Weeding and Purging

This past week has been a mix of monsoon-level rain and dreadful heat and humidity. In short, it’s not been a great week to be outside working on anything.

Yet here we are.

A bad storm whipped through on Thursday night, taking down a big tree on our neighbor’s property and sending it crashing into our fence. I hadn’t realized anything was amiss until I spotted Sabine out of the pasture.

Sabine NEVER leaves the sheep.

Paul spent Friday evening and the better part of Saturday cleaning that mess up. We didn’t bother saying anything to the neighbors. It was all the way in the back where they can’t see it, and why open that can of worms?

The recent storms also took down the patio umbrella, which fell onto the grill, knocking it over and breaking its burners in the process.

There was a lot of cleanup going on this weekend, to say th and least. The upside to all the rain, however, is how easy it made weeding (and stump removal! Paul got a whole lot of stumps pulled out of the pasture!).

With me being gone and no weeding being done for 16 days, the garden certainly had some issues.  Thankfully, though, he deep mulch method really seems to have kept it from getting out of hand entirely. I was able to go in and get much of the weeds taken care of fairly easily. I also picked a good number of zucchini and cucumbers. I’m keeping my eye on the squash bug situation, though, because despite liberal applications of Neem oil before I left th country, there are what feels like an unmanageable amount of the little bastards all over everything.  I sprayed more neem in the evening after the bees had gone in for th night, and have been picking them off as much  I can, but I have so very many plants and only me to manage it. So, fingers crossed!

While I was away the blackberry and raspberry bushes exploded ( the Japanese beetle population did, too, but that’s another story).  I’ve been picking buckets full of blackberries almost daily. If I were better organized this year I might have made some blackberry-infused vodka, or some jam. But alas, my plate is full of other things at the moment.

Like purging!

I came back from Europe with an eye to getting rid of all of the things in my closet and getting a smaller amount of better quality items.  It took me an entire day, and I have very little to wear now, but it’s done. My closet looks so much nicer and cleaner, and Goodwill is going to have quite the windfall!

I haven’t stopped with my closet; I’ve been turning a critical eye to the rest of the house as well. My in-laws gifted us their good China now that they’ve moved into a condo. We didn’t have anything even close to “good” dishes, so I want to make room for it. It’s a lovely pattern with colors that remind me a bit of the Polish pottery my friend Celeste collected when she lived in Germany.

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Squash sh plants and sunflower stalks as far as th eye can see!

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So so happy to see my hydrangeas blooming. Last year I got zero.

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This year’s inaugural strawberry shortcake – hopefully to be followed by many more.

Back to Summer

I can’t believe this weekend was the Solstice. It barely registered!

Needless to say, re-entry has been a bit tough.   We’ve been enjoying some of the goodies I brought back (candy. Mostly Haribo from Germany and a bit of French chocolate), and I’ve re-created some of our new favorite foods.  The currywurst will take some tweaking, but the Croque Monsieurs and the Homity Pie (mashed potato pie with peas and cheddar) were a breeze.

The garden went bonkers while I was away, and I’ve been harvesting tons of blackberries, raspberries, green beans, and zucchini. It must be my reward for not “losing” my passport and faking a Scottish accent for the rest of my life.

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The green beans are in the pressure canner right now. It’s the first time I’ve used it, so I hope it all turns out properly!

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Homity Pie! It was a hit. Served hot with a pint of hard cider, it can’t be beat for comfort food.

Now if I can re-create some of the fashions I saw over the pond…….

Bonus Day!

We were booked to leave Europe on a 5 pm flight out of Frankfurt on Monday the 15th.

When we checked our flight status that morning, however, we learned it had been canceled due to aircraft maintenance. How relieved were we that we happened to be staying with a friend!!!

The next available flight wasn’t until noon the following day, and I can’t say we were unhappy to have a bonus day in Wiesbaden!  We took advantage of it by taking the funicular (cliff rail) at the end of Diana’s street up the mountain and exploring a bit up there. The views were spectacular! We wandered around a beautiful old Russian Orthodox Church, and had lunch at a small cafe at the summit. Maddie indulged I yet more curry wurst (a new favorite!!!). Neve had a big, fresh pretzel with cheese and I had an apple strudel.

Later, Diana took us to another park to explore a bit before dinner at a lovely Lebanese place called “Restaurant Palmyra”, which was, of course, absolutely fitting.

We were all three of us surprised by Germany and just how much we loved it. We weren’t sure anything could match our adoration of London and Edinburgh, but we were wrong. Perhaps it was because Wiesbaden and Eltville were smaller cities; but it was easy to navigate and explore, and evyone spoke English. Everyone. And they were all so very friendly! Or perhaps it was because we were with such a dear friend the whole time.  I don’t think that was it, though; I think Germany is legitimately a beautiful, wonderful, welcoming place.

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The view from the mountaintop of Wiesbaden.

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Diana lives on a lovely, tree-lined, quiet street.

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At the Kurpark, Wiesbaden.

