Up-Cycling using Nature’s best Garbage

I had quite an interesting conversation with my son today: “Mom, was there only organic garbage before?”

“What do you mean by before?”

“In the Middle Ages”

“No, there was no garbage in the same sense as we know it today. There was no packaging, everything was reused or recycled into something else.”

“Even food?”

“Food leftovers and scraps were fed to the animals.”

I had a smile on my face during the silence following our little conversation while we drove back from one of our favorite local farms “Auhof”. It feels good when my kids think about social issues and his thoughts on garbage were similar to my thoughts on the beautiful and smart up-cycling works of art that I saw in the “Augenweide”.

There is “garbage” all around this beautiful garden that has been turned into beautiful and fun ideas:

A crunchy path of walnut shells

Insect hotels

Chestnut necklaces for trees

Ivy wreaths that provide a bit of protection


Pinecone garland

Folded paper wreaths

Branch ornaments

Fence wreaths

Pussy willow wreaths

Bottle Ornaments

I think these are great examples of what you can make with what you have lying around. Obviously, this didn’t happen over night and is the love and care poured into this garden over decades.


A Hidden Treasure in Franconia: the Altes Gewürzamt

Today started off a bit rough.  The clouds blanketed the sky in that way they do when they let you know that summer is over, and I could have slept another hour, but my body had other plans.  Even after my favorite cup of coffee I couldn’t naturally put a smile on my face.

Weeks ago we had planned on taking a day of our vacation to follow a dream of my husband’s and visit his favorite spice producer.  Years ago he fell in love with the herbs and spices of Ingo Holland, and always dreamed of visiting the small town and shop that gives life to so many of our dishes.  And, as luck would have it, today was the day.  I wanted to go in a better mood, but I just couldn’t wing it.  My husband even asked me if I was sure we should go today, but, as this is not the first time in my life that I have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, I told him that the trip would do me good and that sitting at home on our couch definitely wouldn’t make it better.  With that, we were off.

We decided to go by train since the trip to Klingenberg, where the Altes Gewürzamt calls home, is over 3 hours away from us on the Bavarian boarder with Hessen and Baden-Würtemburg.  This way we could have a “mobile couch day” on the train and sink into the books we are reading.

We exited our last train, stopped at a small bakery for a snack, and where directed by a friendly lady to find our destination.  Not that Klingenberg is large – not at all – it is just a maze of many old houses.

Because we arrived during the Altes Gewürzamt‘s lunch break, we walked around the town before heading to the store.  We walked through one alley after another of 400+ year-old houses, and even found ourselves on a bridge hovering over a small canyon running through this really small and inconspicuous place.  We found a path leading into the canyon, and walked through it.  What a surprise and a hidden treasure.

We made our way back to the heart of town – passing by a few wine cellars built into the hill that the town sat at the foot of.  Finally it was time.

We opened the door to the Altes Gewürzamt and were quickly encompassed by the warm smells of wood and spices.  By the time the door closed behind me, I had a smile on my face.

For a moment, I stood in the first room and just looked around.  We were greeted by two very friendly employees, and I tried to decide where to start.  I decided to walk around the store, and then walk around it a second time to gain focus.  Finally, I was in my element.  Food is just my world.

After I mentioned to my husband that I was going to smell every spice in the shop before we left (they have one open container per spice), one of the lady’s who worked there turned to me with a lovely smile and asked if I would like to set my backpack down by the register because it would take a while to discover them all and I would be more comfortable that way.  I took her offer, and started traveling the world through my nose.

Some smells were new, some were invigorating, others nose tickling, and yet others brought back fond childhood memories. I smelled in the container with chives at least three times – they smelled so buttery.  Since when do chives smell buttery?  I smelled into a container of Timut pepper that smelled like spicy grapefruit.  I tasted Danish Jozo Salt that grows in exquisitely thin little square flakes and crunches like chips.  I smelled the mind-blowing floral explosion of Iranian Safran.  I smelled a spiced-wine spice mix laced with roses and lemon grass. I could go on and on. What an experience.  Oh, and did I mention that they also have different types of vegan gummy bears??  I am moving in.

Two hours later, we were at the register and ready to take our bounty home.  It doesn’t look like a lot, but we already own quite a few that we order through their online shop.

We walked out the door, and as I closed the old wooden door behind me I felt like I had spent the whole day in a spa.  Aroma therapy does wonders.  I had such a great time, and had such a huge smile on my face as we walked back to the train station that my husband said that he thinks I had more fun than he did, and it was his dream we were full filling.  And that, lady’s and gentlemen, is why even when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you should always decide to get up and go do something great rather than hang out on your couch all day.

Besides, I had enough “mobile couch” time today.  We spent a total of 6 and a half hours on different trains going back and forth for a less than 3 hour visit.  It was totally worth it.  What a great memory this place has made.

Erlebnisbauernhof Auhof

Today we decided to visit our “colleagues” at the Erlebnisbauernhof Auhof (Experience-Farm of Auhof) which is a special-education farm run by mentally handicapped adults and caregivers.

The farm is open to the general public and has a really big playground that kids of all ages can enjoying.  Many decades ago, this used to be a real farm where they raised livestock and grew carrots and potatoes.  Today there a a few animals of each kind: pigs, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, peacocks, horses, goats, and donkeys are “scattered” around the different areas of the farm.  They sell plants in a self-run nursery and grow a lot of their own vegetables that you can enjoy in the salads that sell in a small restaurant with outdoor seating next to the playground.  The playground is capped off by a field of fruit trees and a lovely relaxation garden that is cared for by a former employee who is retired and volunteers her time to keep the garden in tip top shape.  The handicapped people who live in assisted-living apartments a block away come here regularly to enjoy the peacefulness of the garden, get their hands dirty with garden work, and do arts and crafts that are hung up in the different corners of the garden.

This is such a lovely oasis, and they are different events being held all summer long.  There is no entry fee, so this is a great palce to visit with the whole family’s.

The University of Erlangen’s Botanical Garden 

It is pre-summer vacation here, and we are always on the lookout for a fun place to go where the kids can run around a lot.  One of out favorite places to visit is the botanical garden of the University of Erlangen.  The entire garden is open to the public free of charge and they have a nice selection of different types of plants.

My kids are camera-fanatics, so they each get a camera in their hands and click away at all the interesting things they discover.  Their favorite creatures to photograph are the frogs and koi swimming in the raised ponds outside of the garden houses.

My favorite corners are those filled with roses, and if you are a rose lover yourself, you will not be disappointed here.  The botanical garden spills out into the local palace garden that is surrounded by the university, and you can really spend hours strolling around.

I recommend packing a pick nick and setting down on the ledge of one of the ponds or a park benches and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature in the midst of the city.

Birkensee Summer 

I cannot say it enough: summer is finally here.  We had such a icy winter and such a cold wet Spring that it is hard to believe that it’s warm and sunny.  It still feels like a dream and we try to take advantage of the summer rays because once September rolls around, the summer fun will be over.

Today we decided to drive out to the town of Reichelsdord west of Nuremberg and take our little bbq grill for a walk to the Birkensee (Birch lake).  I habe to say that I was really surprised by the beauty of this small lake.  We parked our car at the edge of a forest and walked through the woods for 10 minutes until we landed right at the wdge of the lake.  It’s a family-friendly lake with sandy beaches and tree-covered enclaves, bbq areas, and refreshing water to swim in.  The only thing you should be prepared for is that nudity is allowed here, so if you’re uncomfortable with nude people swimming, sunning, or walking around you, then you should go to another local lake.  Otherwise, this is a great gem tucked away at the edge of the city that we will definitely return to for a summer refreshment.

Father’s Day Hiking 

Today we went for a nice short hike around the forest surrounding the town of Heroldsberg.  There a quite a few natural elements to see around here in the line of caves and stone formations.

It was father’s day so there were a lot of families hiking the same path as us, and however much I enjoy being in the forest when it’s silent, I think it’s great for families to get out in nature together.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dass out there.

Trekking to Bird Island

We are taking advantage of the beautiful weather around here and drove out to Muhr am See – a tiny town on the Altmühlsee (Old Mill Lake).  From here we gave the kids the task of leading the way to the lake where we wanted to visit the Vogelinsel (Bird Island) – a sanctuary built in the 80s for the local bird population.

