Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Special Christmas Eve

It is Christmas Eve and 4th Advent Sunday as well.  It's been quite some time since they have occurred on the same day.  The Advent wreath's 4th candle will be lit along with the Christmas tree candles on the tree.

I have not had a post for some time as many of you have perhaps noticed and commented upon.  Summer and fall were busy times, with some of those times spent in Canada.   I am now awaiting a new hip prosthesis in early February.  Today, though, I am going to tell you about a Christmas Eve some years ago.  (This post following was published in The Globe and Mail in 1995 and in Der Kanadier, CFB Lahr and Baden's base paper in that same year.)  Here is our 1995 Christmas Eve (published as written).

It's Christmas Eve.  The last rays of light have dipped behind the mountain.  The air is cold and clear.  As we step outside, we can see our breath.  A few flakes of snow are gently falling, silhouetted by the twinkling white lights in our windows.  Tall pines, their branches stretching outwards, give a feeling of serenity in the darkening evening as we make our way to the 300-year-old pilgrimage church awaiting us in the village of Ettenheimmünster below.

St. Landolin Münster was built in the baroque style in the late 1600s.  It was named after the Irish monk who, according to legent--or fact, no one knows for sure--was beheaded by a heathen hunter in 640 AD. Three fresh-water springs sprang from the spot where his head supposedly dropped to the ground. 

Many  believed (and still do today) that the spring had curative powers.  It has attracted people from near and far with the hope of healing their eye disorders. The monk became a martyr and a saint; the grounds surrounding the spring water became a holy place and a pilgrimage site.  The fountain still flows, sheltered within a small chapel outside the church doors.  It attracts pilgrims to this day. 

Tonight, we're joining the villagers in the church for the special service held every year on Heiligen Abend (Christmas Eve).  As we walk down our hill, others pass by.  "Guten Abend, frohe Weihnachten!" they call out.  "Good evening, Merry Christmas," we answer back. 

All of us are bundled up warmly, including the children in their colourful winter coats and caps.  Their faces are rosy from the frostiness and their eyes are lively and smiling in anticipation of the night ahead, for after the church service they'll gather around their Christmas trees, where live candles will flicker and glow on the branches and gifts for all will be piled beneath them and opened to laughs and hugs.

They and we stride ahead more quickly as we hear the peal of the bells echoing along our small valley in the crisp evening air.   Beside the church, the towering Christmas tree, agleam with shining white lights, welcomes us as we reach the massive wooden doors.  We move inside, pressing against other worshippers as we enter a world of beauty, light and pungent odours.  Though we are not Roman Catholic, we are caught up by the splendour and the devotion around us.

The story of the Irish monk is depicted by brilliant frescoes on the ceilings in the nave and chancel.  The high altar and the two side altars are magnificent in colour and artistry.  Their colonnades of marble-like stone in soft rose and blue are topped by cherubs sitting and standing on outcroppings of gold adornments. Intricate, hand-carved wooden confessionals line the walls.

Two spruce trees beside the high altar glow with candlelight.  Candles on every ledge, on every step and on every pew radiate a softness and warmth.  The scent from their burning mingles with the fragrance of fresh spruce boughs and musky incense.

The organ rings out with melodic resonance, the wondrous music bringing a look of rapture and emotion to the faces around us.  This is no ordinary organ:  This is one of only seven Johann Silbermann organs remaining in the world.  Throughout the year, concerts here attract music lovers from around Europe. 

On this night, this masterpiece is accompanied by the town's band.  We all sing--the villagers in German, we in English and in German, too--the beautiful Christmas carols we all love.  As the last strains of "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" ebb away, we leave in silence, that most treasured of all carols, "Silent Night, Holy Night," overwhelming us with the beauty of the occasion.

We climb back up our hill, the night now brilliant with stars.  The only sounds we hear are our footsteps and our breathing.  We feel such peace as we step inside our house to begin our own special celebration of that joyous first Christmas so long ago. 

In 1983 our friends Bob and Leslie Climie and their then young children joined us at home after which we all attended the service.  They have never forgotten it.  This year two other good friends, Jean who lives in Nova Scotia and Jo who lives in Florida, will be attending that church service.  It isn't quite the same frosty air as it is fairly mild, but the special feeling will still be there.  (It will be easier for me next year with my new hip!)  Afterwards, we shall all open our gifts and have our traditional Christmas Eve supper:  First, my Coquille St Jacques and then, second, Hans' traditional potato salad and special wieners.  A few good wines will accompany both! 