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Neve ve made a cute new friend outside the grocery store on our way back to the apartment.

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It it was a very sad goodbye to Diana the next morning.

Now we are home after a hellish trip back to the states (re-entry at Chicago was an absolute nightmare. Being a U.S. Citizen means exactly zero to customs and passport control here. Europe was far more welcoming). We spent six hours at Chicago O’Hare waiting for our flight to leave and got back into Richmond nearly 24 hours after waking up in Germany.

The 3 of us are going to be insufferable for awhile, comparing all of the wonderful we just experienced to the reality of home.

But it’s okay; I’m already planning on figuring out recipes for all that wonderful food!!!!

Eltville Day

Diana took us on a shirt train ride to see the town of Eltville am Rhein (on the Rhine) and to see the strawberry festival happening just outside the city in a small suburb.

Eltville itself is just glorious; right on the water, and full of blooming roses. We picked a fantastic time to visit, for sure.

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We we are all completely smitten with Germany. And good thing, too, because our flight home was cancelled and we are here another night.m

Wonderful Wiesbaden!

After some crazy-tight train connections leaving France, we arrived in Wiesbaden, Germany.  My friend Diana met us at the station with German beer and pretzels, and I swear it was the best thing ever!

We have had the BEST time here in Germany.  Our first night we tried pork knuckle and sauerkraut for dinner (best sauerkraut I have ever, ever eaten) with German beer.

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The pork knuckle was fit for a medieval king!

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Apple strudel.

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We spent the day walking around downtown Wiesbaden yesterday, exploring the area before heading out to the festival in the evening. It was such a wonderful, wonderful day. Neve absolutely loves it here, and we do, too.

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There are thermal springs here in Wiesbaden (“Baden” means “bath”), and we *may* have put Neve in the “healing waters”.

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The world’s biggest cuckoo clock!

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Yummy Kaffe Crema!

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Berry waffle bowl

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Diana and I.

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The festival was an absolute blast. The street food (and alcohol! Everywhere!) was incredible, and the atmosphere was impossibly friendly and fun.

Neve and Maddie’s favorite night of the trip, so far.

Paris in a Day

Okay, confession time.

Paris was a bit of a downer point on this trip. We had only one day, really, and Neve was still not back to herself so we couldn’t explore as much as we had planned.  Basically, we didn’t give ourselves time to really adjust to it and get into it, and navigating the Metro with our luggage was quite a challenge (all stairs, all the time, everywhere. This is why the French are so fit.)

Next time?

We did, however, manage to get a fabulous hotel room thanks to the many, many points my husband had saved from years of work travel, and we had a great neighborhood base from which to roam a bit.

We were located in Trocadero, which is to the north, and practically under, the Eiffel Tower.

The one thing Neve rallied for was The Paris Catacombs. This was the thing that she had picked herself,many she was NOT going to miss it.  The wait, unfortunately, was a little over an hour long in the hot Parisienne sun. We kept ourselves amused remembering the wise words of my friend Aurelie and her boyfriend Paul, “We French enjoy waiting in lines. We wait all the time.” So we stood there, waiting, feeling ourselves we were truly French now.

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The Catacombs did not disappoint (aside from the typical American tourists we encountered who were loud and disrespectful in their comments. Jerks. Quit making us look bad!)

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They say there are more than 6 million skeletons in the Catacombs. I can believe, after witnessing its staggering vastness, there are many more than that.

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As you may imagine, it is very dank and wet down there. There was a lot of dripping water from the walls and ceilings, and some of the bones were molding.  We all had what we’ve been calling “Catacomb Crud” on our shoes afterwards.

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And then, at the very end, Neve coughed so hard she threw up. In the Catacombs.

Sigh.

We made our way out, stopped at a Monoprix (an excellent grocery/everything store) to buy fruit and wine, and dropped Neve at the hotel for a bit. Maddie and I explored the neighborhood a little, found some chocolates, and picked Neve up again for dinner and the lighting of the Eiffel Tower.

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It it was hard to capture the sparkle effect!

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Trocadero

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I will say say this for Paris: it is STUNNING at night. They don’t call it the city of lights for no reason!

Versailles

Getting a bit behind in posting! The morning we left London Neve woke with a pretty high fever and cough.

We thankfully stayed with an old friend from college in Versailles for two nights; but our hectic pace was dramatically slowed for our time in France, and Neve spent much of it in bed.

Maddie and I wandered the village of Versailles a bit (and loved it) before touring the palace itself. I even made Maddie try a Croque Monsieur for the sake of stereotypical French cuisine.

We finished the day with dinner at a creperie with Aurelie and her boyfriend Paul. I tried the goat cheese and tomato crepe; absolutely divine. For dessert: chestnut crepe. Add in the French wine and it was heaven!

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Aurelie’s neighborhood

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The gate at the palaceimage

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It it was a lovely, lovely village, and if pressed, I may admit to having liked it better than Paris itself. (But don’t tell anyone).