It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Desiderata

When life is racing past you and you feel that you're in risk of "falling off the edge", take a moment, take a breath, and have a read of Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata" ...

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Press Pause

Like many bloggers, I read lots of other blogs and I know what it's like to click onto your favourite blogs and to see that no-one has updated anything and you don't know if something is wrong, or if they're ever going to update again.

Anyway, everything is fabulous here, but I've got a few busy things going on right about now.  I'm not just going to disappear, but I'm not going to be posting as regularly until about the middle of June.  There might still be the odd post, but not anything as regular as there has been.

I will be back, promise, I'm just pressing pause.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flight Counter

Every year I say to myself that I'm going to remember how many flights I've been on, and that I'm going to keep a count, and every year I forget.

One of my favourite songs is Everything But The Girl's "One Place" where they sing about always being on the move and one of the lines is "twenty-five planes this year, and it's only July".  Each time I hear it, I think I must count mine.  So here goes, I'm going to keep a count on the blog, using plane icons.

So far this year I've racked up 10 flights, and more are coming up.
Wonder how many I'll get to this year?

Everything But The Girl : One Place

A summer evening; I walk past the windows, 
The Baby cryin’; Someone's cooking dinner; 
There's laughter on TV 
And someone's learning the violin
And how at home, at peace
At times like this, I feel

I would like to live like anybody else 
In one place 
And I could be happy and fulfilled 
In one place 

So I get the map out 
And draw a line of where we've been 
It goes thru sea and sky 
Twenty-five planes this year 
It's only July... 
This is not some Bible, like "On The Road" 
It's just a song about coming home 
And whether... 

I could live like anybody else 
In one place 
And I could be happy and fulfilled 
In one place 

You know that I have found 
I'm happiest weavin’ from town to town 
You know Bruce said 
we should keep movin’ 'round 
Maybe we all get too tied down, I don't know 
Yeah, I don't know 
Happy to be home (Still alive) 
Happy to be home... alright

In the end, if you take care 
You can be happy or unhappy anywhere 

I think we maybe all rely too much 
On one place 
Oh I never would deny the need 
For one place 
I think we may all rely too much babe
On one place
Oh I know I never would deny the need
For one place

So I get the map out (get the map out) 
Yeah I get the map out (get the map out) 
C'mon, get the map out (get the map out) 
Get the map out (get the map out)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cream Cheese Pound Cake Recipe

Just had great success with this Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe that I was sent from Betty Crocker.  Along with other things, it takes 6 eggs and 1 pack of cream cheese, so you know it's going to be good and rich.  One of the main ingredients is Bisquick and that's easy to find if you're in the US, but harder here in Germany.  I buy mine from REWE and I know REAL stock it too - look in the imported good section.  The English Shop in Cologne also have it in their online store.  It's yum, give it a try!

Cream Cheese Pound Cake (makes 12 good slices)

  1. 3 cups Bisquick
  2. 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
  3. 1/2 cup plain (all purpose) flour 
  4. 3/4 cup butter or margarine
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. pinch of salt
  7. 6 eggs
  8. 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  9. Powdered sugar for decorating if desired

  • Heat oven to 350f/180c
  • Grease (I used that liquid butter stuff that you can buy for frying and it worked an absolute treat) and flour 12 cup bundt tin or 2 loaf pans (9x5 inch, or whatever you've got kicking around in your cake tin drawer)
  • Beat all ingredients (except powdered sugar) in large bowl on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl frequently
  • Beat on medium speed 4 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally
  • Pour into pan
  • Bake 55-60 minutes, or until skewer/sharp knife comes out clean
  • Scrape remaining mix from bowl straight into your mouth - I'm classy like that
  • Cool 5 minutes then turn cake out onto wire rack or heatproof serving plate and allow to cool completely
  • Pass some over the fence to your lovely neighbours, send some into the office with your husband, take some over to your friends who are moving house, and EAT IT!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer Soundtrack #4

I'm reaching way back into the past here, and picking another fabulous Aussie band, "George" and their 2002 double platinum album, "Polyserena".

Glorious voices, fabulous lyrics and oodles of beauty abound on this album.  Sister and brother team, Katie Noonan and Tyrone Noonan grew up with a strong background of classical music, their mother Maggie Noonan was a well known opera singer, and Katie studied opera and jazz at the Queensland Conservatorium.  I took my Mum to see Katie and her Mum in concert in Adelaide about 10 years ago and it was really beautiful, their voices are astonishing.

