Thursday, November 26, 2009

We are thankful for...

I loved this when I read it: (by Nancie J. Carmody). I thought it was fitting for the day, considering we have so much to give thanks for.
I am thankful for....

•....the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
•....the taxes I pay because it means that I'm employed.
•....the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
• shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.
•....the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
•....all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
•....the lady who sings off key behind me in church because it means I can hear.
• huge heating bill because it means I am warm.
•....a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
•....the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I'm alive.
•....weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.
•....the piles of laundry that surround me because it means my loved ones are nearby.
Making this more personal...
We are thankful for...
- Faith in a God who loves us
- One another in marriage (because, marriage is awesome!)
- Great family (really, they are great... we're so lucky!)
- Friends
- Work opportunities
- Great food (pretty much burritos come to mind)
- Health
- Education 
- Chocolate (because I don't think my husband would survive without it) :)
- This amazing journey we're on exploring the beautiful world.
Although I type this while sitting in an office since Germans don't have a tradition of the "Thanksgiving" holiday, I don't feel any less thankful. We don't feel cheated because we aren't sitting around eating delicious foods today... because we have so much already.
Know that we're thinking of you on this day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beautiful Belgium - Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp!

This weekend was incredible. While we still have months left to explore our ways through Europe, Bruges was the most beautiful city we've ever seen up to this point. There are lots of "duplicates" because they either illustrate the story better, or just because I simply could not decide which photo I liked best.

Our hotel was located in Brussels, but we took the train a few stops and this was our first sight: St. Michael's Cathedral. It is just gorgeous and perched on a hill overlooking the city center.

The interior of the church had a few unique qualities. I'm sure that more churches have this feature, but this was quite blatant here moreso than others we've visited. There are clearly flat gravestones towards the outsides of the church's interior. I also researched that there is another church in Belgium that you can actually see through one of the tombs and view the bones of the family buried there. Now that is creepy! We didn't see that church, though. The Internet photo I saw was likely taken "illegally" given the poor quality. On the right is just more beautiful stained glass. I'm just so enamored by the beauty and detail in these churches.

Speaking of detail! This wood carving is a sight to see. This photo doesn't give it justice. The enormity of the structure and the detailing... it was also alarmed... so we weren't touching!

The steps of the church.

Turning completely around from the church site, this is the sight (like my homophone usage? Ha!):

Near the Royal Palace (no photos of that), there was a huge park. There were lots of lion statues and this one was particularly scary looking-- or scared, depending on your perception. We saw a photo opportunity, of course.

We were making our way down to the city center and saw this building. See if you can spot the graffiti.

And... another photo of the same building with the graffiti zoomed out. Disgraceful!

One the Ray's favorite buildings: one of the best preserved art nouveau styles in the city. It's gorgeous.

Turn about 90 degrees to your left from the Old English building and you see this view: central Brussels.

While not much graffiti compared to other countries we've visited (see Budapest posting), there is still some... in the most precarious places! Perhaps the "artist" didn't want their design to last forever?

This view is taken as we walk further towards the downtown Brussels area. The tall building on the left will be in later photos, but it's located at the Grand Place Market Square in the heart of the city. The Chinese decorated building is actually a restaurant/store/information center that was decorated as a 6-month tribute to Chinese art... or something of that nature. There are over 5,000 lanterns hanging.

You didn't think we'd last even a few hours in Belgium without a BELGIAN WAFFLE, did you? Not a chance! Here is Ray with our first waffle (1 of 2) of the weekend. It was really sweet and actually had bits of sugar inside. That's the tranditional, regional way. They aren't expensive and there are at least 3-4 stands/small businesses selling just these for every long block we walked. The sweet smell permeates the air making you want to do nothing but eat. {like the carnival/fair syndrome surrounded by funnel cakes and the like... you all know what I'm talking about!}

Same waffle, another view. We loved this little area in the city. They had small booths selling various overpriced items attempting to rip-off tourists, but it was still cute.

