Friday, April 30, 2004

Tomorrow is May, seems like we just got Kenny off on the plane to Germany in January! Time just flies by and there is nothing you can do to slow it down. We went downtown this afternoon to have dinner at one of the cafes with tables outside. The reason it is such a nice thing is that Jacob can run around while we eat (it's generally car free, a few rogue vehicles show up but they are going slow, dodging clothes racks and pedestrians). We usually bribe him with an ice cream to keep him busy although today he preferred chasing the pigeons. Then we were sitting by a fountain and letting him mess around there and he was taking leaves and dropping them in. Watching which way they would go and manipulating these paddles to change the current. It was amazing to see him doing this, when not that long ago he was just learning to walk and make his way around the living room. He had a great time, and we did too. We got him a slide/playhouse for the backyard, he helped assemble it and had a great time expending energy on that. That is the goal every day, help him burn off all that energy! He can go and go and go!

On a sadder note, our local paper here is the Stars & Stripes which obviously puts the military news on the front. 8 soldiers based in Germany were killed a day or two ago, all of them in units that were already due home but got their year tour extended by 90 days. And some horrible photos of dead Iraqi children got the front page. While it is impossible to forget about the war with all the coverage, our paper really brings it home sometimes. The post we are closest to has the majority of their soldiers just beginning their year in Iraq, so the emptiness is a constant reminder of them. Everyone has their own feelings about the war, but all of our energy would be better spent praying for the soldiers and Iraqi people, than debating the war. Just my opinion, since I have a blog I can put it out there!

No exciting plans for the weekend, Kenny has to switch the snow tires to summer tires on his car. (Sounds like fun, eh?) Tomorrow is a German holiday so no markets or fun stuff like that. It is their "Labor Day", or so I've been told. So, Happy May Day to all of you!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

What's new with us? Not a whole lot except daily life, but that is okay too! We had a daschund from down the street come and have a doggie "playgroup" today, we have a fenced in field next to our yard so they all ran around and played. Of course all the neighbors came out to watch, because it was 4 daschunds and a two year old running around in the field. All of our neighbors are very nice, and most of the kids speak English because they learn it in school. The family around the corner has a guinea pig they keep in their yard, and today we went by to see it and the girl brought it over to Jacob and gave him some flowers to feed it. He was thrilled! And Jacob made me a Mother's Day card during Bible Study today, he was very proud of it. Very cute, they really do fun things with them there. He keeps getting complimented on his glue stick skill, apparently he's a natural with it... (that's what they tell me)

We managed to make Cuban sandwiches last night, our ingredients were far from traditional but they came out pretty good. I had made some Cuban Roast Pork Saturday night, so we used that. Then some German Ham (like black forest ham) and some Swiss cheese, German mustard and french bread. Can't even imagine calling it a Cuban sandwich with all that, but we enjoyed them. And I still don't have a heavy enough bacon press so we used a flat rock from the garden wrapped in tinfoil.

Kenny has been fishing a few times, and has brought home some trout for us. Jacob pretends to fish with a stick, I imagine when he's a bit older he will really enjoy fishing with his Daddy. Right now he "fishes" for a few minutes, then wants to check out the ducks and the playground.

Kenny had been working long days, so we really don't have time to do a whole lot. And then on the weekends it is nice to just relax and enjoy the nice weather. We have been taking Jacob to downtown Ansbach for italian ice cream (gelati) and he really likes that. Always something interesting to see there, whether it's in the shop windows or the people.

So, that's us for now....

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Well, today I decided to go see our landlady. We had a few minor things we needed worked out and were getting nowhere through a third party. So I decided to head over to her house and see what we could figure out. I was a little concerned over her lack of English and my lack of German, but we seemed to do fine. Although I'm still not sure if everything is worked out LOL! But I did get our mailbox key, and our recycling bins, and explained that part of the shower door is, well, "ganz Kaputt". And Jacob got some candy so he had a good time. I'm glad I went, she is much nicer than I remember from my jet lag haze of our first meeting. Jacob and I then headed up to the Army post to get a paper and some supplies for dinner --- Fajitas on the grill! Perfect grilling weather today, and they came out great. Salsa, guacamole, who would know we weren't in Texas?

