Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy New Beer!

So after years of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to make some beer. I am a brewer! But this, like most things, is easier said than done. I’m sure my first batch will leave much to be desired, but at least it is a start. Some things to do next time: 1. Get a bigger kettle so the beer doesn’t boil over. Our little nine-quart stock pot was filled to the brim before we even added heat. Fortunately, we had plenty of room after we had about half a gallon of delicious wort boil over. 2. Wait for the beer to cool before adding yeast. After three hours, including two outside in the snow, the beer was still 79 degrees. I got impatient and pitched the yeast anyways. I’m not sure how this will work out. 3. Don’t go on vacation in the middle of the process. We left Saturday morning and had to transfer the beer into a glass fermenter a day early. I’m not sure how this will affect the beer but it can’t be good.
4. Tip the bucket. I wound up wasting a lot of beer because I didn’t do this when transferring my malty goodness to the glass fermenter. This also left an awful lot of air at the top of the fermenter. Not good. Please forgive me! 5. Clean-up. Sanitation is a big mystery to me. Since you can’t see bacteria that might damage the beer, you never really know if you got rid of them or not. We should bottle shortly after New Years. We’ll do another update then.

A Blue Christmas

The three snow days we had let me take care of a lot of things. Besides editing the company year book, I made beer, finished writing Christmas cards and shopping, skied on the golf course, and painted the bathroom. Our home had a fresh coat of paint in every room when we moved in. However, flat latex doesn’t do well in bathrooms, especially when the fan isn’t venting properly. So, we had to kill the mildew with bleach and repaint with a more durable coating. Though home improvement can be a pain, this gave us a fresh start. We could paint the bathroom any of 10,000 colors! Having only had to paint and not pick the paint, this was a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, Kristin helped to narrow the choices down to something manageable. After initially planning on something neutral, like tan or gray, we chose blue at the last minute. It was at this point that Kristin realized her secret calling in life is to name paint colors. One snow day later, we had a brand new bathroom!
Before we left on Saturday, Kristin asked me how much of all this we could have accomplished without snow days. Well, none of it.
Merry Christmas!


Take a gander at this fruitcake. We "won" this at our family white elephant gift exchange Dec. 13. The giver of the two pounds of holiday cheer had received it the previous night as 3/4 of a fruitcake, took a few bites, and then re-gifted it. Kristin was so excited she (accidentally?) dropped the cake on the floor. Take a good look. This may or may not turn up at next year's gift exchange. Mmm!

Surprise, Part II

Even though I had to spend the majority of my birthday with a sundry group of high school juniors, it was quite a good day. A plethora of well wishes awaited me via phone and Internet, and Jon and I went out to dinner at an Argentinean steak house. I was totally satisfied with my birthday (aka, the “best day of the year”) and was okay with the fact that I didn’t really have a “birthday weekend” this year. December 3rd fell on a Wednesday and we already had a variety of plans for the weekend, including celebrating Jon’s mother’s birthday. So, when we set off on the following Friday for the retirement party of one of Jon’s co-workers, I actually thought that’s where we were going. However, Jon had something else in mind. When we arrived at the restaurant, I quickly scanned the room and didn’t see anyone that worked with Jon. Closer scrutiny revealed our dear friends seated at a table in the corner. It took me a moment to realize that there was no retirement party, that Jon had arranged this little birthday party for me. And I was so excited that I immediately slugged him in the arm. Ecstatic that Jon had pulled one over on me, we changed gears the following day and prepared to surprise Jon’s mom for her birthday. There were actually two events planned, so rather than drive the two hours back home, we decided to stay with Jon’s good friend (ironically the same friend I used in his birthday surprise excuse) that Saturday night. Since Jon is literally a human compass, I didn’t think twice when he exited the highway to “cut through” a quaint little town on the Snohomish River. I wasn’t even suspicious when we made a number of turns through the town as Jon pretended to look for a shortcut to our destination. It wasn’t until he stopped the car in front of a bed and breakfast that I realized that he had planned the ultimate surprise. When we checked in at the front desk, the proprietor alluded to the fact that there was more to the surprise upstairs. A dozen red roses were sitting on the dresser next to a chilling bottle of apple cider, and balloons were tied to the door handle. Flower petals and chocolates were scattered on the bed. I was so moved that I almost cried; instead, I slugged Jon in the arm. Like the proprietor said, I really do have the most thoughtful husband. Barf.

I’ve got half a mind to…

Because running a half marathon wasn’t torment enough, we decided to do it again! This time, it was the Seattle Half Marathon Nov. 30. We made a weekend out of it with some friends, carb-loading on fish sandwiches and ravioli at the 74th St. Ale House and exploring the night scene of the University District, staying out until the ridiculous hour of 10 p.m.! (Gasp!) The run started early, and we were treated to some low hanging fog. The temperature was warm for late November and I had to take my long sleeve shirt off during the run. We got started at 7:30 a.m. on a grand tour of the city. We first ran through downtown via 5th Ave., then through the express lanes on I-90, a sight not often seen by pedestrians. At the east portal, we turned north and ran along the shoreline of Lake Washington. The lake was eerily calm, and the fog silenced the noise from the Interstate. It was an incredible sight! But the serenity of the lake was quickly left behind as we climbed the 200’ hill on Madison St. Then, it was back into the woods, as we ran through the Arboretum, then Interlaken Blvd. I had forgotten that Seattle has so much green space so close to downtown! The final stretch took us west through the Cascade neighborhood, owned in large part by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. As long as the Seahawks keep winning, we will get along, Mr. Allen.

We finished back where we started, at the Seattle Center. I beat my previous ½ marathon time by two minutes, finishing in 1:49:07. Kristin nearly matched her previous personal best, despite the challenging course. Overall, the run was a blast, but I think we will take the winter off from running. Now is time to ski!


