Kösingen, Germany: Oscar Mayer’s Village

T in Koesingen 20010001

During our first Fulbright year, our son’s first grade class made several class field trips  in picturesque Kösingen, Germany, home to Oscar Mayer before he came to the U.S. It was not unusual for them to walk one mile or more while gathering and identifying leaves on trees.  One day our son came home to tell us the class went searching for Spuren or tracks left in the snow by all nature’s small creatures.  Having grown up in rural Western Massachusetts, I remember finding footprints and tracks on the snow.  I still continue to look out the windows after a new snowfall and see tracks of rabbits and squirrels.  I was not disappointed this morning when I gazed out the window to find rabbit tracks near the house where it was warmest.

How wonderful to discover such traces of life in an otherwise frosty snow-covered landscape. I imagine that most of suburbia takes no notice; however, I may be mistaken in that assumption.  It’s a marvel that creatures are out and about when mortals complain of the cold and snow and do not venture forth.  I never cease to gaze in amazement at sunsets or snow on the branches of fir trees.  In my mind’s eye, I paint pictures in my memory bank.  This season I wish all my readers everywhere greetings no matter what you celebrate.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Peace to all.

Tom 1st gr.Koesingen, Ger. Schultuete0001

Turtles theme 7th bday in Schweindorf Tom0001


Giddy first graders donned boots
and jackets to go outdoors after
the snowfall to discover and document
those footprints left behind by the

rabbits, squirrels and deer. They
documented in carefully written
journals those wonderful discoveries.
Bright-eyed and happy in the tiny

German village where Oscar Mayer
was born. Their teacher led the
field trip through the snow and
explained where the creatures

lived in the cold winter months.
Red-cheeked and happy,
the first graders returned home
after school to tell their parents.

Seeing life in a simple manner
through the eyes of children is
a wonderful way to view life.
Wishing everyone peace.



Posted in animal tracks, Christmas, customs in Germany, home of Oscar Mayer, Koesingen, tracks in the snow | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Stroll Along my Musical Journey!


Singing in church choirs and private voice lessons
led me down the path to my latest musical
adventures: Syracuse Chorale and the Pops
Chorus. My musical tastes now satisfied,

I study and sing both classical and light Pops.
This year my goals were to advance my
adventures in music. Both groups have
aided in my musical growth.

This weekend, the Syracuse Chorale
will perform on Sunday with an orchestra.
Pieces in Latin, Polish and English. As
a lifelong learner, I met the challenge


of learning Polish to sing Gorecki’s
Marian Songs. Next weekend, it is
downtown and on stage with Symphoria
and the Pops Chorus. Learning to

sight-sing has now become less a
challenge, and I enjoy singing popular
Christmas songs with a twist in harmonies.
A new chapter awaits me this summer when I

join the Berkshire Choral International
for the first time, I am excited to sing
Haydn’s The Seasons in English.
In Baltimore, MD. A giant leap of faith.

Join us for our Chorale music
here in Upstate New York.
Music is food for the soul!
Enjoy the journey with us!

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Posted in Berkshire Choral International, Gorecki, musical journey, singing, Symphoria, Syracuse Chorale, Syracuse Pops Chorus | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Remembering Advent in a German Village


Today’s blog recalls an earlier era when our children were young and living in a magical German village during my first Fulbright year. They counted down the days until December 25 with Advent calendars and put a BIG shoe outside their door the evening of Dec. 5 for a visit from Nikolaus on Dec. 6. This poem is reprinted with love from us to all our family, friends and readers during this Advent season. It is a time to value one another and to share our love.


Advent Season 

A time of hope, anticipation.
Crisp air outdoors. Candles,
lights, wreaths abound. Advent
calendars to count down.

Small surprises, sweets
behind the tiny doors.
Shouts of glee at the
prizes in little hands.

Smells of fir boughs,
pinecones, gingerbread
houses, baked goodies.
Traditions and rituals.

20953670_10100163191470425_5445444207750094041_nt and e with babi

My classroom desk in
Germany held wonderment
as I walked in. An Advent
wreath with a lit candle.

Thirty faces watched me
as I reacted in surprise and
expressed thanks to all
the smiling faces.

How different it was this
Fulbright Year of teaching
in Germany. Still years later
our lives forever changed.

Moonlit walks on snowy
December nights through the
tiny village in Germany.
Outdoor Christmas markets

adorn towns with sights,
smells, sounds of Christmas
music. Rich traditions and
new cultural experiences.

One shoe outside the door
awaiting the visit of Nikolaus
to fill it with candy and fruit.
A revered day – December 6.


The Christ Child visits on
Christmas eve when families
gather to exchange their gifts.
Church services at midnight.

There is much to be said
for sacred family time and
celebrations. Stores closed on
Sundays, holidays. These

days remain in our hearts
and minds to be forever
treasured and shared in
future shared holidays.

We love the old fashioned
Christmas when people
take time to value one another
and share their love.


Posted in Advent Wreath, Advent, Nikolaus, customs, Germany, traditions, cultures, German village life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Mrs. Santa’s Sleigh



What with elves making toys
and Santa filling his fleet of sleighs,
Mrs. Santa decided she needed a
new sleigh to dash about.

