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My sister & the Traveling Red Dress ~ Part 3 (Finally, the pictures!)



Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 | 27 comments

Who knew sweet Katie Couric was a THIEF? She STOLE the TRD from me!  (Part one)

A sister's tale aka Big Sisters are Bossy!  (Part two)

I have no idea how many women have worn and been photographed in the original Traveling Red Dress, but their dress sizes range from 6 to 18 or so. Some would say that's the magic of the dress….

But I don't buy it.


Traveling Red Dress in Europe.

July, 2012, Burghausen Castle. The Traveling Red Dress gets the royal treatment!

I call it determination.




I have no idea how long I carried the dress like this before my sister noticed I was flashing everyone behind me. The only way I was able to hold my head up and keep going was I HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE UNTIL WE GOT HOME AND I SAW THE PICTURES!

How else do you explain enduring two hours of my sister bossing me around while I simultaneously sucked in stomach and back fat, tugged the dress up to hide padding and bra, and carefully carried the dress's train so as not to flash my turquoise underwear at ALL THE PEOPLE STARING AT THE LADY IN THE SHOCKINGLY RED GOWN.  

Grueling work, people.  I no longer snort with disdain when a model whines about how hard her work is; I give her a sympathetic nod.  Or I would if I ever actually heard a model whining.

The magic of the red dress isn't that it's one size fits most; its magic is what happens to the wearer when she puts it on.

It is as unique for each woman as her own thumbprint, but I'm inclined to think for all of us it represents much more than meets the eye.

* * * * * * *

I'll be 50 next year.


I've never dreaded milestone birthdays or getting older; realizing how young my mother was when she lost her battle with cancer I'm thankful for each year!  The year I turned 38–the age she was when she died–something happened inside of me: My perspective shifted.  No longer was growing older something that happened to me; it was the price I had the privilege of paying to enjoy life.

But 50 is a Big One and let's just say I'm a w a r e.  

So.  The Traveling Red Dress…

For me it was a matter of a few wonderful things ~ 

Simple j'oie de vivre.  





Discovering I have more wrinkles than I realized but being pleasantly surprised not to mind them; I decided they're simply the wake of my smile :).



Seeing myself through my sister's eyes.  

traveling red dress

"Put your hair up!" my sister demanded. So I did–no mirror, no help, just twist and clip. Good gravy, if I had tried to do this at home, it would've taken forever and looked like crap. I was shocked to see it turned out as well as my sister insisted it did.


Being brave and comfortable…and a little flamboyant in my 49-year-old skin.  



Traveling Red Dress

This is my daughter's favorite so I had to include it. It was funny to see which pictures were favorites of my family's (especially the ones that I didn't care for).


As I've shared before, my Word for 2012 is Adventure; putting on this dress and wearing it in public certainly made for a fun one.  That's a whole 'nother story in and of itself–something happened that has never happened to me before!

I hope you'll make a new entry for your bucket list that includes a Princess Dress; and that you wear it some place special and have someone you love or trust capture the moment for you.  You'll thank me, I promise.

Who knows–maybe Katie Couric will hear about it and beg you to be on her show….

* * * * * * *

The Katie Couric Show is offering viewers a red dress giveaway–click for details!




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A hilarious conversation with Tom Hanks on Germany and the Autobahn



Posted by on Jul 12, 2012 | 3 comments



Yeah, that.

I'm finding it a l e e t l e bit more difficult to do over "here" than at home because everything is new and there's always something else to do.  

Don't get me wrong, I've taken at least 5,000 pictures (unfortunately, that's no exaggeration), but I haven't quite committed the time to write their stories.  

Anyways, my friend Tom Hanks of Holly fame had a conversation with David Letterman that nails at least part of our German experience.  With power house movies like Saving Private Ryan and Apollo 13, you forget that his humble beginnings started with Bosom Buddies and he knows how to effectively tickle a funny bone.  

Watch this.  Take out the bit about Racer X and pretend Tom Hanks is me and you'll know what life is like in Germany at 200 mph.

Except 130 km/hour; I LAUGH at 130 km/hour.  I've hit 160.  You do the math.


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A Story and The Wall



Posted by on Jul 6, 2012 | 5 comments

When I stood in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, painted in rusty tears and rebar, I could feel the anguish of ages past and not so long ago. I remember when it fell in November of ’89, the collective joy of a people imprisoned by its menace for 28 years.


But I couldn’t understand then or now what it must have felt like to live within its confine,  a concrete sentry cruelly taunting anyone to cross his path.  No one really knows how many accepted his dare and succeeded; but 192 died or were murdered in failed attempts.  


I stood there, free, with my family, wondering how different life would feel if I wasn’t free to stand there with my family…what it would feel like to raise children born in a prison with only a glimmer of hope to escape.  I thanked God that by His grace I didn’t have to know what it felt like. 


On November 9, 1989 The Wall fell and people rejoiced and the dead were vindicated of a crime they never commited.  Their spirits dance through hollows burrowed out by the people they left behind, having a last laugh that echoes in history’s ear.


The Wall tells ten thousand stories.  I’d love to hear them all.  

* * * * * * *

Written in response to Lisa Jo’s Five Minute Friday prompt this week, “Story.”


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On our first visit to Salzburg: how I almost wet my pants



Posted by on May 9, 2012 | 3 comments

Salzburg is famous for a lot of reasons ~

  • 6828973357_6f317ff1cb_zbirthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • where The Sound of Music was filmed
  • beautiful baroque architecture with some of the most famous churches in the world
  • it sits at the northern boundary of the Alps and borders the Salzach River.
  • it’s 45 minutes from our German home (okay, that’s not so famous) and I discovered the most delicious, thick, frothy hot chocolate IN THE WORLD.  I’m pretty sure that’s not an exaggeration.

But the first time we visited I almost froze to death despite wearing thermal layers that had me walking like the Abominable Snowman.  Impossible to take pictures with gloves on – temperatures below freezing – I gave up when my naked fingers stiffened into claws.

I haven’t seen so many ankle-length fur coats since I played dress-up at the Fur Department in Belks, or either giant minks with human heads had taken over the city.  

We braved the Salzburgian Arctic Tundra as long as humanly possible; but before heading home, Tad needed to use the restroom.  As we’ve discovered in several European cities, public restrooms might require payment.  

And, get this:  some demand that you declare your business!  Number 1 costs less than Number 2, which to me is just TOO MUCH INFORMATION but I suppose it’s based on water consumption and they’re just trying to be fair.

But I’d prefer anonymity and injustice and pay a little more to protect my privacy. My shy bladder looks bold compared to my reclusively private bowel!

Which is likely TMI for you.

Though I didn’t need to “go” I decided to blow my nose while Tad “went”; I wandered into the women’s side of the public WC to hunt for a roll of toilet paper.  My frozen nose hairs were holding back a dam of snot, which sounds mildly offensive, but what IS the nice word for snot?  Mucus?  That doesn’t sound right, so please–I’m beggin’ for your suggestions.  

But I digress.


I discovered coin slots mounted on all the stall doors, and since I had no euros to open the doors, I turned to paper towels hanging over the sinks.  While I blew my frozen, raw nose with the equivalent of sandpaper, I noticed another wall of sinks and mirrors on the other side of a little hallway, vaguely hearing but dismissing a voice inside my head that said “The bathroom sure didn’t look *that* large from the outside….” 

When I got to the end of the hallway, I noticed a small yellow basket with coins in it sitting in a chair to my right; in a nano second I tried to reason “Why does this side have the honor system…?” when a man’s voice thundered “WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE?!”

Well, I might not have had to go but I about wet my britches and jumped backwards into the ladies room.

Had I just looked to my left, I would have seen a row of urinals and my husband turning and zipping up.  Thankfully, only my husband.

Why there are doors for a men’s side and a women’s side is beyond me when it’s one big happy bathroom with a teensy hallway dividing the genders.

This isn’t quite what I had in mind when I declared 2012 The Year of Adventure.

~ smile ~

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A Bavarian show and tell (a fun series of 3s)



Posted by on Apr 2, 2012 | 11 comments

Between keeping busy, traveling or taking daytrips, and general tech issues with my computer or the internet, I haven't blogged nearly as much as I'd like to. To share a lot of our experience in a few words and pictures, I decided to do so topically.  If you're following along, please tell me what you think!!


Adelhozener sparkling water, Passau, BavariaThree things I haven't done since arriving.

