Monday, January 28, 2013

travelling around

Hi friends!

For any of you keeping track, I promised that I'd write about our travels between Christmas and New Years, so here is the final post from our holidays (the second, chronologically).  We went to a lot of places and I don't want to write a book about it all, so I will try to limit myself to a few pictures and thoughts or anecdotes about each major stop.

When Sasha and I realized that our families were all coming for the holidays, we poured over maps to decide what to do outside of Marburg.  Our major criteria were these: 1. no more than a few hours of driving per day.  We wanted time to see the sights, poke our heads in churches, sample tasty treats, etc. 2. we weren't interested in hitting any of the major cities (they're expensive and we had some non-city people in the group) and 3. we wanted at least some cool castles/cathedrals/historic stuff to admire. So, we eventually settled on this somewhat unconventional itinerary, hitting a number of towns I hadn't heard of before beginning to plan the trip.

Eisenach: This city is famous for a few things, especially having once housed Bach and Martin Luther.  We didn't go to the Bach house, although it is supposed to be quite nice.  Instead, we spent most of our time in Eisenach exploring the Wartburg:
the Wartburg
The Wartburg is a giant fortress on a giant hill outside of town.  I liked that it looked like about half a dozen castles built in half a dozen styles (out of half a dozen building materials) that were all smooshed together.  Which, I suppose, is a fairly accurate assessment.  It was founded in the 1000s by Ludwig der Springer (gotta love the nicknames of some of the old dead German dudes, still, when they're all named Ludwig or Wilhelm, I suppose you need some way to keep them all straight). The most famous residents were St. Elisabeth, after she moved from Hungary, before her husband died and she moved to Marburg...yes, that Elisabeth, and Martin Luther, who will be a recurring theme of this trip.  The castle had somewhat fallen into disrepair between the time of Elisabeth and Martin Luther, but luckily in the 1800s a rich guy decided it was awesome and had it thoroughly renovated, although renovations are ongoing...I think castles take a fair bit of upkeep.  But, despite the age of some of the masonry, etc. there were also rooms with a much more modern feel, including this one with a mosaic from the 1920s, detailing Elisabeth's life.
It was a lovely room

Luther stayed at the Wartburg while he was hiding from the Catholic church, and he translated the new testament while here.  We looked into the "Luther room" but as a pilgrimage site, it was sadly underwhelming.  One disadvantage of protestantism, I suppose.  Still, they had a nice collection of paintings showing various parts of his life in a collection in the museum part of the castle, and Sasha and his brothers and I enjoyed climbing the tower. 
The "Luther Stube"- like I said, kinda underwhelming.  At least the whale vertebrae (!?!?) is from Luther's time.

We didn't spend much time in the town of Eisenach, and the evening was cold and rainy, making it less story-worthy. We stayed a bit outside of town in the "Schlosshotel am Hainich" that was quite nice, if less castle-like than the name suggested.

Mariendom on the left, Severikirche on the right
Erfurt: This city was pretty cool, and there were plenty of tourists around to show that other people know it, but it is on the list of "cities I had never heard of before planning this trip".  Erfurt is effectively centered around two giant, gorgeous church/cathedrals up on a hill: the Mariendom and the Severikirche (and no, Harry Potter fans, there was nothing Snape-like about it, it's honoring St.Severus, although I admit I'm still a bit unclear about what he did).

Zorro was the floor of one of those churches, I forget which...
There was a citadel on the hill, but mostly we spent the afternoon wandering about the town and sticking our heads into beautiful churches, including the one in the monastery where Luther was a monk (before he broke from the Catholic church and got married).   Unfortunately, we couldn't tour the monastery, although they do give tours if you either ask them in advance or go during the summer. 

There is also this awesome bridge that you can't even tell is a bridge while you're on it, because it's a bridge masquerading as a narrow street lined with shops.  Very cute shops, I might add.  There's a tower at the end of the bridge, and we climbed it and had a great view of the bridge and some of the town.  You'd never know the town had been bombed, it was so lovingly rebuilt...doubly impressive since it was in the East!

Erfurt, from above, with the Kraemerbruecke in the foreground
Again, we spent the night a bit outside of town, and in the morning headed on to...

