Sunday, April 20, 2014

chicken and wild rice soup

I reorganized all my recipes that I wanted to try into my Pinterest account, so as part of that I picked out some new ones to try.  I made two new recipes in one day (on a weekend): a new rolls recipe and a chicken and rice recipe.  I had found the chicken and rice soup online awhile ago, and finally got around to making it!  So here was the finished picture:


Andy and I gave our verdicts: it's okay.  I put hot sauce on mine (because of course I put hot sauce on about everything).  In any case, it was decent but not super delicious.  I had the leftovers the next day and it tasted about the same.  I froze two servings for future lunches at work, but I don't have high hopes that it will turn to an absolute keeper after it's frozen.  So an okay soup, but not as great as some of the other soups I have made!

Friday, April 18, 2014

sachsenhausen (concentration camp)

One of the most fascinating parts of our Berlin trip was the visit to Sachsenhausen to see the concentration camp.  I'm not even a big history buff, but the stories that Stefano told us were so amazing in such a sad but poignant.  We had to take an extended subway ride to get to the town, and here is the town right outside the concentration camp, which is so quaint, which is so contradictory to what a concentration camp represents.


This is the entrance into the camp:


And there was a 'foyer' of sorts between the entrance above and the other entrance shown below:


This is what the 'foyer' area looks like, where they would start torturing the members of the camp:


The gate at the second entrance had this carved into the gate:


It basically means work will set you free, but the hidden taunt in there is that since the concentration camp is a work camp, the only way to be free of it is to work yourself to death.  That was interesting to me because I didn't know that concentration camps were work camps.  They would leave the camp every morning to go to work, then come home at night.  If you didn't come home, the rest of the members in your 'group' that were getting counted would be shot on the spot.  So if you didn't come home, you knew you'd cause countless deaths of other prisoners.  Then we entered what was the actual camp, and saw there was a 'neutral zone', as pictured below:


So the guards tortured the prisoners pretty much all the time.  The neutral zone was an area that prisoners were not allowed to be in, or they could be shot.  Another rule was that prisoners had to wear a hat at all time, or they would be shot.  So guards would then take off a prisoner's hat and throw it in the neutral zone.  The prisoner pretty much had three choices: to try to get the hat and risk getting shot in the neutral zone, or not go after it and risk getting shot for not having a hat, or steal a hat from another prisoner so they might get shot. 

Then the picture below shows some of the camp as well as that rocky area to the right.  Turns out they did a lot of 'experiments' at the camp as well.  The rocky area is where they would force prisoners to wear boots to walk over fire back and forth until the boots melted off.  The experiment was to see how long boots would last in fire before disintegrating.


They rebuilt two barracks to show what they were like, pictured below:


All the barracks that were torn down were represented by these rectangle markers of stone and numbered. 


Inside the barracks we could see what it was like.  This was the bathing area:


(and I took some photos of the explanations because they were fascinating!)


This was the restroom with toilets and sinks, which is extremely small for 400 men! (this was a male-only camp)


The bunks just lined up to squeeze them all in:


There was also a memorial/museum element in one of the barracks:


They had prisoner records and materials:



When they were recreating the barracks and whatnot (since it was not preserved when it was torn down), they discovered a lot of remnants, mostly leather items, usually shoes.




There were some other materials including a baby gas suit (instead of just a gas mask):



There was also a special 'prison' within the camp that housed special prisoners.  They were treated fairly well because Hitler wanted them to be healthy so at the end of the war he could kill them in celebration (which included a man who attempted to kill Hitler):


This was a large, outdoor  memorial in the camp:


Then we entered what was called Station Z.  They called it that because it was basically the last stop for prisoners...it's where they went to die.  That area in the back left area was a gas chamber, and it was also the first camp to test gas chambers.


These are the remainders of the furnaces used to cremate the bodies:


There was another memorial and statue:


This map laid out Station Z and what section did what:



This is a larger picture of Station Z.


This area of the camp was used to herd people down into the main area below, then open fire to kill them:


Then the door you see below is where the bodies were cremated:


The walls of the camp were surrounded by a wall, not too terribly high, but guard towers evenly spaced:


There were two more buildings that were medical buildings.  There were doctors on the premises that was done for a number of reasons.  The guards needed care sometimes, the workers needed to stay healthy to do work for the country during the war, and the camp sometimes had reporters come visit to see the camp, and having medical facilities helped hide how horrible the camp was.


They found remnants of the medical buildings as well:


The signs below tell stories of their own.  Click on the image to make it bigger and read it.  There are stories of how women prisoners came from a nearby camp to entice workers to work harder by offering them sex, how mass murders were officially marked as 'died in transport', and some stories about the medical staff.





One of the stories I remember the most is that they would take the pilots' uniforms, put them on the prisoners, then put them in freezing cold water in bathtubs, and see how long it would take until they freeze to death.  Below is a panoramic shot of the camp:


There was a map etching of the camp:



So although this area of history is so sad and upsetting, it was completely fascinating and moving, and I really enjoyed this part of our trip, and I learned so much!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

brandenburger tor (the brandenburg gate)

After we went to the Reichstag, we were right next to the Brandenburg Gate, which was nearby.  Here it is from the back side:


And this is technically the front (as determined from which way the statue on top faces):



There is a plaza in front of the gate, and there are lots of interesting things going on including a bear:


There are lots of people around:


And an Army guy!


