Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quick Update...

It's been a while since I've blogged.  This summer is flying by! 

We've had a great first summer in Germany!  We've visiting a lot of sights in the Munich/Southern Germany area.  We had our first visitors, Katie and Christian Miller come and stay with us for a week!  We did a lot of sight-seeing, catching up, and just enjoying having some company.  Drew loved the change of pace and seeing some familiar faces.  We had a blast and it sure made me miss home :(. 

Our next visitors will be arriving next week.  Rick's parents, Ron and Kay, and his sister Amy and my nephew Carson are all coming for a week.  They are currently in Italy and Switzerland on an Adventures By Disney trip, and will be making a stop here in Munich before they head back to the states.  We plan on doing some sight-seeing, visiting Kay's penpal in Baden Baden, and just enjoying having some family in town.  Drew is so excited to have his cousin Carson here, it's all he's been talking about for weeks...make that months!!

The kids are enjoying their time here also.  Drew has started his preschool, going once a week for the past month.  He will start going twice a week (full days) in September for the 2011-2012 school year.  He loves it and we think it will be really great for him.  He loves playing with his baby sister, but he also loves going to school to play with other kids his age. 

Anna has finally started walking!  She's been taking steps for about a week and today walked across the living room floor.  She still crawls most of the time, but she's definitely getting more confident and loves to walk.  She gets so excited when she makes it to Mommy :)  She had her first birthday on July 8th, it's hard to believe she's 1.  She adores Drew and even says his name when she sees him!  She now says Mama, Dada, Drew, Bye Bye, Ni-Night, makes some animal sounds and is almost off the bottle!! 

We've been enjoying the wonderful "summer" weather in Germany.  It's been mostly in the 70's, with higher temps here and there.  We've had a lot of rain, but we love the cool weather!  We're looking forward to the fall and even winter when hopefully we can get out and ski the Alps! 

We'll be traveling back to the States in October/November, and my parents and Grandma will be visiting us for Christmas!  We are beyond excited!

And...we just started our German maybe I'll be able to blog in German at some point :)

Here are a few updated pictures :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Feeling Sluggish...

I hate worms!  I always have!  When I was little I wouldn't get on the school bus one morning because there was a giant worm in my way.  My mom had to drive me to school :)  I remember it vividly.  But worms are nothing compared to....

Slugs and Snails!!! 

Ugh...apparently slugs and snails are German, because there are a ton here.  After a good rain they all come out.  I'll take worms over slugs any day :)  Some of them are big too, ewww...they are so gross! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Investigation!

When we moved in and unpacked, I realized that I had 2 bags of Nestle Chocolate Chips that made the trip :)  We were really hurting for a good, sweet, gooey cookie, so I made a batch.  The one ingredient that I didn't have was baking soda.  What difference could 1 teaspoon make right?  I used baking powder instead, no harm no foul.  The cookies turned out great!  All of the dry ingredients were things that were packed from my pantry in the States, I even was smart and bought a big thing of Vanilla Extract from Costco before we left :).

The cookies went fast, so a week or so later, I made another batch.  I did the same baking soda/baking powder switch and this time (using all the same ingredients) the cookies were flat, paper thin!  I did a little research and sure enough, you can't switch baking soda and baking clue why it worked the first time??

So the search began for baking soda.  I thought it would be easy to find.  I mean, you wouldn't even have to label it in the US and most of us would be able to spot it on a shelf!  Well, no luck.  I couldn't find it anywhere!  I did a little online research and found what to look for.  Something called Natron.  A little tiny packet in the baking section (which is Germany, is like 2 shelves) at the grocery store.  I finally found it, my baking soda problems have been solved!

So I whipped up another batch of cookies and they turned out fabulous!  Granted, I had to chop up some baking chocolate because they don't sell chocolate chips here and I ran out of my stash.  But still, they were even better that way, home made chocolate chunk cookies!

Well, now I've run out of flour.  Had I know this was going to be an issue, that last trip to Costco probably would have cost me $1000 in "supplies"!

Anyway, I bought some German flour and made the recipe again.  And once again...flat, paper, cookies :(.  So I did a little research (online again) and have read that I need to sift my "dense German flour" and I need to mix my Natron with some water to help it "react"!

I need to find a sifter and try this again.  But in the meantime, I'm working on getting some normal baking soda from the States too.

I WILL get these cookies right...even if I have to make 100 batches :)

PS.  The dough still takes the same, so once we realize the cookies are going to be flat, Rick helps and just eats all the dough ;)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy May Day!

May 1st is a holiday here in Germany (and many other countries as well).  It's May Day!