After years of traveling to far off places for Thanksgiving, we finally got the opportunity to host this year. We invited my mother and sisters and all their husbands over to our home. It wound up being a small crowd of six total, but it was fun. We even had a drop-in. Guest number seven was one of my lieutenants, who joined us for dinner, but quickly left for another event somewhere else. This is not the first time I have hosted Thanksgiving. Years ago in a place far from here (Bamberg, Germany, 2005), I hosted Thanksgiving for 20 lieutenants and student teachers. I had some help then, with Luke (of “Bo Brothers by the Bottle” fame: ) taking care of the turkey, Joe handling the Glühwein, and we providing the location. The dinner concluded with a rousing game of spoons, singing, and Gary spilling wine all over my hardwood floors. This Thanksgiving was far tamer. However, this was the first time Kristin and I hosted as a couple, which made us feel much more grown-up than we actually are. For the first time, we were in charge of shopping for a turkey (Kristin is still talking about the 27-cents-a-pound bargain she found), cooking said turkey, and preparing most of the fixings. Kristin even baked a pie from scratch (mostly). Despite the potential stresses, which included coating our entire countertop with a thick layer of turkey grease while making ravy, we had a blast. Our little home was just the right size for the group we had. After dinner, we filled up on apple and pumpkin pies, then collectively went into a food coma. Ahh…

Surprise, Part I

It’s a good thing that both of us like surprises…because we also like to surprise one another. And what better occasion for a surprise than a birthday?!? Jon’s birthday falls at the end of October, but plans for his birthday surprise were put into action in mid-July. In the back of my mind, I had been toying with the idea of surprising Jon with Washington Husky football tickets, figuring that when his birthday grew closer, I would look into the possibility. However, well before the season began (when there was still hope), a dear friend who lives in South Bend, Ind., called to inform me that Notre Dame was playing in Seattle on October 25th.
This is significant for two reasons: first, this friend and her husband, a graduate student at Notre Dame (and also the other teacher/Army officer couple from Bamberg days), are avid football fans. Second, the game was scheduled the day after Jon’s birthday. For that reason, I decided to not tell him that our friends were considering flying out for the game and tucked away the information as a birthday surprise. Several months went by before the planning began in earnest. Numerous surreptitious phone calls and e-mails were relayed and other friends were included in the secret. My middle-school acting career proved to be excellent training for all the lies I was telling. It’s probably not a good thing that they came so easily to me. My motives were pure, though, so I didn’t really feel guilty. I did feel nervous, however. Coming up with the idea was easy enough, but making plans in a city that Jon is a million times more familiar with proved to be much more difficult. I certainly could not have done it without the help of friends. When the day commemorating the anniversary of Jon’s birth arrived, I was ready. I told him that we were going out to dinner to meet his good friend from high school (and best man) and off we went. Jon was less than impressed with my restaurant selection, but he was a good sport about it. I knew he wouldn’t be all that excited about it, but it was crucial to the plan because it was located near the airport. As we impatiently waited for Jon’s friend (who I knew would never arrive because he was sick), our out-of-town guests sneaked up behind Jon and gave him the ultimate birthday surprise. I couldn’t contain the rest of the surprise any longer as we explained the reason for our friends’ arrival: Husky Football. If only the game was as enjoyable as the rest of the weekend. Despite the shellacking the Huskies received on behalf of the Fighting Irish (favorite chant: “Take Ty back!”), we had fun entertaining our friends as Jon effortlessly slid into “Seattle Tour Guide” mode. Hilarity ensued.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The "Gift" That Keeps on Giving

I must have a kind, generous heart...or I'm just a sucker. A couple of months ago, I received some fun address labels in the mail, along with a desperate plea for donations. After learning that a friend of a friend was recently diagnosed with leukemia, I didn't hesitate to send in a donation to the Leukemia Society, sender of the aforementioned address labels. It was a nominal amount--the least I could do--but hopefully appreciated. Several weeks later, I received a similar notice in the mail from the American Heart Association and then the American Cancer Society. Feeling compelled to share, I sent a small donation to both charities. The floodgates had been opened. Giving to charity is not a new thing to me; however, receiving personalized address labels is. At first, it was kind of fun. But the day I received five sets of address labels from various charities, I knew things had gotten out of hand. My generosity had apparently secured my name on "the list." I was receiving labels from charities I'd never even heard of: the Omaha Home for Boys?!? Hopefully the pre-donation gift giving tapers off a little (I feel so guilty when I don't immediately write a check). In the meantime, make sure to admire the return address of any mail sent from our direction. Apparently I have some catching up to do in the correspondence department.

13.1 Miles...Sehr Gut!

Considering we are obsessed with all things German, it should come as no surprise that when we decided to run a half-marathon, we did it Oktoberfest-style. Leavenworth--Washington's answer to Bavaria (Missouri folks, think Hermann)--hosted their 2nd annual marathon and half-marathon at the beginning of the Oktoberfest season. A large production it was not. I ran in the Kansas City half-marathon last year, which was a huge race with thousands of participants and vendors at the finish line. Conversely, Leavenworth was on such a small scale that we picked up our numbers and commemorative race shirts at the fish hatchery. What the race lacked in porta-potties and water stops, however, was made up for in scenery. Even though we had the constant call of the highway patrol shouting "Runners, stay to the right!" in our ears, it was a beautiful course through the valley along the river. And it didn't rain...much. Overall, we were pretty satisfied with our respective performances. I set a new personal record by running close to 15 minutes faster than Kansas City's race, and Jon finished in one hour, 51 minutes, which is awesome, especially considering it was his first half-marathon. Some friends of ours also ran the half-marathon, so we rented a condo in Leavenworth and made an entire weekend of it. Jon and I were feeling as good as you can feel after running 13.1 miles on next to no sleep, so we spent the rest of the day enjoying the "fest"-ivities. While far from Germany, both literally and figuratively, there was still plenty of beer and oompa music. However, Americans don't have any traditional toasting songs like the ones in Germany, so when they raise their glasses, all they can think to shout is "Heeeeeyyyyyy!" This proved to be especially amusing to Jon. Needless to say, we called it a night fairly early and limped back to the condo on sore muscles, exhausted, yet triumphant. Now it's time to train for Seattle's half-marathon over Thanksgiving weekend...

Saturday, November 1, 2008


In our previous post, we mentioned many exciting things going on in our families, including the fact that Jon's sister and her husband were expecting. Unfortunately, we now have some sad news to convey. Our nephew, Josiah Kayd, entered the world three months early, only to depart it a short twelve hours later. We would like to use this forum to express our condolences to Jon's sister and her husband and would appreciate any prayers extended their way.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We're Old News...

Although our goal was not shameless self-promotion, we fully recognize that we had a fairly newsworthy 2007-2008. Hosting numerous weddings/receptions, moving across the country, and starting new jobs certainly kept us busy. But now we can say without reservation that we are old news. Our families have moved on, and to them we say, "Congratulations!" There has been a lot to celebrate lately... *Jon's mom was married last weekend in a lovely ceremony. *Jon's younger sister and her husband are expecting their first child in February. *Jon's youngest sister will be getting married in March. *And last, but certainly not least (okay, in the scheme of things, maybe least, but still very important), my younger brother won a mini-fridge. Again. I am not making this up. It's enough to make us want to get married all over, not really. Seriously, we couldn't be happier for our families and are thrilled to share their good news.

