Friday, May 8, 2009

Oma - Amsterdam to Lübeck

Holstentor, Lübeck  (Wikipedia )
One of the reasons I started this blog is so I could record my mother's incredible life. Whenever I tell anyone an Oma story, it always leaves them asking for more. It is a long, difficult story, but with Mother's Day around the corner and one hundred posts behind me, I suppose there is no time like the present to start telling the story, little by little, whenever the mood strikes me. Oma's Birth

Singelgracht and Munttoren,  Amsterdam (Wikipedia)
Oma was born out of wedlock in Amsterdam in 1926 to a German mother, Alma, and Dutch father, Gijsbertus. 

Soon after, Alma brought her baby back to Lübeck, her hometown in Germany. One can only imagine the terrible stigma associated with single motherhood in that era, which may have played a large role in Alma's decision to drop her baby off at the local orphanage, but more likely, she was either incapable or unwilling to raise my mother. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Alma never bonded with her baby. Oma still speaks sadly about the time she walked across town to ask for money to see a movie but her mother refused to give her even a pfennig.
Marienkirche, Lübeck  ( M+MD at Flickr)
Fortunately for my mother, her grandmother, despite being already very old and almost blind, couldn't bear the idea of having her grandchild in an orphanage so she rescued Oma and raised her until she was eighteen. About Lübeck Lübeck is a beautiful ancient city, settled soon after the last ice age. Its impressive tower gate, named The Holstentor, is the last remnant of the Brick Gothic wall that once surrounded the city 500 years ago. The Holstentor appeared on the former 50 Deutche mark note as well as on the 2006 special edition of the German 2 euro coin and it is featured as a landmark in the popular computer game Simcity 3000. But my favorite depiction of the gate is on the logo of the famous marzipan brand Niederegger. My mother tells a wonderful story of how marzipan as invented:
“Once upon a time, Lübeck was surrounded by the enemy. Luckily, the city was fortified with an impressive wall and the enemy could not enter the city. But, of course, this meant that nobody in the city could get out either. The enemy was patient because Lübeck was a beautiful, strategically-located harbor town worth waiting for. Unfortunately for the enemy, Lübeckers are very stubborn and strong people so it took a very, very long time before there was no food left and the citizens’ resolve began to waver. The only foods left over were some almonds and sugar, found in the basement of the town hall's reserves. They ground the almonds and sugar together to make mandelbrot@@, almond bread, and doled out these final pieces of "bread candy" into rations for the whole town. One little boy, decided to go to outside the Holstentor gate to talk to the enemy. "Are you still here? You know you are wasting your time because we still have lots of food left over. In fact, we have so much food, we even have candy." He took the mandelbrot out of his pocket and started eating it right in front of them. Disillusioned at the prospect of a prolonged wait, the enemy decided to leave. The little boy was declared a hero and the town lived happily ever after.”
I always loved this story because it was so empowering for children.
In my opinion, Niederegger marzipan is the best tasting marzipan because they guarantee that their product contains two third almonds by weight and they add a small amount of the bitter almond extract and rose water to give depth to its flavor. It is often thought marzipan has Arabic roots, and some may say that the rose water is proof of its lineage, but I choose to believe my mother's story. If you ever have the good fortune of being in Lübeck, Café Niederegger is an essential culinary stop where you feast your eyes with the beauty of the marzipan sculptures:
Niederegger Cafe display window, (M+MD at Flickr)

Niederegger marzipan fruits, GaijinSeb at Flickr
have a cup of coffee with marzipan cake,
and visit the museum upstairs to see the life-sized marzipan sculptures representing those who played a major part in the history of marzipan, from Magellan to Father Christmas.  Not pictured: “The Persian”.
Marzipan Salon, Niederegger Cafe (GaijinSeb at Flickr)
I just looked at the title of this section and realized that I didn't tell you much about Lübeck but I told you a lot more about marzipan. Now you know where my priorities are. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Blogger Beast

For twenty years I worked as a software developer which offered me limited opportunity to express myself creatively. Even though problem solving often requires thinking out of the box, I had no idea that I still had oodles of pent up creativity locked inside me until I retired. I was surprised how hungry I was to feed the need to create. It was like an ever-hungry beast lived inside me.

