Monday, May 31, 2010

Zoigl Bier

Saturday night, we got another taste of Germany that not every tourist gets when they visit. Zoigl bier.


Zoigl bier is brewed in two small towns here in the area where I live. It's brewed by communal brewers so it's also called Communbier.

Zoigl is a beer style going back to the times when brewing rights were granted to individuals living in a defined area of town. They place a sign outside the gasthaus, a star often called the Star of David, when the Zoigl bier is ready.


It is only available when this star is out, but oh what a party it is. My neighbors organized this outing. It was our upstairs neighbors, our next door neighbors and then a couple of American friends of mine from post. We hired a taxi for the 30 minute ride each way so that we could all imbibe.


It's called a bottom-filtered beer. Personally, I don't really know what the difference is, but I'm always up for a party. The place we went was a converted house and we were sitting in the garage. They also serve great snacks. I had the cheese plate for dinner. In the middle of the plate was sauer käse or sour cheese. It was actually cheese that was marinated in vinegar and onions. It was pretty tasty.


 They also made fresh pretzels in the same star shape as their signs, but I forgot to get a picture of that. Oops. It was too good and we tore into it right away. We had a good time talking, laughing, eating and drinking Zoigl bier.

As I said before, not many tourists get to experience this side of Germany. Not unless they know about it and can find the small taverns that serve it. I feel lucky, once again, that our German neighbors have taken us under their wing, befriended us and include us in these jaunts around the area. I can honestly say that when my time here is over, I will have experienced Germany as most Americans have not.


Oh, an aside. Armin, my neighbor upstairs told my friend Sabrina that though he had an accent when he spoke English, I've been learning a lot of German and when I speak it, I have no accent. I sound like a German. Cool, huh?

So, who's coming over to visit this summer to try the Zoigl bier?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Birthdays

Today is hubby's birthday. It's the big 4-0. It's funny how we react when we reach a certain age.


I remember when hubby turned 30. He had such a hard time adjusting to it. Me, it's a number. I still think I look pretty good for my age. Some people have mentioned I look younger. Okay, I'll take it. But I'm not particularly upset by getting older.

I wonder if it's because people start thinking of things they want to do and see their time ticking away, faster and faster. Perhaps that's why getting older doesn't bother me so much. I'm doing the things that I love to do. I'm married to a wonderful and supportive husband that I love, I have my puppy, I have an awesome family that has always supported and loved me, I'm pursuing a writing career and I'm working on my college degree (finally). Of course, there are other, smaller things I'd like to accomplish but I have time and if I run out of that commodity, the big picture is pretty rosy that I'm not going to shed any tears.

Last week was my puppy's birthday, as far as we know. She just turned 4. We got her from the humane society in Brownwood, TX and were told that the litter of pups was left with a note saying the mother had died the previous day giving birth.


I found her picture on Petfinder.com and convinced my husband to go "look" at her. As soon as I saw her, I had this feeling deep inside that she was meant to be a part of our family. Hubby knew that if we went to "look" at her, we were bringing her home with us. Oh, yeah, did I mention that Brownwood was about 100 miles from where we lived? Yeah, she was coming home with us.


She was 7 weeks old when we got her. 3 pounds of wiggly puppy that fit in my hand, she grabbed onto my heart and though she's 20 pounds now and quite the mouthy little thing, I love her as if she were my child.


So today I wish my husband a very happy birthday with many more to come and my puppy, Peanut, a belated happy birthday (although she did get her Frosty Paws last week). Thank you both for filling my life with love.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fahrradrennen

As some of you know, Europeans are big on bicycling. Much more so than in the States. This fact was brought home to me again today.

I mentioned yesterday that my midterm for my Intro to World Religions class was today. When I showed up at the testing center at my appointed time, there was a snafu with the computers so I was almost an hour late taking my test. No big deal.

Afterwards, I ran over to the PX and picked up a few things, least of which was hubby's birthday present. Then on to the post office and home.

There was some construction work on the way in so I thought I'd be clever and take a different way home. This is where I ran into the bicycle race. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean.

The race (Fahrradrennen) was in full swing with the Polizei running interference in front and bringing up the rear. Once the race passed the intersection I was on, I pulled out behind them and slowly made my way home.

I was surprised by all the people that had come out along the road to watch them go by. All the little dorfs (villages) that I passed through were teeming with people. The kids twirled their noisemakers around and waved their little German flags. It was really pretty neat.

Other than big, important races, I've never seen this kind of turnout for a bicycle race. I thought it was cool and thought I'd share.

Oh yeah, and because I was at the end of the procession, I got cheered and waved at too!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Touch of Celtic

Well, it appears my friend, Shelly, received her birthday gift. That means I can share here now.

