Pick Up and Go–to Mallorca, Spain

At the beginning of April, Steve informed me that there was a conference he wanted to attend at Scott AFB near St. Louis, MO.  He got my okay and the boss’s okay to attend, and so that left me with a 5 day period of parenting on my own here in Germany.

All that said, I was messaged by a girl friend here telling me that airfare was really cheap to Mallorca, Spain in April.  So I started to check it out.  And after making sure Steve was okay that I was going to head to a beach without him (don’t want him to feel left out!), I found $19 (each way) airfare for me and the kids!  Yeah, you CANNOT find that kind of price in the U.S.!  I made mention of it on Facebook and also to a friend who was driving me to pick up my car at the mechanic–and low and behold, I was no longer going to Mallorca alone!!  My little solo trip was now 12 people strong!  Wendy opted to pull her kids from school (shhhhh), and my friend Jodi and her husband Mike and their son were in need of a few days away on a beach too.  I found a great deal at an all inclusive resort because it was last week of the low-season, and they were setting up for the high tourist season the next week!  So we practically had the resort to ourselves!

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(view from my room!)

We left early on Monday morning, and after a few little hiccups with finding our rental car place AND the resort (located on the other side of the island), we arrived and quickly got into resort mode.  It was a little chilly that day, so we walked along the beach, enjoyed some bottomless slushies and sangrias.

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Tuesday, we enjoyed breakfast and playtime at the on resort park, and then dropped the older six kids off at the Kids Club (I may never be able to go to a hotel that DOESN’T have one of these!), and took Evie and Holden with us to the beach.

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We laid out and relaxed for a couple hours and snagged the kids at lunchtime.

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The kids enjoyed a mini-disco at night and Mikey and Briana were all into the dancing and conga lines!  It was really great to see them get into it.

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Wednesday was the best weather of all–we know that from our sunburns!

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Overall, we did a lot of eating, laying around poolside or at the beach, playing at the park or taking a siesta.

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It was a great way to get away for a few days, and the very next day Steve flew home!  What made it even better was that the four days we were gone–it was rainy and low 40s in Germany.  I’ll be heading out with the kids again any time Steve needs to be away on business!

Easter in Normandy, France

Back in January, Steve and I went on a night away to a Microsoft holiday party down in Stuttgart, Germany; we were also accompanied by Mike and Wendy, the other Microsoft couple stationed here with us!  We got chatted about how we enjoy traveling with each others’ families, and so we planned on a big trip over Easter holiday.  We chose Normandy, France because it was a place high on both our lists of places we’d like to visit sooner rather than later!

Wendy is an excellent planner, and found us three great potential houses to rent on Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.  From the three we all debated–the guys picked the same two, and us gals picked the same two.  We went with the ladies’ choice…and it was such a great one, we were shocked because it was way more than the pictures and price let on!

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The house comfortably slept all eleven of us and minus the fragile six foot ship replica, was mostly kid friendly!

On our drive out to Normandy, we stopped in Giverny, France–home to Claude Monet, and his gardens which were often depicted in his paintings.

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We wasted no time once we were at the house and headed out to see the nearby monuments.

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Then we went and visited the American Cemetery at Normandy, and it was a quiet and stunning burial ground for so many of our soldiers.

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The next day was Easter, so we had a small Easter egg hunt for the kids and let them eat way too much candy.

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Wendy made us all a low country boil that was delicious too–not your traditional Easter dinner, but we loved it!

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On Monday, we drove about 90 minutes south west along the coast of France to visit Mont Saint Michel and the Abbey.

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It was an incredible view driving out to this Abbey situated on the bay!  I’d love to have seen it being built hundreds of years ago!  We made the very step and numerous steps climb to the top and took in the views.

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On the way down we had a delicious lunch at a French café serving some of the local catches.  The kids once again took in some crepes, while Steve and I had oysters and mussels.  Yum!

