Sunday, May 25, 2008

1 Year in Germany

We cannot believe we have officially been here a year already. It has really flown by. This week Greg had a four day weekend and instead of trying to go somewhere, we stayed close to home spending time together playing games (Monopoly Deutschland) and going to parks. I admit the Community Chest and Chance cards were a bit difficult to figure out at first, but we muddled through. Bailey had a field trip on Friday to a Butterfly Forest. Apparently it was really fun. The rest of us went to Koblenz to enjoy the Deutsches Eck (German corner) where the Mosel and Rhein Rivers meet.

Because this is our one year Anniversary in Germany, it has caused us to reflect a bit on what we miss about America and what we love about Germany, so here are our top tens...

Taco Bell
Good Take-Out Food (Zingermans Roadhouse, Grizzly Peak, Jefferson Market, Hello Faz)
Fall Saturdays at The Big House (Greg mostly)
Warm spice doughnuts from Parmenters or Jenny's Market
Finding whatever you need at the grocery store
Being able to use Credit Cards everywhere
Being close to Family & Friends
Being able to understand questions people ask you
Parks - the Arb, Delhi Park, Allmendinger Park, Rolling Hills

Always a bakery (with fresh baked goods) within walking distance
Our house (design and location - 5 blocks from town and two blocks to the Rhein)
Being 1 hour away from Belgium, 1 hour from The Netherlands, 2 hours from France, etc.
Cool Architecture everywhere
Cobblestone Streets
Learning about Germany
Language (Bailey added this one, I think it is really hard)
House Windows (top tips in or opens in completely)
Holiday schedule
The people here are genuine (not that people are not genuine in the US, but it is a trait that stands out amongst the people we have met here)

As much as we have enjoyed our time here so far and are looking forward to another year + of adventures, we are still American. I think our perspective on America has changed, at least mine has. I think it has been a trend in America (especially since people are unhappy about the War in Iraq) to be down on America. I see a whole lot of complaining about the economy going on, the real estate market, and fuel costs (last time we filled up by the way it was a $150.00). There are a few things in America that require help, but remember when JFK said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," what are we doing to help our American Plight? The United States of America is a country that offers so much. I have always taken it for granted. All I'm saying is let us not be a nation full of complainers. America was founded on principles by people who were willing to make sacrifices and work hard to create a better life. What do we sacrifice? We are guaranteed "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." What other Country gives you that kind of written guarantee? Okay, I will jump down off of my soap box now and finish by saying that I have found a new appreciation for being American.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fifty-First Week in Germany

The girls had the week off of school this week. Monday was a Holiday - I'm not sure what this one was about either - but everything was closed none-the-less. Greg was doing a bit of traveling for work to Spain, Saarlouis, and England so the girls and I had the whole week to play. And, play we did! Monday was just a day of rest for us. The older girls and I played Monopoly while Bryn took a nap. Yes, Bailey won. I attribute it to luck, it has nothing to do with the way I handle money!!! Tuesday, we had a girly shopping day in Bonn and bought some new clothes. Wednesday, we went to the pool because the weather was fantastic. I forgot the camera so these were taken with my cell phone. I never use the phone camera but I thought these turned out pretty good. By Thursday, we were a bit tired and the weather took a turn for the worse. We spent some time talking about Birthday parties this year. I realize that they are 3 - 5 months away but there will be a new baby arriving sometime during that time and in case we need to order some things from the US...these things take time.

Greg had a day off on Friday and we spontaneously decided on a trip to the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) Region. We stopped in a town called Staufen im Breisgau, where we found a Bäckerei and had a slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake). It was a very cool town. We made our way to the Todtnau Waterfall. By the time we got there, Avery and Bryn were asleep, so Greg and Bailey made the trek to the waterfall. The weather was surprisingly good. The forecast called for an 80% chance of rain but it was mostly sunny all day. We stayed in Freiburg, both Friday and Saturday nights. It was a great hotel with a view looking down on the city. There were fireworks on Friday night which made Avery and Bryn really excited to watch them from our windows. Greg and Bailey had already fallen asleep.

Staufen im Breisgau

Todtnau Waterfall


Saturday we first went to a Bäckerei for breakfast. Yummm. They had the best custard filled croissants. Then we moved on to Neuf Brisach in the Alsace Region of France. The town is a walled city that was encompassed by two octagonal moats. We walked along the path of the inner ring of the moat that was once filled with water. The girls loved this. They ran, threw rocks, jumped, ran, ran some more. It was nice for them to be able to get some of the pent up energy out. We moved on to Colmar, which is a town in France that had a history of switching back and forth between France and Germany. We walked throughout the town and decided to grab a bite of Quiche Lorraine. Let me say, my hard earned educational background in French has disappeared. I started ordering in French and finished the sentence in German. My German teacher thought this was hilarious when I told him, but I was actually very disappointed. The quiche, however, was excellent. We went back and tried another slice, this time Quiche Munster. Not as good. We walked to Petit Venise which was right along the canal with many fresh fish restaurants. As we walked back to the where the car was parked, there was an old fashioned Carousel which we had to let the kids ride. On the second go, Bailey put the girls in a fast spinning hot air balloon car (like the tea cups at Disney World). Bryn unfortunately threw up in the car, after Baileys stellar skill at spinning them as fast as she could.

