Merry, merry


I can’t believe how time flew by and now we already have December 24. The plan is to go on a short walk and then tonight we will sit down for our Christmas Eve dinner (German sausages and potato salad), 4 candles burning before we sit in front of the Christmas tree to unwrap presents. Did you know that in Germany you do the presents on the 24th instead of the 25th? There is no Santa coming down the chimney and no socks on the mantle – oh wait, we do have the socks on the mantle. I guess that’s what happens if you mix up the traditions.

Earlier this month I received my package from the Secret Santa Mug Swap that San from the in between is mine organized. I like little surprises so much and mug I received from @thecarolinaetc is so pretty, don’t you think?

World Market haul

To make our Christmas dinner I took the 30 minute trip to our closest World Market in the area. Regular hot dog sausages just won’t do for Christmas. Our local market which carried German products closed recently because the owners retired so longer car drive it was. The kids had fun, too I think since I asked them to pick the sweets. Pico Balla Haribo are our favorite. I was crying a little inside about the prices ($10 for a glass of sausage) but if it tastes a little like home that’s what it is. My son even found a present for his big sister: a magnetic hourglass what he thought was really cool (and I think she will, too).

GIngerbread honey cookies

Instead of writing blog posts I spend quite some time recently making cookies. We made our traditional gingerbread honey cookies twice because the first badge was finished in no time. Since cookie time is over I will save the recipe for next year and share it then but I am so happy I finally found a good recipe that will make your own gingerbread spice (in Germany they sell premixed spice packets for this and a lot of recipes ask for it).

I also made cinnamon stars, San’s Vanillekipferl, black and white cookies and another almod type cookie. We also made marzipan potatoes (no potato involved just powdered sugar and almond flower and cocoa powder mostly) which are not pictured. This morning I put a plate of our goodies together for everyone to enjoy throughout the day. I think we are ready for the holidays to come and I will make note of a couple future blog post ideas.

I wish you a very merry Christmas if you happen to celebrate and to everyone else: I hope you will enjoy a couple quiet days that will leave you refreshed for the days to come.


German traditions – the advent calendar

Counting down

Since today is December 1st the count down to Christmas using the advent calendar begins. My kids were happy to learn this morning that they are getting one this year (lucky them that I finished it before we were in Las Vegas). Did you know that it’s origin goes back to the 19th century and seems to lie again in Germany? The main purpose was to count down the days until Christmas Eve and to shorten (or sweeten) the wait.

When I was a child we mostly had chocolate filled advent calendars similar to the ones you can find at stores these days. Each day you open a door and find a piece of chocolate with a different motif. When I was little we sometimes used the molds to fill with candle wax when all was done.
My first boy friend back in the day made one for me with a little present each day similar to the one I made for my kids this year (above).
Sally, from Little Hiccups made an activity advent calendar for her kids what I think is very cool, too. I found another one over at eighteen25 that uses cut out snowflakes and doubles as decoration.
There are pretty cool picture advent calendars. They come in all kinds of sizes and pictures (including postcard size) that will reveal a new small picture each day. In old times it used to be christian motifs but the newer ones show Christmas markets, teddy bears, cats – there is something for everyone.
By now you probably saw the Lego advent calendars when shopping (at least it’s hard to miss if you have kids) and there is a list of other companies that make them these days as well (teas, jam, games, christmas ornaments, the list seems endless).
Through another blog I came across the Reading Countdown Advent Calendar from Everyday Reading. Oh, how I wish my kids were still younger.
In Germany they also have book advent calendars that tell a story over 24 chapters and my favorite German kids character “Die Maus” has an online calendar with a clip hiding behind each door (sorry, that it is in German only).

I am sure I could continue this list a while longer. Do you have an advent calendar at home and which one would you prefer if you would get one?

German traditions – Martinssingen

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Lanterns at night

In the North of Germany November 10th is a special day. After dark kids will go from house to house sometimes with lanterns, sometimes without and sing a short song or recite a ‘poem’ (there are some very short ones that are more like trick-or-treat). In return they will receive candy (or fruit but mostly candy). It was my Halloween equivalent growing up (without the costumes).

In school I learned the story of St. Martin who (sitting on is horse) cut his coat in half with a sword to share it with a beggar in the middle of winter and that is why people now share candy with kids who ask for them (there was a whole song about it I and my friends learned one year). When I just looked it up I also learned that it is Martin Luther’s birthday (the priest who some may know from the protestant reformation).

Once again the tradition is much older than that though. In the Julian calendar it marked the beginning of winter and farm hands in the North were dismissed on that day. The families went from house to house and begged for gifts because they had to make it through the winter month without work.

There are a quite a few songs that every child in Germany knows that are about the lanterns the children carry. Lantern parades are a custom almost anywhere even though Martinssingen might not (I think that is specific to the northern part of Germany).

Ich geh mit meiner Laterne
und meine Laterne mit mir.
Dort oben leuchten die Sterne
und unten leuchten wir.

I am walking with my lantern
and my lantern walks with me.
The stars blink up there
We blink down here.

Sounds really odd in English – I definitely need more practice translating things 😉

Is there a custom in your part of your country that is specific to the area? I can’t come up with anything in California but then, I know little of the rest of the US.

The German preschool in town had their annual lantern parade last weekend. We did not go anymore but you can find those traditions in the US, too if you live in an area that has a German expat/immigration community and they will sing those same songs I learned as a kid. I crafted quite a few lanterns with my kids when they were younger.

Besides the Martinssingen there was also a separate lantern parade organized by the preschool in my home town each year. The voluntary fire department walked with us on our little walk around town (to extinguish the lantern that went up in flames – yes, we used real candles) and some of the older kids carried torches (what I thought was the coolest thing). Sometimes we also had musicians accompany us. I wonder if they still do this? Gets me a little nostalgic.

