Monday, November 29, 2010

Pictures from the Regensburg Christmas Market

Today, pictures of a Christkindl Markt, as promised.

On Saturday, I went to Regensburg for the day. They actually have 3 different markets. There is one that is arts & crafts. These booths feature things like stained glass items, pottery and other handmade items. Beautiful stuff.

There is the regular market located in the middle of town. And then they have the market that is on the castle grounds.

There are several carousels at the Christmas markets.

The red and white striped tops are common. Those are mostly what you see, regardless of the city. The only place (so far) that I haven’t seen them is the market on the castle grounds.

Gluhwein, anyone?

Speaking of warm drinks, I have a new favorite. I had a hot chocolate with a shot of amaretto in it at the market. It is OMG good.

This is one line of vendors. Instead of all individual booths, they set up one long one with dividers and each vendor gets a section. In the middle of town, there are about 4 of these long stretches.

These last two pictures are taken at the market on the castle grounds. It’s a bit more spread out and easier to navigate. There aren’t quite as many people either, as it costs to get in.

Since this is one of the Christmas markets I went to last year, I noticed that all the vendors get the same spot every year. That makes it easy to go back and find one you’re interested in. Lucky for me.

What did I haul off with for the day? We got a wood and wheat star to hang on the door, I got a Tibetan singing bowl and of course, the goodies. Lebkuchen, spiced almonds, bratwurst and the hot chocolate I mentioned.

It was so cold and very windy, but a good day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

German Christmas Markets

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in America and as we are currently living in Germany, we weren’t able to spend it with family as we would have liked to. So what did we do?

Well, I wanted to see the new Harry Potter movie and it was playing in Nuremburg. We had friends that asked us over to celebrate with them. So, we went to the first showing of the movie (and had a private showing) and then went to our friends’ house.

While we were in Nuremburg, we noticed that they were setting up for the Christmas market there. It started this afternoon.

If you’ve ever been to Germany in late November into December, you’ve probably been to one. If you haven’t, these are a tradition and most large cities have one and most smaller cities have a variation. Some people even plan vacations to Germany to coincide with the Christmas markets.

Christkindl markt as they are called here, are booths set up all over the pedestrian zone of the city. The booth vendors are a combination of food and goods.

Gluhwein (pronounced glue-vine) is a mulled red wine that vendors throughout the market sell. It’s common for people to sip this warm drink while exploring the offerings. There are other variations, such as a cherry gluhwein or a spiked apple punch.

Then there is the food. There isn’t much that isn’t offered. Sausages of all kinds, toasted nuts, pastries and other baked goods, schneeballens (from Rothenburg, if you remember that post), chocolate covered fruit, fruit bread, and lebkuchen (laib-kookin), which is a Christmastime specialty consisting of a gingerbread-like tasting cookie that is soft and chewy. It’s really good and hubby loves them.

As for the goods, they run the gamut. Handmade Christmas ornaments, advent candles, other Christmas decorations, pottery, jewelry, slippers, handbags, leather goods, things carved from wood, just about anything.

It feels a lot like walking the fairgrounds at a county fair in the States. They are a lot of fun and last year, we went to several. In doing so, we learned that not all Christmas markets are created equal. So this year, we have a plan.

We’re limited because we’re heading to Texas for the holidays and because hubby has to work one weekend. So, tomorrow I’m heading to Regensburg. They actually have two going on. There’s one in the pedestrian zone and one on the castle grounds. It was really nice last year, so we’re hitting that one again.

On the second weekend of December, we’re heading back to Nuremburg. We only did a quick pass-through last year and only saw a small bit. It seemed really nice and since then, I’ve been told they have one of the nicer markets. The following weekend, if possible, we’re going to try to hop over to Rothenburg. They are kind of the Christmas capital of Germany. We may have to wait until next year for that one.

So I’ll be taking some pictures tomorrow and at the other markets and sharing later in December. Have you been to the Christmas markets in Germany? What did you think? Would you plan a vacation around them?

Hope you all had a great turkey day yesterday and a fun weekend coming up!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Talking Turkey

So we’ve talked about the importance of water. We’ve discussed the benefits of fruits and veggies. Now it’s time to talk turkey. Sorta.

