Friday, December 22, 2006

Arriving at Gate C, Terminal 1....'s Jeffrey!!!! This was his first time flying all by himself and he doesn't mess around taking little way, he is flying ALL the way across the world alone! He arrived safe and sound from his flight from Omaha to Dallas to Frankfurt. We were all wondering how switching planes in Dallas would be but he handled it like the travel pro he is. Luckily the bad weather skipped over any of the places affecting his flights....lots of people are still sitting around in Denver wondering if they will get home for Christmas. We don't have any firm plans for our time together..just lots of hanging out and enjoying each others company for starters. Now let me get off of here and spend some time with my boy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

(not so) Little Drummer Boy

Last night was the intermediate band Christmas Concert at Colin's school. We were treated to several Christmas songs played by the band, sung by the chorus and also a number of solos by members of the band. Colin is a percussionist in the band and usually plays the tympani. He calls himself "a specialist". He is definately easy to spot amongst the others! After the band concert we all went to the bowling alley for dinner (our usual Tuesday routine) since I bowl on my league and Colin has Boy Scouts at 7:00. I think tonight was the first night we all ate at home since last Thursday!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

God Bless Us...Everyone!

What a wonderful day we had yesterday! I picked up Colin from school and we mailed our Christmas packages to our family and friends in the States...lots of other people were in the Post Office doing the same thing so we stood there awhile, but the line kept moving and soon we were on our way. We headed to downtown Heidelberg to visit the Christmas Market. This is probably my FAVORITE thing about Christmas in Germany. All the lights, the people, the smells of the good food and drinks, the booths selling all sorts of gifts and decorations. It is a truly special and unique thing to behold. Colin enjoyed petting and feeding the donkeys and sheep that were there in a stall. He was a bit concerned about their big teeth reaching out for the carrots we were feeding them though! After we fed the donkeys he enjoyed a mug of warm milk and honey. We had never tried this before and it was DELICIOUS! One of the stalls we stopped at had all sorts of mechanical puzzles for sale. They let you try to figure them out and Colin amazed the salespeople and customers as he got the first one solved like it was nothing and then proceeded to show them how to do another one. The saleslady finally found one that stumped him, but I am sure if we had stood there long enough he would have mastered it as well. Fun!

Soon it was time to go pick up Bill from work and continue on to the main event of the evening....we had tickets to see a special production of The American Drama Group Europe performing A Christmas Carol in the Kings Hall of the Castle in Heidelberg. What a treat! It was very interesting how they managed to do the play with only 8 players depicting 32 different characters and a minimal amount of staging and props. They did a great job and we all enjoyed ourselves. I only wish Jeffrey had been able to join us for this. He will be here in only 2 days!! We can hardly wait to see him.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another dream come true....

You know how there are certain things you always dreamed of having but never really thought that you would actually get? Well for Bill one of them has been a Grandfather clock. Lots of people who live in Germany through the military buy new ones while they are here, but none of them really appealed to the price AND the style department. Since we moved here this time Bill has become quite the eBay Germany shopper. He likes to browse through the antiques and furniture auctions and has won some very nice pieces for our home, including our bedroom set, several large cabinets and a secretary. This past week he won an old Grandfather clock! He has a friend who has a little pickup and helped us to pick it up tonight. The people who had it were very nice and we saw it running in their living room...what a beautiful chime it has! They said it had been in that particular spot for 20 years and they are selling it because they bought all new furniture and it was a much darker wood than their new things. We carefully removed the weights and pendulum and the door and drove slowly home with it. It is set up in our dining room now. We will level it tomorrow (it is late and Bill has to go to work tomorrow!) and soon we will be enjoying those lovely chimes!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

In the meadow we can build a snowman....

I just love snowmen! They are so round and happy and bright! I finally brought my collection out of hiding today. I have all sorts of them, soft, ceramic, wooden, metal and even a "Florida Snowman" (he is a nose,eyes and hat in a snowglobe). They are now in their winter home sitting on or around my bench in the entryway. I let them stay out until Spring comes because we all know snowmen aren't just for Christmas...they are WINTER decorations!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A little something for the teachers...

I almost decided to be cheesy and get Colin's teachers storebought gifts this year. (The horror!) But Colin was set on us making something together for each one and I couldn't say no to that so we stuck with our original plan and put together sets of Marble Magnets for them. I had bought the supplies a while ago and let him use some of the marbles to make game pieces for a project he had so he was all set to do that. We ended up making 5 sets of 6 magnets and I altered some mint tins to put them in. We found those at a flea market...a huge case of empty mint tins, if Bill hadn't been there to keep me in line I might have bought the whole lot! It was a fun project and Colin and I like how they turned out. Hope the teachers like them too!!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

We've come a long way baby!