While we were out on our regular tricycle tour of the neighborhood today we stopped at a yard where some people have a great big dog, a rabbit, and a chicken. Jacob was very interested in the rabbit, so we were saying rabbit, rabbit food etc and the little girl that lives there says "You speak English? I tell you what it is in German - it's a hase" (not sure if I spelled that right!) "Say Hase say Hase!!!" Jacob said "Hase" and looked at me like he thought she was a little crazy, being as she was speaking rather loudly. She was funny and once she stopped yelling Hase at us it was better. That will now be one of the scheduled stops on our tour, along with the guinea pig that some other people keep in a pen in the middle of their yard, and a daschund named Emma down the road. Oh, and the bees that someone has in their backyard. All together this neighborhood is like a mixed up zoo or something. You just never know what someone will have in their yard, I guess they don't have the same types of zoning here.

Monday, April 19, 2004

The promised tale of the Poland trip.....
The bus left at 1am Saturday morning, it was a large tour bus completely filled. As soon as we got started the lights went out and most settled in to read or sleep. There was a poor woman on there who brought her almost 2 year old with her, which was a huge mistake. I could tell you how I was thinking she was crazy for doing this, but I decided to talk with her at one of the rest stops to see how she was doing. Then I find out her husband is deployed to Iraq and she was so tired of staying home and doing nothing. She had been on bus trips with her daughter before, with no problems. And didn't think the trip would be so long, she had friends that had driven to Poland in less than 6 hours. So, while I would have liked a little more sleep I had too much sympathy for her to be annoyed. Tour buses move like slugs on the autobahn, or so it seems. We arrived at the Polish border at 6:50am, to be told there was shift change, they wouldn't start checking the buses for a while. All in all a 2 hour wait to get into the country, plus a 5 euro fee per person! You never know with those border guards, I think it depends on what bills they have due as to whether/how much they charge the buses. But really, we shouldn't complain, the wait for trucks going in was 36 hours! We finally get into Poland and start for Boleslaweic, the town known for pottery and not a lot else. I was trying to think of how to describe Poland and the best word is "bleak". Very dingy and not a happy looking place. But I did see something I had not seen on our past visits, new construction. Appeared to be homes or duplex type buildings. So that must be a sign of some improvement in the state of things there. There is horrible road construction, (that comes up again!) but again, it is more improvements on the way. At some of the brand new traffic circles I noticed signs "This project funded in part by the European Union" so obviously the EU is pumping funds in their soon to be member. We made a few stops, each with 5 or more shops full of pottery, baskets, wooden chess sets, crystal and some other odds and ends. The amount of pottery is overwhelming, and it's amazing how many more shops have popped up over the last 5 years. Big shops too, not just little shacks. We had a good time at all of the shopping areas, and filled up the bottom of the bus with all the purchases. At the last one we were accosted by children begging and trying to carry our purchases for a tip. The begging children were hard to feel sorry for, in their fancy sneakers and riding really nice bikes. "euro please euro please please please!!" I'm sure they do well, since there were 3 buses there in the 2 hours we were there, and countless cars with USA plates coming and going. I saw some Swiss people getting their windows cleaned by the boys, so they do that too. Enterprising kids to say the least. So, we pull out at 4pm and get stuck in the road construction/border bottleneck for another 2 1/2 hours!!!! That's 4 1/2 hours of time wasted on the trip, it's amazing people go on these bus tours repeatedly. You would think there would be a way to expedite things at the border, knowing all these buses are coming to spend money. We stopped in Dresden for dinner, there is a huge shopping center with IKEA, Toys R Us, and a restaurant formerly known as Applebee's. It's under a different name but still has the same menu, and it was delicious! We were ready for some good American cuisine at this point, and it did not disappoint. Then back on the bus, arriving back at post at 1am. We were all exhausted and I was very happy to fall into bed.