Left: St. Hubert Gallery -  a long stretch of enclosed shops & restaurants on the bottom floor and the top floor is reserved for apartments. Such buildings were popular architecture of the area and have since dwindled-- but they still house fancy restaurants and elite chocolate shops. (I nearly wrote chocolate in GERMAN! Perhaps I am grasping some of the language after all... I already forgot all my Spanish. I'm convinced that at our ages, it covers the knowledge in that area of the brain. Maybe it's just an excuse of my own... maybe. Either way, they are all mixed up in our brain matter!)

Right: Really cute street of all French restaurants. They haggle you to eat at their restaurant and stand outside practically begging. It was interesting, but SO European-esque.

More waffles... and you will see more... the prices were reasonable, too. A plain was around 1.70 Euro and with toppings, it could jump to around 3.00 Euro. Every third person was eating one... so they must be doing something right!

We thought this was neat. They make gingerbread using wooden molds.

Here's Ray standing in the center of the Market Square. This is the same area they will be having Christmas markets (starting the last weekend in November). As you can see, they're setting up.

Grand Place Market Square. There are a few photos... we thought it was just stunning!

Notice the Christmas Tree! It's definitely fresh.

Remaining part of the old Brussels city wall (circa 11-12th centuries).

Another attraction: Manneken Pis. Perhaps with that name, you can make some assumptions:

This guy (only about 2-3 feet tall... so small!) has a clothing schedule. I read somewhere that he had over 900 outfits or something. They change his dress every 1-3 days. It usually matches a holiday or something of that nature.

He's a popular dude.

Before dinner that night, we had to try the local brew. We're actually not sure if this is local, but it was recommended by some people in Germany, so we gave it a shot. While we sat there, I talked with the group next to me. All of them were locals and drinking the Duvel as well... so I guess we got it right. The guy also told me I sound British (that's a new one! I'm used to hearing Wisconsin... but British?). They were speaking Flemish to one another, but mentioned they are also fluent in French considering there are more French speakers in Belgium than Flemish, German, or English.

Something weird. Mine is on the left, Ray's on the right. Mine is significantly clearer than his and remained that way the entire time. I think it was sediment. Or perhaps a dirty glass. Probably sediment.

Au Revoir, Bruxxeles!

Arriving in Bruges: Most beautiful European city, to date! (for us two) The church is St. Salvator's Cathedral.

Walking along the streets in Bruges. Notice the Christmas starting to pop up!

Provinciaal Hof

North side of the Market Place + Christmas market (our first one!)

The Belfry: There are a series of these because I simply couldn't choose. Plus, they all offer different angles of the city:

I obviously loved this town!

City Hall, Bruges

The Belfry in the background

We set out to find the canals. While not even close to as many as Amsterdam, we thought they were also equally charming. The city also seemed much cleaner.

This is my attempt at a "model" shot. Hahaha.

Now Ray's turn to model!

I loved this area. There were restaurants to the side of us and chocolatiers everywhere. OH. MY. HEAVENS.

This photo is only good in a series of THREE.
Photo #1: Can you just see the flare of my nostrils? I am literally a kid (ehm, adult) in a candy store.

I'm happy, but so is that lady behind me!

And attempt #3... the "normal" and not nearly as exciting shot.

Acquisition of waffle #2. This time, I helped. But, only if there is chocolate. Rich. Belgian. Chocolate.

And ... there ... was!

Of course, on our way out of town, we stopped off to grab some Coke Lights at Quick-- the only European fast food hamburger chain.

Then we made our way into Antwerp. It's known for being the 2nd largest port in Europe and a leading diamond-cutting region. I just can't believe all the beautiful sights I am seeing!

This is Our Lady's Cathedral in the background. Sadly, this beautiful catherdral is just a mere museum. No services are actually held there... and you have to pay to enter!

Antwerp, Belgium's town hall

More photos from Our Lady's Cathedral

Just outside another church, I noticed this nice piece of vandalism-- it comes in all forms! This one got a smirk out of me.. at least it's not damaging.