Summer in the Rain Forest

It is summer in Seattle! A month after experiencing EXTREME HEAT! ™ we have had a whopping two days of rain. So what did we decide to do with all this sunshine? Why go to the rain forest, of course! We drove west on July 25 and picked up U.S. 101. We followed it on its meandering path north, east, then south again to its terminus at the state capitol in Olympia. It wasn’t long before we reached the Pacific beach. We wandered on the warm sand, stood amazed in front of a giant cedar tree, and poked around the sea stacks of Ruby beach. The warm sun made us think we would not see any precipitation in the rain forest.
Boy, were we wrong! The skies darkened as we drove into the Hoh Rainforest. We scouted out a nice camping spot near the river and settled in for the night. We broke up the quiet night by going to watch the Ranger presentation about (I am not making this up) the danger of elk. Apparently elk are not as cute and cuddly as they look. The 1,000 lb. antlered beasts are quick to charge and kick when threatened. Who knew! Wait, didn’t I mention rain? We were not disappointed. By morning, it was raining steadily and we had to pack the tent wet. The rain let up just long enough to walk through the hall of mosses. Words cannot describe how incredible this was to see, so here is a photo:

The rain picked up again as we drove out to Neah Bay. The winding road seams to hang out over the water in places and really makes you feel like you are driving to the end of the earth…or at least the northwestern-most end of the United States. We capped off this portion of the trip with the best smoked salmon I have ever had! That night we camped at Lake Crescent. We got the last site in the campground, presumably because it was extremely rocky. The rain returned in spurts, but soon cleared up. It was warm by the fire and we stayed up late watching the fire dance across the coals. On Sunday, we drove into Port Angeles, hoping to see the incredible view of the Olympic Mountains from Hurricane Ridge. We soon learned that all we would see up there is the inside of a cloud, a view we have seen many times before and is not worth the 17-mile drive. Plan B was Dungeness Spit, an odd bit of coastal geology. The river current and the ocean tides combined to form a spit of land five miles long but less than 150 feet across at high tide. The inner bay attracts a great number of migratory birds, of which we saw exactly zero (they are all nesting up north). We enjoyed a nice, if loud, walk along the spit before heading for home. We eventually returned to reality, smelling of campfire and salmon. The rain stopped and the clouds parted as soon as we left the peninsula. We soon realized we had missed a beautiful sunny weekend. Oh well, at least we have a souvenir to show for it!

Washington "Stay-cation"

With the rising cost of gas, this summer’s buzzword has become the “stay-cation.” Rather than encouraging people to travel, local communities are promoting day trips and activities that require less than a tank of gas. This trend depresses me a bit, as I am a big advocate of travel. I could go on and on about the benefits of seeing the world and experiencing life from a different perspective, but that’s a different blog post for a different day. Instead, I’ll discuss our own “stay-cation,” which came about not as a result of the skyrocketing price of oil, but rather from our roles as host and hostess. A good friend of ours spent a sizable chunk of his summer vacation traveling all over the Northwest, and my mom flew out to claim her prize for attending each and every event of our “Wedding-a-thon.” Our household doubled in size (as long as you don’t count our two basil plants struggling to survive on our windowsill). Having been once described as the “Travel Mary Poppins,” Jon eagerly embraced the challenge of tour guide, made all the more exciting by the fact that he now had the opportunity to show off his hometown. For the week and a half-ish that we entertained guests, we felt like we were on vacation, too. And for all intents and purposes, we were. We saw some cool stuff, we ate too much, and we stayed up too late. All necessary ingredients for a successful vacation. Warning: the next part of this post has the potential of coming across as a laundry list of activities and/or a travel brochure… My mom and our friend arrived within a day of each other, just in time for Reception #4. As we live south of the city, it was necessary to drive through it on the way to the lake, so of course we had to stop in Seattle. Jon thrilled at the chance to uncover various picturesque sites, just whetting the appetite of our guests for an upcoming, longer trip, which was planned for the Fourth of July.
In the meantime, it was up to me to entertain my mom while Jon was at work, and our friend ventured to Portland. Luckily my mom is flexible and laid-back, so we spent our days exploring Stepford…er, DuPont, and the surrounding areas, including my new school. We also did some shopping; Mom was finally able to experience IKEA and all its glory (including the Swedish meatballs that are a mandatory part of the trip for us). We spent a day at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, which I’ve been meaning to check out since I moved here. Isn’t it funny how we never take the time to be tourists in our own towns?!? But I digress. My mom and I can both honestly say that the glass museum blows. Seriously. We were able to watch a team of artists blow glass in the museum Hot Shop. It was really interesting...and really hot. The artwork is beautiful and even more impressive now that we know how it is produced. Jon joined us for a trek to Olympia, the state capital of Washington. We experienced the Farmers’ Market for the first time (eating delicious Rainier cherries the entire time) and walked along the water before hiking up to the Capitol building. I felt like I was on my fourth grade field trip to Jefferson City again. But these ventures were just small potatoes. The holiday weekend was upon us, and we certainly took advantage of every moment. We hit the ground running on the Fourth, meeting Jon’s dad and his wife at Pike Place Market in the morning before hopping on the streetcar (gee, whose idea was that?) en route to a picnic lunch and the Wooden Boat Festival. We were able to board a few boats and a few of us even got to take a ride around Lake Union. Then it was off to the Seattle International Beer Festival. We have a sixth sense when it comes to finding these things. Yes, we took our family to a beer fest…again. As this festival was near the Space Needle, we hopped on the ever-useful monorail to the waterfront in order to watch the fireworks. Whew. It’s no wonder that we got a late start the following day as we were all pretty exhausted. Plus, the weather was gray and rainy for essentially the first time since our visitors had arrived. Yet that didn’t stop us from visiting the Tall Ships Festival in Tacoma, featuring—you guessed it—tall ships. Again, we got to board some, but unfortunately we were not able to ride any pirate ships…although there were plenty of pirates milling around.
(It's a Captain Jack sandwich!)
If you’re keeping score, you might have realized that there’s still weekend left, so we opted to drive out to Mount Rainier. I was extra-excited because I had never been to see the volcano, either. It’s not uncommon to hear locals proclaim a day to be favorable because “the mountain’s out.” Well, we visited the national park on a day that it wasn’t. But it was kind of cool to be inside a cloud, and it made the fact that there was still snow on the ground in July a bit more believable. Oh, but we’re not finished yet. Jon had a four-day weekend (and I had a three-month weekend), so we headed up to Seattle once again on the Monday after the Fourth of July. Jon took us to a lot of his old haunts around the University of Washington. We stopped at various parks along the way before enjoying a great dinner at an outdoor restaurant. My mom left a few days after that, having had as much fun as we did, I think. Our friend spent a couple of days in Vancouver and then returned to the “Spoon and Captain Jack B & B.” His brother quickly joined the group as the party continued. We attended the Sub Pop 20th Birthday Music Festival, enjoying artists such as Mud Honey, Iron & Wine, and the Flight of the Conchords. The rest of the “stay-cation” consists of a haze of meal after incredible meal. The brothers insisted on cooking for us, so of course, we obliged. I am proud to say that I ate fish…and I liked it. If you look outside right now, you might see some pigs fly by. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. Hopefully by now you aren’t bored but rather excited at the prospect of visiting us. You, too, could experience all of these adventures firsthand and be mentioned in our blog (but probably not by name, unless you want to be). Just let us know when you’ll be visiting…I think we’ve finally recovered from this round of guests.


