Race to the finish line

Lighting the darkness

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

Honestly, I am not doing much racing these days. I am still really tired. I managed to fold the laundry today (alone in the basement, after I adorned my mask and put on new clothes and sanitizing my hands), but afterwards I collapsed in my solo room again with a big cup of hot tea. Tea is my friend right now (even though I can’t taste much of it today – man, I really hope that changes soon again – fingers crossed, please).

But really, can you believe it is the almost last day of NaBloPoMo? I can’t believe I made it this far and really uploaded a post EVERY SINGLE DAY. But it’s there, right in my history.

Can I tell you how much I enjoyed the last month? True, it was a lot of work and I definitely felt the exhaustion in between, because, lets face it: November is not the quietest of month in the year with Thanksgiving and the holidays looming ahead. It was so much fun to read all of the new to me blogs this past month and get to know their owners a little bit! I appreciated every single comment that you left. This made it all worthwhile and so much easier to get into blogging and pulling through.

I did not do much these past few days. The house is still not Christmassy. Now that the laundry is out of the way, maybe I pull out the box with the decorations tomorrow when everyone else is gone (assuming that I continue to feel better). The only Christmas spirit here so far lights up our front yard. My husband has a little competition going on with our neighbor (our sugar canes are bigger than his) and since he already had the lights up when we got home he could not wait – now we do, too. My brother-in-law was joking that the US apparently does not have an energy crisis.

Do you have lights outside your house? Do you like it or hate it? I kind of like driving through the neighborhood with all the colors up. When I can get outside again I have to check out our local map.

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100 Things I Love

San Francisco sunset view

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

Through my comments I came across the blog a grace full life and her list of ‘100 even more things I love‘. If you start looking you find a multitude of other blogs who have lists like this and since my brain power today is not able to write many complete sentences, I thought I come up with my own:

  1. My family
  2. My friends who stay with me
  3. Rainbows
  4. Clouds
  5. California sunsets
  6. My garden
  7. The smell of fresh cut grass
  8. Fog
  9. Walking through fall leaves
  10. Chestnuts
  11. Korean food
  12. Our library
  13. Knitting
  14. Cross stitch
  15. The smell of freshly baked cookies
  16. The smell of bakeries
  17. Visiting home
  18. Candle light
  19. A cozy fire
  20. Sleeping in
  21. A good glass of red wine
  22. Going to a brewery
  23. European old towns
  24. Old houses
  25. Comfy chairs
  26. My plants
  27. Bird song
  28. Butterflies
  29. Watching squirrels play
  30. Penguins
  31. Forget me nots
  32. Christmas trees
  33. Fine china
  34. playing carcasonne
  35. ocean waves
  36. walking barefoot at the beach
  37. playing Carcasonne
  38. fresh German rolls
  39. pretzels (baked not crunchy)
  40. die Maus
  41. the movie Sissi
  42. music with a good bass
  43. warming pillow
  44. the podcast Brains On!
  45. Rick Riordan books
  46. the coffee shop
  47. Jenny K
  48. Tea stores
  49. birthdays
  50. Being in nature
  51. Old trees
  52. Swings
  53. Joyful laughing
  54. Discovering something new
  55. going on a walk in the neighborhood
  56. Our lemon tree
  57. Aperol Spritz
  58. Christmas lights
  59. Fire works
  60. Camp fire
  61. Going out for dinner
  62. Unplanned get togethers
  63. The North Sea in Germany
  64. My mom’s cooking
  65. Dancing with my dad
  66. My first shoes
  67. Our giant front window
  68. Watching my kids when they read
  69. Kites
  70. Hot air balloons
  71. The seasons
  72. Going through old photos
  73. Staying up late
  74. Roller Skating
  75. Not having to drive my car
  76. Finding the first Christmas cookies at Trader Joe’s
  77. Booking flights to go to Germany in the summer
  78. Planning vacations
  79. Black
  80. Cats
  81. Cozy socks
  82. Caramel
  83. Baked Apples
  84. German Pancakes
  85. Going on a paddling tour
  86. The sun on my skin
  87. Neil Gaiman books
  88. People watching at the park in summer
  89. German pools
  90. Planting things
  91. Coming up with new projects
  92. When things I worked on help patients in real life
  93. A warm hug
  94. Thrift stores
  95. Going shopping by myself
  96. Thunderstorms when I am safely inside
  97. Summer rain
  98. Finding a postcard for me in the mail
  99. Homemade ginger ale with lots of ice
  100. Lemon ice cream

So there it is – this was easier and harder than I thought it would be.

What would be one not so obvious thing that would make it on your list?