Carolus Borromeus Church

Carolus Borromeus Church interior -- supposedly, the painting in front is changed periodically. It's amazing they just have these enormously huge paintings hanging around.

The "lined" brick center building was actually originally built as a "meat hall"... later to become a theater, wine cellar, and now a museum. My first thought: a MEAT hall? That's an awfully nice building to store meat!

There are a few of these. This is what they call the "Het Steen" (meaning: the stone). It's an old outpost with most of it still remaining. It's directly next to the water and is quite the site upon driving down the road.

This funny looking man stone in the center is actually said to be a stone of fertility. Women used to look up at the stone as good wishes in hopes of bearing children. Considering the difficulty many of my good friends have had, I thought of them... this photo's for you, ladies!

Before I get emails/calls/comments about pregnancy, I need to say, NO. I am not-- nor am I trying to become pregnant (see beer photos above). I am simply doing this because I am a woman, and it's a good photo opportunity. I didn't find it appropriate for Ray to stand under it. Haha! I hope you got a good laugh. :)

This must be a sign... leaving my favorite country (so far) and seeing my favorite car!

Unrelated, my Mother-in-Law sent these by email and I thought I'd include them since Thanksgiving is only a couple days away. Since we won't have a traditional Thanksgiving on the actual day, we celebrated a bit early with Ray's family when we headed to Maryland for Erin's wedding. Here are some photos...

Samantha & Kay

Left: Gramie, Ray & Brandy;
Right: Kay & Steve

The totally festive table arrangement. Extra points for real pumpkins.

The crew about to dig in! Thanks for a great meal and good times! <3

We will also be celebrating a late Thanksgiving and visiting a Christmas market with some friends who live in Germany. They live about 2 hours away from us at the Air Force Base (Ray's former roomate at the Air Force Academy & his wife-- who also graduated from USAFA) and we're excited to spend the weekend with them. We drive out Friday night to stay in Luxembourg and then all day Saturday & Sunday with friends!

And now... if you're still here and I haven't lost you to an abundance of photos...
Here's the journaling for the week:

Donnerstag 19.11.2009 (day 66)

I broke the fat spell. We have worked out almost not at all since we’ve moved here. It’s absolutely pathetic. While I thought my measly 2-3 runs/week in Los Angeles were bad, this is just pathetic. BUT, today, we went for a run; partly because my lower back has been in great pain lately. I’ve spent so much time sitting in chairs in an office building (something I would never be able to do as my personal job daily) that it’s getting to me. Teaching, I never ever had a sore back. You’d think bending over and all the crazy acrobatics I did teaching elementary school would send me to a chiropractor. Well, not at all. Apparently, office chairs do the trick, though. On the outside front, there are no more fall leaves to be found anymore. It’s all brown, bare, and ready for winter. Now onto the day’s events: We had early morning German lessons today! It’s been awhile since we had a morning schedule. We haven’t had these since our tutor went back to school. Well, Ray always has a morning/midday/night schedule… Anyway, 9 a.m. was the start time, so I went in to work early with Ray. Like expected, we began our lesson, had a short break, and finished around lunchtime. We headed out to grab some food for lunch and came back to work some more. I finished up the blog for the week and worked on my German homework and notebook. It’s looking sharp! Ray had a few meetings and a video teleconference with people in the U.S. It was a pretty productive day! We got home and suited up for a run, then came back and had this amazing salad I prepared (seasoned black beans, corn, romaine, cheese, rice, crushed tortilla chips, and a tablespoon of homemade vinaigrette). No meat… and Ray was okay with that. He truthfully (I pressured him to state the truth) told me he enjoys eating less meat and that it’s not a sacrifice. He said it used to be, but now he’s more on board since it’s not intended for man to eat so much meat… and it’s good for his heart to eat veggie sometimes. Anyway, so great dinner and then I baked an apple pie—another one—for Sabine’s birthday tomorrow. I hope it’s not soggy. I used another pie crust that’s super flaky, almost like a croissant. We’ll see tomorrow, I guess! We packed for our drive to Belgium this weekend and Ray worked on some travel plans. We might be postponing our Barcelona trip because of work. We’re heading down to Frankfurt next week for a few days, also. Lots of busy stuff going down in December we need to be around for. Off to get ready for bed! Long, great, productive day!

