For my sister

Friday the 13th is a day of ill repute, but for me it was one of the luckiest days of my life – my sister, A, was born. Back then I didn’t realize all the ways she would enrich my life, but now I can’t imagine growing up (and onward) without her.

Package deal

I absolutely love my sister, and it’s pretty much always been like that. She is arguably the best present my parents ever gave me – a custom-made best friend. Someone to share your coloring books, martinis, and camping adventures with. One of these days, when we’re old, I’m sure we’ll bring out the old pictures and have a good laugh. Sure there were times when she bit and I clawed, but sharing a room – me on the top bunk, A on the bottom – will teach you a lot about when it’s time to play nice again and how to forgive. It will also teach you a lot about respect and empathy.

We haven’t always been close through the years, but we could always count on each other. A helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life, my divorce. It’s something I hate talking about in public (oops, I guess I just did) because I always feel like people look at me like I’m one of those people. Well, I’m not, and I survived the ordeal only because A was there to hug away my tears and to make me laugh when I was damn sure I just couldn’t. I hope she never needs me like that, but if she does, I’ll be there.

Adventurers

Because there’s no better therapy than sister therapy. There’s something about that bond that is so special. Aside from my parents, she’s the one person who has seen me grow and change through the years – she really knows it all. I can’t hide my true self from her. How cool (and scary and humbling) is that?!

It’s sometimes hard to be so far away from A, but instead of missing her I look forward to phone calls and emails. Her first visit is guaranteed to make for some more good memories. Time to get it planned!

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The German nut

Hee hee. This title makes me giggle. I love it for what it could imply. Sadly though, I am not writing about the crazy Germans. I’m still collecting material for that topic. No, I’m writing about nuts. The kind you mix into granola and cookies, serve at parties in funny little bowls, and eat for their high protein content.

I’ve discovered that the nut situation here is not what it is in the US. First of all, there was the seemingly endless search for pure and simple peanut butter. Then there was the sad realization that nuts and dried fruit are an undesired combination in the granola/cereal aisle. Now it’s starting to dawn on me that the hazelnut is to Germans what the peanut is to Americans – anything that has “nuts” in it will almost certainly have hazelnuts. While I wasn’t ever so crazy about peanuts that I kept them around the house for snacking on (I’m more of an almond girl), I really can’t seem to fall in love with the hazelnut.

To me, it’s flavor is a bit too violent in the mouth. It starts with a hint of sweet but ends on a bitter note (I think that thin dark skin is to blame). And as far as mouth feel goes, it seems to be a very dry nut, kind of sticky once you get chewing.

Don’t get me wrong though. I love hazelnuts inside of things – finely ground into Christmas cookies, ribboned into chocolatey spreads, blended into ice cream. The problem with these things is that they kind of defeat the healthy purpose of the nut.

In an attempt to appreciate the ‘German peanut,’ I’ve decided to learn a little more about the hazelnut. Shells of hazelnuts dating back to 7000 BC were found on a Scottish island. Most of the hazelnuts eaten in Germany (and the world) now come from Turkey. The hazelnut is an actual nut; it’s the kernel of the seed of the hazel tree. (In contrast, peanuts are legumes – they grow underground.) Hazelnuts are, of course, rich in protein and unsaturated fat (like most nuts), but they also have high levels of vitamin E, thiamine, and vitamin B6. Did you know there is a Hazelnut Marketing Board, established in 1949 to help with the hazelnut’s popularity in the US? I didn’t either.

I’m not sold yet, and my love of peanut butter isn’t changing anytime soon. Cool factoid of the day – peanut butter was used to keep people alive on expeditions to the South Pole. I knew there was a good reason for it being my power food of choice!

Goodbye 2011…hello 2012

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season! Mine and Toby’s lasted for three weeks when you combine our visit to Arizona, Christmas in Munich, and New Year’s in Frankfurt. It was a fabulous time with loved ones – plenty of nourishing food, stimulating conversations, and much-appreciated relaxation. Understandably, we’re now finding it a little difficult to go back to our everyday routine replete with its alarm clocks and responsibilities.

2011 was a year of monumental change, at least in my little piece of the world. Lots of good stuff happened, and it happened fast. Some experiences taught me how not to sweat the details, not always easy for a control freak (is there a way to say that without it sounding negative?). Other experiences forced me to accept change, something I’ve never been good at. And yet other experiences helped me understand when it’s time to cut your losses and move on. Above it all, the idea of leaving my family made me realize how important it is to spend time with them. Yes, I did lots of learning.

But I also did lots of playing. We had some great backcountry hiking and camping adventures with my sister balanced out by a trip to San Francisco. There was something about a running toilet (literally…with legs…). We had a hell of a party (including pre- and post-) for the wedding. I did hang out more with the family. And I officially entered bum-dom and took advantage of its many perks (ex: staying in my pajamas entirely too long).

What will 2012 bring? I want to get to know our new home, to really explore it with all five senses. I’m working on that new career. I’m excited to get closer to family on this side of the ocean. Maybe Toby and I will cross a few places off our European bucket list. The possibilities are endless….

Here’s to an inspiring, successful, and fun 2012!