Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1, 1939 - Germany Invades Poland

Welcome to the WWII authors' WWII anniversary blog tour.

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September 1, 1939, as told by Gisela Cramer, heroine of Daisies Are Forever:
I was a teenager in school when Germany, my parents' homeland and the country where we lived, invaded Poland. I'll never forget waking up that morning for school. My mother was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Her face was pale, her hands shaking.

"What's wrong, Mutti?"

My mother wiped her hands on her apron and took a deep breath before turning to me. "It has happened. War has come. Last night, we invaded Poland."

I sat down hard in my chair, not really understanding what all of this meant. "Why are you so sad?"

She bit her lip, then placed my sausage in front of me. "Eat up. Who knows how long we'll be able to get food like this. In the last war, the Great War, there was hunger. We didn't have enough to eat. And the boys went off and never returned. Or, if they returned, they were never they same. That is how it was with my brother Friedrich."

Vater strode into the room, a smile across his face. "Ah, you heard the good news?"

Mutti slammed his coffee cup onto the table, the dark liquid sloshing over the side. "There is nothing good about war. Never."

"We had to do it. England is seeking domination over Europe again, encircling Germany, meaning to cut us off. And the Polish troops crossed the border first. We had no choice but to protect the Fatherland."

Mutti pursed her lips before answering. "You can't trust Hitler's propaganda."

Vater shot her a withering glance. "Hush. Don't say such things. These are dangerous times."

All of this talk made my hands clammy. I pushed my breakfast away. "Will you have to go fight, Vater?"

He shook his head. "I'm much too old. Don't worry. I'll be with you."

"Don't make the child promises you can't keep." Mutti brought her coffee to the table and sat down. "I'm so frightened. Look at what happened last time. This time will only be worse." She buried her head in her hands. It had been years since I'd seen Mutti cry. Not since my sister died.

Vater held her and whispered into her hair, things I couldn't hear.

Though I was fourteen, all of this talk made me want to crawl onto his lap and have him soothe me, too. The knot of fear in my stomach tightened. "What do we do now?"

Vater touched my hand. "We go about our lives. Today is a school day, so you will go to school. And I expect you to help Mutti with chores when you get home, the same as any other day."

But September 1, 1939, wasn't any other day. It was a day that changed our lives forever. It brought us such sorrow and hardship as we had never known. And also a joy that I couldn't imagine at the time.

Question: How old was Gisela Cramer when Germany invaded Poland?

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Potawatomi State Park - Day 2

Alyssa is a typical teenager and likes to sleep in. While she was still in bed, the rest of us had breakfast and decided to go kayaking. We had to take Jonalyn with us even though we only had two single kayaks. She went with me and sat in front of me because together we make the weight limit. It worked OK, but next time, I'm going to have her facing me. I kept whacking her in the head with the paddle!

They threatened rain later in the day, but the weather was fine for us. Cloudy and cool, but that way we didn't get too hot as we paddled.

There was some wind and out on Sturgeon Bay is was a bit choppy. We got some water in over the side of the kayak. At least we didn't tip over! It was so beautiful and peaceful and relaxing. What a great way to start the day. If only we could do that every day.

The forecast said a 90% chance of rain, so once Alyssa was up, we decided to head up to Fish Creek again for some shopping and dinner. It's fun to visit all the little shops inside these historic homes and buildings. We did come home with a pound of fudge - yum! Otherwise we browsed and touched (my BFF introduced me to the tactile pleasures of shopping LOL!) and enjoyed ourselves.

Then we decided to try something uniquely Door County - a fish boil. They have big pots of water over fires outside. The cook adds red potatoes, onions, and finally Lake Michigan whitefish to the pot. He told us the fish we were eating that night was either caught early that same day or the night before. Can't get much fresher than that!

The oil rises to the top of the water. At the very end, they add kerosene to the fire to overboil the pot and get rid of the grease.

We then went inside and ate the fish which they pour butter and lemon juice over, potatoes, onions, and applesauce.

Alyssa doesn't like fish, so she had a hamburger.

There are bones in the fish. We managed them alright. The problem was making sure there weren't any in Jonalyn's meat.

We finished off with cherry pie. Door County is famous for its cherries. The pie was delicious (yes, I went off the gluten free for it. And it was worth every moment of suffering.)

Do you like fish? How do you like it prepared?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Potawatomi State Park Day 1

We are back from a wonderful four days in Door County, Wisconsin. That's the thumb in the mitten if you're looking at a map. We camped at Potawatomi State Park, our first time there. Somehow or another, I managed to be incredibly organized, and we pulled out of our driveway at 10 a.m. We arrived in time to set up our campsite and have walking tacos before heading out on our first adventure.

We drove to Peninsula State Park where the American Folklore Theater is located. (They're going to be changing their name next year.) I forgot that it was so far from Sturgeon Bay to Fish Creek, so we were about ten minutes late, but it didn't matter. We saw the play Packer Fans from Outer Space. It sounds corny, but it was fabulous. It's an original script and so funny. The actors are very good and the music was outstanding.

There were even a few surprises.

 You can see that Jonalyn was rather taken by the entire production.

 The Packers vs. the Bears. Guess who won LOL!

We really enjoyed ourselves. This is an outdoor theater. For all the rain that we had this year, there haven't been many mosquitoes. For the two hours we sat out there, I only saw one of the pesky critters. And no need for that smelly Off.

We drove slowly through the park on the way back to our campground, enjoying the sunset over Green Bay. It truly is a beautiful place. Door County has been called the Cape Cod of the Midwest.