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: This is one of the most heavily visited cities in Germany, and for a reason.  It still is completely walled, and is quite cute, although it did seem somewhat more like a tourist attraction than a town at times.  Still, since we don't know when our families will make it back to Germany, it seemed worth hitting this city that seems to make all the "must see" lists.  It's pretty rare for a city to have been preserved so well, and while it is probably a sign that the city wasn't very prosperous between the time the walls were built and now, it does make for good touristing.
As seen from the tower on the Rathaus...not a climb for the acrophobic, just to warn you...

The legend goes that the city was going to be razed since it was on the losing side of the 30 year's war, but the ransacker made a bet that the mayor couldn't drink a giant vessel of wine, and if he could, the city would be spared...he drank it all, and so the city survived.  While the guidebooks, wikipedia, etc. will tell you facts that might be a bit different, there's still a nifty clock that acts out the story.
Ransacker on the left, drinking mayor on the right.

We poked into some cute churches, ate a (vastly overrated) locally famous baked good called a "Scheeball", and enjoyed rambling along the city walls, but only spent the afternoon in Rothenburg, since we wanted to stay close to the Frankfurt airport that evening, to allow Sasha's family to fy home more easily.
Sasha climbing up to the walls...normally he takes the pictures, but I grabbed the camera for this one!

Worms: After Sasha's mom and brothers left, my parents and Sasha and I headed to Worms.  I have to admit, my favorite part of Worms was this awesome Turkish bakery near our hotel.  They had all sorts of pastries and filled breads that I'd never heard of, and an interestingly flavored tea, etc.  Plus, it was a nice change from meal after meal of German food...don't get me wrong, I am plenty satisfied with German food, but too many meals of dumplings and duck or pig and red cabbage start to get a bit tiresome. Sadly, Sasha didn't find it nearly so impressive of a bakery or was too busy eating to photograph our tasty treats.  Not that I blame him, the baklava was certainly tasty.

BUT, onto the sites of interest.  Worms has a large cathedral, quite lovely, although you are probably getting a bit churched out, so I'll spare you from many of the details.
To mix it up, here's an inside picture.  Not protestant, in case you couldn't tell from all the gilding.

 Worms also added to our tour of Luther sites, since this is the Worms of the famed "Diet of Worms" (and fear not, despite having talked about it for weeks, Sasha failed to eat gummy worms in Worms, thus failing to act out a truly embarrassing pun).  Still, there was a nice monument commemorating Luther and the rise of Protestantism, generally. SO, in the Cambridge Commons (the Massachusetts one), there's a tree that's renowned because George Washington slept under it (so the story goes).  I swear, every town in Germany seems to boast about having shared a bit of Luther's time; churches that boast that Martin Luther preached there, etc. There's even a painting in the Marburg castle detailing his visit to our fair city.  But, that said, Worms was a fairly important place in the story of the reformation, so perhaps it is worth this (for protestants) quite fancy sculpture.
Many of the important figures of the reformation, with my mother.

 And, inexplicably, a whole series of small dragons...
Asking directions from one of the many local dragons...

Speyer: This is the awesome town we almost didn't go to.  It wasn't on our original itinerary, but when the museum that we wanted to visit in Worms was closed, we decided to drive down the road a bit to Speyer, another town I had never heard of before this trip.  It has a beautiful Romanesque cathedral, as lovely in its simplicity as gothic cathedrals are in all their grandeur.  It was a HUGE church and had one of the largest crypts in Germany, although it was rather lacking in sarcophagi, the arches and quiet of the crypt were still cool.   There were some awesome looking museums that we didn't have time for (including one with whole airplanes to climb around in) and more churches and there was still a small Christmas Market, even though we were there only days before New Year's, with nice looking gifts and foods.  Alas, Sasha's camera must have run out of batteries, so you'll just have to take my word for it that Speyer was cool and will be worth another visit, if we go through our "must see" list fast enough for repeat visits.

All in all, we had fun traveling, but while it was sad to separate from our families, it was nice to get home and relax.  

"Here I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me. Amen." Luther

Sunday, January 27, 2013


OK, so I promised Dad I'd post again, but this will be short because it's late (because for once I did finish my German homework for tomorrow without needing to do any of it during incubations in lab tomorrow...well, except I need to erase 2 mistakes since I can't find an eraser anywhere in our apartment).

