Author Archives: Keri

About Keri

Writer, runner, gluten-free cook, solar-powered wife and roadschooling mama of four fantastic young gypsies, Keri enjoys exploring Europe from her home base in rural Germany.

Eight Years of Adventure

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As we approach our eighth year anniversary of living in Germany, I can’t help but think of all the traveling we’ve been able to do. Because we thought we would only be here three years (ha) we did as much traveling as possible at first. Once we hit the majority of destinations on our ‘list,’ we could relax a little, and enjoy exploring new places within driving distance.

Keep in mind–a road trip that begins in central Germany can end in half a dozen different countries. Of course, the autobahn helps speed things along, but still–Europe is the perfect place for family road trips.

Occasionally I would find a great deal on airfare, and so we could jet off together as a family. But usually, we drove or took the train (which was preferred). Regardless of how we arrived, exploring Europe has been eye-opening for the entire family. It’s helped shaped our view of the world and has allowed us to fully realize just how small this planet is.

We’ve had our share of trials–motion sickness; spilled drinks; having EVERY restaurant & grocery store CLOSED when we were desperately hungry; getting lost or rather, re-directed; unusual pit-stops; freezing in winter; sweltering in summer; and lodging that ranged from Thrift Shop Chic to Business Class Posh. Yet, we never once lost a wallet or a child, and even the worst times were something we could laugh about later (sometimes, much later).

So, in honor of 8 years of Germany…here are some of my favorite snapshots from our travels.

Enjoy! And Gute Reise!

Holland

Holland

Prague

Prague

Rome

Rome

Tuscany

Tuscany

Paris

Paris

London

London

Austria

Austria

Petra Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

Germany

Germany

Christmas and the New Year

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Christmas Market with my Mom

Christmas Market with my Mom

My mom gave me a wonderful present this year. On Christmas Eve, she made the kids deep clean the house for me. Not only did I get to stay in my room all day, but they also provided room service.

Flowers from my youngest

Flowers from my youngest

This was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. I didn’t have to stress about the house, and I could just enjoy finishing the hand-sewn labradors I was making for the kids. Libby (wearing an apron and often wielding a clipboard) periodically popped into my room to check on me (and to bring me candy).

Charlie inspecting the stockings

Charlie inspecting the stockings

After a long day of work, the house looked great–and the kids were exhausted. But they were in good spirits (it WAS Christmas Eve, after all) and Libby even left a bouquet of flowers, which she had paid for with her own hard-earned money, on my nightstand.

Christmas dinner with friends

Christmas dinner with friends

Christmas morning brought the usual controlled chaos. After walking and feeding the dogs, the kids could unwrap presents while the adults consumed Baileys & coffee and watch the sun rise.

Sweeties

Sweeties

The added blessing was having Grandma Nay here for Christmas. Even though she can drive me up a wall like no other person on earth (isn’t that a mother’s job?) it made the time richer, to have her with us.

Monkey hat

Monkey hat

Loved ones are always in our thoughts this time of year. I can’t help but think often of my Aunt Kathy, who spent two Christmases with us (and an entire month once). She arrived on Christmas Eve one year with her raggedy green knit cap, hiking boots and her beaming smile. 

Having a daughter who LOVES to read makes me proud!!!

Having a daughter who LOVES to read makes me proud!!!

Having epilepsy and short-term memory loss never stopped her. In fact, she was the first to make plans to come visit when we moved to Germany. She lost her fight with cancer 2 1/2 years ago, and Christmas hasn’t been the same since. She is with us in our memories though, and I’m thankful that she had the courage to get on an airplane and stay with us. I pray that we all have such courage as we ‘slide’ into a new year.

A subtle hint for William

A subtle hint for William

Let this be a year for taking heart, or ‘chin up,’ as Kathy would say, and living each moment to the fullest. Life is about relationships, and loving people how they are, even if they don’t fit into the neat little packages you have constructed for them.

Fab Four light up the world

The Fab Four light up the world on New Year’s Eve

Love fully, with flaws and all, because life is as fragile as it is fleeting.

Thanksgiving

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We created our usual Wellman Family Feast for Thanksgiving, only I’m getting smarter and making the young people in our house contribute to the work load.

table

Actually, it’s not that hard to do since (most of) my kids love to help in the kitchen. We went through one peculiar phase a few months back where they were fighting over our lone potato peeler. Needless to say, the child-to-peeler ratio has increased since then, so that no child is left behind in the peeling department.