Anyway, get your hands on Polyserena and enjoy the beautiful vocals and tight musical score - you'll love it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Summer Sound Track #3

I know, I know, I can hear your brains exploding.  "Missy Higgins, Kenny Chesney and NOW the Ministry of Sound?  What is she doing to us?"  Fret not, friends.  I am not a clubber, nor am I into house, trance or dance music.  What I am into is chill-out music (amongst other things) and the Ministry of Sound has a great selection of chill-out albums.  Pick any one of the many they have, pour yourself a long, cool drink, find a comfy sunny spot and relax.

Need to wind things back a notch?  This album will do you just fine.

Number 3 on my Summer Sound Track list?  Ministry of Sound Chill-out.  Exhale and relax, my friends.  Exhale and relax.  And repeat ...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Freudental Castle Ride

Freudental Castle

Friday was another of those days that you remember.  Where the weather is perfect and the company is perfect and it's one of those "best days" that you pull out when you're feeling a bit low.

Many of my "best days" involve horses, and this was no exception.  I got to the barn for my morning ride and Giaco was already pretty clean and Judith (my good friend, trainer and Giaco's owner) had plaited him up so he looked like a Prince.

Hello there, Prince Charming!

Giaco tried to do his latest trick of yawning and rolling his eyes as soon as I got close to his head with the bridle, as if to say "No, really, I'm just too tired today".  Instead of creasing with laughter, as I had been doing, when he was doing a huge theatrical yawn, I slipped the bit into his mouth and the bridle over his ears.  He got tricked, and the look on his face was priceless!  "Wait, what?  Hang on! What did you do there?".

Judith saddled her gorgeous 20 year old Hanoverian, Warwick, whilst I was organising Giaco and we jumped on and headed out into the forest in the sunshine.  We rode along sun dappled tracks and past huge fields of rapeseed before we turned along an ancient "Begging Road", following in the path of so many who had walked to Freudental Castle in the old days to beg for food and assistance.

There were horses and cows grazing at the sides of the road and our horses were on their toes, all zippy and happy to be alive on such a perfect day.  We had some lovely collected canters along the paths and through the forest, chatting all the while.  Judith is wonderful and rides alongside, or behind me, giving instruction the whole time - I'm getting better!

We didn't go all the way to the castle, but I think Giaco would like to have gone begging there for some carrots and a cuddle!  Lucky we did the ride when we did, as the following day the temperature dropped by 20c and the rain was coming in horizontally (and Giaco LOATHES water).

So, that's one of my perfect days - thanks Judith!  Is it only me, or do other people have perfect days involving horses too?

This is the view I saw on the way to the barn - glorious!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer Sound Track #2

Hey, you can't say you weren't warned.  I said my musical tastes were a bit odd.  I wasn't kidding.

When we were living in Detroit, I started listening to country music stations and, no word of a lie, I like new country.

I've got a soft spot for Kenny Chesney and have most of his albums, but let's not mess around here, just get your hands on the "Greatest Hits" package and you'll be fine.  This man can sing.  His voice sounds like melted chocolate.  Yes, it's country, but it's new country, so it's not like Johnny Cash or Dolly Parton.  This music charts on normal charts, not just country charts, it's cross-over stuff.

He was the dude who was married to Renee Zellweger for about one hot minute, and I saw him interviewed on Oprah once - the man didn't take his hands out of his pocket for a second, I wanted to slap him over the back of the head for his rudeness.  I don't think he's particularly attractive (though millions of women would disagree with me), and he looks spectacularly ridiculous on this album cover - but he can sing.

So, Kenny makes my number two spot on the Summer Sound Track - and I've got a sneaking suspicion that he won't be the only new country singer on the list ...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kirstie Allsopp's Banana Cake

I was given Kirstie Allsopp's "Craft" book for Christmas, and I love it!  It's full of recipes, crafting ideas, cheery photos and easy projects for the "create and design" challenged amongst us (aka me).  The book accompanies her show that was on Channel 4 (UK) last year, which I watched faithfully - dreaming of being able to create lovely, interesting things (the sort of things my Mum can do with her eyes shut and her hands tied behind her back - skills which were NOT inherited by me).

I've been a huge fan of Kirstie and Phil and their show "Location, Location, Location" for years, so I was thrilled to see her pop up in her own show.  The first series of "Craft" was such a success that there is a second series in production now.

Anyway, I've cooked her Banana Cake recipe from the book a few times and it's dead easy and always comes out just like you'd hope.  There's no added sugar so it's not tooth-achingly sweet, it's just good and yummy, and I've got one cooking in the oven as I type this.

