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Stammtisch, Stomp Tish and a Little Gastfreundschaft



Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 | 9 comments

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Garden Stammtisch

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
~ Henry Valentine Miller

To say living in Germany changed us is an understatement.


We lived in southern Bavaria which we often compared to Mayberry–the second week we were there I was already running into people I knew at the grocery store.

Dirndl - a German Princess Dress!

Me and my sweet, sweet friend and relocation agent, Vanessa, after we had gone to Oktoberfest and on our way to see FC Bayern Munich play fußball. A FANTASTIC, memorable day!

Germans are a people rich in tradition. From the incredible Christmas markets, to festivals and even clothing (dirndl and lederhosen), they don’t wear pride in country on their sleeve, it is their sleeve.

It’s hard to chose a favorite tradition – they’re all that much fun and interesting – but one in particularly flirts with the top of my list:  Stammtisch

A loose translation for Stammtisch is “regulars’ table.” If you visit Germany and notice signs above tables with a name, it means that table is reserved for a group of people with a weekly reservation.

The German tradition of Stammtisch at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich

Stammtisch signs at the famed Hofbräuhaus in Munich.

No matter how crowded the restaurant becomes, they’ll hold a table for a group they know will show up week after week, even if it sits empty for a while.

During our year there, I attended two Stammtisch gatherings: a dinner one for ex-pats that included my husband and his co-workers; the other for women who speak English, meeting twice monthly for breakfast in homes.

Table Scenes from a German Breakfast Stammtisch - meats, breads, pretzels and more

Images from several of our German Breakfast Stammtisches. A German host would always have assorted meats, cold cuts and sausages–not the traditional Jimmy Dean pork links or ground sausage! We’d always have pretzels and assorted breads, cheeses, fruit, coffee, juices and tea. No grits, no bacon; if an American hosted, we might have muffins or some sort of casserole, but always different than a typical American brunch.


I loved the tradition so much, I was determined to bring it back to the States when I returned.


And after a delay or three, I finally did.

I don’t think I’ve ever thrown as mix-matched a party. Fifteen people had RSVPed, and I had to scrounge for enough coffee cups and plates to accommodate my guests. Though I over invited what I had room for, I trusted the people who were “supposed” to show up, would. Of course I was disappointed not everyone could come, but the up-side was sufficient breathing room in our small entertaining space.

An American Breakfast Stammtisch

Large, soft pretzels are a staple for German breakfasts so I HAD to have some at my inaugural Stammtisch. A few fun mentions in this collage: the candle under the pretzel picture was a gift from my sweet friend, Shelly Wildman; it’s an Ella B. neighborhood candle featuring her hometown scent “Wheaton”–I always think of her when its lit. Also, Jill Anderson gave me the darling “Thankful for…” chalkboard as a housewarming gift when we moved to Macon & I think of her every day when I look at it. Last, I LOVE my gerberas and spider mums in the Queen Anne’s Lace pitcher from Mary & Martha (get one while they’re still available).


I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read A Little Gastfreundschaft {“hospitality” in German}, a companion piece I wrote about Stammtisch for the wonderful new site Grace Table; in it I share how Stammtisch reminded me in a very real sense Who I am, and why I was forced to delay beginning a Stammtisch upon our return home (which also explains why we moved). I’ve also found the pictures I took at the first Stammtisch I ever attended.

Stammtisch has been incredibly formative and affirming, and I’ve been surprised but delighted by the enthusiastic response to Stammtisch here. When we get together, we linger around the table and no one is in a hurry to leave. Each hostess has made the gathering special in her own way.

And maybe the best thing about Stammtisch is it’s never about performance or perfection; it’s about people.

Stammtisch friends


Does this sound like something you’re interested in trying? I’ll cheer you along and help you any way I can. Got questions? Please ask in comments!

(And DaySpring has created a new line to add beauty to your pursuit of friendship–
click the image below to see all the new wonderful things!)


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A Tale of Three Rocks…



Posted by on May 9, 2014 |

Love Your Life Rock Paperweight



Last month I returned from Germany with precious cargo: three rocks

To siphon memory and draw inspiration, I stacked them on the counter when I began to write this , and that’s exactly what my husband and son saw when they walked into the house that day.  Both asked me the same question, ”Why are there rocks on the counter?”