Coming home

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

The yellow house

Whenever I go up to the steps of our front door I feel happiness. For one: we have a red front door now (it was red before but it was more of a brownish red, now it is a red red) and red doors make me happy. Our house is yellow now and yellow houses always make me smile – yellow houses feel like sunshine.

I feel so fortunate that this yellow house is ours. I still remember how stressful the whole house buying process was. It’s crazy in the whole Bay Area, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Berkeley, you name it. When I stepped in the front door I just knew that this was it and it was perfect (at least to me). It was an off market sale and in our price range and everything fell into place. Sometimes you just have to be lucky. Before we moved in I chatted with the previous owners and the woman said she felt the same way – maybe that’s just how some houses are?

This yellow house is home now. I love the neighborhood that we walked for many hours during the pandemic. I can ask our neighbors to get the mail and water my garden when we are gone. Even when visiting my family in Germany now, I don’t mind leaving anymore because I am coming home to the yellow house.

There is this German word that I did not find a good translation for: Heimat. If you look it up it comes up as home country or home town or just plain home. But in German it means more than that. It’s a place of belonging, a place where you put down roots. It’s an emotion as much as a word to me. I am glad to say that now it finally feels like my Heimat is in both places.

When I came up with the blog title it was more or of a wishful thinking but now it feels real. I guess that also means I need to come up with a new subtitle since I think I know where I belong – it’s with family here and there, both places home.

Where I am from

Winter sun in Wietzen

Since I have not written in long time, I thought I start from the beginning. You probably already know that I am originally from Germany. I grew up in a very small town (when I was born it just had shy of 2300 inhabitants) called Wietzen in Lower Saxony.

It has:

  • a church that goes back to the 12th century
  • a preschool (I think by now it has two) where I went to for one year from ~9am till lunchtime
  • an elementary school I went to
  • a small museum that looks at life how it used to be run by volunteers (my dad being one of them)
  • a cemetery that I visit each time I am there to say hi to my mom and my grandparents
  • a swimming pool where I used to spend my summers
  • a gym that is part of the school where also different clubs run programs (when I was little there was gymnastics, soccer, handball, judo, table tennis and jui-jutsu if I remember correctly)
  • a soccer field and tennis courts (the tennis courts came later though)
  • a fire station that is also run by volunteers
  • a grocery store
  • it used to have a bakery separate from the grocery store where we could get rolls fresh from the oven before getting on the bus to the upper schools, but that is closed now

When I finished school, I moved to Hanover for my education but still came back almost every weekend to spend time with my family and friends. I even moved to the next small town over for a brief time but just could not stomach the commute (taking the train to Hanover at 6am in the morning was something I never got used to). The visits became less frequent but every holiday and birthday I would be back. Since we moved to California I still visit every year because I love my family and dearly miss them and because I want my kids to know their relatives. It’s always going to be part of me no matter what. Would I move back? Likely not. Most of my friends moved to other parts of the country including my siblings so when we go back we spend some time in Wietzen but also elsewhere. It really bugs me that you need a car living there (well, I do need a car where we live now for certain things but if I tried hard, I could manage without). I like the idea of country life more then the reality of it. Also, I would always need to go to work in the next bigger city what would be Hanover or Bremen there and it would involve at least an hour of commute each way – too long for my taste and I tried that before. I work in research and I love that kind of work. That also means either biotech companies or a University. Not that we have currently any plans to move back.

It does have a couple of other things, too, but it’s a pretty small town and mostly everyone knows everyone. I spend a lot of time with the youth program from the church growing up (I am not part of any church anymore now, but that is a different story) and I had a lot of fun during that time. My grandparents from my dad’s side lived with us and we had a big garden with apple and plum trees. I still remember harvesting potatoes, strawberries, currants, beans, peas and all kinds of other veggies and fruits and watching (and sometimes helping) my grandma and mom making jams and canning. There are two huge oak trees in front of the house. The leaves in the fall are still driving my dad crazy but we loved collecting the acorns and doing craft projects with them. When I was little there were two houses in our street and the street was still paved with bricks instead of smooth. It made for a painful experience learning how to bike and roller skate, but we did it anyway with pleasure. We spend our early years roaming the town and the garden with the neighborhood kids. Sounds idyllic, right? And looking back it really was. I still sometimes get asked by friends of my dad’s, when we are moving back. We likely never will.

Fun fact: the distance from my hometown in a straight line is 5530.14 miles or 8899.90 kilometers.

What about you? Do you live close to where you grew up or would you move back given the chance?

Back again

Countryside It really was wishful thinking that I would have more time during the summer. We are already back in the US for three weeks now and the kids both started school on Monday. The four weeks in Germany flew by. We spend good times with family and old friends. After being disappointed at the time I made piece with the fact that I could not see everyone I wanted to see but am glad for the people in my life I got to visit. Germany still and probably always will feel like coming home. Life in general seems to be quieter and simpler, but that might only be because we are usually on vacation there.

There was a lot of driving back and forth – from the North to the middle, to the South, to Switzerland, to the middle and then back to the North. We saw a lot, enjoyed good food and great company and packed up memories that will last for a while.

But I also have to say that after four weeks I was starting to look forward to coming back. Not having to pack up suitcases for three all the time and having my own bed and a day to day routine seemed very appealing and it is in some way.

Summer, here I come


I never thought I would count the days down again until summer break finally comes. But there I was, mom of an elementary student (working mom at that and not a teacher), looking forward to it. And now school is out and the summer stretches ahead. My prediction is that I will have spare time (to be determined) and I always wanted to write a blog. So here I am. Not sure what it will be about or what I want from it other than trying something new. We will see.