.

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Only in America

I have to admit, some stereotypes are simply true. For one, we do have to drive pretty much everywhere. There just isn’t all that much to our little town (mental note: take some pictures of stuff that IS in our little town): two general stores, one of which also functions as a pizza place, an antique shop, a church and of course our tiny post office. If you ever find yourself driving in this direction, make sure you don’t blink after you get to the bridge, otherwise you’ll be sure to miss it!

So we go elsewhere for most activities. The cinema, for example, or shopping or eating out. Jefferson Pointe – yes, with that pretentious little “e” at the end- is a lovely shopping centre which reminds me very much of similar places in California. It’s all terracotta and shingled roofs and fountains and lots of benches. All this tranquility comes at a price, however:

 

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If you follow all these rules, you get rewarded with one of the biggest small icecreams on the planet. If the amount looks teensy, that only tells you about the size of the waffle cone! Being European, I don’t really find this a good substitute for an Italian gelato, though, because most of the time, all I want is a single, simple scoop, not a portion big enough to stand in for dinner. And at nearly five bucks for the smallest serving, as compared to a euro for a scoop, this isn’t something I’ll indulge in often. Image

Because everybody drives here, everything has a drive-through option. Not just diners, but also pharmacies, banks, and probably some places I can’t even fathom right now. To accommodate this, parking lots are huge, and you might easily go an entire driver’s life without ever having to attempt parallel parking.

In case you wonder about the icecream: mine was Minty Chocolate Chocolate something, DH had a peanut butter chocolate something. All this available from Cold Stone. 🙂