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31 Dec - New Year's Eve: Tom & Susie came over to ring in the New Year. You know how much we like to report on our epicurian adventures, so here is a summary of the menu:

Starters: Chips/Dip and jumbo stuffed mushrooms.

Appetizers: Chunks of fresh lobster meat which had been flown from Maine a few days ago.

Main Course: Greg grilled Bengali shish kebabs which had been rubbed with Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Ginger, Coriander, Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, and then refrigerated overnight. The meat was combined with cucumbers, bell peppers, scallions, tzatziki, and pita bread - it was yummy! We also had JA's famous crispy-skin potatoes, as well as a heaping salad.

Dessert: Susie brought over a great pie made of white and dark chocolate, almonds, caramel, chocolate pudding, butter and cookie crust - yum again.

After the food fest, we hung out until our town erupted in its annual spontaneous fireworks show. The fireworks aren't a town sponsored event - everybody goes out and buys their own fireworks and we don't mean little firecrackers. People buy big fireworks that are a lot like the ones American High Schools use for 4th of July. We live on a hill so we have a great view of the town and the New Year celebrations. Here is what it looks like from our balcony:

New Year's Eve Fireworks in Our Village

25 Dec - Christmas in Italy: Back from Italy and it was an outstanding trip with a bunch of friends! The area was beautiful because the mountains were covered with snow and there were enormous rock outcroppings everywhere. The people were extremely nice and the skiing was great - the area really does have over 1200 km of interconnected trails. We didn't do all of it (maybe next time!) but we went to new areas every day and did the Sella Ronda, which is a set of trails that make a huge loop around one particular set of mountains. The Sella Ronda was a lot of fun and a lot of work too but our legs aren't burning so much now... Other highlights included a trip to Cortina which is a nice resort area in the James Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only" and JA hit the slopes twice with her cool new snowboard. One of the most enjoyable parts of the trip was when Santa showed up on Christmas Eve to give all the kids from 1 to 92 a little gift bag that had doo-dads from the hotel like lift-pass holders, headbands, and other stuff.

The weather was sunny every day until Christmas Eve when it started snowing. It was still snowing today and we had a beautiful white Christmas. The Italians are not really great at clearing snow from mountain roads so the drive out was a bit hairy, but we are home safe and sound. Here is one picture from the area - click on it for more pictures:

Outcropping in Dolomites

15 Dec - Places in the News: The American who was in a Russian prison for spying and was just recently released came to Landstuhl for evaluation and treatment. Here is the story.

14 Dec - Movie Night: We went to see Charlie's Angels with Sylvia and Tom. It was a fun movie and good entertainment. Of course a night out wouldn't be complete without dinner so we all went to an Italian place for pizza and pasta.

9 Dec - Torchlight Volksmarch in Metz: We went to Metz today with Kleha, Nancy, Susie, and Sylvia and it was great. We started the day by walking all around the city, seeing sites, checking out the stores, and of course having the occasional crepe or croque monsieur - Tres bon! In the evening there was a night time volksmarch through the city and the churches, castles and other sites were lit up. The weather was perfect and the city was beautiful. We went into several of the buildings and, when we were outside, we carried small torches in order to see better. After the volksmarch we had dinner in a little Italian restaurant - bene!

8 Dec - Christmas Party: Tonight we had our office Christmas party. Lots of good food with friends in a really cozy German restaurant. Although Tiramisu is not German, this restaurant served some of the best we have ever had - yum!

7 Dec - Christmas Plans: We are headed to Arraba Italy with some friends around Christmas. Arraba is in the Dolomites and it is part of a series of inter-linked areas so you can ski hard all day and barely pass through each of the places. We have been to Italy before but haven't really spent much time there and we are looking forward to it.

4 Dec - Triathlon Article: We found out there was a newspaper that covered the triathlon Julie Anne won. Click here to see the article. It is in German but JA is also in the picture.

1 Dec - Crazy Cows & Chicken Heads: There has been a lot of news, information, speculation, etc. about mad cow disease (BSE) in Europe lately. Who knows what will come of it, but for now we aren't eating any European beef. Call us chicken, (or pork, or whatever) but it seems like a scary thing.

On the lighter side of bizarre food stories, did you see this one?

28 Nov - Thanksgiving Trip To Austria: We are back from our ski trip to Stubai. It was a great trip and it was snowing like crazy the first few days. It is only late November and we were skiing/boarding powder up to our knees. As usual, the food was great and the atmosphere in Austria was extremely comfortable.

