It may be cloudy skies around here, but it's Saturday -- a day for lounging on the couch in pajamas, catching up on the week's television and starting new books. Who needs sunshine? Hot chocolate, a snuggly puppy, and My Life in France are enough for me.
Nothing has ever tasted quite so sweet. Half the fun is wondering whether the cart will be patiently awaiting you in the PX parking lot. The other half is deciding between caramel and chocolate dipping sauce. Freshly deep fried before your eyes on a miniature donut conveyer belt deep-frying contraption...this is joy. Pure, bite-sized joy.
It's also the mortal enemy of your New Year's Resolution to lose 20 pounds. Thank the heavens I didn't make one of those.
I love how beautiful German castles look at night when they're illuminated. My previous cameras never did the scene justice, but Kyle and I were able to snap a pretty good photo with my new Canon in Heidelberg today, and I had to share it.
When the castles are alight, you can spot them from miles away. That's actually how we discovered three of the ruins we visited (Neuleiningen Ruins, Wachtenburg and Burg Nanstein) -- we saw the castles through the car window from the autobahn while heading home from some other trip, and I scribbled down the name of the closest exit. Living here feels like living in a fairy land. I can't turn a corner without finding something magical.
No doubt you've noticed many blacked out websites today in protest of the PIPA/SOPA bills. If you're wondering what that's all about, check this video out, and then go here for more information on how you can help stop internet censorship in its tracks.
Lately it seems like everything is "going digital." Almost all of my favorite magazines offer subscriptions through eReaders or eReading apps, books release to Kindle and Nook within days of releasing in paper form, and I have read more than one article debating whether eReaders are a prelude to the demise of the printed word. It's a book eat eBook (and tablet eat Kindle) world out there, guys. The race is on to create the cheapest, most versatile, slimmest and most efficient tablet/eReader, and it sometimes seems as if paper books are being left in the dust.
I'm not quite sure how to feel about all this. I grew up with books. Real books. The kind with bright covers and crisp pages that whisper together as you turn them. They had dust jackets and dog eared corners and worn edges from being passed around to friends, family and neighbors. Over the years I have accumulated more books than I can count (four full cases in my home, and 12+ boxes in storage from childhood). I have a deep rooted love of books, and each and every one I own feels like an old friend.
On the other hand, I havemore books than I can count. My collection is heavy, takes up vast amounts of space, and is beyond difficult to move. I always have a book with me, and, when traveling, this is impractical. Paper books are clunky and heavy, and it seems like all my favorites are ridiculously thick. Because of these inconveniences, I've become a proud Kindle owner.
Despite my attachment to old-fashioned printed books, I love my Kindle. It's light. It's sleek, small and stylish. It was reasonably priced. It has an extraordinary battery life -- up to a whole month on a single charge! And best of all, most eBooks cost considerably less than newly released hardbacks. I've read around thirty eBooks on my Kindle, and I was surprised how natural and comfortable it felt. Since the screen isn't back-lit, its easy on the eyes, and most of my eBooks feature all the same embellishments and unique fonts as their paper counterparts. I am eternally grateful that I can accumulate new reading material without an even bigger mass of paper to lug around for the rest of my life.
However, I am by no means returning my library card, or letting go of my paper books in lieu of digital copies. I still purchase paper copies of new favorites, and I cannot imagine reading a magazine in any form other than in its original paper binding. Half the fun of a magazine is physically flipping through the pages, and nothing will ever replace the feeling of snuggling up on the sofa with a real book in my hands on a lazy afternoon. Beyond emotional attachment, printed words have a sense of permanence, a certain stability, that digital text lacks. Books have been around for ages, but how long can we hope to use our eReaders before newer, better technology is developed? My Kindle (much like my old iPod mini) has a shelf life that's only valid until something shinier comes along. While I hope I'll be able to transfer my Kindle library onto whatever newfangled device I next acquire, I'm not taking any chances: my paper copies are here to stay.
[This video says it best: "There's nothing quite like a real book."]
So, will eReading eventually phase out the printed word? I sure hope not. I am pleased as punch that our tech saavy world spewed out eReaders, but for me, the printed word holds too many memories to be idly tossed aside.
Where do you stand on the Reading vs. eReading debacle?