The photo below I took this afternoon.  We shall light the candles in early evening.

 The tree following was from a year or so ago, all the candles alight!

To You All
Frohe Weihnachten and a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Soup Pot and Fastnacht Coming to an End

Who can forget those childhood years when, on cold days and nights, the aroma from a big pot of hot, steaming soup or chowder, sitting on the back burner of the stove, would greet us as we came in from play or school?  It was comfort food.  Today there is no back burner unless one has a wood stove, but the aroma of soup still welcomes us home after a busy and cold day.  To serve soup around the kitchen table to the family has always been a time-honoured tradition.

So what better way to start a special meal with family or friends than to warm up our bodies and our taste buds with just such a beginning.  It can be the starter, the second course or the whole meal, depending on the soup and the circumstances.

This is now February and we have no snow, but it is still winter, thus soup can hit the spot.  We sometimes just have a bowl of nourishing soup for our lunch along with some good bread.  As a first or second course at a big dinner, we keep the portions small so that everyone enjoys what is still to be served. When entertaining guests for a special dinner we nearly always serve wine with the soup course.  Well, I do!  Surprisingly, they do compliment each other providing the wine is chosen carefully.  

(A light red wine or a rose wine goes well with a hearty beef soup.  With chicken or turkey soup, a flavorful white or a light rose.  Not everyone, though, wishes wine with their soup.  I happen to be one who does!)

We all have our favourite soup recipes.  Here are a few of mine, some I have made many times and a couple only occasionally, but all I liked.  As mentioned above, it depends on the occasion as to what type of soup you serve. 

On that long ago day when I cooked an 18-lb turkey for two people for Christmas dinner, we certainly had a lot of turkey left over!  So into the pot much of it went for soup, a recipe my mother had sent me that same year: 1954.  Her mother, my Grandma Tillie, had passed the recipe along to her.

This is a soup that just about everyone knows and likely nearly every woman has made.  I made it many times over the years with a few variations.  One can use chicken bones or goose bones as well; the latter we have made for the past few Christmases.  Hans now makes the soup--not I--in his own way.  This recipe, though, is from another era.

Mom's Chicken or Turkey Soup (from Grandma Tillie's Kitchen) 

Carcass from the leftover chicken or turkey, with some meat left on (J:  the more, the better)  This turkey had more to be eaten before using for the soup though!

Place bones into a large soup pot.  Add cold water to cover (6 to 8 cups or depending on how many turkey bones with meat on them)

12 peppercorns
1 bay leaf 
2 sprigs parsley, stems removed
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Celery tops, a handful of leaves and tender stems
1 raw carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces (1st one)
1 raw potato, peeled and quartered (1st one)
1 small to medium tomato, halved
Leftover vegetables from the fridge--if any
1 to 2 raw carrots, cut into 1/4 inch slices (2nd amount)
1 to 2 raw potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (2nd amount)
1/3 cup cooked long grain or minute rice (or barley)
1 can consomme, good chicken stock if you have any or two chicken cubes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Maggi sauce to taste (optional; not in my grandmother's recipe) 

Place the bones into a large pot and cover them well with cold water.  Add the salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, onion, celery leaves with stems, the 1st amount of raw carrot and potato, the tomato and the leftover vegetables.  Let simmer two hours, covered, on low heat.

Let the soup partially cool, about an hour if possible.  Strain.  Remove the peppercorns (if you can find them) and the bay leaf.  Pick out the bones and remove all the meat, cutting it into bite-size pieces, setting the meat aside.  Push and rub the remaining vegetables through the strainer with the back of a spoon and place back into the pot with the broth until nothing more will go through the strainer.  Discard the leftover mush.

Return the strained stock back into the soup pot.  Stir to blend.  Bring the soup to a boil and when simmering well, throw in the 2nd amount of carrots and potatoes.  

Add the consomme or chicken cubes if needed.  Simmer half an hour.  Add the turkey or chicken that was set aside and the cooked rice or barley.  Heat well another 10 to 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If wished, a little Maggi can be added.  (I didn't know about Maggi back in 1954 and neither did my mother or grandmother.  It is used a lot here in Germany.)  Pour into big soup bowls and serve with homemade-style bread.  Freeze the leftovers for another day. 