23 Nov - Thanks Florida!: German radio and TV stations are having a great time with the US elections. The other day a talk show host had 3 Americans come to the TV studio and count all the seats. The bet was that the 3 of them wouldn't come up with the same number. Not only did their numbers not match, none of them got the number right. Oy!

17 Nov - New Furniture: Our dining room furniture arrived today! It looks great and we are psyched. Hopefully we will post some pictures soon.

12 Nov - Terrible Tragedy: First of all, thank you to everybody who contacted us after hearing about the awful accident in Kaprun. Several friends called or sent e-mail to see if we were OK. Thankfully, we are. The scary thing is we were signed up to go there with our ski club for this long weekend but we cancelled Wednesday night due to other circumstances. It is scary because several of the people in our club were waiting on the platform to get on the train that would have been next up the mountain. There were a lot of American ski clubs at Kaprun because of the 3 day weekend and some people are still missing. I don’t know if this got much attention in the American news but it is a horrible tragedy and it is still unfolding. Anyway, our thanks to all of you who contacted us to make sure we are OK.

Correction: Our latest entry said we were going to Kaprun for Thanksgiving when we are actually going to Stubaital. Kaprun was going to be our Veteran’s Day trip but as mentioned above, we cancelled it.

25 Oct - An Early Present: Another good day - Julie Anne got a snowboard! It is a nice Oxygen Element board with great K2 boots and clicker bindings. Santa came early this year and left some good stuff under the umm... Halloween bush. You know, right next to the Jack O’ Lantern. The new purchase is timely as we plan to observe Thanksgiving in our traditional way - by hitting a glacier in Austria! We are headed to Kaprun this year which is near Salzburg. Julie Anne also won the pumpkin carving contest at the ski club meeting tonight and received a DM 25 credit for her efforts - that is good for lunch on the slopes one day.

23 Oct - Friends, Doo-Dads, & Grilling: Today was an excellent day for 3 reasons. First, our friend Pam returned to Germany to visit friends and the family with whom she used to live - it is always good to see Pam. Our plans to go out for dinner and a movie were preempted last time she was here by Julie Anne’s emergency appendectomy but we hope to have better luck this time! Second, Greg’s new Handspring Visor arrived in the mail today and it is great! Everybody should have one of these. You have to modify your writing a bit to give it input but it is very simple to learn. The Visor is a slick little device and I now have a mechanical brain. The third reason today was so good is that we had a spontaneous grilled dinner - nothing fancy just cheeseburgers and hot dogs but it was great.

15 Oct - Places In The News: CNN reported yesterday that the emergency summit between Israel and Palestine will be held in Sharm El Sheikh Egypt, which is where we went diving last month. We are glad that we went when we did - I am not so sure we would be up for a trip to the Middle East at the moment.

14 Oct - Dinner Out: Had a great dinner at Tom & Susie’s house! Stuffed shells for appetizers, a great salad with fruit and a homemade fruit dressing, a giant tamale pie, and for dessert we were treated to a banana cream pie with an amazing crust - yummy. We had no plans for our web site to turn into an overview of our epicurian adventures, but it seems to be one of our favorite hobbies!

13 Oct: - Places In The News: Today recent news events took on an extra sense of realism as we saw the hearses containing the bodies of the sailors who were killed aboard the USS Cole. The hearses came to the mortuary on the base where we work and were escorted by several police cars. The injured sailors are to be brought to our facility soon.

11 Oct - Good Food & Fun In Austria: Back from Sölden and the snow was AWESOME. It was snowing when we arrived and there was so much snow on Saturday that the road to the lift area was closed in the morning. We skied Sunday and Monday in powder that was over our knees. Can you believe it is the first week in October and they have excellent snow already? Austria is great. It was the first trip of the season so eyes, legs, and brain did not always feel connected (Greg did a no-handed cartwheel once when he crashed and bounced on his head), but by the second day powder eating face-plants were less frequent. As usual, JA skied like an ace and looked like a pro on the slopes!

By now you know that in our opinion tasty food and drink are critical components of any good vacation. Austria never disappoints in this department. The breakfast that is included with the hotel is usually a buffet made up of meats, breads, cheese, fruits, cereals, and yogurts. There are few things as good on a cold morning as a hearty Austrian breakfast - especially with hot chocolate! Lunch at the ski area almost always involves some sort of meal that really sticks to your ribs. For example, Tafelspitz is an Austrian specialty made of boiled beef. Gröstl is a really filling dish made of potatoes, onions, butter, garlic, bacon, and eggs. Kaiserschmarren is like smashed up pancakes with confectioner's sugar and apple sauce. But the best ski food is probably the Germknödel which is a big warm dough dumpling that has plum jam inside and is then covered with heated vanilla sauce and poppy seeds. There is a great Austrian lemon soft drink called an Almdudler which is the perfect thing to have at 3000m while looking at snow covered mountains. The hotels also serve good dinners but after everything we eat during the day there is usually only room left for dessert.