It doesn't seem possible...but we hit a major milestone with our Jeep today. We knew it would probably be this weekend so we had our camera ready to capture the moment....we turned it over. No....we didn't roll it, but the odometer turned over past 100,000 miles! It doesn't seem possible that our 'new' Jeep has been driven that far, but I suppose it has. We bought it, our first brand new vehicle ever right after Bill retired from the Army back in 2000. Since then it has been all over Germany, into France, Switzerland, Belgium, Lichtenstein, Holland and Luxemburg. It just seems odd to is still very much our 'new' car!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Catching up with friends

It is so nice to keep in touch with friends who don't live nearby...and even more fun when you get a chance to catch up in person once in awhile. We met our friends Andrew and Wendy several years ago when we were planning a trip to England. Bill searched Ebay for people renting vacation flats and found one that Wendy and Andrew had available nearby where we were going. In communicating with them about the rental we just hit it off and continued to correspond back and forth through email. We have since stayed in their home once, they have visited our home once, we have stayed in their vacation flat twice and met for dinner a number of times. Last night we had dinner together and it was such a nice time. They are in Germany for a short trip and we drove down to the Gasthaus they are staying in to share dinner. We exchanged Christmas gifts, hugs and laughter and then it was time to head back to Heidelberg since Colin has school today and Bill had work. I wonder when the next time we will get together will be??

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

Colin and I set up the Christmas tree Monday evening. We usually do that on the weekend after Thanksgiving but we were so busy running around that it had to wait until Monday. Bill had to work Monday evening since some soldiers were returning from the desert so it was just Colin and I. One of our traditions is that the first ornament to go on the tree, and that last to come off it when it comes down is the ornament named "Pierre" that Bill made when he was 5 or 6. Colin was worried about "breaking tradition" since it is Bill who places Pierre on the tree, but Bill entrusted him with this important job and assured him that it would be OK to do it this way so Colin finally accepted this.

Colin also suggested we try putting the tree in front of the window, we didn't think we had room for it to be there but we gave it a try and surprisingly it is workable. Whoever sits on the far end of the couch won't be able to see the TV but Colin pointed out that people sitting there are usually reading or doing something else so it doesn't matter. True!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's Parade Week at STM!

If you haven't visited the gallery at Scrap That Moment the first week of the month is ALWAYS the best time to pop in. The designers all parade their creations showcasing the sponsor of the month and this month we have all had the pleasure of working with SAKURA pens and markers! What fun! Instead of having all the design team share their work on one day we spread it out all week don't forget to check back each day and see what has been added. Here's a peek at some of the projects I have been working on this month...if you wanna see the whole thing you gotta come see them in the gallery!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our Last Day in Spain

It was so hard to decide what to do with our last day, there was SO much we still wanted to see and we knew there was no way we could even begin to do that. We woke up to rain, but couldn't really complain because the forecast for our entire trip called for thunderstorms and we only got the one day of drizzle. We started out in El Puerto de Santa Maria and visited the city church briefly. There was a service of some kind going on so we didn't want to disturb things. It is a beautiful church inside and out.

Our next stop was a really cool Moorish Castle where Christopher Columbus is said to have stayed while getting ready for his trip to America. The guide said the next english speaking tour wasn't until 1:30PM and we just couldn't wait around for that so had to satisfy ourselves with walking around the outside of the walls and peering through the open front door.

We spent the next big part of our day walking around the white village of Arcos de la Frontera. It is a very dramatic village perched on the top of a limestone ridge. There are many tiny lanes of whitewashed houses and several stone churches and a castle poking up through the houses. We remembered driving through the buttresses of the church on one of the incredibly narrow roads the last time we were there, but now the traffic rules have that part of the village closed to outside traffic. Probably not a bad idea because we had to step up into doorways several times to avoid cars and even a bus so it is scary to imagine tourists driving there too!

We stopped at a grocery store for some sandwich fixings and headed down the road to Seville again. One of our guide books had some pictures of the inside of the Royal Palace called the Real Alcazar and we knew we had to try to see it. We REALLY wanted to get to Granada to see the Alhambra but there was just no way, so this would be our moorish architecture stop instead. We were NOT disappointed at all. What an incredible building. The rooms just seemed to go on and on and were full of amazing ornamentation and tilework. If they hadn't closed and shooed us out the exit doors I don't think we would have had enough of it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Dreamed City

Friday we set out towards Ronda...a wonderful picturesque ancient city perched high on the mountaintops that was and is a favorite destination for all sorts of people including Ernest Hemingway who said "the whole city and its surroundings form a perfect romantic setting." The focal point of the city is it's "New Bridge" that was built in 1793 and is 98 meters high above the river and the gorge below. It is a beautiful and amazing structure that connects the two sides of the city. We started out tour of the city at the famous bullring. It is said to be the oldest and most beautiful stone bullrings in Spain. Unlike most bullrings it has a double roofed gallery so there are no seats open to the sun.