But we have a good reason for having had little time to blog.  In addition to the usual craziness of our somewhat over-committed evenings (I couldn't decide between German, a dance class with Sasha, and a Lacrosse class so I'm taking all 3), it SNOWED this week, so naturally we needed to go skiing.  Normally, it sounds like Marburg gets a handful of dustings of snow, but a skiable amount only falls every few years.  Last weekend, we had a dusting of snow on Saturday, and then a bit more on Sunday, but sadly, it didn't look skiable without what skiers call rock skis (interpretation: skis that you can ski over rocks with and not cry when the bases get scraped up), but then Sunday night, we must have gotten another 5 or 6 inches of snow.  I love snow!

So, after our respective German classes let out on Monday, we raced home, wolfed down a small dinner, and grabbed our skis.  I considered getting out my snow thermometer to see which kick wax to use, then thought, why bother, I'm just going to go with extra blue, anyway.  And I did, so we were out the door in record time, and onto the logging roads near our house, skiing by headlamp.  The benefit of not skiing very often is that I've become a lot less snooty about ski conditions.  There was no grooming and the track that Sasha had skied in earlier in the day had been thoroughly trampled (note to non-skiers out there, those two hip-width parallel smooshed areas in the snow are meant for skiers, if you walk in them, then skiers hit all of your footprints and cannot glide and are very sad).  While back when I was training seriously for skiing those things would have virtually ruined the ski for me, instead all I could think was "I love skiing!!" and "wow, it's white and my skis are gliding, this is amazing!"
See, my skis were gliding! Amazing!

You can see how many footprints there were, even after only one day...strangely enough, we didn't see anyone between 8:30 and 11pm, though.

Anyway, Sasha and I skied for maybe 2 hours on Monday night, and then about the same amount of time on Tuesday.  While there were a few nasty stretches that had been chewed up by logging vehicles, generally, it was so great to be out there skiing.  It's funny how long muscle memory lasts. Even after all those skier muscles that really aren't used on the bicycle atrophied, I can still step into a pair of skis and it feels so natural. Plus, there's something magical about being surrounded by snow covered trees, even more so when they are illuminated by headlamp and you're skiing with your husband. 

Being able to ski to class had been a secret goal of mine all through college (which I managed once, despite the incredible speed at which Harvard Yard Ops clears all the sidewalks and walkways), and I topped that and was able to ski to work twice this week.  Sadly, by Thursday, the snow was just too chewed up by loggers and hikers, and I only have one race pair of classic and one race pair of skate skis here, so didn't want to ruin either pair.  Still, since such snows are fairly rare here, I'll count even 2 days of local skiing as a big blessing.  But I still can't wait until we head to the Alps in late February.

Long-exposure photo of me coming down a hill.  Sasha had some explanation about why you can see my headlight but not the rest of me, but you'll have to ask him.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Winter biking

We finally got a few days of sun, and they finally coincided with the weekend, so Anna and I decided to set off on bicycles in search of Castles and Birds.  The weather was chilly, but the sun felt nice as we headed out north of Marburg.  We passed a Sparrowhawk in one of the fields (similar to a Cooper’s Hawk back in the US).  Before too long, Anna had to consult the map, to ensure we were on course.  Due to my wife’s skillful navigation, we were soon at the first castle of the day, in Sch√∂nstadt (translation Pretty City).
Hmm... This looks familiar...

Schloss (castle) on the right and half-timbered house on the left, with horses and stables in front

It was more of a giant house, but the city lived up to its name, with many attractive-looking buildings, including some with gray slate tiling, which Anna’s parents’ guidebook said is typical of the area north and east of Marburg.  Sch√∂nstadt also had some very attractive half-timbered houses.

As we continued along, our feet began to feel chilly, and we wished for some nifty shoe cover things that help keep your feet warm when cycling in the winter (Anna’s unfortunately only half made it to Germany, and I’ve never owned any – we will each soon have a full set).  But that didn’t deter us, and we made it to our second and last castle of the day, in Rauschenberg.  Up a steep hill, we found the castle.  The first castle on this hill was started in the 13th century, and expanded in the 1590’s.  The castle was ruined in 1646, and the newer construction has not stood the test of time so only remains of the 13th century structure remain.