Last year I came up with six clear, reasonable goals that I wanted to accomplish in 2011. (They were NOT resolutions. Resolutions are those silly statements people make on New Year's Eve and then forget about the next day.) Happily, I've completed five of them, and the one goal left by the wayside was only abandoned because of circumstances out of my control. Pretty darn spiffy work, if I do say so myself. So with last year's success, how could I not make a new set of goals for 2012?
1) Teach Brinks tricks. Now, don't go imagining anything crazy. I'm just talking about basic commands...like "sit," and "stay," and, "roll over," and "play dead." And maybe, if I'm feeling ambitious, I'll try to get him to dance in a circle on his back legs on cue. (He sometimes does this spontaneously, and it's the cutest thing I've ever seen.)
2) Go to Cologne and Trier, and take at least one overnight vacation with husband. Last year I accomplished my goal of seeing Paris. This year I'm making my travel goals a little more challenging. Cologne and Trier have been sitting on my "to see" list for too long. They need to be checked off. But the real challenge will be finding the time to take a decent vacation with Kyle. What with his constantly changing schedule, we can barely go out to dinner together, let alone take a trip. However, I'm determined to make it happen. We need a break from this tiny little Army post.
3) Be a better pen pal. (Sorry, Stasie!) I crossed "find a pen pal" off my bucket list ages ago, but I am terrible at keeping up with letters. It might have something to do with the post office being so far away...but that's not an excuse. In 2012, I am making it my mission to answer all letters within a week of arrival. With no exceptions.
4) Be more active. As a housewife, it's easy to become lethargic. Being away from all things familiar, it's even easier. But it's out of character for me to stay shut in my own apartment as much as I have been lately. Maybe it's just the homesickness getting to me...or maybe it's the colder weather these days... Whatever the reason it has to end. Each week of 2012 I want work out at least twice, and have at least one outing with a friend. No more hiding out. It's not good for the soul. (Or my skinny jeans.)
5) Master Italian Buttercream. The last (and only) time I attempted buttercream frosting, it kicked my butt. I've been too afraid to try it since. This year, no matter how many eggs I waste, I WILL make perfect Italian Buttercream. Even if it kills me.
6) Read another fifty books. Last year I challenged myself to read fifty books (documented on Goodreads) and I exceded my goal (56!). I want to do that again. But this year, I want at least ten of those fifty books to be non-fiction. You know, for substance. So I'll take any recomendations you can throw my way.
Do you make resolutions? If so, what are they? And did you keep any of last year's?
view of the residential part of the palace from the gardens in back
On our way to Speyer last week, my friends and I stopped in Schwetzingen to tour the palace and its immense gardens. It was gorgeous, but I can't wait to go back in the spring or summertime when the fountains are working and the flowers are in bloom. It must be fantastic! Unfortunately, cameras weren't allowed inside the palace (which was also beautiful, preserved/restored to 18th century rococo style), so the following photos are all taken from outside and in the gardens.
The front of the palace was being restored.
The tour encompassed the personal living areas of the palace (which, although very large, was only a summer home), and was given in German. However, we were provided with transcripts of the information given and could follow along easily enough. After about an hour of wandering through 18th century powder rooms, parlors and studies, we were allowed to walk through the gardens on our own. The gardens are massive! Since we were only passing through on our way to Speyer, we didn't even walk all the way through before it was time for us to leave.
The tour and garden admission was 7 euro (a bargain!), and we were told that in the tourist season tours are also given in English. You can visit the palace website here for the palace's history and information about hours, pricing and special events.
Last Friday a few friends and I drove down to Speyer to see the Cathedral and do some shopping. (We also made a stop in Schwetzingen to tour the palace and gardens, but that's another post.) The weather wasn't at it's greatest, but we still had a great time and managed to get a few good photos. The town was still all dressed up for Christmas -- lights still strung and trees still adorned. There was even a Christmas Market in full swing for Three Kings Day, and I was more than happy to munch on one last steak sandwich for this holiday season.
Fun facts: Construction on the cathedral began in 1030, at the bequest of Emperor Conrad II, and took 80 years to complete. Measuring 133 meters in length, it is the largest example of Romanesque architecture in Germany. If you're interested in the cathedral's history, you can read about it here and here.