I was a bit sceptical about the kids leading the way, but we made it – by walking through a field – to the island.  The sanctuary is actually made up of many little islands and visitors can only reach a few by way of a series of bridges.  It is a beautiful walk through shaddy grove.  We didn’t see birds along our entire walk, but we definitely heard them, and there is a great lookout post built on one of the islands close to a beach filled with tons of different birds.  We were really glad to visit at this time of the year because there were so many baby animals.

This is a really beautiful corner of Franconia, and if you are up for a longer trip, you can ride your bike around the entire lake on the smooth bike paths and stop and swim in the lake on one of its beaches or join one of the many wind surfers.  There’s plenty to do here for the whole family.

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 10

Ah, my friend the old rusty rooster, how I will miss you 4:30am calls.  We are up early and watch the sun rise on our balcony while enjoying a breakfast of local Canary fruits and coffee.


The sun rises over the neighboring volcano and silence sets in.  We have to go back.  Why do we have to go back?


We pack our bags and drive into Los Llanos to pick up our friend with whom we will go to the airport to.  We arrive early and drive to Parque Gómez Felipe –  a small Gaudi-styled park in Los Llanos.  And, as life would have it, there is a rooster walking around the playground.  I tell you, these things are like the plague.


We enjoy our stroll and then travel on to the airport in Santa Cruz.  We whisk away into the air and watch the tiny island disappear behind us.

As we arrive in Frankfurt we are hit with a whiff of “city smell”.  It smell dirt and unnatural.  Odd how I never noticed that before.  Luckily it is hot and sunny here too so getting used to being back won’t be so hard.

The sun definitely shines differently here – it feels further away.  I will be back La Palma.  I will be back.

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 9

Today is our last full day on La Palma and it is starting to sink in that we will soon be leaving this paradise.  We decide to deive to the northeastern part of the island to hike the Cubo de la Galga.


It is really nice and hot today as the sun shines down on us, we feel lucky to be here and get so much hiking in.  We enter the national park and make a comfortable hike for about 3 hours through forests full of long jurasic-sized blackberry vines.  The shade if the trees is a nice respite from the hot sun.


Our entire hike takes us along the side of a creek bed filled with boulders.  About 2/3 of the way through we break through the crown of trees and are rewarded with a grand view of the neighboring islands of Tenerrifa and La Gomera off in the distance.


My heart aches and I take in a deep breath to make a memory of such a wonderful place.  I will come back one day – it feels like home here.

We drive back home from our hike and enjoy one last home cooked meal on our balcony overlooking the Atlantic.  We watch the sun set and then sip a glass of Vegan Norte white wine under a blanket of stars.

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 8

Today we wake up, slowly enjoy breakfast on our patio overlooking the Atlantic and a huge platano plantation, and decide to take a break from hiking for a day and visiting a few places that we have driven past on our journeys.  It is a nice hot day, with a light cool breeze.  We get in our car and drive down to the tip of the island to the visit Las Salinas.  It is so barren and rocky here.




We take a self guides tour along the different salt pools and discover a multitude of small sea birds that walk around the pools looking for food.  The salt is so beautiful glittering in the sun, and every once in a while we see sea foam swaying in the wind and clinging on to the black volcanic rocks.



We walk all the way down to the tip of the island and can see the eastern and western Atlantic currents colliding off the coast.  It is very windy here and the waves breaking on the coast make for a spectacular view.



Afterwards, we get in our car and make out way back north and spontaneously decided to take a detour to the town of Tazacorte.  It is a really beautiful small town with a lot of Spanish influences.  We take a stroll – which is a nice break from the endless winding roads on the island.


We then hop back in out car and drive into Los Llanos where our friends live and meet then for dinner at the organic restaurant El Duende del Fuego.  The this an amazingly delicious dining experience.  The setting is very simple, the menu is full of dietary specialties (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free) all made of local products.  I ate a vegan Canary Rice with Artichokes and Garlic.  It was so flavorful.  We were also served potatoes with a guava dipping sauce.  I would never have paired the two, but guava and potato make a great team.  We each enjoyed a glass of a different Canary wine grown in the different volcanic regions of the island.  The flavors that sing through are absolutely amazing: peaches, passion fruit, cherry – all complements of the various minerals in the soil where the grape vines grow.  Simply put, volcanic wine is spectacular!

After a nice evening with our friends, we strolled through the quiet streets of Los Llanos.  In the distance a crow calls goodnight, and we head home to our apartment for a good nights sleep.