One of the traditions here in Germany is the May Pole.  Each city has a May Pole in their City Center.  Sometimes rival cities (mostly based on the school system) will steal each other's May Poles, but they are always returned after :)  Sometimes the May Poles need to be replaced and they town will wait until May Day to put up a new one.

We visited a very small town about 6km from us called Aschering.  They were putting up their new May Pole and had a big celebration!  Everyone was dressed in traditional German clothing, Lederhosen (mostly for men) and Dirndl for the ladies.  Even the small children were in their traditional cute!  (Yes, now I'm on the hunt for them for Drew and Anna!)

We watched them lift the May Pole and set it in place.  When they were done, everyone clapped, and a group of men shot some guns!  We were standing right next to these men and could not figure out what they were doing...we thought they had flasks or something over their shoulders (certainly they couldn't be guns), but we were wrong...they were guns!  And they were very loud and unexpected!  They must have shot them off 6 or 7 times too.  It was tons of fun and very neat to learn about their traditions!

Here are a few pictures from our morning!

The May Pole

People in their Traditional Clothing

The May Pole in Place

The Men with Guns

A Steel Frame 7 Person Bike (this thing was hilarious!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Visiting My First Castle!

On Saturday we visited my first real castle!  Other than my girl Cinderella's of course :)  It's actually considered a Palace, but I'm counting it as my first Castle :)

King Ludwig II's original idea was to have a copy of Versailles Palace in honor of King Louis XIV of France.  They began construction in 1878 and it was never finished because the King ran out of money.  The palace was intended purely as a monument and had no practical function.  In fact, the King only spent a few days in the palace.  He planned on spending 10 days there every September, but after his first stay, he was found dead in Lake Starnberg (the lake we live on!).  To this day no one knows the cause of his death...suicide, murder, or accident. 

We toured the Palace and unfortunately you are not allowed to take any photos inside :(  It was incredible!  All of the floors were made out of real marble and the walls were made out of a fake marble that is actually more expensive than real marble (and can be colored to your choice).  Almost everything was covered in gold, but it was all gold leaf, therefore there was only about 5 lbs of gold combined in the entire palace.  The Palace has not been touched since the King died, so we got to see some of the unfinished area's as well. 

Here are a few pictures that we took of the outside!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting Along With The Germans

Someone at work gave Rick this book the other day, called "Getting Along With The Germans". 

Here are a few things that I found quite amusing and so true about Germany:

"Dogs are welcome in all public eating establishments, but your credit card might not be."
We were heavy credit card users in the US.  We put everything on our credit cards so we could collect points for either cash back or airplane miles.  (No worries, we always paid it in full every month).  So when we got here and found that most places don't accept credit cards, we had to get used to carrying a lot of cash at all times!  For example, we bought a washer and dryer for about 1000 Euro, and had to pay cash!!  Now we have found the "EC card" which is basically just a debit card from the bank, and a lot of places will take that.  No benefits other than convenience.  

"In every German there is a hidden Policeman"
Germans do not hesitate to tell you if you've done something wrong.  It doesn't matter if you've parked in the wrong spot, or forgot your child's hat on a chilly day, they'll let you know.  Luckily we haven't run into this issue yet, or maybe we have and just didn't understand because they were speaking German...oh well :)

"In Germany it takes ten times longer to pay for a meal as it does to order, have it prepared, and consume it"
After eating out probably 5 times, we have finally learned to ask for the check as soon as we're done eating.  You can put your silverware in the proper "I'm finished eating" position, you can be sitting outside in the rain (this actually happened to us) waiting for the bill, but unless you ask for it, they won't bring it.  In the US we used to complain that we would be rushed during a meal, here is the complete opposite!! 

"Of the 595,000 bags of potato chips delivered daily to grocery stores, not one single bag contains plain salted chips.  However, 594,999 bags contain "paprika-flavored" potato chips.  One bag contains cheesies, delivered by mistake."
Hilarious, considering how picky my husband is!  They even sell paprika flavored pringles!  Gross!!

Those are just a few of the "funnies".  I was cracking up reading this book, because there were so many things that I could relate to!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trash, Trash, and more TRASH!!!

One thing that drives me crazy about Germany is the way they do trash!  I'm all for recycling, don't get me wrong.  In Minnesota we had a recycling container that was the same size as our trash can and we filled it up, usually overflowing for a twice a month pick up.  We put as much as we could in there, milk jugs, cereal boxes, papers, cans, bottles, etc.  What we didn't put in there was stuff with food on it.  Baby food jars that were empty, but still have some food in the inside, yogurt containers, empty butter containers, etc.  Here's my problem.  Here in Germany you have to separate everything.  Ok, so it shouldn't be a big deal to separate your cans from your bottles, or your boxes from your plastic jugs.  But we have to put all plastics (even used yogurt containers...yuk!) in one container.  Paper in another (napkins, paper towels...ugh), glass in another one (cleaned out, no lids), food goes in one all on its own (I can't even talk about this one, I'll gag!), and then there is "restmuil" for everything else (diapers, old socks...whatever). 