Independent learners.

Here are some photos from our feast! I hope your day was as happy & cozy as ours!

Noah & the pumpkin cheesecake he helped to make

Noah & the pumpkin cheesecake

Libby with 'Grandma O's' Marshmallow Salad

Libby with ‘Grandma O’s’ Marshmallow Salad

Katie & gluten-free apple pie

Katie & gluten-free apple pie

Katie with a real smile:)

Katie with a real smile:)

Charlie inspecting the table

Charlie inspecting the table

After a meal, it’s time for some fun!

The boys in their 'Jedi' Reindeer robes

The boys in their ‘Jedi’ Reindeer robes

Charlie chasing a balloon

Charlie chasing a balloon

We emerged from our cozy den after Thanksgiving to find the beginning of advent, which means plenty of Christmas markets. And with my mother coming to stay with us over the holidays, we are going to make the most of the time left in 2013.

It is promising to be a very merry holiday season here in Germany! 

Creative Workouts at Home: Session 1

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Saturday was a lovely stay-at-home-day, but I didn’t want to miss out on the Crossfit workout our coach had posted. So I thought I would do a home-made workout, incorporating my long run.

The following 1 minute video shows what I came up with.

I call it the LabbyNo!

Enjoy!

Joyous

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Today is my fourth child’s tenth birthday, so there are a lot of emotions bubbling up this morning.

Birthday Morning Our House, Germany

Birthday Morning
Our House, Germany

Joy–because she truly is one of the joys of my life.

The Residence Garden Wurzburg, Germany

The Residence Garden
Wurzburg, Germany

If you have three kids and are ‘debating’ whether or not to have a fourth, let me give you some advice–go for it! The fourth child is the one that you can relax with and enjoy the most because by this time, you have the system down. And things always go better when you have some idea of what you’re doing.

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Sadness–because we no longer have any single-digit kids, which means our family has ‘graduated’ to a new level.

The Red Sea Israel

The Red Sea
Israel

Happiness–because we no longer have any single-digit kids, which means our family can do cool things we haven’t done before (Example: we can cross the border from Israel to Jordan on foot without taking a stroller).

Lake Garda Sirmione, Italy

Lake Garda
Sirmione, Italy

Nostalgia–I can’t help but think of the day she was born. Our friends came over to watch our then 1 year-old, our 4 year-old and our 6 year-old, while my husband, mom-in-law and I went to the hospital. It seems like I had JUST gotten the epidural when Libby came along.

The Louvre Paris

The Louvre
Paris

She was a go-getter from the start, having only 3 hours of labor. But as soon as she was born, they rushed her away because she was a meconium baby. I realize from the hundreds of birth stories I’ve heard over the years that this is NOT a big issue–that some women have their babies taken away for weeks due to serious medical issues, but for me, it was terrible.

The Colosseum Rome

The Colosseum
Rome

She was born, and they just swooped her away and put her little pink head in a bubble. It was three long hours before they could give her back to me.

St Vitts Cathedral Prague

St Vitts Cathedral
Prague

During that time, I was worried we had missed the most crucial bonding time ever. I didn’t have the chance to burn her little face into my memory. I didn’t have that initial feeling of satisfaction that comes when your newborn snuggles on your chest. The labor and delivery was over and done and eventually they handed me this little ‘stranger.’

Near Neuschwansteing Fussen, Germany

Near Neuschwanstein
Fussen, Germany

With my history of depression, the doctors were worried about me. I had them put a no-visitor sign on my door, and I even stayed an extra night (the Air Force hospital was GREAT). I wasn’t depressed though, I was simply trying to relish every quiet moment I could. And I wanted to get to know this new little person.

Navarre Beach Florida

Navarre Beach
Florida

We did bond, though it still worried me for a long time afterwards. Would I love her the same?

Mud Puddle Our Backyard Anchorage, Alaska

Mud Puddle
Our Backyard
Anchorage, Alaska

It seems silly now. She is the sparkle in my step, the joy of my life. She makes everything happy and shiny and fun. Even on her ‘worst’ day, she is a treasure.