From the "I should have posted this months ago" file:
The National Weather Service often issues warnings when tornados, heavy snow or high winds are in the forecast, so I was alarmed to see a warning had been issued on an otherwise warm and sunny June 25: -- Severe Weather Alert -- ...HOT WEATHER ACROSS WESTERN WASHINGTON THIS WEEKEND... TEMPERATURES ON FRIDAY ARE EXPECTED TO RANGE FROM THE 70S ALONG THE COAST TO THE UPPER 70S AND 80S INLAND. ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY MOST AREAS SHOULD REACH INTO THE 80S...WITH SOME LOW TO MID 90S POSSIBLE. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT A FEW SPOTS COULD APPROACH OR BREAK THE RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR THE DAY…
This is proof positive that everything is relative. While many in the Midwest may scoff at the warning, we here in the Northwest were forced to get the box fan out of the basement and ride out the weekend of EXTREME HEAT! We tried many different things to beat the heat, like going to the lake, and keeping cool with beer.
Unfortunately, the basil didn't makew it through the weekend.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wedding Finale

A lot of couples spend an entire year planning their weddings. We were able to plan--and execute--four in the same amount of time. It literally was a year to the day. The then-mustachioed Jon dropped to one knee in the middle of Kansas City International Airport on June 29, 2007, and we celebrated our final wedding reception on June 28, 2008.

The locale for this fourth fete was Lake McMurray, Washington in the Sons of Norway Pavilion. While this party had a very laid-back vibe, I still was able to wear my wedding dress one more time, possibly setting the record for "Most times wearing a wedding gown (when marrying the same guy)."

Jon was a trooper for also wearing his suit one more time. He kept it casual, though, by going sans socks.

Normally wearing a suit in June in Washington would be no big deal. However, when we were making final preparations for the big event, we came across a very alarming piece of information. The National Weather Service had issued a weather warning for our weekend of camping and celebrating.

Coming from the Midwest, I'm completely used to all kinds of crazy weather, especially in the summer. From tornadoes to flash floods to severe thunderstorms to heat indices in the triple digits, you name it, Missouri has it. However, in western Washington, the temperatures were holding steady in the 70s on a warm day and I hadn't yet seen a single lightning bolt.

Needless to say, we were intrigued, so we opened the alert on the computer and this is what we found:

Warning: EXTREME Heat!

Temperatures were expected to reach...wait for it...the mid-80s. Gasp. Obviously, we laughed when we read it. Guffawed, really. As did most of our out-of-town guests, also used to hot--often humid--summer weather. (The native Washingtonians, not as much, because it was legitimately hot.)

Okay, so it was a bit stuffy in the pavilion, but that just encouraged people to take a dip in the lake or play bocce ball outside, which is what we'd been hoping for in the first place. The sun shone all day long and the environment was incredibly festive.

Like nearly every other event we host, this one also centered around food. We thought we were pretty clever by getting food from a local brewery under the guise that we would warm it up ourselves. It was a good idea...a great idea if there hadn't been quite so much food. We picked up trays full of ribs and barbequed chicken, mashed potatoes and potato salad; buckets of green salad; and tub after tub of beans and barbeque sauce. (In fact, we still have ribs and chicken in the freezer if you want to come over.) Thank goodness we had the "A-Team."

My mom makes a living from cooking for large groups of people and one of our dear friends is like freaking Wolfgang Puck/Emeril/Bobby Flay/Rachel Ray, so the kitchen was covered. They did such an amazing job, in fact, that one of the other guests complimented "our friends at the brewery." I'm not sure he believed me that they were ringers we had enlisted ourselves.

In addition to these two, we once again were blessed with the help of friends and family. There is no way we could have pulled off yet another reception without them (you know who you are). How else would we have gotten the pavilion set up in time, went shopping to pick up last-minute items, taken pictures, and cleaned up by ourselves?!? And that's only a fraction of the help we received. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have such incredible people in our lives.

Other than watching me try to eat ribs whilst wearing a wedding dress, there weren't really any formal activities.

We were, however, able to recognize a few special individuals. Jon's dad and his wife were awarded with the "Trifecta Award" for attending three out of four of our wedding extravaganzas. (A private ceremony was held to honor a lovely couple who also achieved the "Trifecta" back in Kansas City. I guess that means we still owe my younger brother who can boast the same...) And then finally, the only person--besides Jon and me--to attend all four weddings received the "Wedding-a-thon Award." Congratulations once again go to my mom for such a wonderful achievement.

The remainder of the day was spent eating cake, killing a pony keg full of fresh root beer, and catching up with friends and family, which was followed by another night of camping by the lake. Quite a nice book-end to all this wedding business. I think it's safe to say that we're done and done. Although we were talking just this morning about going to Vegas and getting hitched for the fifth time...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tip Tap Toe

Back in the day when I took dance lessons (kindergarten through senior year, to be exact), I could never quite decide what to make of the adults in my tap and jazz classes. Was it cool that they still were getting their groove on...or was it more of a pathetic endeavor?

Well, I can now say with authority that they were cool. Really cool. What, praytell, sparked this definitive conclusion? The fact that I am one of those adults taking dance classes. This winter I decided I needed a hobby. Subbing was unfulfilling and I just didn't really have a lot going on (other than planning a plethora of weddings). I have always enjoyed tap dancing, even taking a class in college (by far my hardest one that semester) and "performing" in my service organization's variety shows at the nursing home. So it seemed natural for me to find a studio on the internet and enroll in a teen/adult tap class.

And what an appropriate description that turned out to be. The approximately 16 students in the class covered all ranges of the age spectrum. There were a few middle and high school students, a couple other girls in their 20s like me, several moms with daughters in the class, and even a handful of women in their 60s and beyond. In fact, as we were carpooling to dress rehearsal, one of the women told me that she worked for the military during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Seriously.

But I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit. I joined the class in the nick of time, as the instructor had just begun to choreograph the recital routine. That's right, we were going public. Recitals were always one of my favorite things about dance: the costumes, the hair, the (streetwalker) make-up, and the adrenaline rush of being up on stage.