I think I've spoken before about some of the crafting I do when I can find the time. My grandma taught me to crochet when I was young, maybe 8? Anyway, I've been doing it for a long time now. It's relaxing to me and a good way to keep the hands busy while watching TV with hubby rather than snacking.

So in January I started an afghan for Shelly's birthday. She likes all things Celtic and I found this pattern that had that kind of feel to it. Unfortunately, it took longer than I'd anticipated. Her birthday is in February. She just got it this week. She's very patient. I hope the wait was worth it.


My next project is almost halfway finished. I found this shawl pattern in a magazine and then found some great yarn at a German yarn store. It is so soft and the color is a light purple with a silvery shimmer. I'm making it to wear over my sleeveless black dress that I'll be sporting at the award ceremony at national conference. Hopefully I'll be posting a picture soon.

Tomorrow is my midterm exam for my Intro to Religion class so it's off to study for me. Hope you all have a great day!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bummed


Yesterday was the day for general members of RWA to sign up for agent and editor appointments during the national conference in July. There were already two other waves of appointment-making. The first was for Golden Heart and Rita finalists. The second was for PRO members, which means they've completed a full-length novel and submitted to an agent or editor. Then the rest of us.

I had been excited because my top pick agent was going to be there taking appointments. At least before the change of venue. Now, she apparently won't be there. First disappointment. Then I go in to make my appointment. I got in early, hoping to avoid the server delay problems that I hear of every year. No problems there. There is one thing, though. Yeah, all the appointments were snagged by the previous two rounds so there was zilch for us lowly general members.

As you know, I'd been working to get my novel ready to pitch. I was nervous about it, but excited too. No pitching this year unless I skulk around the waiting area hoping to snare a spare minute. Which I may. We'll see.

The good news in all this is that I won't be rushing so much and I can make sure I'm confident that my book is the best it can be before I start querying. And query I will. I've given myself a self-imposed deadline of September 30 to send out queries. If the revisions and edits go faster, I'll definitely do it sooner. And if I don't have an agent by this time next year, I'll be a PRO member and then I can get in early myself.

What about you? Going to the national conference? Got an agent or editor appointment? Who'd you get?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mission Accomplished

So you may have noticed that I wasn't around last week. It was an unscheduled leave of absence due to me being sick as a dog and not on the computer much at all. If you will recall oh, so long ago (read a week ago Thursday) I mentioned wanting to finish the first draft of Out of the Shadows and spend some time sewing.

I'm pleased to report that after keeping my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard, I did it. I wrote over 4k words that day and finished the first draft.

You'll notice that my word meter shows me 15k short for the total. I may still reach that 80k goal. I guessed on the total length. I originally thought 100k but I don't think I'm that wordy. Some of the scenes didn't come together for me as I wrote. I couldn't find the right words, etc. So I got the gist of the scene down with the dialogue. Now I have to go back and flesh those scenes out, adding description, internal dialogue, action, etc.

Plus, I've also changed the story arc since I started the book. That means that I have to add a bunch of stuff throughout for that. All in all, I'm confident that I'll reach the 80k goal or darn close to it. As you can see, I still have a lot of work to do, but now that the whole story is down on paper and I know what's going on with it, I'm hoping it will go quickly. I'm giving myself 4 weeks to go back in and add all this stuff.

I don't really know how long it will take but I'm going to be pushing myself these next two months to accomplish my goal of having it finished in time for RWA national conference so that I can pitch it to an agent. Today is the day for me to make my appointment so wish me luck that I can get in with my first choice.

By the way, I did reward myself with some time to sew and I made a couple of fabric journal covers. Here they are below. They fit over a composition notebook. They were fun and easy and I think I'm going to offer them as a class at work.


So what have you been up to? Please share your news!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Black Forest Cake

Okay, so the request was for something sweet and what better than the famous Black Forest Cake. I had this when I visited Titisee in the Black Forest Region and it was oh so good.

Pastry Ingredients
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Kirschwasser (cherry schnapps)

Filling
1 cup powdered sugar
1 pinch salt
1 can pitted cherries, drained
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Kirschwasser

Topping
1 square semisweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 8 inch round pans with parchment paper circles. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and 1 tsp salt. Set aside.

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture, alternating with milk. Beat until combined.

Pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

Remove paper from under the cakes. Cut each layer in half horizontally, making 4 layers total. Sprinkle layers with 1/2 cup Kirschwasser.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Beat in 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 tbsp Kirschwasser. Add powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. Beat again. Spread first layer of cake with 1/3 of the filling. Top with 1/3 of the cherries. Repeat with the remaining layers.

Frost the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle with chocolate curls made by using a potato peeler on semisweet baking chocolate.