Neuf Brisach

Colmar Slideshow

We then made our way to the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, which sits in the Vosges Mountains. It was an enormous castle. It was said to be built in the 1100's but was badly damaged during the 30 Years War. They were just celebrating the 100 Year Anniversary of Reconstruction which took place from 1900 - 1908. On the way back to the car, we saw many snails along our path. The girls were most intrigued by all of the different sizes, colors, shell colors, etc. We went back to Freiburg and had dinner. Our hotel had a pool (which is not common here) and the girls were extremely excited to try it out. Greg took the older two to appease their desire. Avery put one toe in and that was it. Apparently, the water was freezing.

Sunday, we decided to drive the Route des Crete, through the Vosges Mountains on the way home. We stopped at a military museum along the way from WWI, Le Vieil Armand. My Grandfather was stationed in France in WWI but we had no idea where. Still, it was interesting to see the kind of uniforms they wore, guns they used, their boots and canteens, etc. It was a very nice memorial for the 12, 000 unknown soldiers that had been buried there and a cemetary for others that perished there from 1914 - 1918. Greg stopped at one more site Le Grand Ballon (the highest point in the Vosges Mountains at 1424m) but by now it was pouring rain and the rest of us, just waited for him in the car. It took us longer than we thought it would to do the drive but the girls handled it just fine. We were glad to get home.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fiftieth Week in Germany

This week we had a lot going on. Bailey had her assembly on "Mini Beasts," aka Bugs, but she gets slightly offended when you call them bugs. She has her first official wobbly tooth. This is a major milestone for her as she has been looking forward to it for quite some time.

Avery had her Kindergarten Mother's Day program, which I unfortunately had to miss because my 20 week ultrasound was scheduled for the same time. I tried to get it changed and they said they had no other appointments for May. I felt so bad that I had to miss it so Greg went into work late so that he could go to the performance and video tape it.
The ultrasound went well although it took me forever to fill out the forms. The receptionists didn't speak very much English and I could not make out the very specific medical questions it was asking. We muddled through. At this point, the baby looks good. As usual, I tried to peek at the sex but she avoided the area like the plague.

Weather wise, it was the most beautiful week. High 70's and low 80's all week. If it could only be like this the entire Summer, I would be happy. We stayed after school several days and played on the playground. So nice!

On Saturday, there was a Primary Activity in Rheinaue Park. It was a Scavenger Hunt/Rally. The girls had a great time. The activity started at 10:00am and we ended up staying until 3:30pm. There was a Ward BBQ after the activity which was really fun. Bryn was so pooped by the time we left that she fell asleep on Greg's shoulder as we were walking back to the car.

Sunday was of course Mother's Day. Greg made me Eggs Benedict for breakfast. It is one of my favorites. At Church the girls sang the sweetest song in German. They even got some applause from some new members that didn't know you weren't supposed to clap. After Church we had some guests who used our skype access to conference with their moms, as did we. The girls and I made homemade Oreo cookies. They were so good. I got the recipe from a friend at BYU about 11 years ago and have never made them until today.

Oreo Cookies
Devil's Food Cake Mix
2/3 cup Shortening
2 eggs

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes
Let cool
Put vanilla frosting in between cookies

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Forty-Ninth Week in Germany

This week the girls had a Holiday (day off of school) on Thursday. It is May Day but I'm not sure if that is why it is a Holiday. We decided to blitz to Holland on their day off. The girls have already missed so much school this year for viruses, weird sicknesses, etc. that I felt guilty letting them take Friday off too. So, we set off at 8:00AM and got to the exit for the Keukenhof Gardens at 11:30AM. However, there was a 7 Kilometer backup of bumper to bumper traffic waiting to go to the gardens. We decided it may be better to go into Amsterdam first for a bit and then come back after lunch. Actually, Greg decided. I was reluctant but it ended up being the best thing.

We took a boat tour in the canals through the city of Amsterdam. Then, we made our way to the Van Gogh Museum. Unfortunately, Bailey had one specific self-portrait that she was wanting to see that they didn't have, which we found somewhat funny. Our seven-year old has an opinion about which self-portrait they should have. They did however have some famous works like, The Potato Eaters (one of my favorite Van Goghs), The Sunflowers, Irises, The Bedroom, etc. Of course, several self-portraits. The weather was a little rainy at this point so it was good we spent it in the Museum.

We made our way back to the Gardens and the wait was much better. The weather was also much better, so it was definitely the best plan. The gardens are amazing. It is a gigantic park filled with miles and miles of flower patches. They also had playground equipment, a hedge maze for the kids, and really yummy hot waffles, but obviously the main attraction for all of us was the flowers. It seemed like such an appropriate thing to be doing for May Day. There are so many pictures, I don't think there is any other way to do this than to have a slide show

Friday, Greg got up and took the girls to school while Bryn and I got cleaned up. We walked downtown to the market and got some fresh fruits, veggies, breads, flowers, etc. We didn't have a ton of time because we had to pick Avery up after a half day. After picking Avery up, we took off to a little town in the Eifel Region called Bad Münstereifel. It was an old walled city like some others we have been to but it was very quaint and much closer than the others.

Saturday was another big day as we went to Bonn, where they were having a festival that we didn't know about. It was fun to hang out in town for a bit. We went to Pizza Hut for dinner which is always a nice break for the girls. That evening, Greg took Bailey and Avery to the "Rhein in Flammen," which is a boat parade on the Rhein with Fireworks at the end. The fireworks here start so late, like around 10:30 or 11:00pm. They didn't quite make it all the way to Rheinaue Park so they just watched the first set of fireworks across the River and then they wanted to come home. Such tuckered out little girls.