Fittingly, the song our instructor chose was Tina Turner's "Proud Mary." A perfect song for a brassy bunch of women ready to shimmy. (Really--there were requests to do some sort of shimmy move from day one.) I was surprised by how many of the steps came back to me and found it quite easy to mesh into the class and routine. Plus, when you're working with, ahem, more mature students, you do a lot of reviewing along the way.

Fast forward to June and recital time. Keep in mind that when you're dancing to Tina Turner, you have to look the part. Our costumes consisted of red sequins, a black (fake) leather skirt, and fishnets. Lots and lots of fishnet. Not only did we wear fishnet stockings, but we also wore fishnet sleeves. Some of the ladies were self-conscious about having that much arm showing, if you catch my drift. Picture, if you will, 70 year-old women wearing fishnets and black leather mini-skirts... Nice mental picture, eh? (Actually, they looked darn good.)

On June 21st, I made my dancing debut with this new studio. I wriggled myself into the aforementioned costume (which Jon had to help me with because I kept getting the sequins stuck in the fishnet) and troweled on the hooker make-up. For those of you who have never performed before, all that make-up is necessary so that you show up on stage. Otherwise you look washed out. But I digress.

Jon dutifully attended the show as he very much played the part of the supportive husband by watching (perhaps suffering through) several hours of little kids dancing. But he was rewarded in the end by getting to watch his "Poptart" of a wife tap her little heart out. Just like I remembered, being up on stage was pretty exhilarating. I think the performance went well. At any rate, no one fell off the stage.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Update Time

Now that summer is officially here in the Northwest (the clouds broke up and the mercury finally brushed up against the 80 degree mark), I felt it was about time to provide a brief update on some previous posts. Just to prove that I am able to keep up with life, you know. 1. And the Winner Is... You may recall a post way back when I wrote about the incredible luck my family has at supermarket drawings. Well, the prize fairy has struck again...this time bringing my brother a barbeque grill. Seriously. I couldn't make this up if I tried. 2. VOTE FOR DAVID COOK! You would have to be living under a rock for the past month (or have a life outside reality TV) to not know that DC won American Idol. Holy crap. That's right. I went to high school with the Season 7 American Idol (and all I have to show for it are some goofy Forensics pictures, a fuzzy VHS tape of our middle school musical, and an autograph in my yearbook which reads, "Avoid the clap, David.") 3. School Daze No more, substituting, for this girl because I found a job teaching junior English next year... 4. This Trip Brought to You by Facebook ...which leads directly into the next update: I broke down and joined Facebook. Like I predicted, I'm already addicted. (Do I smell the beginnings of a poorly written poem in the previous sentence?!?) But don't worry--I'll still find the time to update the blog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Joy of Gift Registries

Bed, Bath, and Beyond is the bane of Jon’s existence. Getting him in the store to set up a bridal registry was painful. Like watching David Archuleta squint on American Idol painful. I had to use my best nagging skills to do it, but I knew that it would make our lives easier in the long run. We slowly made our way through the store with the scanning gun, whose toy-like appeal wore off in about 3.7 seconds. We made an overwhelming amount of decisions, but then we were done. I made a few more additions on-line, but for all intents and purposes our job was finished, right?

I wish. And Jon wishes even more. But thanks to our overly-generous family and friends, we found ourselves with an abundance of gift cards and dinero (thank you again—too much, too much!). So, back to “B Cubed” once more. Since the store offers a discount to complete gift registries that expires after a certain period of time, we had a limited window to cash in. So even though it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day (seriously), we decided to go shopping last week.

In retrospect, perhaps we shouldn’t have attempted such a feat the day after getting lost in IKEA for 3 ½ hours. A much more enjoyable and delicious shopping experience, yet no less overwhelming. We stuffed Jon’s “old man car” with boxes full of put-it-together-yourself furniture and frozen Swedish meatballs and Bond-Ost cheese.

On one hand, I suppose you could say that we were in shopping mode. On the other hand, we had a very low tolerance for making decisions and making purchases. We also should have gone to the store more than 90 minutes before closing time. For that reason, we decided to divide and conquer. Jon tackled the cookware and knife sets while I grabbed a cart and “the list.”

I was in the zone. Fulfilling all of my Supermarket Sweep fantasies, I tore around the store, filling the cart with cookie sheets and trouser hangers. I could not be stopped. My packing gene kicked in as I wedged cake pans and kitchen rugs in between boxes of cutlery and picture frames. Face flushed with exhilaration, I rescued Jon with ample time to spare, so about 15 minutes prior to the store’s closing, we rolled up to the customer service counter.

We must have been their worst nightmare.

The staff was extremely nice and helpful. It wasn’t their fault that the computer rebooted smack in the middle of the massive transaction, which included a special on-line order. There we stood, with the doors locked, and other staff members cleaning up for the night, while the manager and assistant manager started over from scratch, scanning item after item. I felt horrible that even though the store had closed 30 minutes earlier, they were still trying to get us straightened out.

This time, Jon was not the only one who left the store with a glazed overwhelmed expression. At least we have some new cookware to console us.

[Addendum: The madness has not stopped. Since originally writing this yesterday, we have continued to be tracked by the massive BBB empire. When I came home from "work" this afternoon, there was another box outside the door. We excitedly tore into the packaging...only to discover that it was really a "Get Well Soon" gift for some lady in Illinois. Rather than receiving her completely appropriate gift of a comfortable body pillow, she is probably wondering what the heck to do with a 14-piece set of stainless steel cookware...]

Let the "Wedding-a-thon" Continue...

For those of you keeping score, we have now successfully completed Round 3 of the “Getting Married Since 2007” Tour. Now that we’ve officially been married for 3-7 months, we thought it was only fitting to celebrate that blessed event…again. Two weddings simply were not enough, so we continued the party in Blue Springs.

Before you start to think that we’re just selfish and greedy or hopeless romantics who can't stop getting married, please bear in mind that our motivations are purely altruistic. We want to be able to share this experience with people all over the country, all over the globe, really. While the wedding in Bamberg was amazing, I don’t think I would have been able to bear not having my grandparents and other family members present at some wedding-type activity; Jon feels the same way. Hence, a party…er, reception, in both of our hometowns remedies that conundrum. What a difficult cross to bear.

Thanks to video technology, we were able to show highlights from the wedding in Bamberg so that guests would feel like they were there. (And thanks to having too much time on my hands due to unemployment, I was able to put together a slide show of pictures and video as well.) Everyone else came for the cake.

I had heard that when you have a reception after a “destination wedding,” the mood is much more casual and relaxed. True. However, this was the stage that involved most of the planning that turns ordinary women into “BRIDEZILLAS.” Venue, photographer, caterer, DJ, cake, decorations, flowers, hair, etc. Even though I didn’t feel that way, I totally understand why couples are ready to just have the whole thing over with when they start getting into the nit-picky details.