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Tuesday, we drove to Pointe du Hoc, which is a cliff jut out into the English Channel where the 2nd Rangers made a very dangerous climb to overtake the Nazis camped out and shooting down at Allied forces during D-Day.

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It is a beautiful sight, and still holds the marks of war.  The kids sat silently through a war documentary at the Visitor’s Center, and seemed to “get it”; yet they still had fun running around pretending they were Rangers shooting bad guys.

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Wednesday marked the all too soon departure of our circus, I mean crew!  We decided to head up and around Paris on the way home, and stop for lunch in the city of Rouen.

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It has one of the oldest, still functioning, medieval clock towers, and a section of the city is still a medieval themed architecture.  The drive home was smooth, and the time was extremely enjoyable!

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I’m sure Wendy and I will be thinking up our next big adventure soon…until then, they have a big trip to the Baltics planned, and we’re heading to Copenhagen soon on our first solo family trip!

Dublin Girls Weekend!

Life has been pretty busy recently–but with all the reasons to why we moved here in the first place–to experience the world!

Back in January, Steve had to take a trip to Seattle for work, which left me post surgery and tending the kids…oh and we got a whopper of a virus too.

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Needless to say, a planned trip to Dublin to meet up with two friends was in order!  Back in the fall, one of my dearest friends, Kate, saw that Lady Antebellum was playing in London (her neck of the woods), and that I should come to her place and we’ll attend the concert!  A great idea…except that the seats were terrible by time we got around to looking to buy.  A few days later, she pinged me again to say that the day before the London concert, they were playing in Dublin!  Never joke about me traveling to a new place with you–I will take you up on it!!  Then we proposed that we have our friend, Cameron, come join us to celebrate her 40th birthday this year since we’re both across the Atlantic and won’t make it back to Virginia to see her this year.  Holy smokes, we didn’t have to convince her hard (she’s not a fan of flying)…and soon we had a trip to Dublin planned for early March!!

I flew out on a Friday morning after driving myself to Frankfurt.  Aer Lingus is the Irish discount airline and wasn’t terrible (for a person of my height).

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I backpacked this trip, and found it makes security and boarding the plane so easy!

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I had a bit of a panic attack after getting through security.  I had gone to the bathroom and then to shops to find a snack and sat down to read…about 10 minutes before boarding I reached into my purse and found that my passport and ticket were missing!  I dumped out my purse, found nothing.  Reached into my backpack pocket and found nothing.  Ran up to a Poliezi telling him my dilemma (they’re super serious folks), and he asked where I went through security and I showed him.  Nothing.  Then he asked if it was in my back pack, and as I was telling him no, he saw it sitting on top of my stuff in my backpack.  I hugged him.  Check that off my bucket list–hugging a well armed Poliezi.  From here on, my trip was amazing.

I was greeted by Cameron who had landed an hour before me

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we waited to swarm Kate when she landed two hours after me.

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We headed to our hotel, the North Star Hotel, in downtown Dublin to rest and get ready for a night out!

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We had dinner, fish and chips of course,

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and then walked to Temple Bar area to wait for our reservations at the Vintage Cocktail Club–a well hidden club that serves cocktails from the past few centuries.

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It was lit all in candles, and seated was all velour.  What a great time!

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Saturday, we toured Dublin by foot.  We saw Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness brewery, and many more little places!

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We chose a sushi place for dinner, because let’s be honest, I can’t get good sushi being 9 hours from the closest ocean/sea.  It was delicious!

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Off to see Lady Antebellum–even though my girlfriends aren’t huge fans of country, they had such a great time!

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Sadly, on Sunday morning, we parted ways with Cameron.  Kate and I had a few hours until we needed to board our flights, so we went to the National Portrait Gallery of Ireland and enjoyed some art without having to chase toddlers around.

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We grabbed one last pastry and mochaccino together, and said goodbye at the airport.  And as fast as it began, a fun reunion was finished…until next time!!