The pottery was beautiful as always, and there are so many new patterns to choose from. But it has gotten so much more expensive, I couldn't believe some of the prices on it. I really didn't get too much, we have so much from previous trips. But there were people that had 3 or 4 huge boxes of pottery (they pack it up for you in the store, they are geared for this) by the end of the trip. The stores take Euros, dollars and of course credit cards. I'm curious how much money they collect on a Saturday like this, there were at least 5 tour buses from US military bases and who knows how many people in private vehicles. Whenever I go back I will definitely drive myself, the trip is much shorter in a car, and not so much of a hassle at the border. On May 1st Poland will become part of the European Union, and sometime after that the border will open up. Eventually they will switch over the Euro for currency, they currently use the zloty. It will be interesting to see the changes in the country as they reap some of the benefits of being part of the EU.

I took some pictures in Poland, it's not the prettiest place. But thought you may want to see what it looks like. I put them over on the photo site. There are some beautiful things in Poland, and historical sites, just not where we were. The area we were in is mainly known for the pottery, and has been for many years!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I made it back from Poland, surprisingly. Once I post the tale of the bus trip you will understand that comment. I'm still tired, feel like my batteries have run down. So I'm headed to bed, and will post the whole story tomorrow. But here's a sample of the pottery I got, not too much this time. Just a few sets of bowls, and a couple larger bowls for fruit, etc. Much less than most people on the trip, there were some serious shoppers!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

We haven't been doing a whole lot, just going to Bible study and playing outside. The weather has been wonderful, so we spend a lot of time outside. It is Jacob's favorite place to be. I am going to Poland this weekend on a one day "shopping" tour. It is a bus trip run by the recreation department on post. I thought I would go and check out how the area has changed since we were there last. I've heard that they are really cashing in on the popularity of the pottery with the Americans and have opened up alot more shops. We'll see, it's a long drive but at least someone else is doing the driving!

We really had a nice time on our trip to Holland, the people there are very friendly and helpful. No struggling with the language, they happily speak English especially if you attempt to speak Dutch. The trains are like those in Germany, on time and clean. The conductors on our train to Amsterdam were great, we had to buy our tickets on the train as the machine at the station only took coins and we had paper money. So they got us all fixed up and were giving us tips about the city. While we were looking at the door of the historical Museum, a lady stopped by and was telling us about the history of the building. Just to be nice I guess!

Jacob is loving his time at Kid's Class while I'm in Bible study. They stay so busy and he brings home a new art project every time. He looks forward to it, and loves the teacher. So that is a blessing for both of us. And he comes home so tired he takes a long nap too :) Can't beat that!