Protein, preferably lean protein, is an important part of a healthy diet. Why?

For one, protein helps you feel full longer and choosing lean protein lowers your saturated fat intake. Making smart protein choices throughout the day can help curb your hunger and prevent you from overeating.

It can increase your metabolism. Really. According to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, choosing protein for 1/3 of your daily calories gives your metabolism a boost, which helps burn more fat, even when you’re sleeping.

Fiber. We all need it to maintain healthy bodies and decrease the risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Choosing leaner types of protein will naturally increase your fiber intake.

Lean protein helps us build muscle. We need more lean protein when we workout more to help replace the muscle tissue your body breaks down and burns during exercise. More muscle helps you burn more fat.

Lean protein can be beans, chicken, turkey, and believe it or not, buffalo meat. Tofu is another good source of protein.

I’m going to share a rockin’ chicken recipe that I made last week. It’s is so good. I made it with some couscous and veggies, but you could go farther with the Asian theme, if you wanted.

Grilled Sesame Chicken

6 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, lightly pounded
2 TB sesame seeds, toasted

1 TB sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 TB ginger root, grated
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
4 scallions,chopped

Combine the marinade ingredients. Add chicken and marinate for 3 hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade and grill over medium-high heat 4 -5 minutes each side, basting with the marinade.

Toast sesame seeds in frying pan over medium heat, shaking to prevent burning. Sprinkle over grilled chicken.

The sesame seeds were really too much, but I saved those that I didn’t use for the next time I make this. You could probably cut them in half, but it’s to your taste.

I hope you give this recipe a try. Let me know if you like it. How do you get your protein in? Do you get enough?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Books, Books and More Books

I love books. It’s my one true vice. I can never leave a bookstore without something. And don’t get me started on ebooks. I’ve been buying those for about 7 years, before the Kindle and the Nook made them as popular as there are today.

Why am I bringing this up? Probably because I spent most of the day yesterday, about 6–7 hours helping hubby put together bookshelves.

When we moved to Germany, we put a lot of books into storage. If I remember correctly, I counted about 50 boxes. I brought somewhere between 10 and 15 with me. After 2 RWA conferences and just buying online and at the PX, the 2 bookshelves we brought were overflowing.

So we went to IKEA. I’m not a fan of their stuff, but hubby loves them and I can deal with their shelving units. After discussing what we wanted, we knew we’d have to come back because our little car wouldn’t hold things. We were prepared to rent a van, but then a friend offered us the use of her husband and their station wagon. Saturday, the 2 guys went to get our stuff.

I would like it better if they had had all the pieces in the warm brown that I wanted. Instead, hubby came back with that light birch stuff that I despise. It does look clean, but it also looks cold to me. The brown would have felt more welcoming to me. Oh well.

We again have a wall that is almost all bookshelves. There are a few spots for growth, but yeah, we’re pretty filled up. And I’m not even going to mention the boxes of books still under the bed in the guest room from conference this past summer. ;)

I have noticed that since I’ve started writing, I don’t read as much as I used to. I still do and I love it, but I’m finding myself reading the shorter works now. One of my goals for next year, though, will be to read at least one book for pleasure per week. Since I used to inhale them in a day, I think it’s doable.

How often do read for pleasure? How many books do you generally read a week? What’s your all-time favorite?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back in the Land of Writing

If you stop by regularly, you’ll notice I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that. Real life intruded, in a big way, and I was mostly offline for most of that time.

Remember a couple of months ago when I mentioned that hubby and I would be staying here in Germany for another 3-5 years? Well, in order for that to happen, he has to switch companies to the one that won the new contract for his job. We had decided that would be the best option for us.

Then, at the 11th hour (read two weeks ago, contract ends November 30), his current employer gave him a job option within the company to keep him on board. It wasn’t so great financially for us and required us to move to Alabama. We weren’t thrilled with the idea and after talking with some lovely online friends about the area and the bottom line financially, we decided to pass.

That’s when his VP brought out the big guns. Made him an offer that, in the end, he wanted to take. It required a move back to the States, while we waited to hear back from this guy with an actual offer letter, I had to proceed forward as if it were a done deal.