To quel The Beast, I made wreaths and floral arrangements, painted elaborate banners for my kids' elementary school, accepted more calligraphy jobs, took a Photoshop class, and several floristry classes. I even accepted a few event jobs where I provided all the decorations for weddings and bat mitzvahs. 
It turns out that these activities only whetted The Beast's appetite. Then I learned about the world of blogging. The Beast stepped up her appetite and became The Blogger Beast. 
There are times when I simply can not devote my time to feeding her, and then she slyly morphs herself into a hungry child, sweetly enticing me to feed her, one small morsel at a time. I have a choice; shall I let her go hungry or indulge her with fast food?
Though it hasn’t happened yet, will the time ever come when she will refuse to be fed? Will she become like a petulant child refusing to be fed?
I'm usually cooking up something for The Beast. On the front burner is the very next meal, almost ready to serve. On the back burner some ideas are simmering, in the fridge some thoughts are marinating, and on the counter I'm slicing and dicing the next post.
Sometimes I'm just planning the menu, figuring out what to feed her next. What would be delicious for my diners? Which ingredients would I like to surround myself with? How many courses should I make? It seems my Blogger Beast sometimes enjoys multi-course meals.
Then there are the times when I have to run out to get more ingredients.  If I'm lucky, I already have them in my pantry of photos, or at Getty Images or in Flickr's Creative Commons store, but sometimes I have to wait until I have time to go out to shoot. Other times I can borrow a cup of images from my neighbors like Fogbay.

Now that this is my 100th post, I realize that The Blogger Beast may not be a beast after all. Maybe she's a Blogger Sprite who only morphs into a beast only when unfed. She is a frequent presence showing me her point of view. She sits on my shoulder and points out yummy things to eat, whispering in my ear how it would make a great dish. She reminds me to carry my camera, just in case we happen upon a perfect ingredient for a future meal. Right now she is a great friend who is great company and relatively undemanding.


To celebrate my 100th post, I would like to have a dinner party with my blogger friends. I will of course invite Tangobaby who introduced me to the wonderful world of blogging.
Relyn will grace the evening with the uplifting, soothing, spa-like atmosphere as we come sit by her fire. Cuban in London will provide us with a great playlist filled with music a propos for the occasion. Lala will fly in from her Castle in Spain to set the table with style and grace.  No need to have wardrobe angst, The Sartorialist will provide heaps of inspiration. On the walls, we can have a never-ending parade of exhibits featuring Elsa Mora's intricate papercuts, or photos provided by Ramsey at Fogbay or Robin at Birdtweets. All will join the round table of discussion. Also at the table is the ever-interesting, multi-talented Ruth from Synch-ro-ni-zing. We can go on and on about how much we love Paris. While we are talking about travel, who better to join the conversation than the flight attendant at Postcards and Coasters and Tara at Paris Parfait? When the conversation turns political, Tara will chime in with her insightful knowledge Middle Eastern politics and culture. Gabby could regale us with some of his gripping tales. The conversation will, no doubt, turn to movies, at which time we can call upon Hollywood producer, William Horberg, for his considerable expertise in the all things film, cartooning and graphic illustrations. What a fine time we will all have in each others’ company.
This is also the perfect occasion to pay forward the wonderful awards Tangobaby bestowed upon me and others many moons ago. All of you here at the dinner party, I would like to raise my glass to you and express my admiration for your talents by giving you these awards. If you haven’t already been given this award, please come up and grab them.  If you’ve already been honored with these awards, a pair is always nice. The great news is that you will have no time limit for your acceptance speeches and you will have the opportunity to pay forward these awards to your favorite bloggers.


Thank you, Tangobaby for these awards and for your inspiration!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Joe Cocker at Woodstock

I watched this enlightening clip, courtesy of one of my book club sisters, while I waited for my delayed plane to arrive at JFK airport last night. Since I rolled in at midnight after a long flight from New York, this is about all I can muster up for a post this morning. Enjoy!
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