It calls, as do all Banana Cake recipes, for very ripe or over-ripe bananas.  I can't let mine get too ripe as I've got issues with seeing bananas go black, it turns my stomach (yes, just one of my many issues), so my bananas are always pretty yellow with only a few black bits because I can't bear to have to see them in my kitchen as they deteriorate further.

An over ripe banana - I feel sick.

I'm going to try a new recipe for cream cheese frosting to go on my cake today, so I'll advise how that goes in a later post.  Who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?  YUM!

Here's the recipe - give it a try!

Kirstie Allsop's Banana Cake Recipe (my comments in italics)

  • 4 ripe bananas (or as ripe as you can stand - issues, people, issues)
  • 150g melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1tsp vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 180c (gas mark 4).  Line 21x11cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper.  I just use a loaf tin from my cake tin drawer, I've got no idea how big it is.
  • Mash up bananas in large bowl (yuck, yuck, yuck), then mix in butter and eggs.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  I use a mixmaster for the mixing bit, but I reckon you could do it by hand if you had more energy than me.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place in the oven for about 45 minutes.  I turn mine half way through cooking as our oven is old and a bit dodgy - and check it after 40 minutes.  Cake is ready when a skewer stuck into the middle comes out clean.  I can never find a skewer and I can reliably state that a sharp knife does the job just as well.  Where are my skewers?!?!?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer Sound Track #1

I did the round trip to Memmingen airport on Monday and covered 300km before lunch.  I didn't have any music playing in the car on the way there, as I had my parents-in-law with me and I don't like to impose my musical tastes (strange, wide and varied) on anyone.  The weather was perfect for a long drive home though, and I turned the music on and up and had a bit of a Missy Higgins retrospective.

We left Australia about 7 years ago and Missy Higgins was quite big then, and I'd enjoyed her album "The Sound of White" quite a lot.  But since then, I hadn't really listened to it again.  Let me just say, I listened to it twice today and IT'S FANTASTIC!

I checked her website and she's released two more albums since we left, and there's another one on the way - busy girl!  Amongst other music styles, I'm a big fan of chilled out music, and Missy really works for me.  For those of you who love Sarah Barielles, you're going to LOVE Missy.

So, I'm going to put together my top 10 albums for a Summer Soundtrack and list them here on the blog.  Missy's "The Sound of White" is first up - perfect for a summers afternoon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hanging Beds?

This was the first hanging bed I ever saw, at Hotel de la Paix in Cambodia.  The restaurant use them for outside dining tables and I was immediately hooked on them.  So comfy!

We spend a lot of time travelling and have been lucky enough to go to some seriously amazing places, and even luckier to have had the chance to live in them.  As we travel I see fantastic bits of furniture, and things that fit happily into the "want" category, but "you can't always get what you want" (thanks Rolling Stones!), and sometimes you just have to file away the memory and think "maybe, one day".

Well, hanging beds are one of my "maybe, one day" things - and I'm obviously not the only one!  Can't you just see yourself (or yourself and your significant other), lounging about on some of these fab hanging beds on a sunny afternoon with a jug of sundowners and a stack of newspapers?  I know I can.

I think this is my favourite.  I love the extra space at the side for your papers and glasses - want!  Oh, and using pink and green (my fave colours) definitely helped my decision.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Like BIG Books ...

I do love a big book.  And when I say "big book", I'm talking 400+ pages.  I love a big, fabulous, interesting, don't want to put it down, can't stop turning the pages book.  I love that kind of book on a quiet, rainy afternoon - or a stormy night at bed time.  There's nothing like snuggling down on a stormy night with a big, fat book (my husband would disagree!).  Oh, and I don't like eBooks, I like proper books, make from paper, that you can touch.  Big books rule.

My guilty secret big book writers are Jilly Cooper and Diana Gabaldon.  Do you like big books?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mainau Island

On Thursday I took my holidaying parents-inlaw to visit Mainau, the amazing garden island just a causeway's walk away from the coast near Konstanz.  Our friend, Susi, had told me that the tulip displays were looking amazing, and she was absolutely right!

I had been before, with my parents, at a different time of year, and it was grey and raining - there weren't really any blooms out and it was all very nice, but not "wow".  This time, however, it was an absolutely glorious spring day and there were tulips everywhere!  Tulips are my favourite flower and I just couldn't believe how many different kinds they had.  I'll post a stack of my iPhone photos below so you can get an idea of how many they have planted.

There is also a fantastic butterfly house (free), and a great palm house (free) that was hosting an exhibition of seriously amazing orchids.  Everyone who walked through the doors of the palm house (no matter the nationality), stopped dead in their tracks and said "Oh, WOW!".  "Wow!" is international?  Who knew?  I know "ouch!" is.