Guten Appetit!

Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Holland Redux

Today I'm off from the part time job and I plan to hit it hard with the writing. We got some cute new fabrics in the shop and I'm dying to make something so I promised myself that if I finish the first draft today, I can sew all day tomorrow.

I got the pics of St. Basil's Cathedral from the Keukenhof off my other camera. It took 65,000 bulbs. I couldn't get high enough to get the whole thing in one shot but it was incredible. The pictures are in order from right to left.


Hubby was able to convert the wooden shoe video so here it is. The farmer is a lot of fun and an entertainer. The video is about 11 minutes and it takes a couple of minutes for him to actually get started. Sorry about that. A filmmaker I am not. I hope you get the idea, though and enjoy the show.


video

I hope you enjoy this bit of Holland too. I'm thinking a new German recipe for tomorrow. Anyone have a preference?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Distractions

I'm a bad girl. I've gotten behind on my weekly goals because I've been distracted.

The list thing helped yesterday, but I blew off my last task to read Book 4 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I don't remember the actual title, they're so similar. AND I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. So, no schoolwork finished.

Today is a super long day at the part time job. I work 8 hours there and then am teaching an intro to crochet class afterwards. A 10 hour day on little sleep. I guess that will teach me. Well, probably not.

So, I've made a new rule. I can't start the next book in the series until Sunday, and then only if I've completed all my weekly goals. I obviously can't tear myself away once I start.

Since today is such a long day at the part time job, it's my off day from writing. I seriously won't feel like doing anything but dropping when I get home around 9pm tonight.

I've owned up to my distraction. How about you? What distracts you from your plans? How do you deal with it? Ever had my problem where you couldn't stop thinking how an author was going to resolve an issue and kept reading to the exclusion of everything else?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lists


I'm trying something new. To-Do lists.

Lately, I've been having trouble getting things done. It's not that I don't have the time, I'm just not utilizing it well. Case in point, I should have already had the first draft of OOTS finished by now. Yes, I'm close and May 15 is my self-imposed deadline, but really? I swear, if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.

So back to my list. I was off from the part time job yesterday and I think it went to my head. I put 11 items on my to-do list. 11 time-consuming items. I guess I need to work on realistic expectations, too.

I was able to mark 4 off yesterday. I learned my lesson. Today, I have to work the part time job and I only have 4 items on my list. Blog post (check), work on OOTS for an hour (next), work on Blood Diamond revisions for 30 minutes and read chapter 4 of my textbook for my Intro to World Religions class. I'm almost ready to make an appointment for my midterm in that class. Yay!

Anyway, I'm going to try this out and see if it helps me get my butt back in gear. It's about 2 ½ months until conference and I have a lot to do before then.

Do you use lists? Does it help you? What other methods do you use to manage your time?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays


Today's a rainy day here in Bavaria, so it's a perfect day for me to stay inside and at my computer. To work. Of course, that's what I meant.

Just returned from picking the furbaby up from the groomer. We take her once a month because she has enough poodle in her that her fur curls and knots up if it gets too long. She's freshly shorn now and cute as can be.

We purchased a dryer on Saturday and that will be delivered today. We forgot to get money out of the ATM before going. Most stores around here don't accept credit cards so it's good to keep cash on you, but before moving here, I never had cash. Always used the check card. Hard habit to break. So, anyway, we didn't have enough cash on hand. They still allow COD (cash on delivery) here. It's true. Instead of making us find an ATM right then and there, they said we could pay when it's delivered. Can you believe it? They did away with that in the States a long time ago so it was a pleasant surprise to find the practice still alive and well here. So, I've got the cash, my dryer will show up to share residence with the new washing machine that I got a screaming deal on and no more laundromat for me. Yay!

Anyway, I'm about halfway done with chapter 19 of OOTS. There are a total of 20 so I'm very close to finishing the first draft. I've changed the series arc since starting it, though, so there is still a lot of work to do on it. There's light at the end of the tunnel.

So, I've been reading J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series lately. I know, I'm behind the times but I just finished the 3rd one yesterday. I'm really enjoying them and I can see why they're so popular. They've also allowed me a bit of a breather. See, in OOTS, I have more POVs than just the hero and heroine. I worried about that, whether it would be allowed. In some cases, I just couldn't get the information across another way or not as well. I see that she has used multiple POVs and it works. So again, another case of write the book and work stuff out later.

Have you read J.R. Ward's series? Do you like it? Did the multiple POVs throw you out of the story? What are some other series that you enjoy?

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Anne Frank House

Visiting the Anne Frank House was both surreal and sad for me.