My sister Paula's bread loaves, all made the same day last summer.  Note the large tins, ones she uses for some of her bread. 

The perfect accompaniment for soup!

A soup we liked very much and one we have never seen on a menu in this part of the country was Soljanka, one we had several times when visiting the former DDR or, as the West knew it, East Germany. It was a Russian soup and one of the good things they left behind.  

We found it on the menu in a small train station Gasthaus in Joachimsthal, the town in which Hans grew up by the Werbellinsee in the Schorfheide--situated about 50 kilometers northeast of  Berlin.  I mentioned this soup in my blog East Meets West After the Wall, on March 1, 2011.  (I wrote two others about that area as well:  on 17 February and 7 March 2011.)

 Here is the recipe which I found in a small German cookbook (as shown) and which I translated from the German into English. The directions are basic.  It is years since we have enjoyed this so I do forget if we added anything to it.  I think everyone adds a little of something else when cooking.  A good idea for us to try it again ourselves!

Fleischsoljanka (Soljanka made with meat) - 4 to 6 servings
2 onions, finely chopped
40 grams margarine (approx. 1/4 cup or as needed)  J: I would use butter
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste 
A good beef broth, about 6 cups, heated 
350 grams various types of meat and sausages (about 1/3 pound)
2 middle-size sour pickles 
1/2 bay leaf
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 lemon, peeled and seeded and cut into pieces or slices
Sour cream (no amount given so use your own judgment)
Garnish:  fresh parsley or dill, chopped

Saute the chopped onions in the butter until golden brown.  Add the tomato paste and a little of the broth.  Cut the meat and sausages into small pieces and add to the onions.  Cut the pickles into thin slices; add them to the onion mixture along with the bay leaf, capers and salt.  Cover well with the remaining hot broth.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the lemon and sour cream.  For garnish:  sprinkle with chopped parsley or dill.  Serve.

The picture below is a facsimile but it looks much like that.

Cream of shrimp soup in my earlier days was one of my favourite dinner party soups.  It is a few years now since I have made it.  I served it for the first time in Winnipeg, shortly after moving there from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1970.  My recipe has its roots in one of the late Mary Moore's cooking columns published in the Regina Leader Post.  When we lived in Moose Jaw I read her column avidly.  This is a great starter to a special dinner.  (I no longer make it as Hans is allergic to shrimp.)

Cream of Shrimp Soup
6 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 teaspoons choppped green onion 
6 tablespoons flour
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 cup 10 per cent cream (half and half)
1 cup milk (1st amount)
1  4-1/2 oz can small shrimp with liquid
2 to 3 tablespoons Sherry
1 cup milk (2nd amount) (or half milk and half cream if wished)
Chopped parsley or chives

Into the top of a double boiler melt the butter; saute the green onion.  Over direct heat, blend and stir for a minute or two, then add the flour, stirring to blend.  Now, stir in chicken boullion cubes, cream and milk (1st amount).  Add shrimp and their liquid.  Place pot over the bottom of the double boiler and cook covered for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (or hold over boiling water until serving time.) 

When about ready to serve, add Sherry.  This is now a condensed soup.  Stir in the last cup of milk or cream/milk. Heat through.  Taste for seasoning.  Ladle into cream soup cups and sprinkle with little mounds of finely chopped parsley or chives. If you wish a stronger flavour, add a little more Sherry or a dash of lemon juice.  


Another favourite of mine to start off a dinner party is Potage Basque, another of Mary Moore's recipes.  Everyone always tries to guess the main ingredient (the cabbage!)  I made this again a couple or so years ago now.

Potage Basque
2 tablespoons pot barley
2 cups meat broth 
  (beef or chicken or leftover broth from chicken, beef, veal, etc.) 
  I use a good chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter (or ham fat)
1/2 small to medium onion, chopped 
1 cup finely chopped green cabbage
2 tablespoons butter (2nd amount)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk 
    (or for a richer soup, cream or half milk/half cream)
2 chicken cubes
1/2 teaspoon celery salt (optional)
5 slices bacon or 1/2 cup finely chopped cooked ham
Chopped parsley for sprinkling on top of bowls (optional)


Soak barley in broth 1 hour; simmer, covered, for 2 hours.  Set aside.  Saute chopped onion and cabbage in first amount butter, but do not brown.  Set aside.

Melt second amount butter, stir in flour and chicken cubes to blend, then stir in milk until thick.  Add to the barley and broth.  Stir in the sauteed cabbage and onions.  Taste it.  You may need to add salt.  

