Winter is welcoming us. We've been getting pounded with snow. I think this is God's way of preparing us for what is to come for the next stage in our lives. We got over a foot Friday night, and another .5 feet the next night... and it doesn't appear to be ending. We're expecting another 3/4 foot tonight.
Here is what we woke up to Saturday morning:
So, since the weather was reminding us that it's winter, we decided to head to a town about 75 km away called Winterberg. How fitting.
Just a small snow hill.
Ski jumps are so terrifying, aren't they?
We didn't ski this time. We have plans to ski in Switzerland at the end of February with our friends Andy & Jen.
I love the contrast of the bold reds in the serenity of a snowy landscape.
In Winterberg, there's a bobsled. So, naturally, we checked it out.
Veltins. It's a beer we own way too much of. We really need visitors. :)
Behind Ray you can see the bobsled track. Ray was just testing out how deep the snow was. Haha.
Here's the moon story:
Brandy: Wow, the moon looks really bright tonight!
Ray: It's funny you should say that. I read an article on the Internet earlier today talking about how the moon will be at its brightest tonight. I just didn't think it would be that noticeable.
Did you notice it?
When we got home on Saturday night, I came across these sunflower seeds. I bought them while we were in Spain at El Corto Ingles (only one of the best stores in the world!) and turned the package over to find out they were made in Kansas. How exotic! (I love to throw these on salads or in PB&J's to add a little extra protein, FYI.)
On Sunday, we set out for a walk around our neighborhood--which we rarely do because we're usually jet-setting on the weekends... and we noticed this: The gelato place has re-opened! They were closed for two months. I remember when they closed for the season. We've really been here that long! Since they've re-opened, I think it's on the required to-do list before we officially leave mid-March.
Here are some sights from our walk around the blocks in our neighborhood. Isn't it gorgeous? I think we sort of take for granted the beauty. I mean, we live in an authentic German neighborhood with adorable architecture and beautiful landscaping!
They have lots of little parks (this one is huge compared), but the equipment is usually very basic, and very sturdy-- thanks to the German engineering, of course. I have never been on a swingset this sturdy and well-built before. Anyone remember lifting the swingset base legs off the ground if you went too high? I do! Not in Germany though folks.
Aren't we fun? I mean, what twenty-somethings in Chicago wouldn't want to be our friends? Do you think I should place newspaper ads? Craigslist? "Two married people looking for friends. We like to travel, dance, drink wine, eat mexican food, and go to Target for date nights on Fridays."
Spot the snowman!
Of course, you should first notice the landscape... then you should notice the obvious solar panel. The Germans are very green people. Did I mention we separate our trash into 4 different bins? I should photograph that... I'll post one soon.
...and for the family... here's the journaling I've been doing for the week:
Montag 25.01.2010 (day 133)
This morning was great. We got a good night’s rest and woke up feeling refreshed. I’m only still slightly bummed about the news we got yesterday—one of the 7 houses on our list of “great” interest has now been put under contract. Ugh. It was such a nice one, too. From the photos, stats, and Google satellite, it was probably in our top 3. Luckily, number 1 is still up for grabs. I just need to keep the advice others have given and not fall in love with anything. After all, I haven’t even stepped foot in any of these houses yet. Ray tried to ease the situation by saying that the house was on a street that was not only hard to pronounce, but to spell also. Haha. Nice try. Ray went into work and came to get me at lunch as we normally plan for. I checked some emails, did some laundry, and worked out. I wanted something new, so I wrote down a list of 14 workout moves and the counts that I would complete. The workout ended up being a solid 30 minutes and I enjoyed it. Since I am my hardest critic, I found that I would absolutely fulfill everything on my list because I enjoy crossing things off and completing things. I also found a great radio station that plays different music than MTV and the normal stations we listen to in the car. I also heard a station of American news—it didn’t sound like a military station (better quality) and it wasn’t in a British or foreign voice. It was definitely an American reporting the news. Interesting. We had leftovers for lunch and headed in to work at 1:00 because Ray had a meeting about the presentation they are preparing for the trip to Chicago in 2 weeks. I downloaded some episodes of Glee. Ray watched the pilot episode with me yesterday and actually enjoyed it. It’s not the plot. The plot is rather ridiculous and I don’t really care for it—but the singing is incredible. It’s as if you’re watching Broadway. As a matter of fact, some of the stars are former Broadway actors. The music choices are also great and usually remakes of modern songs. You can even buy them after the show on iTunes! This is one smart television producer. I also updated the blog with our Romania photos and caught up with the news that’s going on around the world. We left work just before 6 and headed to Netto for a few things. We made English muffin pizzas for dinner—yum! I am thankful that the Germans like English muffins (though they call them toast brotchen = little bread toasts) because the Wilsons sure love them! We watched another episode of Lie to Me and we’re almost fully caught up on our episodes. We have two more to watch and we’ll have seen every single episode in the 1.5 season run so for. It’s been picked up for another season—yay! Nothing much else!