Libby, Katie & Mama Anchorage, Alaska

Libby, Katie & Mama
December, 2003 Anchorage, Alaska

If you are reading this and you happen to be one of my other three children, don’t think that Libby is the ‘favorite.’ I love EACH of you more than words can describe–it’s just her birthday, so she gets her own post:)

This Morning Germany

November 2013
Germany

Libby is ten. And with my older two making plans for their futures, it makes me incredibly happy we had four. At least, as Libby tells me, she’ll be around the ‘longest.’ And someday, when the other kids leave the house, we can trade the minivan for a sports car, and we can zip around together. Mother & daughter. Our hearts bound together forever.

Happy Birthday Libby!

Happy Birthday Libby!

Selling Out

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nanowrimo

It’s November again, which means it is National Novel Writing Month. For some reason, I let my son talk me into participating this year, even though it means writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

It is an ultra-marathon for writers.

This also means, my blog might be sporadic, since all of my mental powers will be utilized in the writing of the next Great American Novel. Or, would it be considered a Great American Novel since I live in Germany? I’m not sure. Regardless, my Chick-Lit Sellout Novel is under way.

My fluffy white dog, who, bless his heart, doesn’t know a thing about the end of daylight savings time, started whining from his kennel at 4:00 am, rather than 5:00, and thus, my ‘writing time’ was carved out of the day for me by a twelve-pound Havanese.

I’m not going to show many people my sellout book. I call it that because I do not expect it to be quality literature. It is a light read, and as such, it might have a chance of being published someday. If Hemingway were alive, he would write a sellout book too–just to get his foot in the door.

So, the challenge is on, and hopefully someday my novel will be on shelves in bookstores, though you won’t know it’s mine because I’ll have to use a nom-de-plume.

Testing Day

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dead lift

My son and I walked into the box  to discover it was ‘Testing Day.’

Testing Day was reminiscent of a health clinic. But instead of hitting your knees with a little hammer or listening to your heart with a stethoscope, the guys with clipboards watch as you do shoulder presses and wall balls.

The knee hammer is probably more fun.

Actually, Crossfit, even on a day where the WOD is replaced with a health inspection, is fun for me. And I can’t help but think of the similarities between testing day and a visit to a German health clinic:

  • You go into a big room with a bunch of other people–many of them you’ve seen before
  • You fill out paperwork
  • You ask someone to translate the hard words, which turn out to be ‘easy’ words
  • You guesstimate your weight and height, because you can’t convert inches to centimeters off-hand
  • You’re suddenly much taller and skinnier on paper than you are in real life
  • Everyone complains about the slow service, & for those of us who are English-speakers, the communication problems.
  • You go to the proper ‘station’ at the proper time
  • First come, first served
  • You hope the guys with the clipboards know what they’re doing
  • The guys with clipboards scrawl things on your paperwork
  • You hope that by the end of the visit, you’ll come away healthier
  • When you do finish, you feel a sense of camaraderie with others who’ve just endured the same thing
  • They will want to re-evaluate in 8 weeks

The only difference is that in a German health clinic, you take a number and sit around and read a book until they get to you. At Crossfit, you stand there talking and rolling out your hips and/or shoulders.

While I DO love seeing improvement, I’m not going to stress about the testing day or the follow-up. As our Coach Rob likes to say, “It’s all good!”

And it is.

Every bit of Crossfit, even two solid minutes of wall balls, is good–especially when you’re fertig.

Things My Labrador Has Eaten

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Caught in the act!

Caught in the act

A friend of mine recently adopted a labrador, and so naturally, the conversation turned quickly from training techniques to the incredible things labradors eat.

Let me preface this by saying I do not ALLOW my dog to eat junk that could harm him–but he is lightening fast when it comes to eating, and sometimes he’s choking down something before I can bat an eyelash. He is quite literally a garbage disposal on four legs.

Obviously, I love this crazy dog, and I don’t want him to get sick or be harmed by something he eats, and I am in NO way promoting the idea that you should allow your labrador to eat everything. I’m just saying that the world is not puppy-proof, and there’s only so much I can do. He is, after all, a canine who loves eating more than life itself.

He would do ANYTHING for food. Actually, he would do ANYTHING for something he THINKS is food. It’s great for training and keeping the floor clean of crumbs, but not so good for his digestion.

So, inspired by the conversation with my friend & her new puppy….