All in all, it was a great way to end the first day of our vacation. Have you ever been to an outdoor production of any kind?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Little "Me" Time

That sounds so selfish to say, doesn't it? "Me" time. As Christians, as women, as Christian women, we're programmed to put others first. And yes, that's important. Commanded by Christ.
But sometimes, you just need a little "me" time. A little bit of time for you to refresh and to recharge. Even Jesus went away to spend time with his father. It's needed, even necessary. We become burned out too easily, especially in this world which runs at break neck speed. We give and give and give until we don't have anymore to give. We're exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So I took some "me" time this past weekend. Two dear friends of mine and I ran away from home and spent some quality girls' time together. We laughed, we cried, we prayed. We learned a little more about each other, discussed weighty matters and not so weighty matters.

And I came back a better person for it. I was rested and ready to take on the challenges of being a wife, a mother, and an author again. School starts again soon, and I'm ready to take it on.

I'm blessed in that I have a cabin that I can run to when I need it. I don't always have the time to go there. "Me" time often involves taking a walk so that I can pray or working in the garden for a while. It can be as little as five minutes (I once was the mother of toddlers) or as long as a week (in the past 25 years, that's happened once and technically, that was "we" time). However or wherever it happens, remember that it's important. A little "me" time makes for a better you.

Have you had a bit of "me" time lately? What do you like to do when you have the chance?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Living Abroad

I love watching House Hunters International. Those homes abroad are so interesting. It makes me thankful for all of the room I have both inside and out here.

But wouldn't it be interesting to live somewhere else? I talking six months or so, just to experience another culture, another way of life. I have a few places that interest me right now.

One is Isla Mujeres just off of the coast of Cancun, Mexico. We visited there in January, and I fell in love. It's true Mexico. It's colorful, vibrant and the sea is right there. I could definitely spend some quality time there on a balcony with my computer. OK, let's be honest. It would be hard to bring my computer there. This place is pure relaxation.

Here is my house of choice. It's near Punta Sur, which is a gorgeous area. And who couldn't wake up to this view??!!

Another choice is, of course, the Netherlands. I'd love to visit where my family is from and learn what life is really like there. I wrote a book set there, but that was war time. I'd like to find out what peace is all about there. And I sure could see myself living here. Wow. What a place. I might even be able to write here.

And I'd love to spend some time in Vietnam. In Hanoi, I'd love to live near Hoan Kiem Lake, which is where we stayed when we were there 19 years ago. This is a great apartment I could see myself in.

Have you ever thought of living abroad? Where would you choose?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gluten Free Sour Cream Cake and Pound Cake

My adventures in going gluten free continue. I can honestly say that I rarely crave baked goods anymore. For the most part, I just avoid what I can't have. I eat my burgers and brats without the buns. I eat rice cakes instead of bread (I did this beforehand, so no biggie.) I need to cut back on my carbs, anyway. Spaghetti and pasta is good with the corn pasta. No one in my family can tell that it's GF.

There are some things you just can't do without, however. Birthday cake is one of them. It's no fun to sit back and watch everyone else indulge in a slice of cake. My mom's birthday is July 2nd, and my parents were at the cabin that day. I braved making a GF sour cream chocolate chip cake up there. (BTW, did you see who was home from the Marines?? He surprised me a couple of days before this. So good to have him there for my mom's celebration!)


I followed the recipe exactly (I don't always do that), and the cake was delicious!!! Everyone loved it. They gobbled it up and didn't complain an ounce about it being GF. The recipe is here, my favorite site for GF recipes.

When we got home, the strawberries were coming in. With deadlines and Nature Camp, I just didn't have time to pick berries and make jam this year. But I didn't want to deprive my family of their strawberries, so I did buy some freshly picked. Strawberry shortcake sounded so good, but what to do about the shortcake. Problem solved - GF pound cake.

Oh. My. Oh. My. Soooo very delicious. I was planning on bringing some to my parent's for Sunday dinner the following day, but we ate the whole thing. It was that good. The recipe, again from my favorite site, is here.

Is anyone else going GF? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some Amazing People

On Saturday, my dad and I were at the craft fair at Hollandfest in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. It's a great time, especially for Dutch people like us! We ate olliebollen (yes, I broke my GF diet and it was worth it!) and Doug had worstebroodje (Dutch pigs in a blanket). Doug made these wonderful posters from my book covers. I think that helped to attract people. Many stopped just to admire the covers.

The most fun is the people who stop by the booth. And this year, we had two very, very interesting people. The first was a man from the Netherlands. My dad and I saw him coming and before he even spoke, we knew he was Dutch. There is just that look that Dutch people have. Anyway, this man still lives there. When he was small, he lived in Amsterdam, on the same street as Anne Frank. In fact, he went to school with her. He didn't really know her because she was a few years older than him, but how amazing was that! He bought a copy of Snow on the Tulips.

A woman then came up and began looking at the books. We started talking to her, and she told us that her parents were in Slovakia during the war. This interested me because, as I'm doing research for my next series, I'm finding that Slovakians (and my mother's family is Slovakian) really suffered. Hitler didn't like them and persecuted them. I got very excited thinking that I might be able to interview them for my book. The woman told us how her father never spoke about his experiences during the war. He passed away a while ago. I was sorry to hear that but thought I could speak to the mother. She passed away this spring. That really saddened me. The stories these people had died with them and the world will never know of their experiences. We will never have the opportunity to learn from them.

All in all, a pretty interesting day. That's what's fun about getting from behind the computer and meeting my readers.

Who are some of the most interesting people you've met?