This ain’t over til it’s over

Breakfast

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

I even don’t really know how to write this post. We came home late last night and I brought a little present home. Do you want to take a guess what is coming next? I was kind of waiting for it but when my covid test came back positive it was still a little of a shock. I am in isolation in my son’s room now and everyone else is negative so far. I hope it stays this way. I guess San was right when she said ‘this ain’t over til it’s over‘. True, we did do a couple of things that could have caused an exposure when we were on this vacation but I also did not do anything different than anyone else. If anything I was more careful than some (still wearing masks most of the time e.g.).

I had a close call right before my sister-in-law and her family was here. After I got the updated booster I figured I leave the mask off at work. I was the last one to wear it anyway. That was the day my colleague I spend time in the office with just hours earlier tested positive. Luckily I did not get it then. All in all at least the timing is better now. We got to spend a great week with our friends and made some memories together and made it home safely. With the family visits in Germany and the wedding we went to last summer it’s almost a wonder we made it this far. At least now I can stop wondering when it’s going to happen – if the dinner with friends is ok or if that is too much, if the museum visit is a good idea, the band concerts my kids do, and I could write an reptty much endless list.

I am doing okay so far I would say. Scratchy throat, runny nose and a headache and really tired. But hey, I have room service (at least today) and we will figure out the rest. I still feel a bit defeated. Maybe if I manage to not give it to anyone else I can take home a win? I see a lot of testing going on in our house the next couple of days.

Last Day in Las Vegas

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

Our last day in Las Vegas was pretty quiet. My daughter wanted to go to a bookstore our friend introduced us to last year. It’s called ‘The Writer’s Block‘ and one of the nicest bookstores I hve been to. She left with a big stack of new books. The tfip back is taken care of.

Las Vegas – Red Rock Canyon

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

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday!? In anticipation of the big Thanksgiving meal we took the kids on a short ‘walk’ to work up an appetite. Calling anything a hike is always a gamble and will trigger a string of complaints but we have been in the same spot before. Apparently a hike is anything above 2 miles according to my son and just too much effort (that does not mean we don’t do it anyway, we just deal with the complaints for half an hour and after that it suddenly subsides and everyone is having a good time).

Our friends live really close to Red Rock Canyon which is a State Park right next to Las Vegas. It features a scenic drive and beautiful hikes. We parked the car at the Calico Basin parking lot and walked up to the big red rock formations you see from there. We did the same walk/hike before but in a loop. Since we did not have as much time until the turkey was ready, we just went a little up the hill and then turned around.

There were a lot of rock climbers to watch what was really fun. We are not climbers but made our way up the hill what involves climbing over quite a few boulders. Ther are also plenty of different rock patterns to observe.

I did not get as far up as the rest of my family because I got a little dizzy. The air in Las Vegas is very dry and that combined with the altitude was a little much that day. The view was beautiful nonetheless. On the left in the distance you can see a little of the Las Vegas strip.

I am happy to report everyone made it back home without injuries. It was interesting to watch the other hikers climbing up while I was waiting for the others to come back down the hill. There was a family with two little kids and the expression on the mom’s face was exactly how I must look like watching my kids climb up a rockface (terrified and nervous). There was a couple where the woman was grumbling about ‘just a short Thanksgiving hike’. It all sounded very familiar (my husband has a reputation for coming up with interesting ‘short cuts’).

This is Las Vegas, too. It’s not all the strip with its casinos and glitter.

Friends who stay

Thanksgiving past (2006)

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

Today on Thanksgiving day 2022 I am being thankful for friends who stay. As I said before we are spending our Thanksgiving with friend in Las Vegas. Since we don’t have any family living in the US I am grateful that we have them around to spend time with on this holiday. The other day we were looking at a picture from our first Thanksgiving 17 years spend also with them.

We did have family visiting before and I had the pleasure of making a Thanksgiving dinner for my parents-in-law. Especially my father-in-law was very appreciative of the big bird.

But back to the ‘friends who stay’ topic. After 17 years in a country far away from my home country I am very thankful for friend who stick with you throughout the years no matter if you are far away or see them ones a year or every other. It’s not easy and the longer we are away the harder it gets I feel. I do have a handful I get in touch with every time we visit Germany and I will check in every now and then. I appreciate it so much that they still show as much interest in my life as I do in theirs. We left at a time when everything was in flux. Everyone moved around to their ‘forever’ jobs to different cities, they got married, started families – even if you still live in the same country things and friendships change, I know that. When we first moved we had a lot of visitors but now after 17 years it’s mostly family who will make the trip out what I completely understand. It’s an expensive visit to make especially if the family is growing.

The friendships that ended did not end because we had misunderstandings or were fighting they just fizzled out overtime.

There have been new friends along the way, too. Some were made having kids the same age and I already know that at least one will stay with me for sure. Sometimes you just know. Some of them were made at work but since both my husband and I work in research it’s hard to keep them alive since we only have time 3-4 years to build something up before they move on to new positions and new cities or countries.

It probably also has something to do with the time you have available to build a lasting connection.

So here is to friends who stay without questions, over a distance who accept you for who you are, who will ask you ‘how are you?’ and mean it, who will also reach out to you as you do to them. If you are reading this, you know who you are.

Realizing dreams – Meow Wolf Las Vegas

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

Our Elementary School PTA is financing art classes and their teacher is amazing. She introduces the classes to a new artist every couple weeks. During one of the classes she showed them a video about Numina the Meow Wolf art exhibit in Denver. He came home so excited and was asking how far Denver is. I looked up the exhibition and realized that Denver might be a bit far, but that there is the Omega Mart also by Meow Wolf in Las Vegas. So today was the day he was looking forward to.

You enter the exhibition through the Omega Mart which is set up like a super market with all kinds of weird products. Through the freezer we went into the main exhibition area.

There is a whole backstory to the Omega Mart you can find online according to the kids. Because I don’t want to hit publish I am trying hard not to get sucked into that right now but I am sure you can find it online if it interests you.

It all feels like a wild dream with many sounds, colors and patterns. There are all these walkways and stairs you can explore. It’s called an immersive art experience for a reason.

The pictures really don’t do it justice. Behind every corner you end up in a new room or walkway.

It’s a very different art experience to a regular museum but if it helps to get the kids interested I approve. And honestly we all had so much fun. So much so that we are already thinking of visiting another one. I know it’s not for everyone but do you think you would go?

The exhibit is located in Area 15 in Las Vegas. It’s a big warehouse space filled with exhibits, experiences, food and stores. It’s loud, dark and colorful. It was fun to wonder around for a while and take it all in.

Inside you are greeted by this giant skull. Projections change its appearance every so often.

Outside you will find more art installations, too. After seeing all this part of me would be interested in going to burning man one year but I think I could not stomach the heat and the dirt (not to mention the required organization beforehand).

We ended the day with a cooking class in ‘how to make cheese spaetzle’. My husbands family is from the Black Forest originally an and this is one of our most loved recipes. There are multiple ways to make spaetzle but we opted to get our friends a spaetzle press and I chose a German cook book in English that has the recipe. Even though my husband was not convinced that it was a very good interpretation of the original. We made do and according to him the result was 8/10. Not too bad…

Hit pause

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

After the last three days on the road we had a lovely relaxed day ay our friends house. It’s so nice to see them again after such a long time (it’s been a year).

In the morning I made pancakes for the kids. Isn’t it disorienting to operate in a strange to you kitchen? In vacation rentals I feel usually fine since they are mostly sparely equipped that it’s easy to find the things you need. This is a living kitchen as they really like to cook.

I played the game Carcasonne with my son for a bit to get him off the computer. It was a good learning experience, too since he won in the end after whining sometime in the middle that he would surely loose. We really should do that more often. I always liked board games but my husband does not so it’s never everyone. Can your family agree on this or are you divided?

In the afternoon I took the kids ice skating. It was a small rink at a mall outside and felt really festive. Of course they already have Christmas decorations up everywhere. I keep wondering if that was like that all these years of if that is a recent thing? It still feels early days. We had fun but the skates were not the best and now I have a scrape on my ankle.

We went shoe shopping after. It was time for a new pair of crocs for my son. If you look closely at the box we brought back you will find that those were not the only shoes that came home with us.

The boxes were very much appreciated by the resident cat. So I will leave you with a cute cat picture.

Roadtrip to Las Vegas- Day 3

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 last stretch of our Las Vegas travels lay ahead of us. It’s ~ 320 miles from our hotel and google maps said it would take 5 hours. I think with stops and everything it ended up being 7 hours – somehow those distances always seem theoretic and I learned from previous trips that you should always plan for some extra time.

I always feel like there is not much that much to see or nice places to stop on that stretch of the trip but we made do.

Elmer’s bottle Ranch entrance

Our first stop on the way was Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch about 2.5 hours in. Josh from California through My Lens wrote about it here. He also had quite a few other suggestions for stops along the way so we have more to see on upcoming trips. I read it’s a little unpredictable if the bottle tree place is open but I suppose we got lucky. It was pretty impressive what the guy did with bottles and other found things. You can freely wonder around between the bottle trees and it was a fun place to explore for sure.