We were very fortunate to find great vendors (wedding lingo—I read too many back issues of Modern Bride), so if anyone in the KC area needs recommendations, I would be happy to share. Perhaps it wasn’t the fanciest or classiest affair, but since we still haven’t figured out the validity of charger plates or seat covers, we were really only concerned that our guests had fun. In that we were successful, I think. And if not, everyone we know is too nice to tell us otherwise…even those who got stuck cleaning up afterward (a huge thanks—you know who you are!).

Speaking of help, now is the perfect time to “publicly” thank everyone who helped with the reception. Thank you to my lovely cousins, friends, and assorted relatives who came early to help set up—there is no way it would have gotten done without you. Thank you for arranging a beautiful bouquet, decorating a May Pole-esque cake, doing my make-up, taking care of the adult beverages, and for dancing the night away. Thanks also to those who gave advice along the way and answered all of my ridiculously wordy questions. And of course, thank you to everyone who attended, especially those who traveled long distances. We really can’t express our gratitude enough, although we will continue to try.

It probably sounds redundant by this point, but we truly had a phenomenal time. I didn’t sit down the entire night and I didn’t want to stop and eat (a momentous occurrence), both of which are excellent indications that much fun was had. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly perfect—our first dance song was played sans words, we didn’t get to talk with everyone who was there or long enough to those we did get to talk to, the projector wasn’t quite loud enough, we almost forgot the blessing—but we don’t really roll that way (no matter how much of a perfectionist I am).

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that you can’t plan everything. Life is just going to happen. You have to embrace the good and learn from the bad. (End touchy-feely, philosophical wandering.)

For instance, how could we possibly plan for my younger brother to don homemade lederhosen, dance his way across the room, and do an impromptu polka with my grandma while we sang “Happy Birthday”?!?

Did we have any idea that the dance floor would fill up with people mimicking Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and McDonald’s when the DJ played the “Burgerdance” song (a favorite at German fests)?!?

Would it have been reasonable to expect all of the grandsons and grandsons-in-law to serenade Grandma with a touching rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”?!?

Could I have hoped for my grandpa to grace us with a more perfect blessing at the beginning of the night?!?

We certainly had no idea that we would be hoisting the tables in the air as we (well, really only Jon knew the words) sang and drank along to the German “Holzmichl” song…

You would think that after all that planning, preparation, and fun, we would be experiencing a bit of a let-down as we returned to “real life.” On the contrary. We have another reception to plan!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Identity Crisis

Kristin W. no longer exists. [Author's note: Perhaps you've noticed that we have never used last names on this blog. In fact, we are trying really hard to not use any names at all, other than our own. This makes pronoun usage a little cumbersome at times, but we felt it was necessary to protect the innocent...and in this case, the not-so-innocent.] Of course I'm being a bit over-dramatic, but for all intents and purposes, it's the truth. According to the Social Security Administration, the Passport Authority, the state of Washington, and my bank, there is no such person as Kristin W. A mysterious Kristin K. has completely usurped that identity. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked to make sure my middle initial isn't also a "K"...well, I would have about $1.25. Which wouldn't even buy a tank of gas. But I digress. That whole traveling-to-Europe-and-not-being-able-to-get-a-new-passport-in-time was just a handy excuse for not making the switch after the first wedding. I confess that I have sort of been dragging my feet about this because despite all the changes I have been making in my life lately, this whole name business is not an easy one. It's certainly nothing against the ridiculously long name I have married into. (I've already come up with a rebus to help my future non-existent students remember how to pronounce it.) I know I would be struggling a bit even if I were becoming a Smith or a Jones. I once heard someone say in jest that if you were marrying "up," as in up in the alphabet, you were headed for a successful marriage. Obviously, there is no fact to this claim. But if you want to trust it, then yes, I am making a big leap in the right direction. However, I've gotten used to being at the end of the line and sitting in the back of the class. It's comforting to know that regardless of how many people are in the class or group, I know exactly where I belong. Yet, now, I can no longer stand in solidarity with the "S-Zs." I'm somewhere near the middle of the pack, and that is uncharted territory. I will always be a "W" at heart. The odds are pretty good that I'll be a "K" for more of my life than I've been a "W," which is strange to think about. Surely there are some of you out there that are thinking, "Why doesn't she just keep her maiden name and quit whining about it?" Touché. Of course, it's something I've considered but ultimately decided against. I definitely respect those women who have made that choice and completely understand their reasoning. In fact, when I get my PhD one of these days, I might just be "Dr. W." (It could be a while, though, because being called "Dr. W." is my chief motivation to pursue a doctorate at this point.) I suppose I could hyphenate (which I'm doing on job applications), but I'm pretty sure there's an old Scandinavian law that forbids Swedish names from associating with Norwegian ones. In the brief months of my married life that I was still holding on to Kristin W., it got sort of confusing. Having to explain, "Yes, we're married, but..." each time someone asked about the name difference got tiresome. The (guilt-ridden) Catholic side of me was always quick to point out that yes, indeed we were married and not "living in sin" (because yes, my personal life is the business of complete strangers). One of the main reasons, though, is that when we have kids in about 20 years, I don't want to make their lives more complicated. And then there's the way Jon's face lights up when he hears me being called Kristin K... I'm not sure that this catharsis has resulted in my being any more comfortable with changing my name. I suppose it's too soon to tell, as I still sometimes introduce myself as Kristin W. and feel like I'm committing a felony when I open Kristin K.'s mail. I guess the conclusion of all this reflection is that yes, I am officially making the transition to Kristin K. But I can't help but think there must be a reason I am still carrying around my Missouri license proudly bearing the name Kristin W...

Monday, April 7, 2008


I watch American Idol, and I am not ashamed to admit it. That and Dancing with the Stars are my guilty reality television pleasures. However, this season, I have a legitimate reason to follow Idol. I know David Cook. For real. While the jury is still out on whether or not he would still remember who I am, especially since he's all famous now, I really do know him. We attended both middle and high school together and were involved in some of the same activities. We were in musicals/melodramas together in middle school and both participated in Forensics (speech and debate, not Crime Scene Investigation). I was even his escort for his first try at the Mr. Jaguar male "beauty" pageant (he later went on to win the competition his senior year). You better believe that I'm going to be digging up some embarrassing photos and videos from those "Coming of Age" days the next time I'm home. I have to be ready if Fox comes calling. The coolest thing is that he's actually really good. He has a legitimate shot to win the whole thing. Now that he's in the top ten, he's pretty much assured a record deal. The solo album that he put out a couple of years ago is fantastic--it's in the CD player pretty exclusively these days. Obviously I'm pretty excited for David. But I'm also amused. It's crazy to see him on TV and to read about him in US Weekly (which I only read at the gym) and on Wikipedia. And it's hilarious to read blog posts from girls--and married women--who think he's "hott." Good for him! If you're a David Cook fan (or if you want to be), I suggest checking out this very excellent website managed by some of his good friends. It's very tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing, right down to the Chuck Norris-esque list of reasons why David Cook should be the next American Idol. Don't forget to vote Tuesday nights!