Chop and fry the bacon until dry and crisp but not brown; drain on paper towels. 

Serve the soup hot in preheated bowls; sprinkle with bacon.  Chopped parsley can also be sprinkled over the soup. 

A suggestion:  As with any dish and particularly with soups, one can add an ingredient that you think would add to the flavour or the intensity.  A little more of this or less of that as well. 

A good soup cookbook and one easy to read is the Betty Crocker book shown below.  It was published in 1985.  The picture above and the one at the end of my blog are from that little book.

I have one more recipe to share and it is one many will say, "No thanks!" if asked to try it.  I even wonder how come I decided to make it one day long ago and again a year or two ago for Hans and I.  I have two recipes for it, one from Mme Benoit, a wonderful cook from Quebec who had a TV program about food that I always watched.  The other is from a cookbook called All Seasons by Stella Standard.  Both recipes are excellent.  I do not like parsnips nor does Hans, but we both loved this soup.  When I first made it in the early 1970s, it was also a hit.

Parsnip Soup chez Mme Benoit - Serves 4 to 5

3 cups peeled parsnips, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat and thoroughly mix the vegetables (parsnips, onion, potatoes) in the melted butter.  When well coated, cover and simmer over low heat 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer, covered, 20 minutes, then taste for seasoning.

To serve, put a dice of butter in bottom of each bowl, sprinkle with paprika and pour the hot soup on top.  For a cream soup, blend in an electric blender after cooking.  (I made a cream soup.)

Parsnip Soup Stella Standard - Serves 6 or more
(Book:  Soups for All Seasons)
A very good friend gave me this book as a thank you for a dinner.

1-1/4 pounds parsnips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup water
2 cups chicken broth
Milk (I used l liter plus)
1 cup heavy cream, scalded
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons rum or Madeira (I used Madeira)
Garnish:  parsley, chopped fried croutons

Trim and scrub the parsnips.  If they are young and ivory-coloured, they will not need scraping.  Cut them  through the centre and remove any tough core with a sharp-pointed knife.  Slice them fine.  Put them in a pot with the salt, pepper, butter and water.  Cover tightly and steam them until very tender.

Puree the contents of the pot with some of the broth.  Add the rest of the broth and milk to get the consistency of cream.  Scald the cream and mix it with the egg yolks and whisk it into the hot soup.  Reheat without boiling and add the rum or Madeira. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with crisp croutons.  Delicious!

As I write, Fastnacht in southwestern Germany is coming to an end.  Last evening was the beginning of the last week prior to Lent.  We went to the Gasthaus Rebstock for what we Canadians always called "Dirty Thursday" (Schmutziger Donnerstag in German), but the traditional name is Hemdglunker Nacht (night shirt evening).  Münchweier's traditional parade began at 7 p.m.  

The Wirt from the Rebstock is on the left in the picture below.  This is the main room with the bar.
It is said that the men and women go wild on that night thus the name given.  Whether they do or not is another thing altogether!  The Gasthaus was decorated for the occasion in all their main rooms. After the parade, everyone--participants and onlookers--came back to continue the celebration.  They all certainly outlasted us, as the last ones left at 5 a.m. the following morning!

Metzelsuppe is one the Rebstock always serves with their Schlactplatte, which they did just two weeks ago when we attended--along with friends--that special buffet.  The soup is made from the stock in which the meat and the different types of Wurst--including blood sausage--were cooked in. It is not one that I particularly like due to the idea of the Blutwurst.  But, it is very tasty nonetheless and nearly everyone had some to begin the dinner (other than me; however, I did taste it and it was very good).  Unfortunately, I do not have a recipe for this soup.  Here in our area of Germany it is usually made by a Metzger.  The Rebstock has its own butcher shop.

The Schlactplatte buffet below.  It was held during the Fastnacht days.

  The parade began at 7 p.m. beside the church and just behind the Rebstock.
 Everyone wearing one form or another of a night shirt or robe

The children are included and have a wonderful time

The decorated side room of the Rebstock below and ready for the crowd to enter.  The early birds have their seats.  The music will begin once the parade is over.

Below, a glimpse of the room behind me.  Still quiet.  We sat next to the bar with a good view of it all.  I am not in a nightgown although we have worn them in earlier years.  We each wore a Fastnachtmask chain around our necks though.