So I got Peanut into the vet to get her shots early. Rabies shots have to be at least 30 days old before a dog is allowed into the country. I called the movers to get an estimate. They stopped by. Between all the errands and little things that it takes to move from one country to another, I was online about 30 minutes a day. A record for me! LOL

After all this running around, when we finally heard back from the VP, he said all those positions that he had offered hubby had filled up over the weekend, the same weekend hubby had called and emailed the guy. The offer was off the table.

We talked about it and decided to stick with our original plan. So, the dog’s already got her yearly shots, albeit a month early, so it wasn’t a total loss of time and energy. Hubby will keep his eyes peeled for something else as I think he’s getting tired of working in the military contracting business.

Now I can get back to work, concentrate on my writing and school and continue to enjoy the experience of living in Europe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Importance of Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. Many experts suggest 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Sounds like a lot, right? Consider this – one serving size is one-half cup of most fruits and veggies. One serving of greens and leafy veggies is one cup and a single piece of fruit is one serving.

Broken down like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. Eat a cup of cooked mixed veggies and you’ve got 2 servings down. I’ve been finding that it does take some vigilance to get enough. I love most fruit and vegetables and still have to plan them into my daily diet.

So why should you make the effort to eat more? There are so many benefits.

They have a lot of vitamins and minerals that help make our bodies strong. Yes, there are supplements out there, but almost every expert will tell you that the body processes natural sources better than supplements. Getting the nutrients we need helps our bodies reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Making fruits and vegetables a part of a healthy diet helps to lose or maintain a healthy weight. They have a lot of water and fiber, which helps to fill you up, but are low in calories.

You can even add some veggies to your favorite baking recipes for lower fat, healthier versions. I have some of those recipes that I’ll be sharing over the next couple of months.

What are some ways to make incorporating fruits and veggies into your diet easier?

Add flavor! Herbs and spices are wonderful flavor enhancers that can really bring out the extra flavor without adding extra calories.

If you must add butter, try I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray. No calories and just a couple of sprays can give you that buttery taste you’re craving.

If fresh isn’t available, canned or frozen are good options, but read labels. Don’t get the ones with added sugar, syrups, sauces or anything else that adds extra calories.

Mix it up. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Even if a particular veggie isn’t your favorite, try it cooked a different way. This leads me to the recipe I’m going to share with you today.

Zucchini is not a favorite of most people. I could eat it, but preferred other veggies. Hubby didn’t like it all. Someone pointed me to this recipe and I tried it. Hubby liked it and I LOVED it. I made it for the first time last Tuesday. I’ve made it 4 times since. It’s easy and so good.

Zucchini Fries


    4 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray   
    1 tsp Italian seasoning   
    1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour   
    3/4 tsp table salt   
    3/4 cup(s) dried bread crumbs, panko-variety suggested   
     2 medium zucchini, about 7-inches each, cut into 4 chunks, then each chunk halved   
     2 large egg white(s), whipped until frothy (almost soft peaks)  


•    Preheat oven to 425ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together Italian seasoning, flour and salt. Place bread crumbs in another small bowl.

•    Dredge a zucchini fry in flour mixture and then dip into egg whites; dredge in bread crumbs. Place coated zucchini on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining ingredients; liberally coat with cooking spray.

•    Roast, turning once, until desired crispness, about 12 minutes. Yields about 8 fries per serving.

•    Use this technique with any summer squash or eggplant. It also works great with thick-cut onion rings or even green tomatoes.

For extra crispy fries, increase the oven temperature to 500ºF and knock 2 minutes off the cooking time.

One last thing, the CDC has an awesome website dedicated to helping people get in their fruits and veggies. Check it out.

How do you get your fruits and veggies in? Think you’ll give this recipe a try? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks and your opinion of zucchini fries.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Remembering the Journey

Life’s a journey. Pretty simple and straightforward, right?

It’s easy to forget sometimes. I think we get so focused on achieving our goals, that we forget to enjoy getting there. We forget that the achievement of those goals aren't the end, but the beginning.

I was reminded of this yesterday. I was in my Sculpt & Burn class and we were doing baselines for the new month so we could gauge our progress at the end of the month. I knew I wouldn’t do as well as some of the other ladies there, but I expected to do better than I did.