To learn my answer, please click to read Stones of Remembrance: A Tale of Three Rocks over at incourage   There was much delight in writing it, and the comments have inspired me right back :).

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Just a Little Tea/Pot



Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 | 4 comments

German Countryside

I’m out of breath riding backwards on a train sitting across from an Asian student who doesn’t speak English but who does speak German.  She’s working on an exam of some sort, using a pencil and block eraser and painting her words beautiful, none of which I can read.  Not just because they’re upside down to me, but because they’re auf Deutsch and upside down.  I recognize the language mostly because so many words have more than 20 letters.  She turns her paper and starts on page six.

Castles and farms, rolling green and tilled earth are blurring by, a whirr of places I’ve never seen, visions of which have become familiar.  Living in this foreign country seeded a deep appreciation for her, an expansion of love for people and place. And history and art and architecture.

I haven’t yet learned the art of traveling light God help me so I lug my aubergine suitcase past 18 trains and 18 tracks with a 20-pound pack on my back (four bags of sugar feels about right), my red purse pouched on my chest like an infant, my turquoise flight pillow clutched tight.  I reach train RE 4077 and scale its two steps laboring to drag my bag with me, when a beautiful young man holding a box of spaghetti proves that chivalry isn’t dead.  He speaks a little English, enough to offer help, and he hands me his box of food so he can lift my box of clothes.  I confirm my train with him and he shakes his head no, but at the same time we realize he’s just not going as far as me, and that yes, he hadn’t just wasted time and effort to help the breathless American with her bag.

I had arrived on Platform 8 and my next train was on 26, supposedly a 10-minute walk with one minute to spare before departure.  My heart’s pounding is slowing to a quieter rhythm, the boiling adrenaline now purring to a simmer. I inhale thanks and exhale relief.  I made it with 90 seconds to spare.

It is only now I realize an earlier decision in the day has consequence now:

I bought a ticket for a regional train.  Had I stuck with my intention to purchase an ICE (high speed) ticket, I would have had food service available.  The miscue was made primarily due to the language barrier and my train clerk wanting to save me money.  Why it has bearing now is I’m thirsty.  It’s well after lunchtime and the hunger doesn’t bother me near as much as the thirst.  My desire is at least partially fueled by knowing I don’t have anything to drink–it’s human nature to want what you can’t have, after all.  But my mouth is dry and my lips are chapped so I’m pretty sure it’s not all in my head

And then I remember a birthday gift from my friend Suzanne.

It was a gag gift of sorts, the kind born of getting to know one another just a little bit better.  Though I can’t recall the context of our conversation, I admitted I had never smoked pot.  Alcohol was my drug of choice back in those oat-sowing college days. The one time I was passed a joint, I  handed it off like a hot potato, sure the police were about to burst through the door, catch me with illicit drugs and cart me off to prison to do Shawshank time–fine incentive to Just Say No.

Looking back, I can’t honestly say why I didn’t try it.  I’d like to think it was a faith conviction or my good-girl sensibilities…but maybe just my penchant for following rules.  The drinking age was lower when I was in college so I wasn’t breaking any laws.  But pot?  Illegal then, and everywhere I’ve ever lived.

So when Suzanne was shopping yesterday, she saw something with my name on it and couldn’t pass it up–

Cannabis Tea

C+ Swiss Cannabis Tea contains only 5% hemp flower syrup with a scant trace of THC (0.0015%); you’d have to drink over a case of 24 before feeling any effect. It tastes just like…wait for it…bottled ice tea, a blend of sugar, lemon juice, and black tea extract.  (Sorry, kids, it’s virtually impossible to get high, if that’s what you’re going for…it’s LEGAL!)


THIS is the kind of gift I love–its value is in its story.

It was fun, outrageous, unexpected and anything but conventional, but mostly it’s tied to knowing me.  As Suzanne quipped, “when you drink it you won’t technically be able to say you’ve never had pot anymore.”  Not like this is any banner of achievement, but something about it was just…me.

Because I couldn’t carry liquids on the plane, my plan was simply to tuck it away in my suitcase when we returned home and keep it as a conversation piece until curiosity got the best of me.

Until, that it, I was on a train riding backwards and out of breath, in a foreign country where I was traveling alone and didn’t speak the language, when there wasn’t time to stop for bottled water without missing my train; when I was hot and thirsty and a tangle of nerves.

So now I’m happy to report, though I can’t still say I’ve never had pot before, I can truthfully testify in a court of law with my hand on the Bible…




I’ve never inhaled.


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BEHOLD one of life’s greatest mysteries



Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 | 7 comments

When I visited Venice last summer, one of the most unexpected discoveries was a fair trade shop somewhere off the beaten bath canal, whose name escapes me now (but I probably couldn't say anyway).

The shop was overflowing with interesting bags and accessories, but parked just inside the front door was a tee shirt you couldn't help but notice.

MacChettemagni - what does it mean?!
We wandered around a while and tempting were many of the store's offerings; but as much as I distained anything so American being sold in a fair trade Italian shop, I couldn't ignore the rising wonder of the crimson tee, her golden arches and that peculiar word.  

If you know me, you're well aware I couldn't leave without asking.  I found the owner and begged its translation.  In beautiful, Italian-caressed English, his eyes twinkling as he let me in on the secret and confided–

"What the hell are you putting in your mouth?!"

It was all I could do not to buy one.

Especially with the reintroduction "for a limited time" McRib.  


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Stille Nacht Kapelle :: Silent Night Church



Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 | 4 comments

Silent Night Memorial Chapel in OberndorfDuring our ten-month expatriation to Germany, we had opportunity to visit dozens of churches…spectacular, architectural and artistic wonders, the likes of which would leave my jaw dragging the floor, stunned by their opulent beauty and painstaking detail.  Each time I entered the doors of yet another cathedral, my spirit applauded the craftsmanship and splendor of each masterpiece.  

And then there was Stille Nacht Kapelle.


Simple, unassuming and perched upon a small hill in Oberndorf, Austria – 20 minutes from my Bavarian home town – a tiny chapel holds huge historical significance–

the site where arguably the most beloved Christmas carol of all time was first performed:  Silent Night

Originally penned as a poem by Joseph Mohr in 1816, on Christmas eve two years later, Franz Xaver Gruber composed a melody for it.  Ancient lore tells the story that because the church's organ wasn't working that night, the two performed by guitar.  

I'm not sure what happened to St. Nikolaus Church, the Romanesque parish church where it was actually performed, but the Silent Night Memorial Chapel was consecrated in its place in 1937.  

Silent Night Church


Silent Night Memorial Chapel


The Silent Night Memorial Chapel is so small, it's almost impossible to photograph it; I couldn't position myself anywhere to capture the image I wanted….


But that doesn't diminish the delight in having visited.  

And though my jaw didn't drag its floor, my heart celebrated its history.  Is there any other carol more recognized and revered, better known by all ages, and which has gained farther reach (now translated in over 300 languages)?  I can't think of any.


On this Christmas Eve morning, with a cup of coffee by my side and memories just a' swirlin'…I'm thinking fondly of how this year has truly been one of adventure.

Is Silent Night a favorite of yours?  What memories are conjured when you think a spell on our favorite songs of the season?


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First night, last night



Posted by on Dec 4, 2012 | 10 comments

I remember our first night in Germany.

I can still smell the cold.

Taste the new.

Feel equal measure of exhiliaration and intimidation.

Hear the wonder.

See adventure 'round every bend.

That first sleep was met after eyes had been wide and ravenous for near 40 hours, when exhaustion had been exiled and adrenaline was in control.  

I was a foreigner in a foreign land and everything was a shadowy reflection of what I knew it to be.  

We didn't understand the bedding.  

German bedding in wardrobe

Weeks earlier, we had crated a pile of stuff we thought we'd need, comforts that fill a home.  

Pictures to dress the walls.  

Clothes (too many) to dress ourselves.

My favorite Swiss Diamond frying pan, the one that cost a bundle but delivered what it promised.  It doesn't cook food, it conjures magic (and I'd buy the whole bloomin' set
if I could afford/justify it….).

Towels and washcloths, because we're particular about our linens…

And despite being told "German beds are sized differently than American beds," we sent along our coziest sheets, featherbed, my theraputic neck pillow and an old king-sized comforter.  

The crate wasn't due for a week, so in the meantime we were to use the towels and linens provided by our landlord.

* * * * * * *

To stave off jetlag, we refused to nap.  We went a thousand miles per hour throughout the day, acclimating to our new hometown, touring the grocery stores, visiting the butcher shop and learning the hard way that the Apotheke isn't the same thing as a CVS.  Another story.

That evening, we met up with our fellow expats for dinner at one of the two Greek restaurants in town–oh, the amusement of trying to direct people when we didn't even know where we were ourselves, couldn't pronounce the street names, and the GPS spoke only in German.  By the end of that meal (which remains a mystery to this day) I welcomed the complimentary shot of schnapps offered by the tavern owner "for digestive purposes," a custom for which I'm beginning to believe is, in fact, to aid digestion.  But that's yet another story.

It's late when we arrive back to our apartment, and it's only then we beginning sorting through a mountain of linens in the Ikea-inspired wardrobe, and either due to exhaustion or American blinders we just. don't. get. it.

German beds and bedding are different from their American counterpart.

A German king-size bed is actually two singles within one large frame.  Two, separate mattresses.  

The bedding isn't for the entire king-size area, bottom sheets are for each single AND THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A TOP SHEET.

German beddingBut, see, we don't know this at the time and we're trying to find what we know; we keep looking and looking and I'm telling you, my landlord passed along A LOT of bedding and it's STILL not dawning on us THAT GERMAN BEDDING IS DIFFERENT!

And, its' not just the bottom sheets and lack of top sheets–they only use duvets with covers, AND THOSE DON'T EXIST IN KING-SIZE!  

Also, you know those Euro shams we use for decorative pillows?  THOSE you sleep on here.  I think.  Maybe not.  Suddenly I'm confused and worried my landlord will find this post and say "YOU SLEPT ON THE SHAM PILLOWS?  **THAT'S AGAINST THE GERMAN LINEN LAWS AND WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO EVICT THE IGNORANT AMERICANS**" except they don't speak great English and they probably would've stopped reading by now.  

German pillowsThere are sleeping pillows, too, but not a single pillow case that fits them.  They're rectanglier than American sleeping pillows and I have yet to discover cases that fit them.  Even when I've looked in homegoods stores THAT SELL THE SLEEPING PILLOWS, I've only seen Euro shams.  

Are you following me?  Am I explaining this okay?

We do the best we can, a pitiful attempt at figuring out this new German Way (the first of many instances), bottom-sheeting the mattress, and picking out two duvets and some pillows.  I should also mention the heat hadn't been turned on in our apartments until the day we arrived, and it was cold–below freezing outside and inside not much warmer.  

So I stacked a few more duvets on top of me, acting out some Deutschland version of the Princess and the Pea but without the pea.  

S o m e h o w soul and spirit finally settled down and we survived the night.

When our crate arrived the next week, I kissed my king-size feather mattress topper and king sheets and king comforter, worried not a bit that they were larger than the two single mattresses they covered.

That was then, ten months ago almost to the day, and there was snow on the ground like there is now.

* * * * * * *

Ten months have overflowed time and space and tonight is my last night in my German apartment.  

My featherbed and cozy sheets and therapeutic pillow and king comforter were crated yesterday, on their way home ahead of us.  

We knew how to make up the beds with our landlord's linens this time, but we held onto two pillow cases for the German rectanglier sleeping pillows.  

It's freezing outside but toasty inside.  God, I'm going to miss radiant floor heating.  Once it cranks up, it's goooood.

I've been saying my good-byes all week, never knowing when someone would jerk the tears right out of my heart.  

I never saw this coming.  Real friendship.  Strong community.  And though I'm ready to go home and regain some sense of normalcy, I'm astounded that it's this hard for me to go.

Our common bond is twofold: sharing the expat experience and a language.  If you've lived in another country, you'll understand; if not, I don't think you can.

* * * * *

I can smell change.

Taste the quiet.

Feel equal measure of anticipation and hesitation.

Hear the beauty through tears.

See everything but the future.

And I keep finding myself humming I Left My Heart in San Francisco.



* * * * * *


Dedicated with affection to those who've made all the difference in my Year of Living Dangerously.  


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