Saturday, December 31, 2016

AWARE is my word for 2017

2012: GO

2014: CHANGE

So this year I'm thinking a little bit broader. After the year we've had as a nation, it's time to think more outwardly and consider in-depth my perception of others, and in return, their perception of me.  What do I want others to see? What do I want to project? After some self-analysis, how do I want to change this year? 

As always, this isn't a challenge to complete by a certain date, these yearly words are an effort to focus on an area that needs some attention over the course of the coming months and seasons. I initially started with OPEN: the opening up of myself to new ideas and circumstances. But before I can become Open, I have to become Aware of what's going on in the world and in my head.

So that's where I'll start this year.  For many of us, 2016 ended with quite a jolt and a lot of raised questions and discussions about topics that we've never really considered in all their variations. Where do we go from here? What do we stand for? And what will we stand up for?

That all begins with becoming AWARE. Join me?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Winter Solstice

The shortest day (of sunlight) is the first day of winter, and where better to spend it than Koln. It was actually quite cold out, even with the few hours of sun that shone. I think that means I didn't drink enough gluhwein (or any... my mistake).  The boys are not into markets and methinks that next year, maybe one will be on the "family outing" ticket. This year was Wiesbaden with Becca (nice), Bad Homburg with Becca (way too small to bother), Strasbourg with Becca (awesome), Frankfurt with everyone (no soul), and Koln with everyone.  Ian also went to Mainz with Becca, which I think is similar to Wiesbaden.

Koln has several markets, and we visited the three closest to the Hbf, the cathedral market, the gnome market, and the angel market.  The best of the three is the gnome market.

The whole market was filled with gnomes, on the stall roofs, on the signs, on the mugs, everywhere. Every market should have a theme like gnomes.

Seriously... gnomes!
There's a familiar feel to the Koln markets, as there seems to be in many of the Hessen city markets. Next year we'll try to get some of the more unique ones in walled cities and little hamlets. But Koln is worth visiting for an afternoon.

Bailey's hot chocolate is da gnomey best

The cathedral is massive and stunning.

Christmas tree.

Judgy owl

Ice skating through the market

Group photo! Thanks Berenice for taking it!

Taking to the ice.
So yes, we'd recommend a visit to Koln and its markets. If you do go, stop by the angel market and get a rolled up and baked, cheese and bacon wonder.  We decided to pass, and realized almost immediately that THAT was a mistake as it's something we haven't seen before.  Take the uniqueness when you can as so much of the markets are very cookie-cutter.

Enjoy the longest night of the year!

Monday, December 12, 2016

What I've Learned

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing Picture Quote #1

In the summer of 2014 we spent time in Northern Ireland and Scotland.  Northern Ireland was chillier than Amman, and it drizzled. A lot.

There was a quote that we saw in a shop window and it spoke to me.

I have to admit that my biggest concern with moving to Germany was the winter weather. It's still dark at 8 a.m. It's dark again at 4:30 p.m. And some days it's cold.  So cold. So very cold.

I don't do cold, and there are still times that my hands and feet get cold while I'm sitting at work or at home. That's normal, right? But so far winter in Frankfurt hasn't been awful.

Our home is designed for cold.  The heaters are toasty, the blankets are flung about, the windows don't leak.

I have a heavy coat with a big hood and lined pockets.

I have ankle boots that are lined and water-proofed.

I wear a scarf every day with my coat and at work.

I have a large assortment of sweaters, and one is wool so on really cold days that gets pulled out.

For really cold days I have leggings for under my pants and silky tops that are awesome layering insulators.

And in the past 20 years I've put on 30 pounds of living insulation.

I. Am. Set. And it makes living here that much more fun.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Strasbourg Market

I hate to admit it, but the Frankfurt Christmas Market just isn't all that. After loving Prague, enjoying Bratislava, adoring Schoenbrunn Palace, and now having Strasbourg under our belt, the Frankfurt option just doesn't seem to have much soul.

So yeah, Strasbourg on Tuesday was pretty awesome. The market this year takes up a number of alleys and squares of the Grand Ile in the city center.  It's a beautiful market, lots of walking, everything has a stork on it, and so many sweets.

Lunch at Au Dauphin

I think we'll actually go back to this one next year. Lovely.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

October Cork

Have we mentioned how much we love Ireland? With Katherine there for a semester, we headed southwest for a weekend.

Blarney Castle is magical.

No really.  With witches and everything.

Parkland and quiet spaces.

And yes, the Blarney Stone!

Castle graffiti


Michele. So. Many. Germs.


Looking down from where the trap door used to be.
The trap door for unwelcome visitors.


There's no wonder why Katherine loves it here.

There's Jameson whisky.

And better Jameson whiskey hot chocolate.

And required winter soft serve.
We're really hoping that Katherine ends up back in Cork next year!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The art is still not on the walls.

I have an excuse, really, I do.

After returning from the States, I dozed my way through the next few days. And then came Monday.

Hello, I'm the new co-CLO-Assistant at U.S. Consulate Frankfurt. I'm currently working full-time, though it won't last once the full-time CLO starts. Once she's there, I'll drop down to a 20hrs/wk job-share. Not optimal by far, especially as once it's a job-share I can't work more than 20hrs/wk. I'd love to get the two co-CLOs onto separate 32hr/wk part-time schedules instead, for better office coverage, better flexibility, and better income.