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We hope to meet up with the rest of the girls we all raised these babies with, in 2016 in Key West!

All the kids 2014

Assimilating…

I saw this list on Facebook this afternoon, and though that it was spot on!  I added some comments in parenthesis!

 

30 Reasons you know you’re an American Military Family Living in Germany (or have lived in Germany)…

1. Ausfahrt isn’t funny anymore, and roundabouts are second nature (I prefer them to stoplights!)
2. You no longer mind the person behind or next to you only giving you half an inch of space.
3. 2 hrs for dinner is “fast food” (one of the reasons we rarely go out to eat with little ones–though when we have, we’ve been treated excellently, and Germans don’t mind kids and their fidgety nature)
4. You judge mustard by how well it opens your sinuses.
5. Jumping across the border to get away for the day is no big deal (I sometimes just want to drive the 45 minutes into France some days just because I can!)
6. You reach for the Jägermeister instead of Pepto Bismol. (Hasn’t happened yet…)
7. You think family pictures taken at a castle are “so cliche.”
8. You forgot how to use round doorknobs.
9. You forget how to flush a toilet that doesn’t have a push button. (and your kids ask if it’s a scary toilet or a quiet one!)
10. 100 MPH seems like you’re driving really, really slow.
11. You no longer think it is strange that beer and water are the same price.
12. Even at home you don’t put ice in your drinks. You never go shopping off base without a shopping bag or VAT form.
13. You NEVER shop on payday or the day before a German holiday.
14. You never leave home without your keys, ID card, license, and passport.
15. You think anything with chocolate sounds like a good breakfast.
16. You think it is natural to pass Army tanks on the highway. (or watch C-17s or C-130s landing while driving 100mph…or hear sonic booms from fighters practicing somewhere in the airspace above your house!)
17. You answer the phone “Hallo” instead of Hello.
18. You need a power drill and sledgehammer to hang a picture on the wall.
19. You rig your lawnmower and vacuum cleaner to give you an electrical shock if you try to operate them on Sundays.
20. You no longer even want ketchup for your French Fries. (my aversion to ketchup actually comes in handy!…though I’ll eat currywurst’s “ketchup”)
21. Christmas is incomplete without Gluhwein at a castle.
22. You sing “Tschüss” instead of say Good Bye.
23. Your children no longer say please or thank you … it is bitte and danke.
24. You wonder how you ever lived without Rouladens. (I will one day build a house, and they will have rouladens!)
25. You wear a scarf every singe day …. even in the summer.
26. You plan your route around ESSO locations.
27. You believe AFN is quality programming.
28. You own shoes just for walking …. and know you will walk everywhere.
29. You no longer need google translate at the grocery store
and last but but not least ….
30. You have said out loud at least once …. Stupid Americans!! (so often…especially when driving….especially when at a roundabout)

My German Hospital Experience

Having three kids back to back to back will obviously do a number on your body.  There’s a muscle in your abdomen called the transverse muscle that stretches (or tears) while pregnant to allow for growth.  Mine had torn either with Briana or Mikey, but through PT it had gotten back to decent shape.

Fast forward to this past August, and the kids and I were at Donnelly Park on Ramstein Air Base with some new friends.  I was chatting with the mom, casually watching Evie climb the stairs to the top of these slides:

WP_20140730_005A decent hike up for a 2 year old, but she’s also my adventurous one, so I wasn’t worried.  Well, she chickened out at the top….and of course, it was about time to go.  Short on time and patience, I walked up the steps to get her and thought, oh why not, and squeezed myself into this slide with Evie between my legs.  The kids love this slide because it is fast and shoots them out the bottom

WP_20140730_004Picking up speed I spread my legs while in there to slow us down (I didn’t feel like shooting out the bottom onto my butt!).  At some point after that I felt (and swear I heard!) a very gross tearing sound.  Flying out the bottom of the slide, I got Evie to her feet and then proceeded to roll around on the ground like an injured baby seal.  I stretched a little and the pain and cramping in my right side of my abs subsided and I went home.