Below the castle, we found the Felsenkeller, which if my German is correct (and it rarely is), means cliff cellar.  To us, it resembled an interesting hole in the cliff-side, which of course meant we had to go inside and explore.


Down from the castle, and out through a gate and by a neat church, and we were on our way to our next destination: HOME.  Yes, there was a third castle about 2 km out of our way that we could visit.  Yes, there were some great ponds for birding that we were about to go right by.  But we were rapidly losing daylight and also the feeling in our toes.  So we headed straight home, except there wasn’t a road that went there, so we wound our way back, making a few wrong turns in the process.  My wife’s toes must have been freezing, since we passed some sheep along the way, and she barely batted an eye (Some of you may know that Anna has been somewhat obsessed with sheep lately). We also found a nifty little pond that provided excellent views of Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, and Eurasian Moorhen, and we had a fleeting look at a Little Grebe before it dove under the water, never to resurface again (okay, so I’m sure it resurfaced again.  But either it could hold its breathe a LONG time, or it swam underwater to somewhere we couldn’t see).

Once home, I discovered the water in my water bottle was partially frozen, which will come as no surprise to you veteran cyclists, but was a novel experience for me.  All told, we covered 48 km with 2 castles en route.

And for the post-bike ride dinner?  Homemade sausage and red cabbage soup & biscuits!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Silvester in Frankfurt

SO, I'm going to skip over our awesome travels and go right to new years eve, so this is the 2rd of 3 holiday posts but chronologically goes third (I'll fill back in later).  Since my parents were flying back to the States on the 1st, we decided to spend New Year's Eve in Frankfurt, since that's the city they were departing from the following day.  Since it was a holiday (and a Monday) none of the museums, etc. were open, but we had fun wandering around generally, and Sasha and I climbed the tower on the Frankfurter Dom for a nice view of the city.

Every time I think I understand Germany, the Germans, and the German mindset, something comes along that makes me re-think everything.  Like New Year's Eve.  Generally, I'd peg Germans as good rule followers and rule enforcers.  Case in point, a co-worker said it is against the rules for you to take your child out of school for a vacation, etc. when you feel like it.  In fact, she said that during the days preceding the winter break, they have officials in the airports, etc. to make sure you aren't taking your kid out early to beat the crowds on the ski slopes, and there's a fine if you are caught.  Not having children, I can't vouch for the accuracy of that, but still, it illustrates my point.  There are the things that are "supposed" to happen, and there are methods to enforce conformity.

So, why were we dashing through the streets of Frankfurt fearing for our hearing and our skin and hair?  Because the rules for New Year's Eve are a bit different than the rules any other day.

OK, one short tangent: I need to point out, it is called Silvester here in honor of the saint whose day is celebrated on December 31, St. Sylvester.  He was a pope a really long time ago, and I think it's just coincidence that his day is associated with New Year's Eve.  In any case, the major way to celebrate Silvester is to make things explode, largely in the form of fireworks and firecrackers.  A quick perusal of the interweb suggests that this originates from an ancient custom of making lots of noise to scare away spirits/devils/winter personified as a spirit or devil.  Personally, I think it's just an excuse to free the pyromaniac hiding in the heart of each rule-abiding German.

Starting on the 28 or so of December, fireworks legally become available in many stores, and are only allowed to be fired on Silvester (German rules in force again), although a few naughty souls set off a few firecrackers a day or two preceding the 31.  Then, on the 31st, the noise grows steadily through the day. 

On Silvester, my parents, Sasha and I went to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in one of the nice shopping districts in Frankfurt.  It was a long, lingering sort of meal (the custom in both Germany and Italy, I gather) and it was 11pm or so when we left the restaurant.  As we headed into the streets, everywhere we looked, people were shooting off explosives of some sort, but we dodged them all and headed for the river, since we'd heard that the fireworks down by the river are great. 

Now, I love the 4th of July in Boston, watching an awesome, professional fireworks display from the banks of the Charles.  I have to admit, that's what I was expecting.  Fear not, my expectations changed very quickly as virtually all of the other revelers streaming towards the river were thus equipped: under one arm, they had a big bunch of fireworks, and in the other hand, a bottle of champagne (good thing most people have 2 arms...I think they'd have a hard time deciding between the two).  We reached the river at 11:30 or so, and there were already fireworks going off all over the place. And judging by some of the angles on those fireworks, I think the people launching the fireworks were well into their adult beverages, too.