There's lots of parking, or you can get there by bus or ferry.  There's loads of cafes and restaurants, but you're allowed to bring your own picnics if you'd prefer.  You can bring your dogs also.  There is a seriously amazing playground for the kids, one of the best I've ever seen - just be prepared for them to get a bit muddy at the mud pie station, or wet whilst riding the rafts.  I wanted to have a go myself!

Entry to the island isn't cheap at €16.90 for adults and €9.50 for kids, but you can spend the whole day there, take your own food and drink, and you'd certainly get your moneys worth.  You can also buy an annual pass (€45 for an adult) if you think you'll be there more than a few times in a year.

 Mainau is an island in Lake Constance (on the south shore of the Überlinger See near the city of KonstanzBaden-WürttembergGermany). It is maintained as a garden island and a model of excellent environmental practices. 
The island belongs to the Lennart Bernadotte Foundation), an entity created by the late Prince Lennart, Count Bernadotte af Wisborg, formerly a Prince of Sweden and Duke of Småland. It is one of the main tourist attractions of Lake Constance. Beside flowers there is a park landscape with views on the lake. There is also a greenhouse with tropical climate and thousands of butterflies.
Mainau Bay is the location of the university sailing club; their many small sailboats add to the summer scenery.
Until the Napoleonic mediatisations and secularisations of small German fiefs this island belonged to the Order of Teutonic Knights. It was later sold into private ownership. In 1853 Grand Duke Frederick I of Baden purchased the island as his personal property and built a summer palace there. At the end of World War IBaden became a republic with the abdication of Grand Duke Frederick II, son of Frederick I. The former Grand Duke retained his private property including Mainau. When he died childless in 1928 the island passed to his sister Victoria of Baden, wife of King Gustaf V of Sweden. Upon her death two years later she bequeathed the island to her second son Prince Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland and his descendants.
In 1932 Prince Wilhem gave Mainau to his only child Count Lennart Bernadotte who owned it until 1974 when he transferred the island to a foundation. Count Bernadotte formed Enterprise Mainau GmbH in 1991 as a private enterprise to manage the island for the benefit of the Lennart Bernadotte-Stiftung. The Count remained active in managing Mainau until his death in 2004 but appointed his second wife Sonja co-manager in 2001. Lennart's widow Sonja Countess Bernadotte af Wisborg and his children ran both the foundation and the management company until 2007. Since January 2007 Bettina Bernadotte, the eldest daughter of Lennart and Sonja Bernadotte, directs the Mainau GmbH as the current manager.
Mainau is a "flowering island" notable for its parks and gardens. Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden, created the island's arboretum, which now contains 500 species of deciduous and coniferous trees, many exotic and valuable, including fine specimens of Sequoiadendron giganteum (1864) and Metasequoia glyptostroboides (1952). The island also contains about 200 rhododendron and azalea varieties.
The Italian Rose Garden laid out geometrically with pergolas, sculptures, and fountains, and includes some 500 rose varieties. The Mediterranean terraces contain exotic pot plants, including palm treesagavescacti, and Bougainvillea. The island as a whole contains about 30,000 rose bushes representing 1,200 varieties, and about 20,000 dahlias of 250 varieties.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

The UK is in Drought

A substantial part of the UK is now suffering drought conditions, resulting in bans on using garden hoses etc.  However, a fair proportion of the UK is suffering huge rainfall and flooding.  The UK has just experienced its wettest April since record keeping began.  This photo is my favourite "drought photo" so far.  These swans are swimming along flooded a walkway (yes, walkway) in Worcester, which is one the areas under drought restrictions ...

I'm also mad for this tshirt from Balcony Shirts.  I imagine it could be worn whilst rowing your dinghy down the main street on your way to the shops ...

I know that drought is serious - hey, I'm from Australia, where we have real droughts - but I think the UK needs to look a wee bit harder at its water management strategies.  It's not a big country, they get lots of rain, they just need to make sure it's diverted to the right areas.  Apparently the rain they're getting at the moment "isn't the right kind of rain" to alleviate the drought conditions.  Really.  Ducks are swimming into the pubs.  It's the right kind of rain.

Oh, and here's a link to the UK Environment Agency, just so you can check on drought/flood threats to your area -

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

German Soccer Hooliganism

Now, you all know that we live in Germany, and it's honestly the safest place I've ever been.  German people, on the whole, are incredibly law abiding, upright and honest citizens.  I feel very safe here in my home, walking anywhere in our town (day or night), and even passing big groups of teenagers/young adults (that would have me on edge anywhere else).