The next few weeks were pretty painful–if I got out of bed too quickly, my whole right side of my abs would seize up, and I became the baby seal again.  I’d have to get down on the ground to stretch it out until it “released”.  This also would occur if I bent down to pick something up to my right side, or awkwardly.  Finally, after our trip to Chicago and other events, I found a German doctor that was recommended by the base (remember, we really only have ER privileges at the American hospital) and saw him to figure out a solution.  As he poked and prodded, he informed me that my transverse muscle was torn from below my navel (around my C-section scar) up to my ribcage!  Surgery was necessary, and thus, scheduled.  A pro to a great doctor is that he’s great!  A con is that he’s hard to get into…he wasn’t available for surgery until January!

Last Thursday, a friend picked me up bright and early and dropped me off at St. Johannis hospital in Landstuhl!  I had no idea what to expect really, other than I was estimated to have my surgery at 11a.m.  Unlike an American hospital, after I filled out my paper work, I was taken to my room which was fitted with a wardrobe and personal space (despite it being a room intended for 3!).  My roomie, Jeanetta, soon arrived as well and we both sat around and chatted for a couple hours about how it was odd to be in our rooms first!  A huge blessing to have an American as my only roommate who was very entertaining!

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The view out of our window

The Dr. and his wife (also in his practice and assisting on surgery) came in and went over the surgery with both of us.  Good news for me, I got bumped up on the schedule because my roomie’s protein levels were a little high and they wanted to redo her blood test.  So I got comfy in bed, and was wheeled down to the ground floor.  There I was asked to scoot over from my bed to this hard, black rubber table.  They said, “Hold still…” and soon, that rubber table was actually a conveyer belt that slid me onto a sterile operating bed.  A bit of entertainment!

My funniest memory from all this would be as I’m laying there talking to the anesthesiologist about my M.S. before he was knocking me out.  All seemed well, I sucked in one nice big puff of sleepy gas, and then in a rush, I had four faces suddenly hovering over me!!  I knew exactly what they were exclaiming in German–when very relaxed, my left eye dilates far larger than my right eyes.  It’s called Physiologic Fleeting Anisocoria, and is very benign in nature.  I explained what it was and there was some very relieved laughter (my anesthesiologist was the Chief at the hospital and had never seen it before!).  Ok, back to business, and I was asleep.  Two and a half hours later, I was awake in recovery and soon wheeled back to my room.

I’ll currently be wearing a girdle/brace for 6 weeks that makes me feel like I’m stuffed into a sausage casing, but it prevents me from exerting too much pressure on my stitches on my stomach muscles.  While opened up (this wasn’t laparoscopic, I have a scar from hip to hip bone), the doctor found two MORE hernias than originally thought and repaired those as well as sewing close a four inch wide tear up my whole abdomen.  Do you know what he said to me too?  “I tightened your muscle in the center and I took it in a little on the sides too.  You’re welcome.”  Um, thank you!?  😉  He also removed all the scar tissue from the 3 C-sections and my emergency surgery back in 2011 from an ectopic pregnancy, as well as my belly button which was now considered scar tissue since it had torn away from my muscle.  Yep, I have a new belly button too.  It’s tiny, and cute, and cracks me up all at the same time.  Still not sure what to think of it.  But it can stay.  In my philanthropic donation of the year, I signed a waiver to let the good doc donate any removed tissue and skin to a lab in Frankfurt to use as testing on chemicals instead of “baby rabbits” as he told me.  Cousin Mandi, I had you in mind when I said that was perfectly fine and happy to save the bunnies.

Now, I knew my stay would be at least 3 days from then.  My experience with the nursing staff was nothing short of wonderful.  Most spoke a little English and were tickled with my little bit of German.  They got a kick out of seeing our kids too, when they came to visit.

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While there, I also took pictures of my meals.  Breakfast was always tea and bread and a meat of some kind.

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Lunch was always very hearty and hot and incredibly fresh.

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Dinner was always a couple pieces of rye bread, mystery meat, and cheese if lucky.

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On night two, I asked for the vegetarian dinner…thinking that had to be better.  It was way, way worse.

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I mean, seriously, what IS THAT?!  Thankfully, that night, the Commander of the squadron Steve works at visited with his wife, who is a friend, and she asked if she could bring me dinner.  I was NOT about to turn that offer down!!

WP_20150117_010The night before, my friend Sarah had brought me a wonderful meal with dessert and treats to last me a five night stay, so those also helped stave off hunger.  I just ate it too fast to get a picture!  Thanks Amber and Sarah!!  I also had the pleasure of having my very funny friend Laura visit.  Probably not a good idea to have someone hilarious visit you when laughing hurts!  It was nice to have the company!

{GROSS ALERT BELOW}

 

 

The biggest factor that determined when I got to go home was how fast the fluids from surgery became clear and slowed.  I had four tubes that were placed near my incision that drained into four little containers… Try walking around with these hanging out of your shorts for 5 days!!

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I also have been taking blood thinners since two days before my surgery, and I did a number on my first try, bruising myself up real nice.

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There’s nothing cuter than wearing compression socks on your chicken legs!  Got to waddle around the halls in an old pair of short shorts and this sexy number.  But all in the name of avoiding a blood clot.  I’ll take it!

       WP_20150117_004But I’m home now, and resting for the week.  Kids are happy to have me home, Steve even more.  Though, I feel very aimless because I can’t do too much this week.  I go back in on Friday for a follow up and can slowly resume my usual schedule.  The pain is very minimal, and for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like my insides are about to burst out through my belly button and the pain in that area is long gone!

Year in Review…of Quilts

Ever since I learned how to quilt last October, I’ve felt a fire for this hobby like none other!  I really do love it, and try to sew every day.  I spent a lot of my spring and summer in our old local fabric store in Purcellville called Webfabrics.  I picked up a lot of tricks, skills, and know how from these wonderful ladies!

The year started off making a memorial quilt for my Aunt Judy and Uncle Clark; I loaded a picture of my cousin Jake into a program that makes a quilt pattern!

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Then I found a great collection of fabric from the Downton Abbey line, and made my mom a very lilac quilt so she’d have it just in time for Lilac Time in Lombard.

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Next up was making sure I finished quilts for my twin nephews soon enough for their first birthdays.  I had no idea that their parents were such big Dr. Who fans, but I found 8bit pictures of some of the characters online and just substituted them for 2.5″ square blocks!

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At the end of February I had already joined a crafting forum online out here in Germany, so I was contacted by a gal who needed a patriotic runner made.  I was happy to make for a future Germany gal!

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In true BFF fashion, my best friend Jaime and I never give each other birthday presents on our actual birthdays.  The distance usually has a great deal to do with it, but most times we try to find really awesome ideas for each other and that doesn’t always come around birthdays.  I like that excuse 😉  Well, since I knew we were moving, I wanted to give her a quilt that was very HER and reminded her of me.

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Many of the ladies already stationed in Germany told me that they wish they had bought more fabric before moving, because it is expensive here.  So while I was out shopping to stock up on fabric one day, I came across a chicken themed fabric line that reminded me of my mentor Diane, who collects all things roosters and hens.  And then in March on our last hoorah trip to Chicago, I was able to give it to her in person before saying goodbye.

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All while shopping to stock up on fabrics, I got a request from Briana for a quilt for her 5th birthday.  Nothing like squeezing in one more before our impending move!  But I was able to finish it just in time for her birthday and our move!

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While we were in Chicago visiting, Steve’s auntie Dawn had mentioned that she’s been wanting to make a t-shirt quilt from her husband’s shirts.  Uncle Bob died in February, and had a great t-shirt collection, so both Steve and I both offered to get it done for her.  It turned out great, and it was one of my first projects where I put to use free motion quilting that I had learned.

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There were a few people who were none too pleased that we were moving an ocean away.  One of those was my dear friend Cam; but despite this she graciously housed us in her basement after our house sold.  So a quilt was in order to make her feel a little better (and to thank her!)

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Well, it was time for us to leave the U.S., and from May to July, I didn’t see my machine.  It was tragic.  When our house hold goods finally arrived, it was like an old friend had returned.  But I needed to get busy because not only were two very special couples getting married 6 weeks from then, but we had two sets of friends expecting babies around the same time!

First was a quilt for my cousin KT and her husband Cam–we were attending their wedding in Colorado in September and wanted to bring it with.

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We were unfortunately going to miss our old next door neighbors’ wedding which was the weekend after we were in Colorado for the wedding.  We still keep in touch with them and they are such a special couple.  After asking Lisa what her wedding colors were, and her reply being, “Colors!” I had to find something as fun and funky with lots of “colors!”

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Once we arrived home from Colorado, the babies started to arrive!  First was Baby McKay, who has a Dr. Who fan mommy, and he’s also an XI!!  I had to make her, um, I mean the baby, a Dr. Who quilt!  He gave it the baby drool of approval!

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Next was baby Claire, born to some of our closest and first friends from Virginia.  She’s such a sweet baby, I was so happy to get this picture sent to me later!

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While we were visiting in Chicago, I walked down the street to my mom’s neighbor that had made me baby quilts when I had Briana.  We talked quilts for a little while, but then she said she was cleaning out her stash, and I shipped home over 25 pounds of fabric!  So very generous and helpful for my hobby!

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Also this fall, there were a few Stoffmarkts, which are outdoor fabric markets!  I went with a friend and her daughter to the one in the city near us and walked among over 80 booths of different kinds of fabric.  I bought a couple little bundles, but the rumor was true that fabric is very over priced here–someone was selling their calico for 27Euro a meter!

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I made an attempt to make little mini quilts (10″blocks) for all the little people in our life; I made an Elsa one for my niece, a Toothless one for our little UK friend, some Star Wars characters for a couple boys back home!  I also made another Elsa and a My Little Pony one for our friends back in PA for Christmas!

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I also helped out a few new friends here with their Christmas gifts.  One was a Ph.D. candidate on base who had all her fabric, had the pattern, but was so swamped with full time work and finishing up her doctorate AND being a mom, that she had no left over time to finish the quilt.  I was able to get it finished in a week for her and her daughter was thrilled at Christmas!

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I also made another Frozen quilt for a fellow crafter

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And a Nemo quilt for a mommy to be who wanted a quilt to match her baby’s theme

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My very first friend I made here is also very crafty, so we decided to pick something from each others’ pinterest pages and make them something! She picked a bed runner, and I picked a “Family Rules” painting.

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Sometime in November, Mikey made a quilt request.  Well, one night he was up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep, so he and I perused Pinterest and he asked for a Batman/Spiderman quilt.  Nothing like being particular!  Well two days before Christmas I finished his quilt, and he was thrilled!

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 My friend Noelle and I were introduced by a fellow crafter this fall, and she mentioned that she had a quilt her husband’s grandmother made him as a small boy, but never finished and died before she finally could.  This beauty was hand stitched!  Noelle can’t quilt, so she asked if I could help her out.  She too had all the material needed, so this took me two days flat!  She sent me a video of her husband opening this up on Christmas and his shock to find his granny’s quilt finally done.  Priceless!

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Trying to get a little ahead for 2015, I finished a quilt for my landlord this week.  His wife is due with a baby any day soon, and they’ve been very good to us, so I wanted to make them something special!

WP_20141228_007I also was playing around and have started on some springy things (because I need to get something bright and sunny in these grey winter days!)!  I made a PEEPS runner top.  Still not done, but it makes me smile!

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Last but not least, Steve’s birthday is just after the New Year, and I made him a “wood” quilt!  We both often comment that we don’t have any of my quilts in the house–so hopefully this will help to remedy this problem!  I free motion quilted the grain into each wood plank!  The back is a grassy green, and the border is an actual fabric with the wood grain!

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I wonder if I’ll make this many quilts in 2015, but either way, it has been a productive 2014!

Wintertime in Germany

Talking to multiple people this summer, we heard things like, “It snowed once last year” “It has been so mild the past few years” and “There’s so much fruit on the trees, we might be headed for a harsh winter”.  So we really weren’t sure what to expect.

Most days since late November, we’d wake up to fog, mist or drizzle, and the sun would poke it’s face out…oh wait, nope, the sun doesn’t really shine much here! Around 8a.m. we can tell that the sun was up, but it was just a brighter grey or fog.  The sun sets and gets dark very quickly around 1630.  You can feel a huge difference from not seeing the sunshine!

Well, we got a lovely surprise a couple weeks ago, when we got our first snow!  It melted by the end of the day, but it snowed again two days later!  The kids were excited to wake up to white!

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Evie loves being out in the snow, but she enjoys being inside without a shirt on and snuggled under my covers midday!  Ok, and Mikey too once he realizes we’re not around!

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It was a dry couple of weeks after that and over Christmas.  But the day after Christmas, we got quite the dumping of snow (probably 4-5 inches), and it’s been flurries ever since!  We even headed over to our friend’s house this weekend to play out in their backyard!

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Our area is gorgeous in the snow, but the driving on the hill (our only way out of our village) is quite the feat if it’s not been freshly plowed.

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Today, I had to pick up a riding helmet for the kids at the Army post nearby and left fairly early.  It wasn’t a horrible drive (I think I wasn’t far behind a plow), so I decided to make use of our early morning and head to the grocery store at the Air base.  Only took us about 40 minutes, and we headed back home.  Well, in those 40 minutes, it had been snowing in our area 15 minutes away, and because I took the crazy, curvy road downhill so slow, I had no traction nor speed once I hit the bottom to make it up the two curvy hills ahead of me that led to our village.  It took me 30 minutes to drive what normally takes 5–and I had people passing me on the one lane road because I was holding up those with far better tires!  I was praying out loud (and so were the kids!), and at 5kmph we finally made it up those hills and back home.  I was ready for a nap and possibly a glass of wine to relax!  Growing up in Chicago, I never really feared driving in the snow, but I think with how narrow and curvy the roads are here, I may rethink my ventures out next time it snows!

For now, I’ll sit by my little fire place with some eggnog and watch the kids play outside with each other–a monumental parenting moment when you don’t have to go out with them and they’ll still survive!!

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Strasbourg Christmas Market

We were excited to travel and visit our first Christmas Market here!  After our trip to Ludwigsburg with the Stevens’ family, we knew we wanted to a trip with them again! Nothing says crazy like 4 adults and 7 kids–yet it seems to tame our group down the more kids we add to the mix!

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It’s about 2 hours drive to Strasbourg, France, and then about another 40 minutes (ugh) to find parking for our two cars!

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Steve and Mike took the lead once we made it into the city and decided we needed a bit of an adventure and drove us down a bus lane only past the Police!  Once we found parking, in a sketchy part of the city of course, we rode a tram into the central part of the city and began our tour of one of the 14 markets!

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The kids are getting quite used to public transit when we’re out!  This is Mikey patiently standing in a packed train car!

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The kids were enthralled with all the food, trinkets, and lights!

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Best part was a quick lunch of flamkuchen on baguettes, sausages, and pretzels!

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We made our way into a second market that was around the Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg.

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We toured the inside of the Cathedral as they were prepping for Saturday mass.  Gorgeous!

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  We could’ve climbed the 300 some stairs to the top of it, but opted for chocolate instead.

And then, after what seemed like just an hour, we realized it was turning dark, and the need to head home became evident.  We made it all the way to our car when the “80%” chance of rain finally showed up!  We had perfect weather, perfectly behaved kids (whoop whoop!!), and a great first experience at a Christmas Market!  Because the kids are still pretty little, it’s the only market we went to this season.  I’ve heard that they’re almost identical at each one, except for the big ones and a specialty one here and there.  So I think we’ll stick to finding the ones in big cities where we can experience the sites there as well as the market!  Next year might be Rothenburg ob der Tauber, home to Käthe Wohlfahrt items, and a city with a very well preserved Medieval history!

We’ll be back to visit Strasbourg this summer–it has so much character that we can’t wait to see it in warmer weather!

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Birthday Buble’

For my birthday, Steve bought me Michael Bublé tickets (not bubbles, Bublé)!  He went a step further and said that he knew I’d have more fun going with a friend instead of him.  Not sure that was true, I’d have the same amount of fun with Steve or a friend, but I’m sure my friend Wendy had more fun than Steve would’ve!

So we hopped on a charter bus arranged by the base, and headed to the Festhalle Frankfurt!

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(gorgeous on the inside and out!)

Wendy and I enjoyed a two hour conversation, uninterrupted.   But we were excited to see MB start his concert.  We had amazing seats just to the side of the stage

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We were pleasantly surprised by the opening act, Naturally7.  They were an a capella group from NYC.  What was so great about them, was that each guy “played” an instrument (think air guitar, air bass, air piano, air drums, etc.) as he sang.  They were incredible.

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Michael Bublé was such a great entertainer though!  He engaged the crowd (of mostly women, yes), and was so funny in between acts.  At one point, he had signed a few posters that people had been waving in the crowds, but got permanent marker on his face.  He stopped mid intro to the next song because people were waving him down trying to tell him he had black on his face!  So then as he sat and tried to remove it, they did band intros.

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Despite not getting home until 1:30a.m. the next day, Wendy and I had a spectacular time!!  Cheers to my husband, who continues to give incredible gifts that I never ask for!

Passing The Time

We’ve found ourselves settling into a weekly schedule here, which provides for a bit of familiarity for us all.  Most of our week revolves around school–Briana in the morning and Mikey heads off to preschool in the afternoons.  Briana is fervently reading now, and I often find her stowed away here with a new book!

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But squeezed into our week are some fun activities that the kids seem to enjoy!  Briana, Mikey and I have started horse back riding at a small winter barn not far from our house.

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Evie goes to day care that day because she’s terrified of horses still, and it’s enough work for me to get Mikey to stay on a horse as it is!  Briana seems to be enjoying it tremendously, and our instructor, Petra, seems to love working with her too!

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(Anyone notice that we’re all riding bareback?! Oh my booty…)

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We also go swimming once a week–both to teach Briana to swim, but also to get swim therapy for Mikey.  Over time, it should help with his coordination and muscle tone.  His swim instructor is so sweet–she came over to the house last week to play so he’d know her better and not associate her with the fears that come with water.

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Also, once a week, we go to occupational therapy for Mikey.  I’m so glad we found this place–his OT is fantastic, super observant and patient!

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But it’s hard to not have the girls want to climb all over the play equipment and distract Mikey from what he’s supposed to be doing.  A few times, we’ve had a friend watch them, but sadly, they’re moving back to the U.S. next month!

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So this week, I treated the girls to a trip to the Eiscafe around the corner from our OT.

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We shared ice cream, crepes, and a cappuccino.

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It was a fun time to break away from the hustle, and sit and watch a large group of Italian men heatedly discuss!

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We’re excited for the Christmas season to begin! We’re heading to Christkindlmarkets in a couple weeks, so until then, we’ll enjoy what autumn we have left!

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