Dienstag 26.01.2010 (day 134— we’ve been married for exactly 1.5 years!)
Time is crawling. I’m just getting anxious about purchasing a house. Since we’ve poured over the stats and photos dozens of times, I just want to go look at them and walk through them! I get email updates everyday and before I open each one, I silently squeeze in one last plead/prayer that it isn’t one of the houses we love the most. I need to trust that God has this all figured out for us. It’s just hard not getting excited. It’s an adult’s version of going to Disneyland. It seems like these 2.5 weeks will feel like a lifetime. Other than the idea of houses looming through my head constantly, the day was pretty ordinary. I woke up as Ray left and have little to show for my morning’s activities. I did manage to make Mac n’cheese & PBJ’s for lunch—so that was a fun treat. I’m nearly out of all the American food supplies our friends & family hooked us up with. I’m actually intentionally using it all now so that we can clear out the cupboards. We really don’t have much longer. At work, I had a chance to watch last night’s episode of The Bachelor. It was juicy! Unfortunately, I accidentally read a “leak” about who won. I just hope what I read isn’t true…though it seems plausible. Ray worked on the Hydraulics presentation all day and is continuing to work right now—late at night to get a good chunk complete. This is very much his “culmination capstone project”—to use university terms. It really touches on everything he has learned and picked up here. Being able to present a cohesive and meaningful call to action presentation will be great. Since that all happens so soon, he’s trying to perfect it. Having complete confidence in his brain, efficiency and work ethic, I have no concern whatever he puts together will be fantastic. We stopped off at Kaufpark after work around 6 to grab some veggies, granola bars, bread, jam, etc. You know, the staples. I joke that pretty soon we’re going to be living off PB&J’s since we have a lot of PB left. We planned to buy some chicken (for Ray), but the only chicken they had available at this (upscale) store looked speckled. I’m not thinking chicken should ever have black speckles. We passed. Dinner was once again, vegetarian. We ate one of the Indian packs my mom brought over for us. So amazing. I love love love that stuff! Trader Joe’s is my personal food heaven. The rest of the night was pretty quiet as Ray worked hard…
Mittwoch 27.01.2010 (day 135)
I’d say today was a great day. When Ray left this morning, I checked emails (I can’t help it. Some addictions are helpless) and various other webpages/social networking sites I frequent, had breakfast, and did another self-motivated workout for 30 minutes before showering and getting ready for my trip to the store. If there is one thing I adore about living in this small town in Europe, it’s the cutesy opportunities I have to walk about 1.5 block lengths to buy groceries. There is so much of a walking culture here we simply do not understand in many parts of America. Okay, so New Yorkers do. But this LA girl has never really understood this. I love the liberty of walking to grab just 5 or 6 items for a meal. That’s exactly what I did today. I walked to Lidl to purchase some staples: veggies, cheese, granola bars, etc. I came back and began working on our lunch: Asian—eggrolls (one thing Germany does well. Well, we have them in America, I just won’t allow myself to try them in fear I’ll love them and eat them all the time), fried rice, and veggies. I really just wanted to use the leftover veggies/rice I made from last night and added the eggs (for Ray) to make fried rice along with some teriyaki-ish sauce. After we filled up well, we headed to work where we both go to work. Well, all the work I actually did was download our American Idol episode for viewing this evening. But, Ray worked more on his presentation which is determined to be fabulous and I read. I read A LOT online. I consider it just another book. Since I love non-fiction and biographies (learning about people is fascinating!), so reading blogs online is right up my alley. I’ve been reading blogs for years now—since their conception. I have even written my own for graduate work, as a teacher, and now as a traveler/wife. I got back into this “habit” when we moved to Germany because I wanted to connect (even invisibly) with people who had similar situations of being expats in Germany. I found a good handful of people who keep blogs that live in Germany and are originally from the States. Most are here because of military placement, but a few are not. Well, the thing about blogs is… they’re addicting. One persons blog links to another person’s blog… and it never seems