Tuesday, December 30, 2008


She is our newest family member/marriage saver/most awesome purchase ever. She is a GPS system. And she always knows right where we are, even when we think we are on some back road in the middle of nowhere, she confidently says in her slight British accent "drive 400 meters, then turn left." It is lovely.

Although Adam and I have always had a pretty good driver-navigator relationship, Chloe just makes every drive stress free. No worrying that if you miss the turn you will suddenly have to stop in the middle of the autobahn to figure out where you are. Instead, she says "recalculating", although I think she reveals a little hint of frustration, and then again in her confident voice says, "continue 250 meters then turn right."

In addition to her, so far, always correct directions, she tracks your ETA (estimated time of arrival). So, you never have to wonder "Are we there yet?" Just ask Chloe.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What is flickr?

First of all, for those concerned, we made it safely to Aix en Provence. It was an amazing drive. I had to force myself to keep my hands on the wheel instead of reaching for my camera. We drove from Germany, through Switzerland (the mountains were incredible!), and then down through France. The French countryside is just as beautiful as any picture you have ever seen. The buildings all have clay shingles and that light pinkish-tan color. Along the freeway you could look at the surrounding hills and see old castle ruins. The drive was great, and thanks to our new toy, Garmin Nuvi 270 we didn't have a single problem getting here.

Now, about Flickr. I have been asked a few times to explain myself so here it goes. Flickr is a photo sharing website owned by Yahoo. At its most basic, it is a site where anyone can sign up, upload pictures and then share them with just your friends or the entire world. If you look up you will see a slideshow of our pictures. If you click on the slideshow it will link you directly to my Flickr site. So, Flickr is the site where I upload our photos.

But there is really so much more to Flickr than just its basic function. I like to think of it as a constantly changing photographic art gallery. Everyday I can walk through it and find hundreds of new and beautiful pictures. In fact, I have learned a lot about photography by doing this, and I think, learned to take better pictures because of it. So, on Flickr there is a page called Explore. This is the daily 500 photographs. From the little research I have done it seems that no one knows for sure how the daily list is compiled but is done with some kind of computer program/alogorithm. On each and every photo on Flickr a member can 1) view it 2) comment on it and 3) add it as a favorite picture. Somehow, Flickr takes all 3 of these pieces and compiles a daily list of the top 500 photographs. And I want to make that list!

Here is an analogy (I didn't come up with it on my own, I read it from another Flickr member): Remember little league baseball? When your coach would remind the team that winning isn't everything? Well, its not. There is a lot of fun to be had playing baseball. Wait, let me change the analogy. Everyone knows baseball and fun cannot go together! So, your water polo coach says winning isn't everything. Face it, you had fun. You got to play. You worked hard. Maybe you even scored a point. So even though you didn't win it was still worth your time. But, as everyone who has ever played any kind of game can attest to, winning is still fun. So here is how this applys to Flickr. Flickr is fun. I enjoy posting my pictures and I enjoy viewing the pictures of others from all over the world. When I'm about to go somewhere new, the first thing I do is Flickr search that place and view pictures of it. So in its own right Flickr is fun, but it would be so much more fun, an added bonus, to make it onto Explore one day. There you have it. An explanation of my craziness. Laura is about to cut me off of Flickr since I kinda became a little obsessed about making Explore. But she gave me good advice, just keep taking good pictures and one day it will happen.

So for all of you who have been checking out my pictures, thank you. I hope you have enjoyed them. I certainly know I have enjoyed taking them and I am very proud of many of them. And just so the whole world knows, Laura is often a huge behind-the-scenes help, even when she is in front of the camera. My latest set of pictures, with Laura in the red dress on the snow covered hill was all her idea. She is also the one that has to wait for me while I stop again and again and again to take pictures.

I think that about covers it. I hope my explanation helps everyone understand just a little better. And I will be sure to let you all know if I ever make Explore! cross you're fingers!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

1...Christmas Day

1...bottle of Kandern red wine
1...baguette from Heiber's
1...ofenkase (oven cheese...yummy!)
1...lunch for the two of us on Christmas!

