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Come and gone…

15 Jul

Our first visitors in our “new” house (since moving in Janurary) just left today.  My parents were here for just over a week and it was fantastic.  Of course the time always goes too quickly and there is always more you wish you could have fit in- but, I am grateful for the time they were able to spend here.  I enjoyed every second of their visit and am so happy they had a chance to see our new surroundings and experience a bit of our life in Germany.  We spent time in Frankfurt and Heidelburg, shopped in a nearby town of Bad Homburg, rode bikes, and went to the zoo (among other things)!  Here are a few pictures (mostly taken by my mom) of their time here.  I wish I had time to write a more detailed account of the last week but this will have to do for now.  Life is good and having family here to share it with is even better!

Frankfurt Roemer Platz

Dom Cathedral in Frankfurt

Grandpa and Quinn in Frankfurt

Grandma and Quinn at the duck pond

Quinn loved the bike trailer we rented! And so did Kitty.

Opel Zoo

Is it just me, or does this giraffe look surprised?

Definite style points Quinn. I like the approach.

"I'm just 24 years old, leaning up against this fence. What? You don't think I'm getting back in that stroller do you?"

Heidelburg

Part of Schloss Heidelburg

Hotel Gummersbach is the hot place to stay this summer.  My sister is booked next and so we’re on to ready the house and prepare the suite, ha!

 

 

 

As American as…blueberry cookies.

5 Jul

Happy Fourth of July…a day late!  Not exactly celebrated here, understandably so I guess.  Over the last few days I sort of sadly (and almost stupidly, I mean duh) came to the realization that Fourth of July would come and go here without much fanfare.  And while I did take time out to think about the importance of the holiday on all the significant levels ( and by the way living abroad can make you really appreciate other cultures/histories while still boosting your patriotic feelings for your own country), mostly I longed for a good ‘ole fashioned American style barbecue.  It sounds silly and superficial but it’s true.  I really wanted that long picnic table covered in red and white checks lined with an array of summertime favorites.  And I grieved, if just a bit, for the passing of Independence Day without the usual feast.  And fireworks.  I don’t want to forget about the fireworks.

Moving on.  I went shopping this morning and one of my stops was Aldi.  I think most of you are familiar with Aldi right?  Discount store, no frills etc.  What was on special for the week?  Three guesses.  Your stumped?  Okay, American style food.  Seriously!  There was a whole display dedicated to all things “American” and they were seemingly even more specific to cooking out.  Ah, Eureka!  Surely I could find a taste of home here right?  As I excitedly surveyed the selections, anticipating the sweet success of finding longed for items, the first thing I saw was “American Blueberry Cookies”.  In a box.  What?!  I am not going to claim that there aren’t plenty of boxed cookies, and well boxed anything for that matter, in the U.S.  I mean, it’s true…we love us some preservatives and long shelf life.  BUT, when I think “American”, I DON’T think of boxed blueberry cookies.  Not wanting to be deterred I continued scanning the items to see what other familiar things may be available.  Hmm, mayonnaise (called Hamburger sauce), ketchup, pickles…seriously?  This was disappointing to say the least.  I did come across bagels and hamburger buns (neither of which I have seen previously) and bought those for an upcoming cookout I’m planning.  I guess all was not lost.  But, come on.  Mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickles are available here all the time.  So, the big “American” selection really boiled down to bagels, buns, and boxed cookies…I guess that’s how we’re seen over here!

Generic logo which was used for the packaging on all items in the "American" display. I had no idea Hamburger Broetchen was so American.

So the question is:  What foods do you associate with being American?  And what foods would you miss the most if they weren’t available to you?

Bracing for the storm…

9 Jun

Of Hessentag.  Every year in the Bundesland (state) of Hessen there is a party, festival, outrageous number of people herded into one particular city- whatever you want to call it.  This year it’s in…wait for it….Oberursel!  That’s right everyone, we will be the lucky recepients of over a million (anticipated) visitors between the 10th and 19th of June.  I mean Bryan Adams and Roxette are performing.  Need I say more?