Freitag 20.11.2009 (day 67)
Ray picked me up around 11:30 this morning to head back to work. We quickly ate before our noon German lesson. It’s Sabine’s birthday today, so I brought in the apple pie and vanilla ice cream, and the “Up” DVD we bought for her. She was excited about the apple pie and asked if it was a true, “American Pie” apple pie. She’s seen that movie, of course. It was probably my best apple pie ever! I guess the more fatty, flaky the crust, the better the pie. She hadn’t heard of “Up” yet! Although another employee was in the room when she opened her present and he had seen it. She talks about Shrek all the time, so I’m sure she’ll enjoy it. It just came out in theatres here in Germany, so we thought it would be cool to have a movie that you can’t even get on DVD yet in Germany. Our German lesson was fine, and we had homework to complete after. I finished that up while Ray called into another meeting he set up in the states regarding another website he’s designing. He’s not designing the whole website, just the look and feel. They always get a real designer to work the actual HTML code and what actually puts it on the web. But, Ray has great ideas and he knows the reality of websites and how the Internet technology works. It’s fun to listen to him on the phone because he really is a smarty pants (although I can toot my own horn a bit because I’ve also had a lot of training in that area and kept up with—and agreed—with his comments during the phone call). We left around 4:30 on our drive to Belgium. We stopped off at a rest stop (as usual) for a restroom break and dinner. You have to pay to use restrooms here in Europe. It’s .50 and if you go to an ordinary rest stop off the Autobahn, they give you a voucher you can redeem at the store/restaurant attached. So, if you’re stopping for a drink or food anyway, you’re actually paying nothing. It’s essentially the same things as saying that restrooms are only available for customers. We don’t mind this because the restrooms are always really clean and sort of give you the feeling of an “oasis” experience. Sounds weird, but many of them even play like rainforest sounds… very odd. The way we drove took us through the Netherlands for a bit and finally into Belgium. We drove to Brussels where we are staying for the weekend. There was absolutely no traffic on our side, but an incredible amount on the opposite side. So much, that we almost felt guilty for having it so easy! It took us about 10 minutes of getting lost in the city center before finding our hotel, but it wasn’t too bad. We always get confused in cities with our crazy Tom Tom GPS, but always find our way eventually. The room’s nice… as I sit on the bed and type while watching The Bourne Identity (in English!!!). I’m excited for our adventure tomorrow!

Samstag 21.11.2009 (day 68)
We woke up here in Belgium to the housekeeper knocking on our door. We’re such good sleepers. I switched on the TV and was enthralled by a show (re-dubbed in French) about crab migration in Australia. I thought about researching that on the Internet, but it’s nearly 20 Euro per day! We won’t be using the Internet while we’re here at that rate. We cleaned up and headed out to explore Brussels. We walked a block to the train station and realized that it required only coins to pay the 9 Euro day pass fee. We didn’t have coins, so we went back to the hotel for change. They had none. We walked to a newspaper shop and bought something—but still didn’t have enough for day passes. We gave up at this point and just purchased 1-way passes. We weren’t too far from the city center, but we didn’t want to get lost through all these funky shaped streets, so we took the subway. Our hotel isn’t in the city center, but in the International district. It’s actually a really nice area, but more businesses than fun shops. Off the subway, we noticed a beautiful dom near us. We stopped in to check out St. Michiels Kathedraal. That’s how they spell it on the map, anyway. I’m not sure if it’s Flemish or French, but it sure isn’t English or German. It was gorgeous inside. Like all doms, we’re in awe of the ability to build such glorious structures with such incredible detailing and stained-glass work. There was an amazing wood structure inside this dom that we just couldn’t get over. It was at least 15 ft. wide and 25 feet tall, but all one piece of carved wood. Just incredible. It had its own alarm, so we weren’t touching it! On the ground around the sides of the dom were grave-like marbles with crossbones. A bit creepy! We left there and headed through a park and saw the Parliament, then on to the Palais Royal (Royal Palace). While beautiful, we also noticed that the fencing had high pieces of black metal covering the openings. We’re assuming the Royal family of Brussels prefers their privacy. We headed in the direction of the city center and were not disappointed. This area was really cute and had some street vendors selling their goods in the central area. Ray couldn’t resist the purchase of a Belgian waffle at this point. It was seriously good with plenty of sugar inside. People ordered them with thick layers of chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and fruit to top. Ray was “healthy” (if that’s possible ordering a sugary waffle!) and ordered his “aus natural”… but sweet it was! We walked through this really long covered market area where there were tons of chocolatiers. Back to have some lunch in the city center, and I realized that I left the camera bag/my passport/U.S. ID/credit cards/LIFE hanging on a chair. My heart about stopped!!! Luckily, and the cashier also told me, “You got lucky”—and boy do I feel lucky. Man, wouldn’t that have ruined our experience! We experienced what we thought was the Rathaus after lunch. What a beautiful center. This was quite possibly the most beautiful center with the most intricate designing on all surrounding buildings we’ve seen in Europe so far. It was a huge square they were preparing for the upcoming Christmas markets. There were portable shops made of wood set up, lights hung, a huge Christmas tree in the very center (they were putting lights on), and what looked to be a hut with a bunch of hay they were using to cover it. Considering Christmas coming in just over a month, you’d think it would’ve been easy to find a Christmas ornament. On the contrary, we searched all day and ended up buying a key-chain that had an area for a tree hanger. No ornaments anywhere! We moved on from that beautiful architecture to the Manneken Pis (aka: the little boy “mannequin” who pees as a fountain) and turned the corner to find at least a hundred or so people taking photos. There was a schedule of clothing next to the 2-3 foot tall statue. It was incredibly small compared to what we expected. Photos never give good perspective! I think, considering I haven’t seen but only heard, that it’s much like the Mona Lisa. You imagine it to be huge, but it’s small. I only know this because I’ve seen friends’ photos of the painting. Anyway, we snapped some photos of the mannequin dressed in “student clothing from Luxembourg” and headed on our way. They change the clothing every 1-3 days. It usually matched a holiday or something celebratory. We saw a few more doms and walked a long shopping district. At one point as we walked the shopping district street, we heard some commotion and turned around to see what seemed to be a group of about 25 Native Americans running with blankets full of goods on their backs. Ray tells me that they don’t have licenses to sell on the streets, so they are always “running” from the cops. The commotion was a bunch of them, including their kids, with blankets on the run. It was a sight to see. The same thing can be found in the U.S., of course. It was just weird. We found a grocery store and grabbed a few waters. We’ve learned to save some cash (and learn about the cultures by visiting their markets) by purchasing things like bottled water at markets rather than restaurants. Speaking of restaurants… we saw our first Quick Burger restaurant! It’s the only fast-food burger restaurant in Europe. It compares on a smaller level (though I saw 3 Quicks and only 2 McDonalds in Brussels) to McDonalds. Around dinner time, we headed to a small bar that had a bunch of outside tables and chairs. We were told to try the Duvel beer. It comes in a wide beer mug. So, we ordered a few and hung our next to 4 people who spoke Flemish. They were really nice and it turns out they are from Brussels. They thought I was from Britain… weird! I didn’t think I sounded British—I’ve never even been there! They were also drinking Duvel beers, so we figured it was the right choice. We stopped off for a couple slices of pizza before heading back to our hotel on the subway. The weather today was especially beautiful. It was 18 degree Celsius for most of the day and sunny. We didn’t even need jackets! It started to sprinkle just a tiny bit around 7 p.m., but for the most part, it was just perfect. Back at the hotel, we found that there were lots of British television shows (that means in English!) because of their close location to Britain. There was a show exactly like “Dancing with the Stars”, but without celebrities. They call it “Strictly Come Dancing” and there are 4 judges. Two out of the 3 judges are the same ones as the American TV show. It’s probably true that America stole the idea for the show… as it does other great shows like “The Office” is. It was a really fun day and we really like this city! It might take first place at this point!

Sonntag 22.11.2009 (day 69)
We visited what we think is our favorite city in Europe so far today: Bruges. It’s a city close to the Belgian coast and it’s gorgeous. Much of its charm stems from buildings being in original condition—something many city that were bombed during the wars had difficulty preserving or renovating. Perhaps it was the chocolate, or waffles covered in more chocolate that we fell in love with, too. Regardless, I would recommend this city to anyone who wants to visit a real, historically preserved, medieval relic. Fantastic. Okay, so back to the day’s events. We left our hotel in the 9 o’clock hour and set out from Brussels to Bruges. It wasn’t too far… but 1 hour’s drive in the opposite direction. It was much like visiting the north Holland beach town after we visited Amsterdam. We arrived, parked the car and began to walk around. We had no idea we’d see such gorgeous sites! Just about every building in this beautiful city was nice. There was water running through some parts of the city similar to Amsterdam. It was obviously a popular place, considering the amount of tourists also taking in the sights. We walked through a legitimate Christmas market and there was an ice rink just in front of the Bruges Museum that houses some pieces from Salvador Dali. It was a very long line and we were short on time… so we pressed on. Of course, we ate some delicious sweets (if anything, that is reason to visit), took some fantastic photos, and headed off. Before we left, we stepped into this candy shop where we bought some goodies and tasted some fresh marshmallows covered in chocolate from a fountain. So awesome. It reminded me of the delicious fresh marshmallows I used to buy at Williams Sonoma, but better; if that’s possible! We grabbed some Pizza Hut Express on the road – and we’re convinced American pizza still reigns supreme, by the way. There’s something about the artery clogging cheesy, buttery goodness that comes in every bite of Pizza Hut pizza. It’s amazing we aren’t 3,000 pounds each considering the foods we’ve been indulging in lately. I think we will be if we don’t start thinking about adding some cardio to our weeks. You should’ve seen the waffle smothered in tart Belgian chocolate. Well, I have a photo, so I guess that’ll become reality. Off we went… until we saw signs in our direction for another Belgian city, Antwerp. Half of all the diamonds in the world are cut there and 8 out of 10 diamonds go through there. So, chances are my diamond engagement ring just made a reunion stop in its former town. We didn’t actually see anything diamond-related. We just read that information on brochures… so it may be a bit exaggerated considering their interest to advertise rather than inform. We parked the car when we drove by an old castle built in the SIXTH century. That’s just hard to even fathom. It looked awesome and it was right on a river that ran through the town. We took some photos and walked around for about another 45 minutes to check out a few more churches. I’ve just never seen churches so amazingly beautiful in my life, growing up in southern California, where churches are less than 100 years old, if that. To come to Europe and be completed awed by churches that were built in the 16th century that took nearly half a century to built and are at least a thousand feet high… just astound me. They didn’t have technology we have today. How on earth did they build so high and put such great detail into their masonry? Anyhow, back to the churches… sadly, many churches (because people aren’t too religious) have been turned into museums inside, rather than kept as a holy place to gather and worship. While most are still preserved and offer that peace, some are not. We left that town and ended up getting completely twisted by our dear GPS system… which doesn’t seem to know how to navigate well. We drove another way home, got stuck in traffic, and drove through the town of Essen—which we hadn’t seen before. You would’ve thought we were driving through downtown LA or something… it was that huge and populated. We also drove through Hagen and Bochum, other decent-sized towns we had yet to visit. Finally, we got home and relaxed. Fun and exciting weekend!