Things My Labrador has Consumed or Utterly Destroyed through Mastication
  • Tree branches
  • Corn stalks (fresh from the field)
  • Large stones (usually spit out)
  • Butterflies, grasshoppers and other assorted insects
  • Banana peel
  • Toilet paper
  • Flowers from the garden
  • House flies (encouraged)
  • His leather leash
  • Socks, socks and more socks
  • Potted Bird of Paradise plant
  • His own fur (from the dog brush)
  • Bailey’s fur (from the dog brush)
  • His dog bed
  • The zipper on his mat–yes, JUST the zipper
  • Countless stuffed dog toys
  • Manure
  • My son’s Crocs
  • Ten-pound, foam-coated hand weights
  • Bird, rabbit and deer droppings
  • Toilet water
  • A five-pound weight (the shiny kind that goes on a barbell)
  • The contents of an entire wastepaper basket
  • The cover to my daughter’s history book
  • A foam soccer ball
  • A fly swatter
  • Monopoly Money
  • A reflective dog vest
  • A fortune cookie, gold foil wrapper and all

*Nearly eaten: my favorite ear ring, plucked directly from my ear, which I was able to retrieve from his drooly mouth before he swallowed it!

Charlie is notorious for stealing stuffed animals from the children’s beds, eating his dog food in less than 45 seconds and for hoarding anything shiny. He has even been known to carry around 2 or 3 toys in his mouth at one time.

Strangely, Charlie does not eat shoes (even my goat-leather running shoes that still smell like camels from our trip to Jordan), nor does he eat garlic (though he tasted a clove that fell on the floor).

I DO give him actual bones to chew on,  (supposedly) appropriate dog toys, and he gets frequent exercise.

He simply eats with gusto. 

He is, after all, a labrador, and his zeal for eating is part of his charm. 

 

The Best Lab Tested Hummus Recipe Ever

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Ever since the puppy melted the food processor on our glass-top stove, I have been forced to consume store bought hummus, which is loaded with salt, oil and (often) sugar, most likely added to distract you from the distinctly chemical taste, which sets up residence on the roof of your mouth.

However, the chemical hummus can now be evicted, as my husband recently purchased a new food processor. While I still have to wait until my sell-out-chick-lit manuscript becomes a best-seller before I can afford a Vita-Mix, I am extremely happy with the Siemens FQ1, which, being a German brand, should last for years, barring any further occurences of the labrador trying to cook.

charlie hummus wait

Charlie Learns How to Make Hummus

As much as I would LOVE to turn this into a blog about my Chocolate Labrador and how cute he is while staring at the food processor, I will show some control over my lab-session (as my son calls it) and leave you instead with the BEST HUMMUS RECIPE EVER.

Obviously, being a white girl from MidWestern America currently living in Germany, where ‘spicy’ means adding extra black pepper, this recipe is not my own. It comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottoleenghi & Sami Tamimi. If you don’t own this book, you should. While there isn’t much ‘healthy’ food in here, and it certainly is NOT vegan, the recipes DO inspire you, and many of them CAN be altered for your particular needs. So, without further ado….

The World's BEST Hummus with Tongue Tingling Harissa

THE HUMMUS

The Raw Materials

1 1/4 cup (250g) dried chickpeas

1tsp baking soda

6 1/2 cups (1/5 liters) water

1 cup Tahini

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 1/2 tbsp (100ml) iced water

The Method

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING: The night before, cover the chickpeas with cold water (twice their volume) and soak overnight. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Don’t use canned! *Note: I usually double this recipe so I can have enough for an entire week. Of course, I eat it every single day.

COOKING DAY: Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan (I use my cast iron, enamel pot–but that’s just me) turn up the heat to HIGH and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Cook between 20-40 minutes, until chickpeas are very tender, but not mushy, and break easily when pressed between your fingers.

Drain the chickpeas. I let mine cool a little, then add to the food processor. You should now have about 3 1/2 cups. Process the chickpeas in the food processor until you have a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. (You can also add 1 1/2 tsp salt, though we choose not to).

Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and watch the magic, letting it mix for about 5 minutes or until you get a very smooth, creamy paste.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes. If you need to, you can refrigerate until needed, but pull it out of the kuhlshrank 30 minutes prior to serving.