We slept in, we made waffles, we seriously considered calling our families at their 1 in the morning time, we opened a few gifts (most of which were very generously shipped over to us-thanks everyone who sent us something!) and then we hung out. In a little while we are going to The Shuman's, a BFA family, for Christmas dinner. A good holiday. A hard one to be away from friends and family, but a good day nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2... DeClercq popsicles

We are loving the snow and the beauty that it brings in our postcard-perfect German village. But it is COLD. We really do need to wear gloves and a scarf at all times.
But, if the alternative is 80 degrees on Christmas, I will take the cold. I have loved the seasons here, even winter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

3... weeks off
Need I say more?
We get such a nice long break because so many of our students travel so far to get home for Christmas. We have fewer days off throughout the year, and longer Christmas and Easter breaks. I guess it makes sense to forgo Thanksgiving and have 3 weeks at Christmas so the kid travelling to Timbuktu doesn't have to just turn around and come right back.

Monday, December 22, 2008

4... Christmas Markets
and Colmar

At each market there are Christmas lights, hundreds of people all crowding around the Gluhwein (hot mulled wine) booths and of course, bratwurst. Even chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Stall after stall of crafts, Christmas decorations, and food are around every corner. It is a great way to get into the German Christmas spirit.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

5... dozen Christmas cookies
4 of us girls, ladies, whatever, (I never know the appropriate term. I don't really feel old enough to be a "lady") got together on Friday to bake in my big classroom kitchen. We made buckeyes, known to us West Coasters as peanut butter balls, toffee nut bars, and sugar cookies. I attempted twice to make almond roca but I was a terrible failure. The girls assured me it must be the German butter or the German sugar, and not me that was the problem. Regardless, I threw out a lot of ruined butter sugar. Big ol' bummer for me.
I only took a few cookies home since it is just the two of us this Christmas. I didn't figure we needed 30 peanut butter balls. Because honestly, then we would eat them all and would have to climb a lot of stairs to not have that have a lasting effect.
However, the best part was that Adam earned a nickname... the Sugar Vacuum. Due to his unnatural ability to consume LARGE amounts of anything containing sugar.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

6... th of December
is when St. Nikolaus comes in Germany.
In Roman Catholic areas of southern Germany, Sankt Nikolaus still comes as a bishop with flowing beard and a bishop's miter and staff. Children clean and polish their shoes or boots in preparation for the saint's visit. On the evening before St. Nicholas Day, children put letters to the good saint along with carrots or other food for his white horse or donkey on a plate or in their shoes. These are left outside, under the bed, beside a radiator, or on a windowsill in hopes of finding goodies from St. Nicholas the next morning. During the night Sankt Nikolaus goes from house to house carrying a book in which all the children's deeds are written. If they have been good, he fills their plate, shoe or boot with delicious fruits, nuts and candies. If not, they may find potatoes, coal, or twigs.
Children practice poems and songs for Sankt Nikolaus and make little presents for him.
Friends and neighbors come to share in the fun. Candles on the Advent wreath and the big Christmas pyramid with a nativity scene in the center are lit. Stories are read or songs sung as everyone waits for a knock on the door. When it comes, they all know it is Sankt Nikolaus, who comes in with his big book, golden crozier, and a big heavy sack. One of the children gets to hold the golden staff. Each child stand in front of the saint. Nikolaus asks each child, "Have you behaved yourself?" "Do you do your homework?" "Do you keep your room tidy?" "Do you help your parents?" Then he opens his big sack and gives presents and candies and treats for all to share. Nikolaus leaves quickly as he has many places to visit.

But for many children, Nikolaus also elicits fear, as he is often accompanied by Ruprecht, who threatens to punish the children for misbehavior.

Friday, December 19, 2008

7... packages shipped
and not a cent in international shipping! Necessity breeds creativity. We rocked online shopping this year. Even our Christmas cards were all done online!
We had stuff shipped to family of friends who are going to hand carry it to Germany! We sent packages back to the States in friends' luggage to be mailed once it is only a domestic fee. And other packages are flying home in a duffel bag to be picked upin person. So much more work than just throwing it in the back of the Jeep!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

8...ways to wish you a Frohe Weihnacten

2 Facebooks
1 blog
2 emails
snail mail
and a partridge in a pear tree (but only if it is a homing partridge, otherwise it will get lost and therefore is useless)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

9... hours difference between Germany and California

Makes it difficult to pick up the phone, well, click on the icon in Skype, and call when you think of something funny or have a random question... because most likely anyone you want to talk to is either sleeping (and I have had to hang up mid-call because I realized a 3 AM phone call from your daughter probably means someone is dead!) or at work when we are up and at home. It's a crazy thing, these time zones! Germany is in Time Zone A below. CA is U. Cute, U are CA.

