In December my grand aunt Bonnie passed away. A lifelong resident of my dad's hometown in Arkansas I only got to visit with her and handful of times, but do have fond memories of staying at her house along with uncle Bill. This past weekend I drove down to Hope with mom for the memorial services. It was great to spend some time with relatives whom I don't see as often.
Mocha joined us on the road trip. She seemed to enjoy all the new places to explore and the excitement of a hotel room but wasn't too keen on the long hours sitting in the back seat of the car.
Arkansas isn't the most vegetarian friendly place I've visited but we were able to find some decent options. Two consecutive dinners were at a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant, which is also one of the few places serving alcoholic beverages in the dry county. Lunch at the Capital Bar and Grill in Little Rock on the return journey was excellent however.
Driving back to Kansas City the temperature continually decreased as we drove north. By the time we reached home it was down to 2°F with a half inch of snow. Luckily the more traveled roads were already clear and the long days travel on interstates did not stretch late into the night.
Last week I attended the 96th annual American Meteorological Society annual meeting in New Orleans. It's always great to see old friends and colleagues, as well as meet new folks, and learn about a wide variety of weather related topics and work. It was my first visit to the state of Louisiana so it was nice there was some time in the evenings to get out and experience the Big Easy.
The memorial for dad was December 12 so flew back from Europe straight to California. Renting a car for just the second time I was happy to be able to visit friends in Sacramento and Visalia in the intervening days. Some of the biggest rains the state has seen in a while fell during the week there but good forecasting by allowed us to be outside at just the right time.
I rented an Audi A4 from Silvercar, a start up offering a streamlined administrative process and guaranteed vehicles for a slight premium. This was the first I've driven a more upscale vehicle since trying a BMW 3 Series for several days over the summer. It turns out it is built on the same frame as my VW Jetta but with a number of more upscale features. Little things like auto headlights and windshield wipers are nice though the entertainment and nav seemed overly complicated perhaps due to the lack a touchscreen.
The memorial was held at the museum in the International Terminal of the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) reflecting a theme of travel and his worldliness. Assembled were perhaps around 70 people of various connections to dad's education, work, friends, and family. A few people spoke and much time was given to socialization where informal interaction that he so promoted could take place. Thanks to those who helped put the event together and who were able to attend.
Berlin is an interesting city, site of so much history, and a divided island in the East for over 40 years.
In the month leading up to Christmas, towns all over Germany have Christmas markets in public squares. Stalls sell all manner of food, drink and gifts. Two of the more traditional Germanic items are Gluwein, warm mulled wine, and Kartoffelpuffen, potato pancakes.
Sometimes it can be more difficult to find vegetarian meals in foreign countries, particularly when there is a significant language barrier. I found it hard to read menus but once we found something it was frequently delicious. A simple pasta dish without sausage was excellent and currywurst made with seitan allowed a hint of the local cuisine otherwise unaccessible.
Fast train service makes it easy to get around without an automobile. Heading west to Braunschweig took just an hour and a half. Vehicles are generally much smaller; hardly any pickup trucks and SUVs are to be seen while cars similar in size to the Mini predominate.
We spent the weekend in Braunschweig, my mom's hometown. My first cousins once removed hosted us in the family home they own, built by my great grandparents in the 1930s.