Lent is almost upon us.  A bowl of soup is without many calories so a good idea for those watching what they eat during this traditional time.

I have given several soup recipes in various blogs that were not about soup and, from time to time, will in others. 

Guten Appetit!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Autumn Days in Germany with Friends

Fall colours in our backyard in early November

I returned from Nova Scotia in early September.  One week later our friends Jean, John and Leona arrived from Canada, the beginning of many outings, dinners and Fests, as several other friends followed them into late fall.  The three stayed at a great Ferienwohnung that Hans managed to find for them on the outskirts of Münchweier It was a mini apartment with all amenities.  Even better, it was a pleasant walk to the Gasthaus Rebstock where many a time they stopped by to quench their thirst or to have a bite to eat--as did we.

Gasthaus Rebstock Münchweier
One of the highlights during their visit was a Schnaps tasting, as the owners of their apartment also owned a Brennerei or distillery, one that has been in the same family for many years and is now run by the daughter of that family.  We, of course, joined them. 

In years gone by the distillery rights of farmers in the Schwarzwald were always passed to the oldest son-- or daughter if there were no sons.  This tradition, however, is no longer adhered to. A farmer who now has the distillery right may even sell it, but the fruit used for making the Schnaps still has to come primarily from the trees of that farmer's land.  Most Schnaps in southern Germany are made from cherries, pears, plums and apples.


The hand carving below is almost as high as the roof shown above it.  It is at the entrance of the Brennerei.
We were given a tour and a tasting (no cost) and time to decide just what we would like to buy.  Both liqueurs and Schnaps were available.  I tasted a peach liqueur and it had a lovely flavour.

 Jean and Leona looking things over

The tasting glasses were on the table for everyone to help themselves 
Jean ready to head back 

Below, Leona reading the list of Schnaps and Liqueurs available 
and Hans at the table with the decorated room partly shown.  They all managed to buy a bottle or so to take back home--as did we. 

Wending our way back up the hill to the Ferienwohnung before then heading back down to the Rebstock in the town below.

We, of course, entertained at home with one of Jean's favourite meals in Germany:  Wurst and cheese.  All of them love a Vesper, which happens to be Hans' favourite meal.

Various types of Wurst
A glass of Schnaps is nearly always served with a Vesper.  Note the bottle on the table.  Red wine is in the other glasses except for John and Hans' beer glasses.

We also served a variety of cheese which Hans bought in France at a supermarket in Rhinau, a half hour from us.  The gang enjoyed it all.  

Jean's face showed her reaction to the high alcohol content of the Schnaps, which can be as high as 52 percent.

On a Monday afternoon we drove to Biederbach to the Deutscher Hof (shown below), a Gasthaus we go to every second week and sit at the Stammtisch with a group of German friends.  
The subject of Schnaps came up (often does!).   Landolin and Barbara knew where there was a farmer who made his own Schnaps and said they would lead us there through the woods and hills, along narrow roads, to that farm.  Hans had had a bottle from that farmer previously, said it was excellent, but had never been there himself.  So, following Landolin and Barbara, off Jean, John, Leona, Hans and I went.

Sitting outside the farmer's house at his picnic table on a beautiful fall day.  Landolin and Barbara are in front, backs to us.  Jean, John and Hans facing them.
The friendly farmer and Brenner brought out his various types of Schnaps and, of course, offered samples to everyone and as much as we wished, all at no cost.  No one, however, went overboard!  I am not a Schnaps drinker but I did enjoy watching the ceremony and the amazement of our Canadian friends, as that would never happen in most of Canada--at least as far as we know.

This was our view

Hans talking to Barbara and Landolin.  They live in a town not far from there but on the other side of the mountain from us and from the Deutscher Hof.

The Brenner and farmer giving us some information.

John and Leona bought a bottle to take home to Canada.  Hans bought a bottle as well and will again.  It is not an easy place to find, tucked into the hills and along a country road.

One of the highlights for John on his visit to Germany was the pair of Trachten trousers and shirt that Hans presented him with.  John has German roots so he was thrilled.

The "boys" in Trachten.  They are in shadow, but it is the clothing here that is important.  This is at the Rebstock in Münchweier.

As it happened while the three were here, the "blessing of the horses" took place on a Sunday in Ettenheimmünster, as it does every year.  After the church service, the priest and congregation parade through the town with horses following.  Eventually, everyone ends at the Fest where food, wine, beer and soft drinks can be had. 