Monday, April 12, 2004

We're home from a wonderful trip to Holland, except it wasn't long enough! We left Friday about 2:30 and headed down the autobahn, our route took us by Frankfurt, Koln (Cologne), Arnhem and finally Utrecht. We stayed just outside in a town called Breukelen, in the Valk Hotel Breukelen. It was very nice and so convenient, right off the autobahn and 3 minute walk to the train station. We didn't drive our car again until we checked out and headed to the Keukenhof Easter Sunday. We arrived in time to relax, read Jacob a story and put him to bed. The next morning we awoke to a gray and drizzly day, but we just dressed for the weather and took the train to Utrecht. Utrecht has canals just like Amsterdam, but not as "touristy" as Amsterdam. Still lots to see, so we didn't really follow a set route, just wandered around and looked stuff up in our guide book as we went along. Since it was Saturday it there was a market going on as well, with lots of flowers and flea market type items. We walked along the canals and looked around the market for a while, then made our way back to the station to catch a train. Then Jacob was ready for a nap, so we joined him!
After we all woke up, the weather had cleared a bit, so we walked back to the station and took the train to Amsterdam. It was a little further than Utrecht, about 15 more minutes on the train. We passed through lots of farmland with sheep and little lambs, and also the huge soccer stadium for the Amsterdam team AJAX. We arrived at Central Station in Amsterdam and walked for a while through the city, and found a place to eat dinner. One of Kenny's coworkers had mentioned the size of the burgers at this place, and we happened to pass by so we stopped there. It's Australian food, there was kangaroo and emu on the menu (we passed on that) but Kenny did get the giant burger. While it did have seating like a restaurant, the atmosphere resembled a rowdy sports bar so Jacob had a new experience. He sat back and enjoyed the last sip from our Pepsi bottles and watched a rugby game, like that was something he did every Saturday night... Here is a photo of him, and a sound clip from the bar, just so you can really get the feel for it Hanging out in Amsterdam After dinner we headed back to the station, we wanted to stop by and see if some relatives were home but it was getting late and Jacob refused to walk another step. Kenny had him on his shoulders for most of the way, like a 30 lb rucksack. He (Kenny) was pretty tired after that too! We hopped the train back to the hotel, arriving close to 10pm. Needless to say, we all went to bed pretty quickly.
The next morning the skies had cleared some, we checked out of our hotel and headed to the Keukenhof (click the English tab at the bottom of their page) and joined the throngs of people who also consider this a great Easter destination. This is the busiest day for the Keukenhof, but it was still pleasant. The crowds only grow as the day goes on, so by the time we were leaving it was getting almost full I think. The flowers are breathtaking, and Jacob enjoyed the animal farm and playground. Also he likes to sniff the flowers and tells us "smells good!" after each one. The flower fields we drove past were amazing, and you could smell the hyacinths from the car. We got totally lost leaving, even though we saw where we were on the map we couldn't get to where we wanted to be. But we drove through some neat little towns, and along canals and farmland. Sometimes being lost lets you see those kinds of things. Eventually we got back to the highway and started back for Germany, arriving home Sunday night.
I think that covers it, I posted more pics on the photosite, you can use this link or the one in the sidebar. Hope everyone had a nice Easter, we really enjoyed ours.

Monday, April 05, 2004

I was trying to think of something to put on the blog, there isn't much to report. So I will share a photo from the side of the bakery truck that parks near our house. Kenny noticed this the other day, it appears that they are baking some kids in that oven....weird! I look at that truck everyday and never noticed it until Kenny pointed it out. We are looking forward to our trip this weekend, can't wait to see the tulips. Be prepared for lots of pics when we get back! I imagine unless something really exciting happens that will be the next post, so until then .....

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The weather is making the change into spring, and it is so nice outside. We stay out there as much as possible, it's just too pretty to sit in the house. Even the dogs want to stay outside, which is unusual for them. This is Chloe's idea of fun, laying on the warm pavement! We aren't doing a whole lot, next weekend we have a trip planned to Holland so we are waiting for that. After all the moving and running around it is nice to just relax and enjoy the long days (we already had Daylight Savings Time).

Jacob and I went to the toy store today and purchased some summer toys for him, and a tricycle. He has been wanting one for a while, even tried a couple times to take off on some other kid's trikes. So we found him a nice one today, with a long handle on the back so we can push/steer him easily. There is a sales tax here of apx 16% on most items, but it is included in the posted price. So you pay exactly what the sticker says. But we (as Military ID card holders) have a form we can present that allows us not to pay the tax. It's really only worthwhile if you spend over about 60 euros, since the form itself costs a few dollars. And it takes a few minutes for them to fill out, so you obviously wouldn't use it for a small purchase. But it saved me 20 Euro today! (apx $27) The salesclerk was showing another clerk how to fill out the form, so it took a little longer. When she was done she said she was sorry I had to wait and loaded Jacob up with some freebie coloring books and small toys, he was more enthused with those than the new bike.... Instant gratification I suppose.

There are a few new pictures on the photosite, you can go there thru the link in the sidebar "Photo Album". I made an album of some miscellaneous pictures of Jacob and us, no theme to it!

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