Preparations have been going on for quite awhile now to bring the city into it’s most shining, glorious state for all others to see.  There has been roadwork, painting and a renovation of the train station, among many other improvements.  And now the town is literally buzzing with the constant movement of people setting up booths, building stages, and finalizing all the details that have been planned for months.  You can practically feel the frenzy of activity as soon as you open our front door.

Here are just a couple pics I took on my walk to the bank this morning:

This huge ferris wheel is right down the street from us.

We will probably hear the screams of thrill/ fear all day and night even in our house.

Huge sand replication of a castle in nearby Eppstein

I was trying to get the castle, not all the signs and protective fencing...but basically if you destroy this sandcastle, you're in BIG trouble!!

This sandcastle is literally under video surveillance.

I actually watched part of this being made which was pretty amazing.  It took several days and the man doing it had a paper with a picture of the real castle on it and a shovel.  Seriously.  And maybe some little pics or something for the finer details, which my lousy pictures just don’t show.  He literally just looked at a picture and sculpted as he went.  Pretty impressive.  Sandcastles were never my forte.  I mean, I could barely get enough sturdy molds of sand to make the most basic of structures.  This guy had some serious skills.

We will undoubtedly enjoy some good food and entertainment over the next week and a half, but ultimately I’m sure we’ll be ready for things to go back to normal.  You know, no porta-Johns across the street, no driving restrictions, and a quieter hum that normally fills the air.

Eine kugel banane eis in der waffel.

26 May

Whew, I think I said that right.  Translation: A scoop of banana ice cream in the cone….loosely.  Anyway, here is Quinnifer enjoying a little treat at the mall today.

Eating ice cream AND people watching....she's a multitasker.

Maybe she wanted another flavor?? Mighty serious face for someone eating ICE CREAM.

"Drinking" the ice cream from the cone. Unfortunately you can't hear the slurps through the picture.

While we’re on the topic of ice cream I should mention it’s really popular here.  I mean, duh right?  Who doesn’t like ice cream?  But back home you don’t just pass by people eating cones everywhere you go.  Here you do.  All the time.  Seriously at 9 am there will be people at the eis cafe ordering a cone.  Quinn of course wants to embrace this aspect of the German way of life.  She’s so into having an authentic experience over here.

To market to market…

6 Mar

To buy a fat hog.  Just kidding.  NO hogs were purchased.  We did however take a lovely walk through town yesterday which included going to the local outdoor market.  On Saturdays there is a small market set up in town with lots of different produce and fresh meats and cheeses available.  There are also flowers, unique spices, and lots of baked goods as well.

The weather yesterday was cool but gorgeous.  Since everything is closed on Sundays it seems like EVERYONE is out on Saturdays doing their shopping for the weekend.  The town was buzzing with activity.  We took a stroll, stopping at the market (eating a few pastries) and just enjoying the sunshine.

A couple buildings alongside the market square.

Market Square

I love all the fresh produce.

spices galore

Tulips!

Here is some more of our walk through town:

There are so many cute little side streets.

The sky is almost the same color as the blue building!

Notice the large pretzel sign on the right.

Love the festive pendant banner!

The main pedestrian zone...bustling.

I love the street musicians. This accordion player is out about once a week!

 

 

Home…soon to be sweet home

1 Mar

Okay friends, many of you have been curious about our new place.  Due to our prolonged time without internet I found myself very behind on uploading photos.  I found some pictures I took right before moving in that I can share with you.  Nothing fancy, but at least you will get a sense for where we are.  We are so NOT organized here yet.  The rooms still need pictures hung and decorations put in place to make it feel really cozy and homey.  But, we have reached a point of basic functionality which is good for now.  It looks pretty boring in these photos (because the place is empty) but we are gradually transforming it into our little Gummersbach oasis!

Some things I love about the place:

  • So much natural light!  You won’t be able to tell in these pictures because it was already getting dark outside, but the sun just beams throughout the place.
  • Lovely wooden floors.
  • A finished guest suite in the basement….hint, hint visitors.
  • A garden- yes, it’s small and no, I don’t really “garden” persay…but I love having at least some outdoor space to use.
  • Steps away from the train and a very quick walk from all the daily necessities and shops.