to end. There is a plethora of information that I just love diving into. I found this one blog today that actually had me fuming. Why it made me so upset, I don’t know. But, part of me was also fascinated by it. She is a devout Christian, homeschooler, mother. I am not against any of the 3 and I support 2 of 3… but the way she presented the material she addressed was just ridiculous to me. Of course… it was her blog and I was simply a guest. I did learn two things of value: how to cook bread in a crock pot using cans, and how to grow green onions in a flower pot. Anyway, I’m not sure why I read her blog in its entirety, but it was entertaining to say the least. I suppose someone could psychoanalyze my reasons for selecting to read something that I disagreed with… but I won’t go there. We left work around 6 again and headed home for tostadas. YUM. I just love tostadas and had just 4 lonely corn tortillas to use that have been sitting in the fridge for awhile. I am so frugal with the foods we brought from the U.S. In the States, I would never think twice about caring to cater to every item in the fridge. Here, I savor it all and make sure I am absolutely the opposite of wasteful. Speaking of wasteful—since we recycle EVERYTHING into 4 bins daily, I wonder how things will be back in Illinois. I’m just so used to this process and I think I’ll feel guilty not recycling so much. After dinner, we watched American Idol (always great) and completed our insane amount of homework. It wouldn’t be so insane except that we waited an entire week to complete it on the eve of its due date. Of course. As excruciating as it was (okay, I’m highly exaggerating), it took less than an hour to complete it all—4 pages of book work + 3 worksheets. We ended the night with the usual laptop couch surfing and hit the hay!
Donnerstag 28.01.2010 (day 136)
We got to work at 9:00 a.m. for our German lesson. We had plenty of time to set up our computers, check our email, and talk with Lothar before Sabine arrived. I also whipped up some hot chocolate and then we got started with our lesson. Today, we learned a bit of “dative” construction. In English, we don’t use this construction, so I simply cannot explain it. It actually went by quickly and lunch came before we knew it. I got an email from Alison telling me that she is probably coming to visit in October! Yeah… so October 9 months away… but that’s pretty awesome! I spent a good majority of the afternoon reviewing my online school district applications. Before my wonderful family gets excited for me, they must first know that posting your online portfolio is required to even be considered for any job in Illinois. I don’t have any jobs that I am up for, though I am hopeful for the future! I am not too concerned about it, even if that means having to work part time or waiting for the right opportunity. While sooner would be preferred, I’m thankful that circumstances have allowed Ray to work and support us. In due time! With all that said, I reviewed, revised, and updated the 6 online applications I have placed online for districts in general area of our new neighborhood. They range from 0 miles to about 15 miles away from where we hope to purchase a home. That’s what I spent the rest of my day doing—dreaming of houses. We have some top contenders and it’s so so so hard being patient as we wait for another two weeks (and two days… but who is counting?) just to see them on the inside. Within those 16 days, they could be purchased. But, I am trying to be still and calm about it all. Trying. After work, we headed home in a complete mess. It snowed heavily off-and-on the entire day. We drove home the long way (which never happens!) to avoid any accident concerns. The way we normally go home is steep and it’s doubtful that they salt and prep the roads. We entered the long street uphill and knew we were driving on snow covered ice. There was a layer underneath everything. We stopped on a hill and all of the cars were skidding everywhere. Trucks were completely pulled over being of the conditions. The bus system was halted and people were stranded. Thankfully, our ride home only took about 25-30 minutes when normally it would take 1/3 of the time. We aren’t complaining, however. We just hope that others were able to get home safely and out of the rough weather. The weather reports don’t show signs of relief soon, either. As for Chicago, it’s super cold there right now as well. The weather report said it is 7 degrees (that’s in Fahrenheit!) but it feels like -9. Gotta love that Chicago wind chill! Brrrr! I think owning a fireplace will come in handy! We watched an episode of American Idol and had pesto pasta with tomatoes and broccoli for dinner. Pretty good day!