This Trip Brought to You by Facebook

Rather than being sad when I found out that Jon was going to be taking another "business trip," I immediately started thinking about how I could occupy my time. With no real job or commitments (other than my weekly tap dancing class), I wanted to travel. Specifically, I wanted to travel with my girlfriends.

Fortunately, a friend from home who relocated to California seconds after graduating from college had some time in her schedule to accomodate a guest. This was a great opportunity to finally visit sunny San Diego like I'd been promising for years. As if that wasn't a good enough trip, she then suggested that we drive to Arizona for a couple Royals Spring Training baseball games. (She informed me of this possible plan via e-mail, which I received while still on the Spanish honeymoon. It was hard to contain my excitement, but I figured I better since I was in Spain, after all, with my new husband.) The added bonus of the trip is that we would be meeting up with another friend whom neither of us had seen since high school; they had recently become "Facebook friends."

I have really been dragging my feet with this whole Facebook/mySpace thing. I know these social networking sites are a great way to stay connected with old friends, but I'm really nervous that all my adolescent students would be able to find my page. Not that I would post anything, um, inappropriate, but what if a friend of a friend did and it was linked back to me? Plus, as I am back in the job market, the same reasons apply. (Yes, I am aware of all the privacy settings and know that everything would be just fine.) However, the real reason that I am resisting is because I'm pretty confident that I would quickly become addicted.

I'm not a gossip...exactly. I just have an intense curiosity for knowing what's going on in other people's lives. It's not a malicious desire and I'm not interested in spreading rumors. But I do like keeping in touch with people and hearing about what they're up to. Unlike a lot of people, I am pumped about my ten-year high school reunion and am bummed that I missed the five-year. It's always fun to get updates about people and I'm glad that the Facebook crowd is keeping me in the loop. Everyone I know who is part of that exclusive club, from high school friends to college friends to Germany friends, is pretty persuasive, so don't be surprised if I crack one of these days and ask to be your friend...

But I digress. Only about a week after returning from the honeymoon, I hopped on another plane, this time to San Diego. I'd never been to that part of California, so I definitely had the wide eyes of a tourist. It's beautiful. I was shown all over the city, both by car and by foot. That night, we met up with another friend neither of us had seen since high school who also lives in San Diego now. Another point for Facebook.

The following day I was on my own and ended up exploring Old Town San Diego. As you may have expected, this is a pretty historical area. In fact, it's a State Historic Park. I'm ashamed of my geographic knowledge, but I forgot just how close San Diego is to Mexico. After spending the day there, it's official. Now I want to go to Mexico. Did you ever notice that traveling usually sparks a desire to do more traveling?!?

Luckily we had that opportunity. That afternoon/evening, we hopped in the car and drove to Arizona for a pair of Royals Spring Training games. This is the one time of the year when Royals fans have hope that maybe this year will be different (we did sweep the Tigers in our first series) and we might creep ever closer to that elusive .500 record. That being said, I sort of resent the media guide's assessment of the season, even if it is positive: "Oddly enough, the Royals have reason to be optimistic in 2008..."

The first game we attended was at the Royals home field in Surprise, Arizona. They dropped a heartbreaker to the Padres in the 10th inning. But the game wasn't a total wash, as I got to re-connect with some college friends. That was truly the theme of the weekend. I'm not trying to make it sound like I have a ton of friends or's just that it was really cool to meet up with people in various parts of the country (or world, in the case of the honeymoon).

Following the game, we drove down to Tucson where we met up with the aforementioned high school friend. Even though I hadn't seen her in close to eight years, it was as if no time had passed. I think we both felt guilty that we let the friendship slide, so there you go, Facebook, another point for you.

On Easter Sunday, after church at the Cathedral, we headed out to the stadium where the Royals faced the White Sox. The boys in blue racked up enough runs in the early innings that they were able to hold on and defeat their Chicago rivals by a score of 6-5. They were surely spurred on by our cheering...and good-natured heckling.

The moral of this story is two-fold. First of all, don't count the Royals out yet. And secondly, do whatever it takes to stay connected with old friends. Even if it involves a huge sacrifice, like taking a vacation down to California and Arizona.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Luna de Miel

That's Spanish for "honeymoon," at least literally. I'm not for sure if Spaniards follow that tradition of escaping...I mean, taking a vacation...after getting married. At any rate, we decided to spend our extra week of traveling in Spain, hitting Seville and Barcelona, as well as some additional side trips. I'd never been to Spain (with the exception of Mallorca, which is more of a beach getaway than a traditional Spanish experience), and although Jon did travel there after leaving Germany the first time, he was game for a return trip. I was anxious to put my Spanish minor to use (seven years well spent, believe me), so off we went.

The morning after the wedding we picked up our weary travelers at 6:00 am. I don't know what we were thinking, scheduling a flight so early the day after getting married. Regardless, we drove down to Munich, desperately trying to translate radio reports about the Muenchen Flughafen ("airport") and a strike. Evidently the baggage carriers went on strike--we actually saw them protesting--which had us very worried about the status of our flights. Luckily for us (and unluckily for lots of people), only domestic flights were cancelled, meaning that we left the gang at security and went to catch our flight to Spain.

Sevilla (Seville): Totally exhausted from the week's festivities, it was a pretty quiet plane ride. We changed planes in Barcelona and continued on down to Seville, the sister city of Kansas City (the Plaza is modeled after its Spanish counterpart). Our honeymoon started off on a great note as we both fell asleep face down on our matching twin beds.

We were able to rouse ourselves to go out and seek dinner at about 10:30, and we were quite fortunate to discover a tapas bodega not far from our hotel. For the unenlightened, tapas are smaller portions of a variety of dishes (depending on the bar/restaurant), like little snacks or appetizers. For example, over the course of several days, we ordered things like potatoes with ali-oli sauce, eggplant fries, chorizo sausage, Iberian ham straight off the pig leg, etc. Yum. Rejuvenated by delicious tapas and a decent night's sleep, we hit the ground running the following morning. Luck smiled down on us again as we stumbled upon a weekly flea market held mere blocks from the hotel. We found a great little carafe and painted tile (that is currently serving as a trivet), and I picked up a copy of Don Quijote en espanol. I can't resist used books, even in foreign languages.