Now first, I know that fireworks are nothing like mortars and rockets and such used in wars, but it still is pretty terrifying hearing explosion after explosion, and never knowing exactly where the next one is coming from (or headed to).  Second, I grew up in MN where fireworks are illegal, and are only smuggled in from Wisconsin in small quantities, so I've never seen so many personal fireworks.

Needless to say, after a very short time, we decided to make a beeline for our hotel, and then creep back out to hover near some very sturdy pillars on some fancy building near our hotel... To be honest, it was hard to tell when midnight hit...we watched our watches, but by that time, the fireworks were near continuous as far as we could see the length of the river, and it continued at nearly that intensity for an hour, and then only slightly less intensely until at least 2 in the morning.  After a few near misses on the porch of that fancy building, we retreated inside to watch out of our hotel window (until someone decided to launch fireworks in the street right outside our window).

These people were a block down the road from our hotel and seemed quite good. AND they put up a few cones to divert traffic, while launching from the middle of the street...

Now, where were the police in all this chaos?  We saw them visibly all around the city, but it seems like their orders were just to help traffic resume afterwards and help deal with the casualties.  A previous google search suggested that something like 500 people are brought to the ER each Silvester for burn injuries of varying severity, and I expect the numbers for Frankfurt are relatively high, too.

We slept in and joined my parents for breakfast in the morning, and then went with them to the airport to say goodbye.  It was clear that almost everyone there, from the rental car workers to the airline representatives at the baggage counter, had partied until around 3am then headed right to work.  At least 2 of them admitted as much.  Thankfully, the pilots clearly weren't native Frankfurters, because my parents made it safely home.

Well, I can't say I want to spend Silvester in Frankfurt again, but I am glad I did it once, and I am very glad that none of my family will be bearing any scars to prove it.

And I hope that 2013 started auspiciously for you all, and that you too escaped without any serious burns.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Weihnachten in Marburg

Hello family and friends,
I hope you all had happy holidays, wherever you spent them.  I have to say that Christmas and New Year's went incredibly smoothly for us here in Marburg, despite the logistical challenges of trying to accommodate the needs and desires of 8 guests visiting during the last few weeks of December.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow of all of the feasting, touristing and general hanging out, I will just give the highlights, and to spread out the procrastination opportunities/keep me from monopolizing the computer too long, I will break this post into 3 parts.

Here is part one: Christmas in Marburg.  I half apologize for going off on tangents periodically.

First, the planning that took much of my spare brainpower as the holidays were approaching was figuring out what to eat for Christmas and Christmas eve.  Effectively, Germany shuts down for Christmas, and stores (including grocery stores) close mid-day on Christmas Eve and don't re-open until the 27 (because here, there are 2 days of Christmas, the 25 and 26).  One of the restaurants I wanted to take my family to (KostBar) was open on the 26, so that night was taken care of, thankfully, since our refrigerator is pretty tiny.  But I wanted us to cook and eat in our apartment on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and since we are in Germany, I wanted a German touch to the meals, so I started asking all of my German colleagues, friends and acquaintances what they typically eat for the holidays.
My mother with a Christmas Mouse bread, complete with hat. It may not be "traditional" (except at our favorite bakery) but it sure was yummy! (picture by Peter Keyel)

Some people eat pea soup, some people eat fondue, some people eat fish, but it was funny because everyone spoke about those things this way, "the tradition for many Germans is to have something simple on Christmas Eve like sausages with potato salad, although in my family the tradition is [some other food]".  Well, since what they actually ate varied, I decided the easiest would be to do what "everyone else" does and prepared to make potato salad, sausages and (sticking with the German theme) red cabbage with apples.  SO, about a week before Christmas, I checked to make sure that my favorite sausage stand at the Saturday market would be open.  I learned 2 things during my inquiry: 1. they would indeed sell sausages on the 22, and 2. I have become a Recognized Person by the woman who runs my favorite sausage stand.

In my defense, their Krakauer sausages are AMAZING, and well, also in my defense (lest you think that I am only feeding my husband sausages) I do often come in a bright yellow cycling jacket, put my food into paniers, and am an obvious foreigner who can speak tolerable German (most of the time).  BUT I'm not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed that not only did she recognize me, she gave me a little Christmas present of a package of sausage seasoning and a paring any case, after we go off our post-Christmas salad diet, I am sure I'll be buying more of those Krakauers, and I do need to try my sausage salt seasoning...