But, on the flip side Skype is free. Can you imagine? Talking for as long as you want without worrying about the cost? Free international calling. What's next? Flying cars?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

10 dozen pages of essays (or 10 days of snow, either will work)
Adam here-The end of the semester is upon us and pages and pages of student writing is falling down on me like an avalanche. Fahrenheit 451 tests to grade, research papers to grade, and the now infamous Sono Libero. Whew, I finished that today. The Sono Libero is the creative writing class' short story journal. My class wrote, collected, edited, printed, copied, cut, and bound 100 copies of pages filled with creative short stories. And even though my students did a lot of the work, I ended up doing a whole lot of it myself. But gloriously, we finished today!
Now I just need to finish grading everything else so that I will have time to grade my final exams! Yeah for the end of the semester.
As for the snow, it is just cold here. How long will it stay snowy on Mission Peak? 2 hours? It hasn't actually snowed for over a week but it has been so cold that the snow hasn't melted. I've made dozens of snow balls to throw at Laura from the same pile of snow. It just never gets old. Well, she thinks its old.
Anyway, let the countdown to Christmas (break: 3 days!!!!!!) continue!

Monday, December 15, 2008

11...hours of Christmas music
My question is: if we have that much Christmas music on the Zune, why does the shuffle always seem to land on the annoying Christmas songs like Dominick the Christmas donkey and not the always enjoyable Carol of the Bells?
We have yet to find a German all-Christmas-all-the-time radio station. Actually, I think I have only heard one Christmas song on German radio and it was Santa's Coming To Town, so Adam burned a CD of our favorite festive tunes to listen to while we drive through the snow to school in the morning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


12... days until Christmas

In honor of one of the most annoying Christmas songs around, and to help everyone get in the festive spirit, we are going to countdown to Christmas on the DeClercq blog.
I promise, there will be no lords a'leaping, maids a'milking, and unfortunately for me, no 5 golden rings.
There will be insights into German Christmas, our daily grind, pictures, and some fun.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I walked through Kandern this afternoon, on a mission to buy little Christmas-y bags to fill with chocolate truffles, which my classes are making tomorrow morning (don't you wish you were taking Independent Living with Mrs. DeClercq!). It was snowing, so I was bundled up in my tights and Ugg boots, coat, scarf, and gloves. The snowflakes were sticking to my eyelashes and making my dress look polka-dotted. As I walked the two blocks or so to the store, I watched store keepers hanging Christmas lights. I saw a truck filled with Christmas trees on its way to the Christmas tree lot. I could almost hear the wind humming a Christmas carol. It was absolutely beautiful.
I bought my bags and started the walk back. I stopped to buy a Christmas ornament that I saw in a store window. She wrapped it up like a gift for me, complete with ribbon. Then I made another stop at the florist where I bought three pointsettias. Each of the plants was individually wrapped and taped closed. As I walked back in the snow, with my arms full of Christmas, I couldn't help but sing to myself.
This must be what it is like to live in a Christmas song.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Weihnachtbaum, Tannenbaum, Christmas Tree

We bought a Christmas tree!
We borrowed a big dorm van and drove to the nearest Home Depot equivalent with Luke and Stephanie Welbourn, fellow BFA-ers... and picked out a tree. It was pretty painless. The men carried our trees to the cashier, threw 'em in the back of the van and we were off.
German tree stands are FANTASTIC! You drop it in and there is a wire that tightens around the trunk. No lying under the tree in a pile of needles depsperately trying to crank a screw into the base of a no-longer-straight tree. We are thinking of importing them...

We put on our string of lights, a few decorations I found in our crawl space and we were full of Christmas cheer.