Freitag 29.01.2010 (day 137)
We woke up this morning to about a half foot of snow. So much for Ray’s amazing shoveling job last night! It doesn’t feel that cold, but the snow is still coming down. I have a feeling this weekend will see similar patterns. It has been hanging just around freezing and providing us with rain-snow. It’s the kind of snow that melts immediately and makes you quite wet. I did a 30-minute workout this morning, laundry and prepared lunch before Ray arrived around noon. We had lunch and headed over to Netto to pick up a few items for a colleague. He is working tomorrow (Saturday) and Ray wanted to grab a couple items (chocolate chip cookies & Coke… so American) to leave on his desk for a surprise when he arrives to work tomorrow. Ray says he wants to thank and continue to motivate him for hard work. He is such a hard worker and it’s important that his efforts don’t go unnoticed. It’s rare that a German (or European) works on a weekend. We appreciate him. We headed to work and Ray got ready for his meeting with Lothar. They’ve been going over their presentation and tweaking things. Lothar really liked what Ray put together and he’s been in a great mood ever since their meeting! Happy husband = happy Brandy. I worked a bit on the blog adding a couple things… but I need to figure out why it takes so darn long to load! I am sure it’s not fun waiting for our family either. I’ll work it out. After work, we headed home and cracked open a beer for a little marriage happy hour. It was fun just sitting and catching up. We rarely just sit and talk for a decent amount of time without external stimulation of the TV, radio or computers. We’re both just super excited about house hunting that we’re finding it hard to focus! I have plenty of shows downloaded to distract us this weekend and all through next week. We sat down in front of CNN with dinner, watched the final episode of the season of Lie to Me (Ray’s favorite show—he announced tonight) and plugged away at our computers doing various things… and the weekend has begun!
