Thursday, December 24, 2009

Magda's Christmas Cookies

Our sweet 80-something year old neighbor, Magda, popped over yesterday to drop off her (famous and delicious)
Christmas cookies.

She has been baking those cookies for the last 3 weeks, and they are seriously works of art. In taste AND looks. Magda is especially fond of Zev, and when she dropped them off (Zev wasn't home), she asked "do you think Zev will like them?"

(The caption for this photo should read "can I have a cookie now?")

To give you an idea of HOW GOOD these cookies are, I must tell you that even the local (famous and delicious) baker, asks for Madga to make HIM cookies every year. Apparently Magda and her husband Heinz (who, when it snows outside, is out at 7am the next day shoveling the driveway), have known the local baker since he was a boy. Actually, Magda and Heinz, who live to the left of our house, used to babysit our landlord, Jorg, who lives to the right of us. You will remember Jorg and his sweet wife Ingeborg, from a previous post where I told you about how they love us like their own kids, and are simply wonderful neighbors who happen to be our landlords also.

Zev and I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas. Feliz Navidad to our family in Australia and Frohe Weihnachten to our friends in Germany. (Joyeux Noel for our French friends too!). We enjoyed some of Magda's cookies this morning while calling home to my family in Australia (we celebrate Christmas Eve with a big dinner and church service). It was great to talk with everyone. Today, Zev and I will be heading to the candlelight service at our church, and then having a cosy dinner at home. We are watching "It's a Wonderful Life" (because I have never seen it before).

Christmas in Germany is an experience that will linger with us forever.

Tomorrow, some dear friends of ours have invited us for Christmas dinner, and we are really looking forward to that. Isn't this what the Christmas season is about? Being with family and friends and just enjoying each other's company, while remembering the love that Christ shared with us?
Sending you Love and Big Hugs this Christmas season,

Zev and Fi xoxox

Friday, December 18, 2009

Come spend the afternoon with me at the Markets...

I walked down to the Esslinger Weihnachtmarkt (Esslingen Christmas Market) today and took some pictures that I would like to share with you. Wish you were with me! I adapted the words below from an article featured in our local military community newspaper. Enjoy!

For one month every year, Germany and its bordering countries are transformed by the many Christmas markets that help light up the dark skies.

Many communities hold Christmas, Advent, Christkindl and Stern Markets during the holiday season, usually beginning around American Thanksgiving holiday and ending between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

All of these markets started out similar to bazaars, giving the patrons a chance to purchase all of the necessary supplies for the coming cold winter months in one place.

As time went by, the markets became a part of Germany's Christmas traditions.

(How about this stand selling wild game!! I love the roof landscape!!)

This is the cutest stand. A local bakery has mini ovens and tables in a mini kitchen, to teach children how to bake German breads and cookies. Adorable.

The Wild Game Lady.

Today, the markets are less about supplying needs as they are about enjoying the Christmas season, with all of the decorations, treats and wares associated with the holiday.

(Handmade wooden ornaments. Some of them are really extraordinary!)

Traditional Christmas sweet cakes called "Christollen."

"Schutzengel" or Protective Angels.

The smells of fresh roasted almonds, Gluehwein, fresh chestnuts and Lebkuchen (gingerbread) let visitors experience the scents of Christmas before they even arrive at the market's food stalls.

My lunch. Krautschupfnudeln. It was really good!

A typical market will consist of many small, lavishly decorated huts around a special location in the town.

Glassblowers decorate their huts with hand-made ornaments, some of which can be specially made for patrons right at the stand. Other vendors sell the famous wood carvings from the Erzgebirge (Erz-Mountain) or display their candle-lit pyramids (see the giant one above), nutcrackers, nativity scenes and smokers for purchase.

I bought a model of the Esslingen Rathaus from this will see a picture of it below.

Random picture- but how CUTE is this baby, in this stroller? He was pushing himself up with his hands. I like this stroller. It lets the baby lie on its belly and see the world go by. But I digress.

Ok one more. How CUTE are these little girls all snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug. You should of see them twist their daddy's hand to have a ride on the merry-go-round. Wait till they are 16, daddy!

(So back to the story): Visitors to the Market can also buy traditional German Christmas Sweets such as Printen (ginger-bread biscuits), Spekulatius (spiced cookies) and Christollen, a bread-like cake covered in powdered sugar (again, see picture above), which are popular "Mitbringsel" (small gifts).

Besides selling the traditional Christmas wares, the Esslingen Christmas Market has a medieval theme.

Visitors will hear lutes, recorders, pipes and other medieval instruments being played as a traveling band makes its way through the streets during the market.

The traveling minstrels are in costume, sometimes on stilts, and dressed as animal characters with flowing robes.

Market patrons can also buy medieval specialties, including instruments and old-time candies such as ginger drops and licorice, or watch artisans, including a blacksmith, ply their craft. (Zev's favorite "artist" at the medieval market is the lady that coordinates the mouse races. That's another story!)

Yes, this really says "Axel Throwing This Way." And underneath the Axel Throwing is the Knife Throwing Competition. And this is the kids section.

I hope you enjoyed our afternoon walk through the Esslinger Weihnachtsmarkt! I saved the best part until last. I was happy to see obvious displays of the "reason for the season." Germans love nativity sets and the whole point of Christmas is very present, at least in the Christmas Markets.

This was on top of one of the stands, as you can see:

The last night of the Esslinger Weihnachtsmarkt is celebrated with the whole community coming out to conduct a walk from the Altstadt downtown, up to the Burg (or fortress). It is a fire-walk, so every carries fire-lit lanterns, and then on the courtyard of the Burg, there is a fire-dance display. We went to it last year and it was incredible.

On behalf of Zev and I, Merry Christmas. May the Lord Bless and Keep You, and may you have a wonderful
Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Parties and the Electric Slide

Can I just say that this is an "in-between: post, because I am dying to show you the pictures from the Christmas markets around town, but (leider! unfortunately!) our other computer (the one that we download pictures with) is feeling a little krank (I have a big German test on Friday, so my head is full of German at the moment, forgive me). Anyway, I just thought I would share some of the Christmas cheer, and post some pics that our dear friends, Hans and Gena took at the recent Christmas Party for Zev's work. It was a lovely party, and it was great to catch up with military friends that we don't see often. It was also a good time for Zev to show me his mad dancing skills (yes, you read correct- my man danced with me for THREE SONGS!! I am so proud of him). Gena also showed me how to do the Electric Slide (I am from Australia and a child of the 80s/ 90s- sorry that I have never danced this before!) As you can imagine, I loved it.

I am personally praying that YOU are having a good Christmas season. I listened to a friend last night, who told me about how for her, Christmastime does not bring back good memories, because of her divorce a while back, and the loneliness she endured for a time afterwards. Anyway, she and I talked about how I seem happy all the time (I have my days too, don't worry!) I shared that I find Joy in each new morning, and I am one of those people (Zev can attest to this) who loves to express my Joy in physical ways (like boogieing down on the dance floor!)

Psalm 30:5 says "weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." Joy cometh.

I pray that you find peace and joy today.

Love and hugs,

Fi xoxo