Some things about the place that I am still getting used to:

  • Microscopic cozy kitchen.
  • Stairs everywhere.  I personally don’t mind going up and down, but with Quinn here the place has practically been transformed into our own mini Alcatraz.
  • Overall less space.  This is fine but it creates a challenge when arranging the furniture we already owned.

Conclusion- We like it here and are happy with our choice!

part of the entry way...the kitchen is on the right

living and dining space

When the dishwasher and oven are both open they greet each other.

Wintergarten as it's called here; looks rather dreary but it's actually quite lovely.

Every parent of an adventurous toddler's nightmare.

part of guest bedroom

one of the two second floor bedrooms

third floor loft/studio space

more loft

So, let me ask- how long did it take YOU to really be settled into your last place?  I go back and forth between feeling really impatient to have the place fixed up and “perfect” (which will never happen) and having a more realistic attitude about it all.  Isn’t there a version of Mary Poppins for this sort of thing, you know a song that could magically put my house together?!

 

 

Pinwheels and playgrounds

14 Feb

We’ve actually been having some rather decent weather here lately.  Perhaps I’m easy to please in this department after spending nearly 10 years in Cleveland where winters can beat you down like a red-headed step child.   Forty-five degrees in my opinion is balmy, and when it reached 50ish degrees, well I practically felt like I was in Florida. And Quinn, she likes her sun-supplied Vitamin D just like anyone else, so the sun-shine and mild temperatures called for a trip to the playground.  Along the way we passed a flower shop that had some little pinwheels on display out front.  They called our names so I stopped to buy one for Quinn before continuing on our little outdoor adventure.

Wheeee!

This pinwheel's not going anywhere!

Oberursel

10 Feb

I forgot to mention that the town we settled on for our time in Germany is Oberursel.  It is near Frankfurt, about 20 minutes from where we were staying prior.  I visited this town when my friend Kim was here back in September and loved it then.  I posted about it here.  In case any of you are interested here are a couple other sites about the town.

http://www.oberursel.de/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberursel_(Taunus)

We are not living in the old parts pictured above.  Our home is a more recent (late 80’s) rowhouse just outside of the historic neighborhood.  It’s a short walk to the center of town and all the shops though!

The move

9 Feb

Okay, so you all know by now we have moved.  Finally.  We are in the process still of getting all settled and organized here (pictures to come) but I thought I would make a little timeline showing what all has taken place the last few weeks.  Let’s see how well my memory is working, it seems to be fading in and out these days:

  • January 3rd: Return to Frankfurt at an ungodly hour in the morning and begin the agonizing pleasant task of getting Quinn back on a regular schedule and adjusted to the time change.
  • January 4th:  Begin the process of getting our German driver’s license (still don’t have them) and start scrambling to find a house to move into.  Long story short is that the house we had picked before going home for Christmas was rented out to someone else while we were gone.  That left us less than 2 weeks to find another house and get moved.  Uh-huh.
  • January 5th: Look at a house we decide is the one for us…YAY!  This was a HUGE relief.
  • January 8th: Attend the lease signing which had the feel of a formal house closing.  This was a 2 hour meeting with our relocation agent, the agents for the property, and the owner.  Let’s just say the lease was (okay, is) about 12 or 13 pages long and includes clauses directing us to “air the property out sufficiently on a regular basis” etc.  Don’t believe the hype- Germans are NOT detail oriented.
  • January 11th: Do a “walk-through” at the new house with our relocation agent and the property agents.  This involved walking through (go figure) the entire house and documenting everything about its existing condition; yes pictures AND video were taken.  We thought we were “getting the keys” and really we were getting a 3 hour tour of everything our kid could possibly destroy before we move out.  Awesome.
  • January 12th:  Our belongings from the States get delivered to the new house.  The movers put together the furniture and then leave us with a sea of boxes.  I start hyper-ventilating.
  • January 13th-16th: Our landlord at the temporary apartment is nice enough to let us continue staying there so we have more time to get our belongings in that apartment over to the new place.  That took several car trips because we had received an air shipment from the States with lots of our clothes, Quinn’s toys etc. that we needed before we got the rest of our stuff.  We work on transferring all of those things to the new house and try to spend some time unpacking boxes as well.  I find a mouse has been in the house with the discovery of everyone’s favorite kitchen accessory: turds.  I start hyper-ventilating.  (As a side note, I am not a generally squeamish  person.  I don’t mind blood, spiders, bugs etc.  However when it comes to food and where my food is stored I have issues.  And mice absolutely disgust me.  Just thinking of them makes me get those belly quivers you feel right before you hurl.)  Don’t worry you can all rest tonight knowing that there is no mouse in this house.  The house had been vacant for a couple months prior to us moving in and during that time it seems a little critter took shelter here.  He/She/It is gone.
  • January 17th:  One of the movers comes back to help us unpack more boxes and take packing materials away.  (You can’t just leave the empty boxes at the curb for pickup)  Jurgen is a very nice man who is endlessly patient with us as we go through things and decide what needs to go where.  He also has Poker Face as his ringtone for his cellphone.  We spend our first night in our new place.
  • January 18th-25: We start unpacking and trying to get somewhat organized.  Somewhere during this time we realize that we were a tad hasty in determining how a few of our rooms would be used.  We decide we want to switch around the bedrooms and office.  All of the furniture is already in place.  So we call the movers and ask if they can help us.  Meanwhile much of the unpacking has reached a screeching halt while we contemplate our new layout ideas.
  • January 26th: Another mover visits our house once again to help rearrange the necessary items to accommodate our new and improved vision for the place.
  • January 30th: Joe heads to Italy for work.  Quinn and I familiarize ourselves with our new town a bit and take care of some details such as more paperwork for our licenses etc.
  • February 2nd: We get our internet, cable, and phone turned on.  Sike.  We get all the necessary (at least we think) tuners, routers, cords, cables etc. to set it all up ourselves.  And a big, fat instruction packet all in German.  Very helpful.
  • February 3rd: Joe returns from Italy late in the evening.
  • February 4th: A man not from the cable company, but someone our relocation agent tells us about comes to help us connect our cable and internet.  We celebrate being able to once again communicate with the outside world.
  • February 9th:  I take a good look around this place and realize I need to stop blogging and start working!

Happy New Year!!

4 Jan

Well, it’s 2011.  That is almost unbelievable.  We are back “home” in Frankfurt after a wonderful (although too short for our tastes) visit home to see our families.  I have pictures to post and stories to tell but it will all have to wait just a bit.  For now, I just want to say Happy New Year and that I hope everyone’s holidays were as wonderful as ours were.  Both Joe and I are extremely blessed with amazing families, and getting to see everyone after being over here for the past few months was about as good as it gets.  We truly treasured every moment.

As I mentioned already, there is much to catch you all up on.  But, for now here are just a few highlights from the past couple weeks and our time at home in the States (in no particular order):

  • Quinnie Pot Pie took her first steps (homegirl does things her way…she has been teasing us with this for months)
  • A few AMAZING dinners.  This might sound trivial but it definitely goes in the “highlight” category.  We were spoiled to several homecooked meals (thank you Dad, Helen and Kroll family!) in both Columbus and St. Louis and we were also able to knock out the Chipotle hankering that has been looming over us since September.  Sweet.
  • I was able to enjoy a delicious honeycrisp apple (thanks Jeana!!)
  • Quinnifer (for those of you that don’t know…her name has spawned MANY nicknames) sat on Santa’s lap for the first time.  She was pretty lukewarm about the whole thing.
  • I was able to see a few of my close friends.  It wasn’t for long enough and I didn’t see most people I would have liked but I really relished in my time with the friends who were able to stop by in Columbus.
  • Birthday pedicure- I mean really, no further explanation needed.
  • Good ole fashioned family time.  Since that was the basis of our trip it may seem weird to consider it a “highlight” of our visit but this was the best part of it all.  Lots of laughter and love…

I’m afraid it’s almost 3am here and I am in the wicked world of jet lag.  Quinn’s clock is completely screwed up at the moment as well so Joe and I are completely at her mercy in terms of sleep.  She is finally resting again and so I too will try to get some shut eye before the next round of ” but I’m still on Central time Mom.”  Goodnight.