  1. Had ice in my drinks.*  Tis true, no one ices their drinks here. Because it's been COLD for the first two months of our stay, I haven't minded.  I wonder how I'll feel come July…….
  2. Used hairspray.  I packed my precious Vavoom, but I'll be danged if "Contents Under Pressure" means something!  My entire can depressed during the flight over……and two very stiff, hairspray-smelly sweaters later, I learned to respect the warning label.  (OF COURSE they have hairspray in Germany but I decided to go au natural.  Speaking of which…#3…)
  3. Shaved my legs.**  I have not gone this long without shaving since I was 11!!  Oh my.  And it wasn't because of "When in Rome…" either.  Our shower is very small, and it was SINGLE DIGITS when we arrived! ANYTHING I could do to keep warmer was The Right Answer. Plus, a) when it gets to a certain point, leg hair is much softer than freshly shaven prickles, b) I've worn only LONG pants, and c) my husband hasn't complained (I'm sure because he hasn't SEEN it).  If you enjoy the burn of scorched retinas, I might've taken a picture or two (but only because my daughter asked me).

Three things I cannot find:

  1. Measuring spoons.  German bakers and cooks must be smarter than American cooks because they KNOW how much to use, OR maybe eyeballing and "close" is good enough.  Thankfully, a colleague of my husband's who arrived here a few weeks after us brought me a set (in addition to a large plastic pitcher and #2 below). 
  2. Packed brown sugar.  There's a version of brown sugar but it's granulated like refined white sugar.
  3. Crisco shortening.  Can you tell I've been wanting to do some baking?  Plus, I've wanted to try a few new German recipes but my kitchen isn't stocked with any baking supplies and I haven't yet splurged on what I need.


Three things I really like about our apartment:

  1. The windows

      Window shades in Germany

    • Handle in the "down" position, closed & locked.
    • Handle turned to the side, windows open like a door into the room.
    • Handle turned in the "up" position, windows crack about 3" at the top (GREAT for cross ventilation, especially important since there's NO SUCH THING AS CENTRAL AIR IN GERMANY!  Residentially speaking, anyway.).
  2. The shades.
    Maybe these exist in the US, but I've never seen 'em.  Through an indoor strap/pulley system, the shades can be shimmied all the way open; lowered at any interval between top and bottom; lowered all the way but cracked to allow light; and COMPLETELY blacked out!  J'adore!  J'adore!  You could nap anytime with these suckers!
  3. German light switchThe light switches.  It's a silly thing to like, but they're all depressed by buttons, not traditional switches.  It feels fancy but doesn't look it.

Three things I don't like about our apartment:

  1. Photo-11The tiny refrigerator (standard in German homes; I've yet to see one in anyone's home that comes close to a small standard in the US) and shallow sink.  I get a shower and the back tile is splashed every time I forget and turn on the water at full pressure.  Which is every time I turn on the water.
  2. Lack of privacy/quiet.  With tile floors everywhere and an open floor plan and smallish square footage, sound echos like canyons; there's no such thing as privacy anywhere when two or more people are here.
  3. The toilet.  Oh, my.  Germans are fantastic conservationists, which means their low flow toilets are even low-flowier than anything I've seen in the U.S.  They don't have a knob for flushing, they have two buttons–the "small" one for boys only, and the "large" one for any business involving paper.  And I think there's about four tablespoons of water in the bowl.  In other words, there's a learning curve to using the bathroom "well," and if you can't follow what I'm sayin' come over for a visit and you'll understand in no time…..

Buttons on a German toilette

Three surprises:

  1. Pets are welcome in restaurants and retail venues.  It's one thing to see a puppy at an open air market, and an entirely NOTHER thing to see a dog walking up and down grocery store aisles or sitting at the feet of its owner while you eat!!  They're always leashed and well behaved but I can't imagine this happening in the US (other than service animals).
  2. The beds/bedding.  We were told not to bring bed linens because they wouldn't fit.  Here's why:  Below is a King-sized bed; note the Lucy/Ricky Ricardo effect–TWO SINGLE BEDS essentially pushed together!  Also, there is no such thing as a King comforter–I have seen ONLY single covers for King beds in stores like below!  Rarely are they an exact match but they always coordinate in color and pattern. 
     German king-sized bed
  3. Experiencing a real sense of community here.  We've met people in groups–the employees who traveled over together, the women (and Gordon) who meet twice monthly for breakfast, English speakers who may/may not be German and may/may not be associated with my husband's employer; everyone without exception has welcomed us with open arms, intentional about gathering on a regular basis.  Their kindness and generosity has impacted and changed me. 