We live in an aparment building with 6 apartments.  We are the only ones with kids.  Thank God Drew is potty trained so we only have enough diapers for 1 kid.  But in our "community" garbage area, there is 1 can for restmuil and they come once every 2 weeks!  Everything else comes about once a month!  It's madness!

I'm not describing it very well, because reading this does not make it sound that bad, but it truly sucks!  I'm loving Germany and especially loving our little town of Starnberg, but this garbage thing drives me crazy. 

Here is a picture of our trash set up in the kitchen...5 trash cans!!!  Plus a diaper pail in Anna's room!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Silly Americans...

It's funny to see the perception of Americans from the German point of view. I was grocery shopping the other day and came across these cookies that were simply called "American Style Cookies". So I bought them, I just had to know what an "American Style Cookie" was! Rick and I did the taste test and sure enough...they were Chips Ahoy Cookies! So the next time you enjoy a Simple Chips Ahoy, know that it's what the Germans believe to be "American Style Cookies"!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A couple of pictures...

We spent the morning riding our bikes along Starnbergersee (Starnberg Lake).  It was a beautiful day and a great bike ride with some wonderful photo opportunities!

Here are Drew and Anna ready to see the world from the bike trailer

A view of the Alps...I never get tired of looking at the mountains!

The City of Starnberg from across the lake

At First Glance...

So we've been in Germany for a month now, and I'm surprised at how much we've done and learned so far!

We've traveled to Austria and Switzerland for a few days, Rick worked, the kids and I explored! We moved into our new home, got our air shipment after about a week and a half, and our sea shipment after about 4 weeks. Living out of a suitcase for almost a month is not fun! Rick had a business trip to Amsterdam and I stayed home with the kids and got around on my own for 4 days (which sounds pathetic, but it wasn't easy!).

We've learned so much this first month! When we first arrived in Germany we went to the grocery store just like we would anywhere. A wallet full of credit cards, maybe a dollar or two in cash, and a cart full of groceries! What we learned is that credit cards are not "everywhere you want to be"! Stores here do not accept credit cards, cash only! After we were finally able to pay for our groceries, we realized that bags are not provided! You can buy them in the store, or bring your own, but they will not give you bags for free! I thought bagging your own groceries sucked, but now I have to bag my own groceries in my own bags! What's next, pay for my cart? Oh yeah, you have to do that too! 1 euro for a cart. You get your euro back when you return your cart, but if you don't have the Euro, no cart for you!

I could go on and on about things that are so different here! Some good, some bad. So instead of rambling, I'll make a list!

Thinks that I DON'T like about Germany:
Paying for my shopping cart
Bagging my own groceries
Remembering to bring bags every time I go shopping
Not being able to get tap water at a restaurant
No ice at restaurants...and if you ask for some, they give you 2-3 cubes
Water costing about 3 Euro per glass at restaurants
No kids menus
Having to go to 5 different stores to get what's on your "one stop shop" like Target
No Mexican food
Separating all of our trash...we literally have 5 trash cans in our kitchen, not joking!

Things that I LOVE about Germany:
Public Transportation
Walking everywhere
Bike trails and bike parking everywhere you go
The dogs! Dogs are everywhere, they are so friendly and accepted in stores, restaurants, etc.
The pizza! Salami pizza is to die for!
That beer is the same price as coke or water in restaurants
The people, they are so friendly and helpful and genuine!
The weather (so far at least)
The cars, you see nice cars everywhere
The autobahn-at first I thought it was going to scare me, but it's very entertaining. We typically drive about 90 in the middle lane and cars will fly past us! Then you'll enter a town and everyone obeys the law and goes the speed limit...then you'll see the no speed limit sign and everyone takes off! But people are very good drivers despite the speed. You don't see people changing lanes like crazy, the fast drive on the left, slow on the right.
The perfect concrete potholes!
The wine and cheese selection

I really could go on more, but you get the point. My list of things I like is longer than the list of things I don't, so I think we're off to a good start. At first glance, Germany is a little scary, but once you realize the language only SOUNDS mean, and the autobahn is not a death trap, it's pretty great! Yes, we miss our families and friends so much, and we are looking forward to having visitors and visiting "home"!