But now a different kind of violence is growing in Germany; football hooliganism - and it's not pretty.  Here's an article from The Local, that they've lifted from No Dice magazine.

Football violence is increasing in Germany, with reports of trouble at games now almost every week. At the same time, the Bundesliga is booming. The Local asked Jacob Sweetman of No Dice magazine to square the circle.

Even as international football connoisseurs begin to pay increasing attention to German football and Bundesliga matches are televised all over the world – the recent battle royale between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund was reportedly aired in over 200 countries – the German Football Association (DFB) is struggling to hold back a new tide of football hooliganism. 

Two weeks ago, a Leverkusen player had his nose broken after being recognised by hostile fans in Cologne, while in March, 14 Dynamo Dresden fans were arrested after defying a stadium ban and getting into a brawl at Eintracht Frankfurt stadium.

Earlier in the month, a gang of Cologne fans coordinated a bizarre and terrifying attack on a bus full of Mönchengladbach fans as they were driving along the autobahn. Several cars and vans reportedly forced the bus into a service station, where around 40 men smashed its windows with baseball bats and iron bars. Luckily no-one was hurt inside the bus, which contained several children.

So what can the DFB and the police do to counter the violence? And are they doing anything wrong? Jacob Sweetman, editor of Berlin's English-language football magazine No Dice, thinks that the authorities could learn a lesson from England.

What's the first thing that strikes an English football fan coming to a German game?

It's very old-fashioned for me. It's like returning to England in the 80s. And the fans are very united, compared to England, where so many traditional fans - working class young men - have been priced out of the game. They're traditionally the ones who make the noise, but they're also traditionally the ones who cause the trouble. 

In England so many young men have been priced out of the game, partly because of all-seater stadiums, and partly because of land-grabbers – people wanting to make money out of football. 

In Germany, the young working class men still make up the majority of football fans travelling to games. They get pissed up, they shout and sing a lot and they fight a bit at times. That's the primary difference between Germany and England. That's also why a lot of English fans are coming over to watch German football. It's seen as being "real" football – you've got terracing, you're allowed to drink in the stadiums, it's loud and it's affordable. 

But weirdly, German football fans still see England as the home of football culture. And German troublemakers even look up to England as the home of hooligan culture. You see Union Jack tattoos all the time. It's all about branding. The German "Hoolywood" label is modelled on the English "Lonsdale," which in England is associated with the far-right.

Which German clubs' fans have the worst reputation, and are they associated with neo-Nazis?

You've got Dynamo Dresden, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hansa Rostock. But it's hard to say if they're really political. You've got some nasty bastards in there, but it's more just tribal fighting, as far as I can see. Obviously, St. Pauli fans are much more left-wing than Rostock fans, so there's natural flashpoints between them, but I wouldn't say it's politically driven.

A few weeks ago, fans of FC Union Berlin held up a banner that read "Fuck the DFB," at their game against Frankfurt, and helped the away fans defy a stadium ban by letting them in. Obviously there's a lot of hostility towards the DFB, but what should it do about violence?

What can they do? They can either penalize the clubs with cash fines, but a lot of the time that is undermined by hardcore fans, ultras, who go round the stadium collecting money to pay them. The DFB needs to come up with a creative solution, because at the moment they're succeeding only in uniting the fans against them. The biggest problem is the DFB's intransigence. The fans don't believe the DFB has their interests at heart at all. That's why it gets called the Fussball Mafia – because they seem to see the Bundesliga as a beautiful little cash cow.

To a certain extent the problem was solved in England by pricing fans out of games, and that is now happening in Germany too, but that's not necessarily a constructive solution. I think stadium bans have been proven not to work. You'll still get people travelling anyway, and you'll still have trouble.

What role do you think the police plays?

One thing that doesn't help is the policing. In England they learned through the hard times how to police football fans. Here, the police still rule by intimidation and numbers, which is completely different to how football games are managed in England. 

There, they learned through years of shit that observation from afar is much more effective than having an intimidating line of tooled-up, ready-for-action policemen at the stadium. They know in advance who the troublemakers are, they have spotters. They can control things a lot easier. 

Here in Germany, you walk past them, eyeing you up wielding their truncheons. That's intimidating, and it winds people up and it doesn't help! If you treat people like animals they're going to behave like animals.

That's not to say football hooliganism has stopped in England, or that German violence is as bad as it was in the old days in England. I go to about three matches in Berlin every week, and I've never seen any serious trouble.