3 Oct - (German Reunification Day) Vacation Plans: Today we picked up our skis and snowboard which were in the shop for a pre-season tune up. Why do we need them? Because we are going to Sölden Austria this weekend for the first ski trip of the season - hooray! Every year they have the “ski test” at Sölden where the equipment manufacturers let you try out new gear on the glacier. They also give stuff away - we are looking forward to the weekend.

1 Oct - Tech Training & Sports: Greg went to Windows 2000 training last week to get smarter on Microsoft’s new Operating System. There was a ton of information packed into 5 days so it sometimes felt like taking a sip from a fire hose but it was educational - Windows 2000 can do a lot of neat things.

We are sad to report the Sydney Olympics are over now. We heard they didn’t get much coverage in America which is a shame because the Olympics were phenomenal this year. We were very fortunate to be able to watch on the world’s best sports channel - Eurosport. The Eurosport commentators are so experienced and so good at what they do
we wound up watching events we never would have looked at before. Although Eurosport broadcast the events live, we are 9 hours behind Sydney so we would watch some events live at night and some in the morning. The good thing is that they had 24-hour coverage so they would replay different events once the live part was done for the day. It made us really wish we were there (more about this in the future???).

30 Sep - Greek Night: Tonight we had Tom & Susie over for a Greek feast. We grilled 6 pounds of pork on skewers using “Greg’s Great Greek Recipe” as well as skewers with 3 different kinds of peppers and garlic & butter-coated mushrooms. For side dishes we had Greek salad, twice-baked potatoes, Tzatziki, onions, and bread. To top it off Julie Anne made an extremely tasty peanut butter cream pie. The dessert deviated from the Greek theme but it was soooo good.

24 Sep - Vosges Mountains: Today we went to the Vosges mountains region of France, which is near the German-French border. It is very pretty and well known for good food (of course), pottery, and shopping. We went on the day trip with a group of people from work and did some crystal shopping, had a good lunch, and rode in a big boat elevator. The boat elevator is like a 20m bathtub that is filled with water and moves the boats by sliding up and down a 50m incline on big tracks to connect 2 parts of the Rhine-Marne canal. It has 2 counter balances that are about the size of train cars and weigh a few hundred tons. It isn’t something we would normally think of doing in France but it was interesting.

23 Sep - Farm Fest: Today we went to a little farmfest near Pirmasens. The farm is a cozy cluster of buildings where people come to sell crafts, antiques, and other schtuff. Of course an event in Germany wouldn’t be complete without food and this fest has some of the best flammkuchen around. Flammkuchen is cheese, onions, ham, and optional other goodies on extremely thin and flaky crust. In a remote way it is kind of like pizza. The other fun thing about this farmfest is that they sell pumpkins for those who want to celebrate the recently discovered tradition of Halloween! It is interesting to watch German news stories that explain Halloween, how it works, what a Jack-O-Lantern is, etc. Last year was the first time we had some German kids come Trick-Or-Treat. You can also walk around in a maze cut from a corn field. Susie made fun of us city folk who paid 5 DM "to walk in some farmer's field."

18 Sep - Party In Munich: (Mostly) back from the Oktoberfest - what a blast! We went with our ski club and were the trip captains. Getting to Munich was quite a treat as the bus broke down about 4 hours into the trip. While the rest area at Leipheim is very nice, we never planned to stay there 3 hours waiting for the bus to get fixed. We eventually made it to our hotel in Chiemsee at about 0330 Saturday morning and then left for Munich 5.5 hours later. We watched the opening parade and then drank beer and ate good food until about 1100 P.M. During the day we hit several tents and met all sorts of fun people from Luxembourg (Hi Tom & Bianca!), Germany, Italy, Canada, Great Britain and lots of other places.

14 Sep - O'Fest: We are getting ready to go to the Oktoberfest which is the best known beer fest in the world (as if you didn’t know!). We are going to Munich this weekend for a Saturday involving lots of food, rides, music, and ummm... the occasional liter or 10 of beer. It is a little known fact, but the Sunday after Oktoberfest has particular religious significance - everybody holds their head all day and says, “Oh God... Oh God...”