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Another step closer to an empty nest

Last week the girls and I flew out of Germany. Katherine is situated in Cork, Ireland for her semester abroad, and I accompanied Rebecca to Savannah, GA, for orientation for her first year of college.

You might not be shocked to learn that I really don't enjoy the traveling part of traveling so much. Wait, that's not accurate. I don't really like the transition part of traveling so much.  The getting to the airport and checking in and sitting at the gate. The reclaiming of bags and hailing of cabs or picking up a rental car. There are so many points of potential badness. Lost bags, missed connections, wrong reservations. It's exhausting. Throw in the physical discomfort of travel with time zones and cramped seats and mystery foods and truly travel is just not my cup of tea.

But we do it all the time anyway. Usually Ian and I travel together and he handles most of everything logistical. I like it that way. Then I only have to complain about the ridiculousness the airlines call pillows.

Flying to Savannah via Amsterdam and an overnight in NoVA was fine. SAS, aka Scandinavian Airlines, isn't bad. They have comfy blankets and a weird new rule of stuffing the blankets and pillows by your feet or in the overhead for take-offs and landings. And no Samsung Galaxy 7 usage at all. That one I understood.

We picked up the footlocker we'd left at my parents' house and arrived in Savannah without any major incident. Well, in Frankfurt we couldn't actually find our gate, managed to get two stamps in our passports and walked the entirety of the B concourse, but somehow I don't feel that was our fault. Then upon leaving Dulles we had one bag overpacked so shifted items around only to realize that all that weight I'd moved to my carry-on was actually liquid weight so the carry-on then needed to be checked in for a lovely 2nd bag fee. You'd think we never traveled anywhere before. I even wore shoes with laces.

Art kits and text books, for class days 1 and 2.
Savannah was hot and sticky, just like we remembered. Thursday was move-in day for some of the freshmen, which took all of an hour to unpack the suitcase, and then unpack and repack the footlocker (now her supply pantry). The rest of the day we spent shopping for school supplies and items at Target and BB&B we knew weren't coming in her UAB. I highly recommend getting your college kid a memory foam mattress pad. And a small fan.  Becca's room has two windows and while the suite has a/c very little of it actually makes it into the bedroom. It's hot. And sticky.

That evening we met up with the roommates and their parents at a River Street restaurant. It's nice to have a little connection to these folks. The closest live in NC, the farthest in NY so they're all relatively in the neighborhood.

The UAB was scheduled for Friday. It did not come on Friday. Friday was move-in day for the rest of the freshman and the roads were busy, with an accident on one route. Rather than call and ask for another place to drop off items, or even say they were on the way or in the area, the driver returned to the warehouse with her boxes. We were not pleased, and especially not pleased when the next available time for delivery was between 12-5 on Monday when Becca was starting classes and I would be in Chicago. I fussed a bit and somehow the company that doesn't deliver on the weekend happened to be making another delivery on Saturday and would try to make it to us as well. At 12:30 on Saturday we connected and we spent the next hour carting one 100lb box at a time from the mailroom to her dorm. The security guards were sympathetic. FYI, I recommend calling the moving company a couple hours into their delivery window rather than 1/2 hour before the end of the day.

I ended up packing about 1/2 a box worth back into a suitcase to bring to Frankfurt. Fun times, fun times.

But really, the challenge those days was simply to get Becca comfortable in her new space. She spent each night with me at the hotel, we had dinners together, and not until her items had arrived and her space looked a little more hers did she move fully into her dorm. It helped that I was checking out of the hotel at 4:30 a.m. the next morning too.

Glad she brought the rug.

It's all good.  She's figuring things out, finding her classes, doing her hours and hours of homework. Anyone who tells you that art school is easy hasn't been to art school. I keep hoping she'll remember to eat. We're not around enough to take her out.

If you are in Savannah, go here.

Gonna miss that face.
It was with a heavy heart that I left her in Georgia, and even worse that I then had plenty more travel only now all by my lonesome. The return trip was via Chicago so I stopped for an overnight at my aunt's house up in Wisconsin to visit with my grandmother. They went all out, inviting the rest of my mom's side over for a picnic lunch. Babcia has loads of stories to tell and what better way to spend time together than to hear about her youth and her family.

The rest of the trip was standard and went crazy smooth. I transferred in Stockholm, the land of reindeer pelts available at the airport. Who buys a reindeer pelt? Who has room in their carry-on? And since we still don't have a car, once I landed I took the S5 and the U1 back home.

2799Kroner = $329
The boys go to school. Ian goes to work. I'm at home getting over a minor case of jetlag. When the cats nap it's especially quiet (why they can't nap at midnight, I don't know). It won't last, I start my new job in the CLO office on Monday, so I'll enjoy the quiet for today.

And in case you're wondering, the girls are adjusting. Katherine is enjoying Cork and UCC quite a bit.

And the texts from Becca include questions like what to do with someone else's underwear that gets mixed in with hers in the laundry room. Hey, she found time to do laundry!

I wonder if they ate today?