I had read the book, The Diary of Anne Frank, when I was about 10 or 11. We won't go into how long ago that actually was. At the time, I remember that I couldn't fathom how she must have felt, trapped inside that house, a prisoner, unable to go outside or even open a window for fear of capture.

Visiting the house, walking through the rooms those 8 people lived in, touched a spot deep inside me. In the picture below, the house where they hid is the house next to the one with a pitched roof.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the house. Stepping through the secret doorway hidden behind the bookcase was like stepping back in time. There was no furniture there. Otto Frank, Anne's father and the only one of the family to survive Auschwitz, didn't want any brought back in after the Nazis carted it all out upon their discovery.

The wallpaper in the rooms is the original and still contained the pictures that Anne hung up to brighten the place up.

What struck me was the size of the space. For 8 people to live there for 2 years, it was small. But the space was quite large to have been hidden all that time. I don't know how the authorities didn't know it was there.

In other rooms of the house, there are models, pictures and videos. Part of her actual diary is under glass. The video interviews were powerful. There was one by Otto Frank, another by one of the people that helped hide them, one from Anne's best friend.

They also had a bookstore, with her diary and other books available in many different languages. I bought a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. I feel compelled to read it again since it's been so long. I also picked up a book with stories from 7 different women that knew Anne while she was is Auschwitz.

Here in Germany, they've set Auschwitz up as museum. I haven't made it there yet but I feel I need to before leaving Germany. I'll probably read both books before going.

It's a sad part of our history but if you ever visit Amsterdam, please make a point of visiting the Anne Frank house.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wooden Shoes and Gouda Cheese

Sorry for the delay of this post. I tried to get it up yesterday but had technical difficulties getting the video uploaded - directly and through Youtube. Still having problems with it today. It loads about 40% and then stops. To say I'm not technically savvy is an understatement, so if anyone has any tips for me, please email me at riley@riley-quinn.com. I'd love for you all to see the video. Now on to our regularly scheduled blog post.

After leaving Keukenhof, we hopped back on the bus and headed over to a local farmer's place.

This farmer made gouda cheese. For those of you that don't know me, I'm a cheese-aholic. I love just about any kind of cheese, but gouda is a particular favorite.When we arrived, we petted the cows. A calf had been born just that day. It was so sweet.

Then we were ushered into the barn. There, the farmer's wife explained the process of making cheese and how to tell (at least in the Netherlands) if cheese was farm-made or factory-made. It's evident by the shape of the label on the cheese.Next, we shuffled into the next room, because cheese making isn't as profitable as one would think. At least, on their small scale. They supplemented their income by making wooden shoes.

This is where we were treated to a demonstration by the farmer himself. He was a trip! It was fun to watch him start from a block of wood and end up with a shoe.Finally, we got to shop. They had a small souvenir store with his shoes, cheese and other items. They carried four different types of gouda cheese - traditional, mustard, pepper, and garlic/herb, as well as a smoked with ham cheese. Yummy! The cheese with the mustard seed was my favorite. I got some of all the different kinds of cheese and some wooden shoes.

Tomorrow is my visit to the Anne Frank House.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Keukenhof


The first stop on my trip was Keukenhof. If you've never heard of this place, it's called the largest bulb flower park in the world. There are fields and fields of tulips, as you can see below.

It's one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands and over the last 60 years, more than 44 million visitors have passed through their gates. It covers over 79 acres and there are 4.5 million tulips in 100 different varieties.

There are over 9 miles of footpaths (and I felt like I walked each one) and is the largest sculpture park in the Netherlands. I loved the Flintstone car.

Over 7 million bulbs are planted by hand here. Some are in beds and some are in containers.

Each year, they choose a theme. This year, the theme was "From Russia with Love". There were great statues of the wooden nesting dolls. Most incredible was the mosaic of St. Basil's Cathedral done with 65,000 bulbs. I'll have to post those pictures later as I need hubby's help getting them off the camera.

I'm leaving you with more photos of the beautiful flowers there. Tomorrow is the wooden shoe and cheese farm we visited. I have a video of the owner making wooden shoes. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wow!


First of all, I'd like to thank each and every one of you that signed up to be a follower of my blog. The response was more than I'd expected and I'm very pleased. I hope you all stick around and enjoy my posts.

Second, I'm happy to announce that the winner of my Month of Sundays Relaxation Kit is Kate L (aka Yzhabelle). Congratulations, Kate! I sent you an email but if you failed to receive it, please drop me a note at riley@riley-quinn.com.

I returned early this morning (2 am) from my trip to Holland. I visited Keukenhof, as well as some other great places. I've got tons of pictures to transfer from my camera to the computer. For the rest of this week, I will be sharing my trip with you.

I'm still recovering, so today is short and sweet. I'd love to hear how you spent your weekend though. Share the details!