Three favorite things to do:

  1. Stammtisch.  <— This deserves an entire blog post.  Stay tuned.
  2. Ride my bike instead of taking the car.  While I admit I'm fair weather about riding, there's a wonderful sense of g o o d n e s s associated with riding when I'd normally drive.  It's hard to express in only a few words, so maybe I'll elaborate later.  (My husband is a rock star with this one riding to work when it was single digits with 8" of snow on the ground….)
  3. Wander small villages and towns within driving distance and learn a little about their history and what makes them special.  Oh, my.  EVERY town is special; every village has a story to tell.  I only wish we'd have translaters everywhere we go….


* * * *

What a FUN way to share some of my impressions of Germany!  The next list is already underway and I promise I won't make you recoil in disgust next time :).

* On my birthday Friday – after I had almost finished this post – I got together with some girlieQs for Art Day.  Deede surprised me with "You need ice?  I GOT ice!"  What a nice little surprise.

** Let's blame it on the birthday again–the day before I was scheduled for a pedicure; there's only four reasons I'm willing to shave:  1)  annual doctor's appointment (ahem); 2) I'm planning on wearing a dress, capri's, shorts or bathing suit; 3) Tad hints around…; 4)  I'm getting a pedicure.  I didn't have it in me to go without shaving :).



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Love and gifts



Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 | 8 comments


From the beginning, I considered the opportunity to live abroad for a short while a God-gift…

…life circumstance preceding my husband's job offer only underscored that truth. The delights and challenges about which I speculated have all come to pass, but the most surprising aspect to me is both are much more extreme than I imagined.  

No doubt when we leave this place I'll have memories in volumes, but I already know one of the things I'm most thankful for:


my first cousin who lives but a few hours away, the first cousin I visited each summer during our childhood, the first cousin I've seen only a hand's count over the most recent 30 years. 

How could it be anything but a God-gift to not only provide a challenging new job for my husband, require him to train abroad for a limited time, but ALSO place us less than three hours from FAMILY?!

Sometimes all I can do is shake my head in gracious disbelief at that part of our story.  

Through phone calls and email prior to and after our arrival, Ellie explained much about The German Way.  And while the information she shared helped set the stage for a smooth transition, it was her unbridled enthusiasm that shrouded me in "welcome" and made all the difference.  In…the…world!

So when she and Walter arrived at our doorstep bearing gifts, it was gravy on the biscuits.  And icing on the cake.  And a bucket of whipped cream on the hot chocolate.  Their gifts weren't just some obligatory offering, they were frought with meaning.  Here…I'll help you get the picture with pictures–


Salt and bread are a traditional German housewarming gift.  Salt, to add flavor to life, and bread, to represent never going hungry.  Isn't that a lovely wish?  



Walter made sure to represent the boys and brought Tad a beautiful, Bavarian beer stein (Bayern is German for Bavaria, the state we're living in) (the best one šŸ˜‰ ).  Everything you hear about beer in Germany is true.  It's very good, it flows freely and it's cheap.  



Presentation can mean as much the present–the giftwrapping was so beautiful, I had a hard time "messing it up" by actually having to unwrap the gift (reminding me, once again, of that scene from Splash)!  Outside, a beautiful box of matches that matched the gorgeous Maria Buytaert long-burning candle.  Ellie had no way of knowing a) I'm a pyromaniac, and b) I DELIGHT in little surcies, and pretty matches are a perfect example (if you aren't familiar with surcies/cercies/sussies, you must learn and use this word regularly). 

  • Polenta and schinkenspeck (or simply speck), the closest German items to Southern grits and bacon…(Ellie wanted to give me a familiar taste of home)
  • Gourmet wild garlic salt flakes…
  • a German children's book to challenge my learning…
  • a cheerful, flower-filled magnet for my refrigerator…
  • a happy little bookmark trumpeting Spring's arrival…

…all of these things were purchased after careful consideration.  Each thing meant something!

And the best gift of them all?  Came wrapped in delicious lime green….



* * * * *

5 minute fridayWith thanks to The Gypsy Mama's Five-minute Friday writing prompt ~ Gift this week ~ for inspiring me to write this post!  And, given the personal specialness of this day, perfect timing (~ wink & smile ~).  Though I've written much longer than five minutes, I have Lisa-Jo to thank for finally prompting me to write it!

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