Montag 23.11.2009 (day 70)
I was hell bent on working out today. Working out here is difficult. Either the weather is cold and rainy, or we are too busy to workout. It’s expensive and far to drive for a gym workout. The company has a mini-gym, but they shut the doors everyday so early that we just can’t get there in time—plus, the equipment isn’t worth sticking around for. But alas… we did workout today! It “clicked” that I could use my technology skills and download (duh!!) workout videos from YouTube for free! We could then workout in our house on a little cardio and have no reason for being so lazy when the weather is too poor for a run. That’s what I spent my entire afternoon doing. It takes awhile to download videos to your computer, so I managed to get about 13 videos downloaded and about 8 more saved for later work. They range from about 5 minutes to 12 minutes in length. No one uploads full workout videos over this length, though that would’ve been ideal. So, we do a few videos rather than one. No big deal. Anyhow, the morning was traditional, except Ray burning waffles! The house smelt of burned waffles for hours later. It actually wasn’t that bad, but he woke me up telling me he “caught them on fire”—though they didn’t look that burnt to me. When Ray came to pick me up, we had a quick lunch and headed out to work. Ray was all over the place fixing our Barcelona reservation (sadly, the week we booked it for has to be cancelled for work… and it cost us a lot more—over double the original price to change… oh well, such is life!), taking phone calls, meetings… while I stayed planted to my chair downloading videos before our 4 p.m. German lesson. Sabine arrived on time and we got started for a 2-hour lesson. We did some role-playing and went over a lot of our homework using Nominative and Accusative cases of noun uses. After the lesson, we headed home and did a nice 30 minute workout (3 videos). Our setup in the house is pretty interesting. We have a long narrow room that is the living room and kitchen. There is a short wall in the middle that attempts to divide the two rooms. We placed the computer in the middle of the two rooms, moved the kitchen table and coffee tables our of the way, and got busy. We had to be careful not to “jump as high as you can” like it said in the Jump Start Cardio video. We also did a kickboxing and a Tae Bo video. It was really nice! While I still think we need to get out and run, it was also nice to switch it up and exercise other muscles. After our short workout, we had spaghetti. Ray did the dishes after—and I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that we don’t have a garbage disposal. Not only do we not have one, but I haven’t seen a single German kitchen with one! We did more laundry because the machines are smaller and we do many small loads. I hate waiting for it to pile up, so I just do it as it comes. Then… we called it a night!

Dienstag 24.11.2009 (day 71)
Ray and I drove down to Frankfurt this morning to meet a few others. I managed to download a few more videos (I think we have 25! But… they’re short!) to my workout video folder and uploaded photos. This is probably the longest blog post I’ve ever done. It sounds like a day job, and it practically is. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s a multiple step process: name photos (first I have to go research the Internet for correct names/spellings), upload photos in the correct order to blogger, wait forever for them to load, select photo placements, Type captions, Add journaling… phew! And, forget about it if there is a slow Internet speed! I think I managed to get it all done, though, with some persistence and it should be going live tonight! Well, everyone else’s daytime… the day was nice. We had lunch at the Italian restaurant we always visit when Lothar is with us in Frankfurt, and back to work for a few hours. It’s something very difficult for Ray & I to get used to: spending so long at lunch. Our brains are wired to work, and that’s not the same mentality for the German culture. They work hard, but when they’re at restaurants, it’s never fast. We’re learning… we’re learning. We left around 4 p.m. to drive back home. Four hours in the car today. Luckily, the drive to Frankfurt was traffic-free and rain-free. We drove home with little traffic, but all rain. I guess you can’t win them all. We’re safe and sound at our house now. A little workout for me and Ray took a business call while I got dinner ready. Then, Ray attempted to copy over German in his new notebook and since there’s so much, it’s a lot! We’re having a quiz tomorrow. We’ve both did very poorly on the last two, so high hopes aren’t likely for this one, either. I guess at least we know we’re having one, right? In our defense on the poor scores… we often knew the word but either couldn’t spell it accurately or didn’t put the correct article in front of the noun (German’s don’t use “the” for every noun… there’s a masculine, feminine, or neutered “the” and you just have to memorize them. Example: glasses are “die Brille”… that’s feminine. Why? Who knows!). Those are generally what we miss because it’s so trivial. Alright… off to post this to the blog and relax for the rest of the evening!

For more information about Bruges since it was our favorite... click HERE.