Below, horses and riders having a relaxing ride before the ceremony began.  This was just down from our house and just before heading down the hill myself.  The "gang" had already walked down.

The procession leaving the church after the service. We all then walked across the street to the Fest area for lunch and some liquid refreshment.

Enjoying the food and drink after the church service and parade.  Hans' arm is in the forefront, so we had a good seat.  It became busy shortly thereafter.

A few days after John and Leona returned to Canada, Chris, who presently lives in Holland, joined Jean, staying at the same Ferienwohnung.  

A few days later, Nancy and Jim arrived from Nova Scotia for their first visit back to Germany in 36 years.  Hans had found a wonderful apartment for them in the centre of Münchweier, the same town in which they had lived for a year in 1970.  Jim had been posted to Canadian Forces Base Lahr at that time.  It certainly meant that they had a lot of catching up to do! 

All were lucky to have been here during festival time.  The following Sunday, another Fest, this time in Münchweier.  It meant that all our Canadian friends enjoyed some of the fall festivities.

We sat inside to eat and to enjoy the band music.  Here is a view of the room.  This is used for the Fest each year but also for soccer fans as there is a soccer field close by.

Some great Fest music

Below, the group of us outside at a picnic table after the band finished playing. From left side front:  Jean from N.S., me and then Hans; Gilbert, our friend from the Alsace, France; Nancy next with Jim opposite, our friends from Nova Scotia; then our 92-year-old friend Adolf who lives in Münchweier and is now the oldest resident in town; then Paula, from the Alsace, and next to her, on the near right, Chris, down from Holland.

 Another view:  Hans, Nancy, Jim, Adolf, Gilbert, Paula
We spent a great evening in Ichenheim at the Gasthaus Schwanen with our friends Jeanne and Ned from Chester, Nova Scotia, who were in the area for three days.  We, they and our friends here, Hans and Sylvi, had a wonderful dinner.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures that night.  (Here is a picture of Ned and Jeanne from a visit in N.S. a year or two ago.  On that occasion, it was a spaghetti noon dinner, compliments of Hans who left enough sauce in the freezer for me to use.) 

Two popular items on the menu at the Schwanen:  omelet and a pork dish with pineapple and cheese melted over it all, accompanied by their own croquettes.  Along with a salad it is a wonderful meal.  It is my very favourite and the owner's wife remembered that even after four or five years.  I always ordered it!  This was our first time back since then.  It is at a distance from us so we rarely go out that way now at night.

The omelet is enough for two people! It is filled with ham, potatoes and mushrooms.  One of our friends often has it; I never have, mainly because I could never eat even half of it!


The pinapple pork dish looks a bit untidy, but it is superb!  All that cheese and hollandaise sauce and such a wonderful flavour.  (The croquettes are served from a side dish, so always lots of them.)
The last friends to arrive, Ingrid, from B.C., and her sister Rita, who lives in Cologne, Germany, we saw for only one evening.  We had dinner at the lovely Gasthaus Krone in Freiamt. Unfortunately I have no pictures from that evening.  But here is one from their visit two years ago.

Rita on the left; Ingrid on the right

Fall to us means Zwiebelkuchen and neuer Wein.  We did get to another favourite market to enjoy both. 

Enjoying the new wine on a sunny fall day


The onion tart we took home to eat later.  It was excellent.


On another occasion at home, we had the Zwiebelkuchen below along with the new wine.  This neuerwein had fermented longer than the one above, which was very new.

As I write, it is early February.  The sun is shining and it is a beautiful day.  We did have some very cold weather for about 25 days in January, unusual for us here in southwestern Germany.

The first picture I took was from inside our living room; the second one from the patio.  These were on two different days. 

These icicles were the first we have had in years. Water dripped down onto our rosemary plant, an herb we use year round.  It is now very large and needs cutting.  The icicles attached themselves to a pot that had formerly had flowers in it and froze there. 

Same direction as the horses heading down the hill, but now it is winter.  The snow, however, is gone.
Spring is just around the corner.  Here in Germany Fastnacht is in full swing, those noisy and fun-filled days caught between Christmas and Easter.  The first parade in our area was on 14 January; the last one will be the day before Lent begins.  Thus far, we have not attended any of them but might take a parade in before the quiet time of Lent arrives.

Enjoy your winter carnivals along with a glass of wine or a beer or another favourite refreshment.