Samstag 30.01.2010 (day 138)
Hooray for it being the final days of January! I think February is going to be a much bigger month for us and we can’t wait until the countdown to our house hunt is actually in the same month (of February!). We woke up this morning to about 2 feet of snow outside. I’d say it’s the most snow we’ve ever received within a period of time so far this season. I’m glad we don’t have to go to work today! We hung out on the couch for awhile and finally had lunch (totally skipped the whole breakfast thing this morning) around noon before shoveling snow for about 20 minutes. After digging the car out—oh, did I mention we traded in the BMW and now have an amazing souped-up Audi? Man, I love this car!—we hopped in and headed toward Winterberg. It’s a city about 75 kilometers away from Neuenrade that is known for winter sports, some skiing, and has a bobsled. We just wanted to check it out. We don’t have skis or even ski clothes so we had no intentions of actually partaking in these sports (this time). We started our drive but went the complete wrong way and had to turn back around. After that, we drove for what seemed like forever, aka 2 hours, and finally arrived in Winterberg. What a gorgeous drive, though. Snow covered everything. We drove through towns we’d never seen before and mostly through towns rather than on the autobahn. That’s why 74 kilometers took 2 hours, because towns have a maximum speed limit of 50. That means s-l-o-w! We arrived, parked, then walked up to where the bobsleds are. We walked about as tall as the chair lift was carrying the skiers (so kind of steep) and finally arrived half-frozen to watch a few people take the bobsled track on. It was pretty neat. We plan to eventually do this in Salt Lake City, whenever we actually go there for vacation. I am foreseeing a ski trip in our future. After, we drove around and checked out the town, climbed on some tall snow hills, and headed back out of town. Since they are one lane roads, the traffic was nice and slow out of Winterberg because it was starting to get dark as we were leaving, which also happens to be when everyone else was leaving! We stopped off to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant our new spiffy GPS found for us (Tom Tom, you’ve been replaced, beat it!). We were happy with everything, except for the scrambled egg all through my meal. Ugh. I just wish it was posted on the menu. Every once in awhile they throw a scrambled egg in my vegetarian meal just to throw me off course. Really, I appreciate their extra effort. I just don’t want it! I spent the majority of my mealtime picking out little pieces. We left the restaurant and headed home with a very bright moon shining in the sky. I mentioned that to Ray, and he told me it was so funny that I had mentioned it—because he read on the Internet earlier that this would be the brightest moon of the year. Ha! I hadn’t even read that and I definitely noticed. I thought it was just because we don’t spend much time driving at night one slow streets and I had time to notice and talk about it. At home, we baked some brownies (Yay for Ghirardelli box mixes in Germany!), folded some laundry, and carried on with our laptop-on-lap-sitting-on-the-couch routine. You’d think we weren’t newlyweds or something… but we really do spend time with one another! We actually spend most of our time comparing what cool things we pulled up on our computers. Dorky!
Sonntag 31.01.2010 (day 139)
We had a late start this morning since we stayed up until after 2 a.m. last night talking. Sometimes it’s just fun to sit and chat with my husband. This time here is Europe has given us that time to just spend with one another and we’re really grateful for the slow pace we’ve been living (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want things to speed up soon!). I made pancakes for breakfast and we used jam to substitute for the syrup we don’t have. Around 2, we went for a walk around our neighborhood and I made sure to snap some shots of this gorgeous little town. It may be sleepy and there isn’t anything open on Sundays, but I did manage to get some gorgeous views that I’ll be posting to the blog to share with everyone. I realized that although we’ve been here for almost 5 whole months, I didn’t really have any photos of the city we live in. There are a couple of Christmas trees and our apartment, but not many of the other streets, houses, and landscape. I made sure to change that today. We also found this cute park (they have them everywhere… but they usually only consist of about 2 swings and maybe 2 other pieces of small equipment) and decided that we’d overcome the massive amounts of snow and go for a swing. It was a lot of fun. When we got back to our place, we watched one of the episodes of Glee I had on my computer and started dinner. I like my pot of chili to stew on the stove for a couple hours before digging in. The flavors are so much richer that way. In the meantime, we had this huge bag of onions just sitting on our counter… for the past couple weeks. In Germany, you can’t just buy one onion—like potatoes. Since they are so much of a staple in their diets and every recipe calls for them, you must buy a bag of onions. I think there were about 12 in our bag and it cost us about .50 (Euro cents). They’re dirt cheap, but I just hate being wasteful. While I made the chili, Ray got to work cutting onions for me so that they would be ready to throw into recipes. He was such a trooper and our eyes are still burning, hours later. Those things are potent! We had dinner around 6:30 and then watched another episode of Glee. It’s okay… I really just like the music. For dessert, I pulled out my French sorbet that I love so much. It is too hard to scoop right from the freezer, so I set it out to thaw a bit. Three days in a row I’ve had sorbet, and three days in a row I have forgotten it was on the counter and it melts. Three days in a row!