10 Sep - Wine Fest: We went to the Bad Durkheim Wurstmarkt. This is the biggest wine festival in the world and it is a lot of fun. There are all sorts of rides, excellent food, and of course beer and wine. Bad Durkehim is also home to the biggest wine barrel in the world - it is a real wine barrel that is so big it has a 2 story restaurant in it!

8 Sep - Scuba Days: Just got back from Egypt - what a great trip! We finished our Open Water Diver certification (hooray!) and we saw so many interesting things above and below water it is hard to imagine. Even just snorkeling about 100 meters from the beach there were always hundreds of fish in many different sizes and colors. The water was about 28 C and visibility underwater was 20-30 meters which made for some very enjoyable snorkeling/diving. One of the coolest things we saw was a free swimming moray eel that was more than 7 feet long! It swam in the open water between 2 big pieces of coral, worked its way into the coral and then poked its big head out to look at us. We couldn’t help but think of Saturday afternoon horror movies while watching it, but it was happy to just look at us and didn’t bother us at all. Anyhow, keep checking back for pictures and a bigger write up about the trip soon.

27 Aug - Victory & A Fractured Arm: Julie Anne competed in a local triathlon today that had 60 participants. The course was 11km biking, 3 km running, and 500m swimming with the biking and running portions of the race all in the big hills in the area around Kusel. The bad news is Julie Anne had a massive crash on her bike because it was raining like crazy today and the steep hills were very muddy. She is beat up, bruised, cut, and even broke her helmet. The good news is that in spite of the crash Julie Anne won the women’s division! She completed the race in 1:08:37 and got a certificate, a trophy, and a Camelback style water-holder for winning. If you can believe it she also got stung by a bee during the awards ceremony - what a day. (An article came out after we did this entry. Click here to see it.)

26 Aug - Looking For Gear: Today we went to Mannheim and Saarlouis on a quest for some wet suits. We originally planned to rent the suits in Egypt but heard we could get deals on some suits here in Germany so we checked it out. The stores in Mannheim were great but kind of expensive so we went to Decathlon in Saarlouis and scored some late summer bargains.

22 Aug - Scuba Milestone Reached: Over the weekend we completed the last confined water dives and today we finished our final exam for the scuba classes so all we have left to finish for the certification is 4 dives in the ocean which we will do in Egypt.

21-22 Aug - Biz Travel: Greg went to Stuttgart for meetings about the network in Europe. These are always interesting meetings and I get to stay in a pretty nice hotel.

18 Aug - 3 Event Day: Today Julie Anne did a triathlon volksmarch - 25km biking, 20km running and 500m swimming. It was at a town on the Rhine river and fun.

9 Aug - Scuba Lessons: Today we started scuba diving lessons with PADI. There are 5 modules in the book and then you have to pass a written exam. Additionally, you do 5 dives in a pool to practice what you learned. Finally, you do 4 “open water” dives to show you can do the skills under actual conditions and then you get certified as an open water diver.

August - Fest Zeit: It is August and that means dorffest season is in full swing! A dorffest is when the village blocks off a street and sets up loads of food and drink stands so you can have tons of beer, wursts, salads, pies, etc. Our village’s dorffest was on 5 August and even though it is small, this fest is popular because the food is great. On 12 August a neighboring town had their dorffest so we went there to have mass quantities of food and drink again!

25 Jul - Vacation Plans: We are going to Egypt with friends to dive at Sharm El Sheikh on the Southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. We have never been scuba diving (actually we have never taken a “hot weather” vacation) so we will begin scuba lessons soon. We might try windsurfing there too - it is something totally new and we are stoked.

8 Jul - Hahnen Fest: Today we went to the Hahnen Fest (Chicken Fest) which is a fest on a hill in a nearby village. It is a chicken fest because they roast chickens over open fires. There is always a band, a little booth for sweets, and they also have a lot of beer - what a big surprise!

4 Jul - Independence Day: Celebrating the 4th in Germany. We marinated pork yesterday and grilled it for lunch today - it was good! In the evening we went to Ramstein AB for the “Freedom Fest”. This is a little slice of America with carnival rides, face painting, softball games, and the different organizations set up food and drink booths. For dinner we got lumpias, rice, and noodles at the Filipino-American club tent. Philippine food is great! Because it stays light here until about 2300 in the summer, the fireworks go off at 2230.

24 Jun - On The Air: Our website is launched! We have our own domain now (gregnjam.com) with cool new e-mail addresses: gregnjam@gregnjam.com for both of us, greg@gregnjam.com for Greg, and ja@gregnjam.com for Julie Anne.


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