We hit some of the big tourist destinations, like the Cathedral and the Real Alcazar (royal palace). Now that we were on our own and didn't have everyone else's photos to depend on, we were picture-taking machines. I think we ended up with more pictures that first day alone than from the entire week prior. We covered a lot of ground and saw lots of interesting sights, but one of the highlights for me was the flamenco show we attended in the evening. The performers were amazing. I think I must have been a flamenco dancer in a past life because I immediately wanted to break out my souvenir castanets ("click-clickies") that I purchased on my last visit to Spain and jump up on the stage.

Cadiz: Since we'd planned to take the night train up to Barcelona, we decided to spend our next day in another town that was also on the train route. The real draw to this city was that it was on the coast, and while it was too cold to actually go in the water (which didn't seem to stop the overweight elderly gentlemen in Speedos), it was really nice to walk on the beach. We very nearly spent the entire day in a cafe, however. Since the town isn't very large, the train station didn't have a place to store luggage. Neither one of us was interested in hauling our stuff around all day, so we tried a couple of hotels before learning at the Tourist Information center that the bus depot was the only place with a room to store luggage. Making grammatical errors left and right, I was finally able to communicate what we needed to the right person at the right place, and the day was saved. The weather was again beautiful--the sun slightly toasting the fair Scandanavian skin we both share--so we spent the majority of the day walking around and enjoying the scenery.

Shortly before we were to leave, we stopped in a little cafe "off the beaten path" because Jon needed some coffee. While there, we met a new friend, Pepe. Incredibly friendly--and probably a bit inebriated--he spoke to us for a long time. I was able to understand most of what he was saying, but really found myself nodding a lot. Poor Jon was totally lost, but was able to pick up bits and pieces here and there, and I translated the best I could. Pepe was very excited to learn that we had just gotten married and congratulated us profusely. He also tried to convince us to stay the night in town at his apartment in order to meet his wife, who likes to practice her English. But, alas, we had a train to catch. We'd planned this train ride to Barcelona so carefully, yet were utterly devasted to discover that what we'd thought was a private sleeping cabin was in actuality two reclining seats. Thankfully, they were able to upgrade us, so we celebrated by drinking the bottle of cava that Mama had given us at our reception ("Macgyver" figured out a way to chill it in the sink).

Barcelona: Lo and behold, when we woke up the next morning, we were in Barcelona. We immediately walked to our hostel, aptly named At Home Guestrooms. It was a literally a spare bedroom in "Uncle Emphysema's" (not his real name) apartment. He pointed out several places of interest, and we were off...after enjoying a traditional fattening Spanish breakfast of churros con chocolate (deep-fried dough dipped in unbelievably thick hot chocolate). The biggest challenge in Barcelona is that Spanish isn't the native language. Barcelona is in a region of Spain known as Catalonia, and Catalan is more than a mere dilect; it's a totally different language which we deduced to be a hybrid of Spanish and French. We muddled through with my (primarily Latin American) Spanish, but it was fortunate we went to a lot of tourist locations. We went through the Cathedral and Picasso museum before seeing some wacky Gaudi architecture, including the famous Sagrada Familia ("holy family") cathedral.

Again, we took lots of pictures and videos, but opted not to go inside the latter because we had plans to meet some friends who were spending their Spring Break in Barcelona. One of Jon's co-workers put it best when she said, "Jon, you are the only person I know who would take two dudes along on your honeymoon." Fair enough. But I'm so glad we were able to meet up because we had a great time...and ate some amazing (and interesting) food. (Both friends--who are brothers--are very knowledgeable about both food and wine, so if you thought I talked a lot about food before, beware.) On a search for a cafe with a view, we climbed to the top of this hill/mountain that had breath-taking views of the city. After spending some time catching up, we went "tapas hopping." While Jon and I had been playing it relatively safe, typically ordering only one or two unknowns, our friends were immediately drawn to the most exotic tapas on the menu or in the bar. They were also adventurous when it came to full meals, pairing them with the perfect selection of wine. We ate everything from snails to baby goat to paella (a traditional rice dish) to rabbit to pig's feet to razor clams. But you would be proud of me because I tried it all...and was surprised to enjoy most of it.

[Check out their blog for more great food and wine info:]

Montserrat: According to our What is Montserrat? book, it is a mountain, a monastery, and a spiritual community. It is also really cool. A relatively short train ride from Barcelona, Montserrat was a nice little day trip. We rode the aerial tram/gondola to the top where we explored the grounds and cathedral. We then rode a funicular train to a smaller chapel on a different part of the mountain. More than just a funny word, a funicular train is one that goes up and down a case you're like me and had never heard of that word until just now. At any rate, we followed the trail, which contained statues representing each of the three sets of Mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious) that are prayed as part of the Rosary. At the end of this trail was a small chapel. The whole place had an aura about it that was incredibly peaceful and spiritual. It's not surprising that the monks chose to locate their monastery in this place...that and the sighting of the Virgin Mary that truly prompted them to settle there.

Sant Sadurni: The next day was also spent just outside Barcelona, this time in a town called Sant Sadurni, the "cava capital of Spain." Cava is sparkling wine, Spain's version of champagne. Basing the entire trip off of blurbs from the travel books initially appeared to be a gamble because we arrived just in time for the town's siesta, or "nap time" when everything was shut down for a couple hours. The woman at the Tourist Information office did her best to find us a tour at one of the many wineries and recommended a couple of places to stop. We tried to follow her directions, but prematurely stopped at a location with a similar name. What a serendipitous discovery! We met a winemaker named Pere who, along with his father and good friend, shared some of his very own cava, as well as his philosophies on life. We were there for nearly two hours until his son came home for lunch. We then saw the other end of the wine-making spectrum as we went on a tour of the giant Freixenet winery. The contrasts were striking. Where Pere had a hand in every bottle of wine produced, the humongous winery was full of cellars and machines. We all agreed that Pere had it right. It was time to return to Barcelona, so we picked up some small bottles of cava for the train ride and enjoyed an impromptu serenade from the band on the train.

Garmisch: Okay, so Garmisch isn't technically in Spain. But since we were flying back to the States from Munich, we had to return to Germany at some point, so we took the opportunity to hop a train toward the Alps to meet up with another couple of friends from Bamberg days. They, too, were enjoying their Spring Break in Europe. Again, it was marvelous to catch up over dinner and a trip to the Irish Pub. While it was a fairly long train ride to go out to dinner, it was totally worth it to meet with old friends. Sometimes you just have to make the effort to maintain friendships. I wish we could have stayed longer; the Alps were beautiful the next morning. However, we had a full day of traveling ahead of us.

It would be hard to compare the German adventure to the Spanish getaway because they were so different. It's like we were able to take two vacations at once. That's a whole lot of memories for two weeks.


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