THE HARISSA

In Israel, even gas station hummus was good, and there were a multitude of varieties. My personal favorite came with a spicy red sauce on top. While I’m not sure if Harissa is the same stuff, it is pretty close. I omit the caraway (as it makes my stomach feel weird); and I omit the oil & salt for dietary reasons; and I add extra chilies for a little more spiciness. A little dollop of this is perfect on top of hummus.  *Note, I make a bigger batch than normal because I have a bigger family than ‘normal.’

The Raw Materials

3-4 red peppers (blackened)

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, coarsely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

5-6 hot red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped (or use only 1, depending on how hot you like it)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

The Method

Slice peppers in half, seeding them and place face down under a very hot broiler, until blackened on the outside and completely soft (10-15 mins). Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to cool completely then peel, discarding the skins.

Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, over low heat, lightly toast the coriander and cumin for about 2 minutes. Remove to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder.

Fry the onion, garlic, and chilies on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until nearly caramelized.

Now, add everything (including the peeled peppers) to the food processor, mixing until smooth. (I prefer mine just a little bit chunky).

FINALLY

Place a scoop of hummus on a plate, make a little divot in the top, and add a dollop of Harissa. Serve with cucumbers, raw red peppers, flat bread (if applicable) or your favorite gluten-free crackers and enjoy a little taste of the Middle East in your Western kitchen!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo--I couldn't help it! He's smiling in this one!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo–I couldn’t help it!                   He’s smiling in this one!

Guten appetit!

A Spontaneous Marathon

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On Friday, we decided as a family I could run a second marathon this year.

Sunday at 08:00 I signed up.

By 09:00 I was running through a shower of confetti.

After the Gletscher Marathon in June, I had thought I would run the Seenland Marathon in September. But then an injury (which had me inactive for 2 weeks); a visit from my mother (3 weeks of board games & cookie baking); and an onslaught of large farm machinery chopping up and spraying the countryside, sidetracked my usual training plan. Thus, out of 12 weeks between marathons, I had only 3 long runs, the longest of which was a mere 14 miles (nothing like the 18-20 I would have normally done).

Even though I LOVED running the Seenland Marathon last year, I debated about it this year, because I didn’t know if only doing Crossfit (3 times a week), plus one to two runs a week was sufficient preparation.

But then, as my oldest child said, “It’s only running.”

Right! It WAS only running; and I quickly buried the fact that it would be 42 kilometers of running.

The results: 4 hours 26 minutes–the EXACT same time as the Gletscher Marathon.

HOWEVER: I would have done much better with more training. Normally, the marathon ‘starts’ for me around km 30. This year, I was feeling it at km 20. My legs became chunks of concrete, and I sincerely felt like quitting.

HOWEVER (again): That’s when Kristina came flitting along the path with her two bouncy braids, striped tights and cheerful smile. She was SO happy to see me and said that she was talking about me the night before at the noodle party. She is the best pacemaker in the world, and she helped me get through the tough parts of last year’s marathon.

This year, she came along, asked how I was doing, and then said, “Stay with me” in a manner worthy of a Crossfit coach.

So, I stayed with her the rest of the way–and we crossed the finish line together, smiling.

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

There are so many things rushing through my mind:

*How easy the marathon was at first, and how incredibly difficult it was in the middle.

*A guy running the marathon in an elephant suit

*The hoards of half-marathoners, breezing by, making me feel sadly inferior

*The t-shirts promoting a wide variety of causes (some of them nearly dueling it out on the trail)

*The fabulous aid stations with plenty of watermelon

*Hearing American Rock music booming along the trail

*The handicapped runners (some blind) leaving me in the dust

*A welcome shower of rain

*The Bible verses on my left arm, written in pen, vanishing one by one

*‘Stolz Sein’ (our Crossfit Coach’s mantra) fading from my right arm (translation=be proud: to help my posture)

*Hearing Kristina tell someone in German, “I need to get her to her kids at the finish line!”

* Seeing from 1/4 mile Libby’s striped pink dress, her arm waving frantically at me.

I love the moment I see my family, waiting by the finish with such excitement and anticipation. It is THE single best part of any marathon! 

Crossing with the kids

Crossing with the kids

If you are going to run a marathon in Germany, I highly recommend the Seenland Marathon. The catering stations are fantastic; the people (both the staff AND the other runners) are extremely friendly; and the scenery, with the tall pines, wild boars and the sailboat-filled lake, is simply gorgeous.

If I can, I will run it every year that I live here–hopefully with a little bit more preparation next time.