So it was off to the sleigh store
to pick out the very best and
most practical one to transport
groceries and other items.


Mrs. Santa felt that her husband
was old school and it was time
to modernize. She liked the
purple one but for Christmas

she wanted the red one.
No two-wheelers for her.
Mrs. Santa is getting a stylish
red three-wheeler model.


Who knows but maybe
next year Santa will also
want to modernize his fleet?
The elves on three-wheelers!



Posted in Christmas, Mrs. Santa's sleigh, Santa Claus, shopping, three wheel motorcycle | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Nana’s Pies


Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I recall my mother’s flaky pie crusts and tasty pies. Blueberry, apple and pumpkin to name a few.  She learned from her mother, my Nana Mooney.  Admittedly, I love cooking and won the Colorado State 4-H Champion purple ribbon for the dinner I prepared for four on a budget of $2.50.  This was in the early 60s and hence the price.  Somehow I did not inherit the pie-making craft from my Nana and my mother.  I tried my fair share of lemon meringue and chocolate cream pies, but the crusts were not as flaky as Nana’s.  At least one of my sisters inherited the pie-making gene!

Since we just had a brief family reunion for one of our friends in West Virginia, my husband and I will go out for our festive dinner. No mess.  No fuss.  No cleanup.  The cooking will be done by the pros although by now, I should also be one.


We wish everyone a lovely Thanksgiving with family reunions, laughter, conversation, music, dancing, sharing meals and wonderful family moments. I have fond memories of family Thanksgiving dinners in Pueblo, Colorado.  After saying grace, we enjoyed a simple meal of turkey, dressing, stuffing cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and relish dishes of carrot and celery sticks with a dash of salt and lemon juice plus dishes of black and green olives.  For dessert, we had pumpkin pie.  We played a family board game of Monopoly some years or Scrabble.  Or one of us played the piano and the family sang a few songs.  Just simple times of a loving family making memories.

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Posted in Colorado, family, Thanksgiving, recipe, Thanksgiving dinner, pie, memories, turkey, homemade pies, Nana Mooney, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Love the Four Seasons
















Woke up to snow and

cold winds this morning.

On our journey to a

wedding in West Virginia.


I love the four seasons

in Upstate New York and

in Massachusetts.

Building snowmen.


As a child, winter

held magic for our

wooden sleds as

we steered downhill.


Bundled in our dark

green snowsuits, we often

built many snowmen in

our Sturbridge yard.


Posted in building snowmen, four seasons, snow | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Happy Birthday, Dad!


Our family celebrates birthdays with a cake and candles and a Happy Birthday song, even after our loved ones are no longer with us. Today’s post is a remembrance of my Dad and also my Mom for rearing me to an independent person who is capable of making her own life’s decisions.

It has been 27 years since my Dad died, but it seems only yesterday. It was at his urging that my sisters and I studied abroad. I chose Germany and spent almost three years in Heidelberg. When he asked me years later if sending me off to Germany had been a good thing in my life, I responded that it probably had been the best decision he and my mother could have made. Sending children off to college can be a bittersweet moment in the lives of parents. Sending children off to another country to study can prove daunting. I still recall the day I left the US and the envelope I was handed at the Colorado Springs airport as my parents bid me goodbye and wished me good luck. On the outside of the envelope in my father’s cursive writing were the words “do not open” until I was airborne.

What I found inside astonished me. There was a letter from the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg telling me that I had not been accepted since I did not yet have a BA degree. My parents trusted that I would figure things out on my own. The German system is vastly different from the US system. There were no advisors to assist. Fortunately, through mutual family friends, a young German student was the key to dealing with university bureaucracy. After being accepted to study based solely on my grades in German, I went on to obtain two degrees in Germany. This life’s lesson was a valuable one for me.

My parents had trusted me. As I reflect upon that today and remember my Dad standing next to me in the photo when I came back to Pueblo after my studies, I see in his eyes how very proud he was of my accomplishments, and of all of his daughters. My other sisters studied in Spain and Mexico and my mother joined them in Europe.

When I received my first Fulbright grant to be an exchange teacher in Germany in 1990, my parents were proud of the achievement. Again, my father withheld information until I was in Germany with my two children. In September of 1990, I received a letter in his cursive handwriting telling me he was dying of cancer.

Crowded into a telephone booth in the small German village where we lived, I tearfully spoke with him, and he was crying on the other end of the phone as well. He said not to come back to the US in the event he died but to stay in Germany. He knew I was inconsolable so he added that he would wait for me to return the following summer. My Dad died Oct. 18 less than one month after our phone conversation. As I had promised, we remained in Germany and had a special Memorial Mass at the local church which happened to be on World Sunday. We recited the Our Father in both German and in English and sang Amazing Grace because the German priest who officiated wanted to make it a special commemoration for me and my children to remember and honor my Dad.


Frozen Silence

Frost this morning
on the track
hides my tears.

Remembering him
this November morning
Gone some time now.

Miss him in this
Frozen silence.

Mom & Dad Niemczura CO 19860001

Gasthof Hirsch Schweindorf0001


Posted in birthdays, Fulbright Teacher Exchange, Fulbrights to Germany, Heidelberg, study in Germany, World Sunday Mass | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments