Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just The 3 Of Us

It's back to just the three of us ... Mike and Sue left on the 29th and the house is so empty now! It's quite lonesome. They were with us for 2 months ... long enough to adapt a routine and become the "norm". Poor Kelty misses having more people to play with; apparently I get a little boring sometimes! Here is a little recap of their visit ...
We walked the vineyards in St. Martin

Visited Heidelberg Castle

We skied the Austrian Alps

Visited the Christmas markets in Innsbruck, Nuremberg, Kaiserslautern, and Koblenz

... and ate great food

We cooked traditional German meals with Evi

Visited Paris ....

... where Mike made a "close" buddy (this was the line to get into the Eiffel Tower ... by the way ... there was no one standing behind this dude, he apparently was just REALLY comfortable standing with Mike

They played with Kelty

... and ate with Kelty

we took walks ...

Sue baked ... A LOT ... thanks Sue!

We played ...

celebrated Christmas together ...

... and so much more! Amidst all the traveling and holidays we managed to fit in 20 games of Setters of Catan ... that's right 20!!

Thanks for the wonderful visit guys ... we had a great time and it was fabulous to have you here!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


What a joyful Christmas! The only thing that could of made it better would have been to be surrounded by the entire family. Mike, Sue, Kelty, Al and I (plus all the dogs) enjoyed a beautiful Christmas together .... it was one of those days where we stayed in our PJ's all day and opened gifts, played with the toys, made phone calls to family and ate a great Christmas dinner!

The day started with the normal "early morning" wake-up from Kelty ... stinker has been getting up between 5:30 and 6:00 am the last 2 months. Fortunately he slept until the late "sixes" on Christmas morning. Kelty and I stood at the top of the stairs until Al called us down ....

Our families were too generous ...

Kelty went for his new bike first! Thanks Mimi and Papa!

Couldn't resist this pic ... he was so content in his "hunting" hat!

Kelty's first Slim Jim in his stocking .... we always had Slim Jims in our stocking growing up!

Kelty's school held a "Santa's Workshop" several weeks ago ... I sent him to daycare with 10 dollars and he shopped on his own for his grandparents and us. The teachers put them in little bags with the name of the recipient on them. We held onto them (no peeking) and we put ours under the tree ... this was the gift I anticipated the most! I opened up my gift from Kelty and broke down in tears ... he bought me a necklace! I will treasure this forever!

Kelty gave Aunt Susie a check-up with his doctor's kit.

A Kid-O Bilibo from Uncle Shawn and Aunt Rachel! If you haven't seen a Bilibo ... Google it and check out this product! It's great for endless creative play for the kiddos!

The "Day After"

Playing with his Little People Farm ... thanks Nana and Papa!

Playing with Aunt Susie

Wearing his Christmas shirt I appliqued for him ... a little Christmas Tree.

Endless play! Thanks again everyone for your generosity ... Kelty really "ooh'd" over each and every gift and has enjoyed playing with each and every one!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas Past

We've had some busy but really nice days leading up to Christmas! Amongst the chaos of last-minute shopping, various appointments, some "challenging" toddler moments, keeping up with family traditions and creating a few new ones of our own ... we've managed to pull-through and get it all done.

Before I get started I really want to take a moment and talk about my Grandpa Joe. We were blessed with amazing grandparents; whom we had in our lives for a very long time! But ... the Christmas season always belonged to my Grandpa Joe. The Christmas season started in our home when Grandpa would pull into a snow-covered driveway with a car loaded with oranges, grapefruits, apples, home-made coffee bread, a VERY large turkey and various baking supplies. Using his old, green, handwritten notebook from World War II (where he served as an Army cook) ... the whirlwind began. First the fruit salad then homemade pies (one year he baked 22 pies!) ... next came Grandpa's amazing pork sausage stuffing (that took a full day to make). Finally after a full 3 days of cooking ... Grandpa would rise at the crack of dawn and start the turkey ... the smell was our alarm clock. Reflecting back; Grandpa gave our family one of the greatest gifts ... it was the gift of his time and of sharing something he loved ... and most of all ... my siblings and I now make and share these recipes with our own families.

So ... with Grandpa's picture on the counter, and a few tears, we went to work ...

Before Grandpa Joe passed away I typed out his recipes and built a cookbook for each family member. I scanned the original pages from his notebook and placed them in our cookbook alongside the typed version.

With the exception for the pork sausage and spices, every other ingredient is ground in his recipe. Because my Kitchen Aid and the meat-grinder attachment are not dual-voltage and can't be used here in Germany ... Mike and Sue found a hand grinder and we ground everything by hand!

Kelty's first job in the kitchen was helping me with the grinder.

Ok ... there is A LOT to grind ... so I put Mikey to work!

In addition to Grandpa's stuffing I made his fruit salad, pie crust and pumpkin pie. Regrettably I don't have any pictures of the rest!

A new tradition ... we made cinnamon-applesauce ornaments! I'll dedicate a post to this in the near future. It was so easy and fun ... and they smell amazing!

I traced Kelty's hand for one ornament.

I made cinnamon-applesauce "spacers" for my handmade orange, bay leaf and cinnamon garlands.

Just as in every Christmas past ... my dad read us "Twas The Night Before Christmas". This has been a tradition in our family since before I even remember. Even when we are separated by oceans we never miss a Christmas Eve without my dad reading us this story .. and now he gets to read it to his grandchildren too! Thanks Dad for giving us this gift of tradition.

I could go on forever about the love and tradition that surrounded our childhood (and adult) Christmases ... my mom decorating every room in the house, the manger scene under our Christmas Tree, and all of us standing at the top of the stairs in the morning waiting for our dad to call us down ... but you have to leave me something to blog about next year!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Weekend

Ugh! We had high hopes for this weekend! This was our last "real" weekend with Mike and Sue and we wanted to plan one last excursion ... we were debating between Venice and London but decided on staying in Germany and visit the largest and oldest Christmas market in Nuremberg. It was literally a weekend of misadventures ... I guess it makes for good stories to laugh about someday.

Shortly after getting on the road for our 2 hr and 50 minute drive, we couldn't figure out why the "pull-over" areas were packed with cars and people hand washing their windshields? Did all these people not check their washer fluid before hitting the road? haha ... HAHA ... I say HAHAHAHAHA! Within in a few miles we were "one of them"! Apparently the "anti-freeze" is not rated the same here and in the freezing weather our washer fluid was frozen. The roads were wet but it was no longer snowing so everyone just had dirty spray all over their windshields with no way of getting it off except stopping and handwashing the windshields! 5-hours later we arrived in Nuremburg!

Drive 10-15 minutes with a windshield like this ...

Stop ... open sun roof ... poor windshield fluid down windshield ... wipe ... drive ... stop and repeat.

After checking into our hotel and bundling up for the Christmas market ... we stepped outside ... it was below freezing ... way below freezing! We decided to brave it ... the market was within a 1o minute walk from the hotel and it was snowing and beautiful. We headed to the kinder side of the market and Kelty rode a train and nibbled on a warm pretzel. We found a cafe with an open seat and enjoyed a hot chocolate before braving the cold again. We literally ran through the market, weaving through the crowd and tried to stay warm ... it was useless. Al, Mike and Kelty headed back to the hotel and let Sue and I wonder the market for a bit on our own ... Sue and I were so cold we headed back about 15 minutes after they did. All in all we spent about an hour at the market and we were all painfully cold!

Just getting started ... look at Kelty bundled in his little cacoon!

We left Sunday morning before the market was open and tried to stop at Rothenburg for their Christmas market but Kelty would have none of it ... by that point, I couldn't either! Sue and Mike walked around for a few minutes while we watched a movie in the car. We braved the trip back much the same way we did on the way there.

We got home early enough on Sunday to play outside in the snow and enjoy an evening of Gluhwein with our neighbors. At least we ended the weekend on a positive note!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O' Tannenbaum

Our Christmas tree is finally up and decorated! Our neighbor, Heinz, took us down to the Christmas tree market in town where we picked out our first "German" Christmas tree ... and it happened to be on the first snowfall of the year ... talk about perfect timing! The Christmas tree market wouldn't be complete without Gluhwein and bratwurst (though we didn't partake as it was only 9:30 in the morning .. but I have to admit ... I could have gone for some Gluhwein).

Kelty riding in his new Radio Flyer wagon down to pick out a Christmas tree.

Al, Sue and Mike carrying the tree back to the house.

Heinz pulled Kelty back to the house.

The first snowman of the year .... Mikey style

No one is exempt from shoveling snow!

Kelty hung all the non-breakable ornaments along the bottom of the tree ... he really had a lot of fun! I tried to capture a good profile pic of Kelty hanging and ornament ... just like my dad used to do with us. I should have changed the camera setting because they all came out blurry.

Kelty found a clever little spot for the Santa ornament ... we all got a good little laugh over this one.

Daddy and Kelty

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Feliz Navidad

Before I get rolling ... I have to say that one of the things that struck me during our trip to Spain was seeing "Feliz Navidad" while strolling the Christmas markets ... it just made me think "whoa, we're in Spain!"

So ... our space-available (space-a) travel plans worked perfectly ... for the most part. We ended up being delayed in Spain for an extra day which for the first time was a really nice thing! Our flight over and back (which we joke was our own private jet) was great and only 2 1/2 hours.

Our "private jet"

This was a "business trip" for Kelty. He was taking a break from his laptop (thanks Uncle Shawn and Aunt Rachel) to admire the view.

Day 1 - Friday

We arrived in Rota, Spain Friday morning and then rented a car and drove to Seville. Our hotel was amazing ... to call it a hotel would be an understatement .. it was like a huge network of indoor and outdoor tunnels that opened into courtyards with waterfalls, plants and mosaics. Al and I thought for sure our $100 rate was missing a zero but when we checked out ... it was indeed only $100. We spent our evening in Seville roaming the beautiful streets, eating Paella and drinking Sangria. We weren't able to visit the cathedral where "part of" the remains of Christopher Columbus are held, but I got a nice artistic shot of the outside. Seville is the heart of traditional Flemenco dancing ... you couldn't walk 5 steps without hitting a store selling fans, shawls, shoes and castanets. I have a small bit of Spanish in my dance repertoire but my castanet skills are painfully rusty. I opted to wait and buy a pair of castanets until I hit a non-touristy section but the stores were closed ... I guess that will be during trip number two!

Walking through our "hotel"

Snapshot of the cathedral through a beautiful archway. Seville was one of the most beautiful towns we've walked through in Europe. The mosaics and tile work were gorgeous.

"Cheers" with Daddy

"Cheers" with Mommy

We bought a cheap little digital camera for Kelty's birthday ... he spent the entire trip taking pictures ... it was so cute! He even took photos of our waiter and random people on the street that would stop and pose for him. Kelty's preferred subjects were horses and motorcycles.

Day 2 - Saturday

We left Seville Friday morning and headed back to Rota ... Al was scheduled to fly that afternoon. Despite the fact we "lost" the GPS and couldn't get our hands on a map ... we found our way back to Rota (only to find the GPS after we got back) ... ha! Al's flight was cancelled so we decided to hit downtown Rota on Friday evening. We strolled along the beach and watched the sunset over the Atlantic! The Spanish folks really take their siesta seriously and most of the shops were closed but we did walk through their Christmas markets.

Walking along the "other side" of the Atlantic Ocean in Rota

Day 3 - Sunday

We hadn't planned on a "day 3" but since Al's flight schedule changed due to weather and mechanical issues .. we all (the flight crew, Al, Kelty and I) took the morning of Day 3 and visited Gibraltar. Gibraltar is actually "British-owned" ... it's been an on-going "battle" between the Spanish and the British for dibs on Gribaltar. It was a great little island and we took a nice guided tour of the "rock".

Monkey's are abundant on Gibraltar ... they jumped in the car while our driver was driving and they randomly jump on people while you're standing around taking in the scenery! Don't even try to eat a snack, they'll jump and take it right out of your hand.

Kelty didn't want the monkey on his head ...

You can also see Africa from Gibraltar ... not in this particular shot but if you were to look to the right of where we were standing you had a great view of Africa.

Day 4 - Monday

Well, all of Al's flights were cancelled due to mechanical issues and we returned to Germany on Monday afternoon. It ended up being a nice little siesta for us!
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