I’ve been working steadily at becoming healthier and more active. To that end, I’ve been watching what I eat, eating more fruits and veggies, drinking more water, going to this exercise class 2x (now 3x) a week and walking 3 miles on the other days. I’ve been doing this for over two months.

Well, I sucked. Big time. The frustration, and yes, the shame, that I couldn’t do more sit-ups and push-ups than I did overcame me and I cried like a big baby in front of everyone in the class.

I have to say, here and now, that the ladies in that class and my instructor, Sarah, are the most awesome people and I’m so blessed to be sharing my journey with them. Anyway, I continued on with the class and at the end, Sarah reminded me that this is a journey.

Sure, I couldn’t do as many of the exercises as I’d have liked, but she reminded me of what I had accomplished. That I needed to be patient. That I needed to keep working at it.

As I thought about her words on the way home, I realized that it’s easy to get frustrated in the pursuit of our goals, regardless of what they may be. In our writing, we’d like to get published sooner, write more words each week, etc. In our quest for a healthier lifestyle, we’d like to lose weight faster, get stronger faster, etc.

When we are this focused on the end result, we tend to miss the little joys along the way. In our writing, it might be the story that the plot falls into place for us, our critique partner loved one of our characters, an editor may have rejected our story but they took the time to tell us why and how we could improve. In getting healthier, it might be walking up 3 flights of stairs without getting winded, going deeper into our lunges and squats, turning to a piece of fruit when you want something sweet instead of chocolate.

Starting today, I’ve got a new goal to go along with all those others I’ve got written down. To take time each week to appreciate the little things that makes the journey so special. To make a list of the things I’ve accomplished. I’m sure I’ll get frustrated again, but when I do, I’ll take out that list and remind myself to enjoy the journey.

What about you? Do you ever forget to enjoy the journey? How do remind yourself?

Monday, November 1, 2010


Today is the day! It’s the start of National Novel Writing Month, more commonly called NaNoWriMo. Good luck to all of you courageous people out there working towards that goal. I’ll be joining my peeps from the Nuremburg writers group this week for our first write-in.

We’d planned for tomorrow but it’s a holiday here in Germany. Germans take their holidays seriously and everything’s closed so we’re aiming for Thursday. It may work out better as we may need some encourage by day 4.

Today also marks the 1 month mark for my new release. Blood Diamond, a Jewel of the Night story, will be out December 1 from The Wild Rose Press and it's up on the website as Coming Soon. To celebrate, here’s a little taste.

Dodging an angry warlord and running through the rain forest in Congo Brazzaville was not what Jillian St. James expected when she signed up with Doctors Without Borders. Yet that’s exactly what she gets after a mysterious visit from her brother.

Mercenary Mack Nichols doesn’t have much faith in humanity these days. When a beautiful young doctor denies being part of the theft of a blue diamond from his client, he doesn’t put much stock in her story.

Neither have reason to trust the other and their mutual attraction is an inconvenience to both. A betrayal and the reveal of an evil plan pit these two against an army. Can they put aside their doubts and work together to bring down a corrupt, power-hungry overlord or will their chance at love be over before it ever starts?


“Are you all right, Jillian?” The husky timber of his voice sent another shiver through her, this time having nothing to do with fear.

How could she be aroused after being scared so bad? Especially with a man like this one, a man who worked for the General. She was one sick puppy.

“Jillian?” A hand came down on her shoulder and she jumped.

Finally lifting her head, she ignored Mack and trained her attention on the log where she’d been sitting.
As recognition set in, her entire body began to shake and her heart pounded so hard, she feared cracking a rib. Dear God. There where she’d just been sitting lay a yellow-green snake with ridged scales and green eyes that matched its body staring sightlessly ahead.

She swallowed, trying to wet her dry throat. “Is that—”

“An African bush viper? Yep. I think in the firelight, your hand must have looked like dinner.” Though the snake now lay dead, Mack’s voice still sounded strained.

She stood on shaky legs. “I didn’t even see it there.”

“I’m not surprised. It had coiled its tail around the branch overhead and dropped from there.”

If he hadn’t seen the highly poisonous snake, she’d be dead right now. She launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his throat. She heard a thud and then his arms were around her, surrounding her in a blanket of safety. For the first time, she thought maybe he really would keep his promise.