We people-watched for awhile, which was highly entertaining! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

feelings on training for a triathlon

I am officially in training to complete my first triathlon on June 1.  Although I did a team tri last weekend, June 1 is the first one I will complete on my own.  It is a sprint distance, which is 300 meter swim, 10 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run.  I got it in my head that it would be cool to do as I was watching the show Extreme Weight Loss.  The cool part of the show is that they do something athletic they have always wanted to do like run a marathon, hike a mountain, etc.  As I was watching, I thought it would be cool to do a triathlon, then I thought, why not?

Then I happened to mention it to my sister, and she was laughing because she said she had thought when she turned 40 (sorry Denise, I revealed your age) that she should do a triathlon that year.  So since we talked about it, we picked one to do together!  We are training separately from states away, but we are going to do it together.  And honestly she will blow me away, but it's okay :)

So I just wanted to blog a little about this undertaking.  First of all, as of one year ago if you had told me I'd consider it, I would have laughed my ass off at you.  That was before I started running and I thought that you couldn't pay me to run....but then I did.  Plus I didn't even own a bike, and hadn't written a non-exercise bike since about high school?  And swimming...I took lessons when I was young (like younger than 12 I think) and then hadn't swam "for real" since.  The reason I'm saying this is because I am a normal person who did not have years of experience with any of the three sports.  I was talking to my biker friend Jeannette (in that she cycles a lot and loves it, not that she owns a Harley) about a triathlon and she was saying the swimming scared her.  She said the things I told her about my experience in training for a triathlon were super helpful so I thought I would blog about them.

First of all, I made myself a training plan based on quite a few things I found online and in a couple books.  I tailored it to me in the fact that it focused a bit less on the running because I felt comfortable with that element.  I also picked my day off, I chose how often to have a 'recovery' week, and other things that felt right to me like how often to brick (do back to back workouts of different sports to simulate a triathlon) and which days I would prefer to ride over swim, etc.  It's not perfect, but it makes me feel prepared, which goes a long way toward making me feel confident I can successfully do a triathlon. 

When it comes to biking, I bought a used bike to see if I'd be interested in multiple triathlons before I spent a lot of money.  I'm just biking in my running shoes and wearing my running clothes to do it.  I bought some safety tools like a light, a small bag to hold my phone and tools I might need, etc.  The best purchase as an odometer for my bike so I can ride as far as my plan says.  I have learned I am terrible at estimating how far I am from home, so I often ride further just so I can get all the way home.  HA.  Oh wait, maybe the best purchase is bike shorts because that padding is so appreciated.  In any case, I just ride athletically, which means not so hard that I can't move the next day, but I do try to get some decent speed so I can get a workout.  I coast down some of the hills to try to rest my legs, but the bulk of what I do during my rides is work on shifting gears, practice getting a drink while riding, and prepping my legs.  I was worried about the bike but that was because it had been so long since I had ridden.  With every ride I feel more confident that I can do it just by getting in the practice.

Lastly, about swimming...I was SO NERVOUS about the swimming.  I mean I was pretty freaked because i hadn't swam with my face in the water as an official breast stroke with breathing to the side really ever.  So I watched some online videos (just search for breaststroke video for beginners).  Then I watched one I really liked about the common mistakes that beginner swimmers make with the breast stroke.



It went a long way toward giving me something to focus on and made me a lot less nervous.  Then the first 3 times i swam, I wore a floatation device like this: http://www.aquagear.com/NewImages/Medium/AJ-ShapeProCurled.jpg, which they have at my pool on campus.  That was helpful to me because I didn't worry about having to stay afloat, and I could work on my form.  Plus I would swim one length at a time, stop and rest, etc.  Then I just built up to taking off the belt, doing a lap at a time, then two, etc.  But once I got in a rhythm, it's easy to keep going when I go slow, which is what I do so I can have good form.  Plus, my sister was right in that goggles make a big difference because being able to see the black stripe is a great guide.  And I am obviously not concerned about swimming at all because that's the leg I did in the team triathlon!! And remember you don't have to be perfect to swim.  For example, they say you should breathe every three strokes, which has you breathing on opposite sides.  That is so uncomfortable for me at this point, so I breathe every two so I can only breathe to the right side.  And you know what?  There are no rules, it is fine!  And based on what I saw at last weekend's triathlon, there are people who breast stroke when they need a break, and one girl backstroked, plus people stop and rest because many can't swim it all continuously.  So the fact that I could swim it all at once without stopping made me very proud.  I wasn't thinking "oh I'm breathing every two strokes instead of three."  Whatever - I swam a leg of a triathlon...woohoo for me!

So as intimidating as triathlon training might sound like, it is very manageable taken one workout at a time.  I'm not doing speed drills or any fancy workouts.  I am just getting in the mileage and time so I will be able to accomplish all the legs on June first.  And honestly if I can do it, having been so inexperienced until recently, then anyone can do it!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

giant department store and shopping

There is lots of shopping in Berlin, so we did plenty of that.  Mostly window shopping because things are definitely not cheap.  There is an amplemann store, which is what they call their little "walk/don't walk" men signals.  It has a cool history and fun shops!  Here is one of the stores in town (there are six total and I think we were in five - HA.) 



We also went to one mall to see the Eiffel Tower so to speak:


Andy found his restaurant in Berlin (but we did not eat there):


And then we went to the big fancy world-famous department store.  So many floors and so many items.  It's like a giant mall all packed into one store.  It is way swanky and way expensive, which explains why we didn't buy anything:



We did buy some things, both for ourselves and as gifts, and it was fun to look in foreign shops!