Times gone by
All the bottles…

We had lunch at In-N-Out Burger in Barstow what was about the half way point. In theory we had plenty of time to get to our next stop before sunset but we hit some traffic after Barstow. We drove by the Seven Magic Mountains before but I really wanted to stop this time and get a little closer. It’s not really a detour when you drive to Las Vegas as the street just runs parallel to the highway. There was just the last bit of sun on the stone columns when we parked the car. We still had a look up close and saw the sun set over the mountains. It was a good end to the day.

Seven Magic Mountains
Sunset on the other side

We made it to our friends house safe and sound and picked up some dinner up from the Cheesecake Factory. It was so much fun to take a couple of extra days and now we have a couple of days here before we head back.

I know a couple of you mentioned that driving seemed safer then flying because of the pandemic and in some ways I agree. You have more control of how close you get to people but then you also are at more places. We tried our best like we always do. Fingers crossed all goes well.

My friend mentioned that we should go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving today. Have you been shopping for the holiday yet if you celebrate? It always feels like everyone thinks that the stores will be closed for a week but then it is just that single day if that at all.

Good Night

Roadtrip to Las Vegas – Day 2

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

I have to say I did not plan well in advance this time around other than booking the hotels we were going to stay at. We had to cancel a trip short notice the presidents’ day week (my son started to have covid symptoms the day we were supposed to leave and sure enough he tested positive), so I am a little reluctant now to make plans.

We have been in the area before so we had one spot I wanted to try again. In December 2019 we did a road trip that also took us to Pismo Beach. We visited the Monarch Butterfly Grove back then which had about 3000 monarchs visiting over the winter at the time. Since then the monarch population recovered somewhat and this year there were close to 24,000 in that specific location.

Monarch Butterfly Grove

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture above but they hang high up in the trees in huge clusters. Those little specs in the sky – butterflies, too. They were everywhere. The picture below shows the view through a binocular that was set up by the volunteers.

Through the binoculars

What I did not realize last time was that the beach is fairly close, too. So that was our next stop. There were some concerns that we were on the way to make the outing a hike but as soon as the water was spotted all was good again.

through the dunes to the beach
through the dunes to the beach
dipping our toes in the pacific

Next stop on the map was Ostrichland near Solvang. I saw Instagramfriends post about it and it looked very entertaining. You have to pay an entrance fee and get to have a look at some ostriches and emus that roam around behind fences. If you are brave enough you can also feed them. You get a kind of dust pan that holds the feeding bowl and if you watch how they pick at the food it’s probably a good idea to be able to hold it as far away as possible (my feeling about it). But it was fun, too and everyone agreed that it was worth it.

Ostrichland
Seems to taste good

For lunch we stopped right next door at Hitching Post II. They had tables set up outside in the shade and the pulled pork tacos I had were very yummy. In the distance you got another view of the ostriches.

Lunch with a view
Tacos, yummy

I always wanted to visit Solvang. It’s a small town that is known for it’s Danish-style architecture and bakeries. It always looked very quaint to me when I saw it in pictures but it did not match the vision I had in my head. Maybe I had an off day? It felt just very touristy and busy to me and did not live up to my expectations. So the only picture I am willing to share is of one of the arches at the mission Santa Ines in Solvang. There was a private event at the time and we just walked in the garden for a couple of minutes before driving on.

Did that ever happen to you that you thought something would be great and then you were just left wondering what all the fuss is about? Maybe we should have stopped at one of the bakeries and it would have become clear but I also wanted to get to the beach before dark because I promised.

Old arch at the mission Santa Ines in Solvang

Last sight seeing stop of the day was at the beach in Santa Barbara. We already went here a couple of times and we knew it would not disappoint especially at sunset.

Walk on the beach

I always find it fascinating that a walk on the beach is just fine but as soon if we hit a trail there is always complaining from one family member 😉 We do it anyway from time to time and most of the time it will stop after 30 minutes.

Sunset in Santa Barbara

We headed to our hotel in Camarillo shortly before the sun was completely gone. For dinner we just picked something up at Trader Joes and called it a day.

setting sun along 101

Stops today:
Paso Robles – Pismo Beach – ~45 miles – ~45 minutes drive
Pismo Beach – Ostrichland – ~50 miles – ~45 minutes drive
Ostrichland – Solvang – ~4 miles – ~5 minutes drive
Solvang – Santa Barbara – ~33 miles – ~40 minutes drive
Santa Barbara – Camarillo – ~44 miles – ~45 minutes drive