Oh, and my second market mission: I needed to find a piece of animal to cook for Christmas day.  SO, while I dearly love a Christmas goose, my mother said "in a toaster oven?? Are you crazy?" so we settled on a nice piece of cow.  And my mother said "howabout a nice rib roast?"  Should be easy, right?  Alas, German butchers cut their cows slightly differently, but I found a German Cow Cut image on the google, and went about trying to order a "Hohe Rippen" to be picked up on the 22. Somehow, they didn't understand what I was asking for, but asked me if I wanted a "roast beef" (sounding just like the English term) and I said sure.  Fast forward to the 22, and I picked up our 2.5 kg of "roast beef", which looked a bit different than what I expected, but it looked like cow, and it looked good.

With my mother in law's help, I acquired the necessary cheeses, vegetables, etc. from the various stands at the market, and even made it to the train station in time to meet my jet-lagged family in Frankfurt.

Well, I'm going to skip over showing off Marburg to Sasha's grandpa and aunt (who left before our Christmas merriment really got going) and other members of our collective family because, well, we've already told you about Marburg, and I'll doubtless have more time to talk about Marburg later.  So I'll skip right to Christmas Eve festivities.  Our family all gamely agreed to come to church with us, and we thought ahead and asked the pastor for the sermon in advance so we could translate for our families.  As it turns out, that was good but didn't go quite as we'd planned.  Normally, the church is relatively full, but there were 3 services instead of 1 on Christmas eve, so we didn't worry about getting there -too- early (although we didn't do our usual jog to get there before the bells stop, either) but oops.  But 10 minutes to the start of the service, the church was PACKED and the extra chairs and benches pulled in were full, too.  I guess a lot of Germans really are "Christmas and Easter" worshipers.  Now, I'm not trying to sound judgmental, I firmly believe that everyone needs to follow their own conscience when it comes to matters of faith, I just was a bit flustered to have my poor family standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a flock of Germans in the entryway without being able to give them more than a word or two of translation now and again.  Still, they were patient and even tried to sing along with some of the hymns (at least the ones we knew in English) and I translated the sermon later  over Christmas cookies, so it all worked out. 

After church, we headed back to the apartment to prepare for the meal.  My mother and mother-in-law had helped bake a few batches of cookies earlier, and helped prepare the food (and mulled wine) while Sasha directed the setup of our dining room.  Thanks to furniture borrowed from an out-of-town labmate (living in the same building) we even had chairs for everyone to sit on!!
Dinner, Christmas Eve (picture by Peter Keyel)

Dinner was delicious, and we had fun deciding which sausage was each person's favorite.  They were all pretty good, I guess, since there were no leftovers. There wasn't even any leftover cabbage!  Afterwards, we sat around singing all of our favorite Christmas carols, since they missed most of the good ones at church.  If our sense of tune was lacking at times, we made up for it with enthusiasm, and it was really fun.

 Everyone went to their hotel/guest apartment for the night, then came back in the morning for presents and such. 
Look at that loot, er, love being exchanged between family members...yes, those socks belong to Sasha and me...not everyone had stockings so we helped them out! (picture by Peter Keyel)

Awesome hand-made stuffed Bacillus subtilis from Sasha's mom...if you're jealous, she might take orders...I'm not sure what the price is (picture from Ted Keyel)

We spent the day hanging out and playing games, until it was time to start cooking dinner. Sasha's mom made Sasha's favorite food: "Yeast Rolls", and we made brussel sprouts with walnuts, roasted green beans and the "roast beef".  As for my somewhat mysterious cut of beef, my mother took one look at it and said: "I know what this is, it's a tenderloin".  Well, I can assure you that while the wallet may be thinner because of it, NOBODY complained when that came out of the oven.  YUM!!  Mom turned the drippings into a tasty sauce, and even the picky vegetable eaters among us loved the brussel sprouts and green beans.

We hung out eating cookies and drinking tea and playing games until bed time.  To me, the meaning of Christmas is love, and we had plenty of that to go around, with some left over to share with all of you, my distant friends and family.

Family!! (picture by Ted Keyel)