After we toured the bullring we started down the main street to marvel at the bridge and then went down past the palace of the Arabian King (in sad disrepair) to see the other bridges and the valley below. Every corner you go around is another photo waiting to be taken. I think I read in a tour book that every view is said to be the "best view" in the city...there just isn't a bad one! As we came back up the hill Colin and I decided to tour the Mine and Gardens of the Arab king. The mine is actually a water mine. They had a staircase dug out of the rock down to the river below so when the town was under seige they could still have access to their water supply. We read that they would have a line of slaves bringing the water up in skin bags. There were a few rooms cut out of the stone too, and the one Colin most wanted to see was the Room of Secrets, an oval room that if you stand at opposite ends and whisper you can hear perfectly what the other is saying...but a person standing in the middle can hear nothing. We tried it out and it is true!

After we rested a bit from our climb back up to the street level we wandered through more streets of the town and went in a couple of pretty churches...took LOTS of pictures and started to think about dinner. We ended up eating in this cute place right off the square and once we were finished with that it was dark out and we couldn't resist going back to the bridge to try to get some night shots. We hated to leave...but knew we had a long drive back ahead of us and another busy day coming up so off we went!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Get a piece of the Rock!

At the top of Colin's list of things to be sure to see on this trip was the Rock of Gibraltar so we headed that way on Thursday. Part of our drive took us along the coast where we could see Africa just on the other side of the water. We stopped at an overlook to get some pictures and use the coin operated telescope. When Bill and I had visited there a few years ago it was so windy we could barely hold our cameras still enough to get a photo. It was much nicer this time. There was a couple of stray dogs and cats around the gift shop and one of the cats looked just like our Chaemi kitty did when he was younger. Of course I had to pet him and get a picture!

When we got to Gibraltar it took us quite a while to get onto the island. Gibraltar belongs to Great Britain so we had to go through a border crossing and there was a long long line of traffic going there also. Another thing that held us up was an airplane! The road into Gibraltar crosses the runway of the airport and a British Airways flight was taking off so we all had to wait for it to be on its way. We spent most of our day on what is called "the Upper Rock". This is a nature reserve that is home to about 250 wild Barbary Macaques who roam freely. I read that there is a superstition that if the monkeys ever leave the British will also (reminds me of the ravens at the Tower of London!) There is a wonderful natural cave that we visited and had lunch afterwards in the little cafe that is in the gift shop just outside the cave exit. The monkeys are all over the place up there and are very brave. While we were eating one came inside and was running across the tables next to us until the owner chased him out! You aren't supposed to feed them but the taxi drivers do and I am sure a lot of others do as well so they were sitting on cars and busses and watching everyone very carefully. The next place we visited up there was the Great Seige Tunnels that were dug out of the rock with picks and chisels and gunpowder in 1782. It was incredible to see how far they got through the rock using such primitive methods. There is a huge 30+ mile network of tunnels through the Rock that is still in use by the military today, most of them were dug during the time of the second world war. After we finished with the tunnels we drove down into the city of Gibraltar for a stroll. It feels just as British as it is, with Bobbies in their distincive caps on patrol, little red phone booths and post boxes and fish and chips shops. We hated to leave, but it was starting to get dark and getting a bit drizzly so we headed back towards our apartment.

On our way back we passed a GORGEOUS village perched on a mountaintop that we couldn't resist stopping in just for a bit. It is called Vejer de la Frontera and is one of the famous "pueblos blancos" or White Villages of Andalucia. We parked near the square in the center of the village and took a walk through some of the narrow streets. It was so quiet and beautiful and just whetted our appetites for our trip the next day when we planned to spend the whole day in one of the villages.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ole' Spain!

We are back safe and sound from our trip to Spain. It was a wonderful few days, but definately TOO few. It is SO beautiful and interesting and there just wasn't enough days or daylight hours in the days to see all we wanted to see. We flew into Jerez early Wednesday morning and drove straight to our rental apartment in El Puerto de Santa Maria, a village right on the beach on the western coast of Spain where Christopher Columbus prepared for his journey to the Americas in 1492. Our apartment was perfect for us and had a great view of the beach and harbor. There were orange trees all over the place covered in ripe oranges but the lady who manages the apartments told us they are all marmalade oranges and not tasty. Too bad!

After we got dropped off our luggage and picked up a few snacks we headed up the road to Seville, the capital city of Andalucia (the region of Spain we visited). The first place we toured was the bullring or "Plaza de Toros". Our guide told us all about how the bullfights take place and pointed out where the bulls and the matadors enter the arena and also the royal box where the Spanish royal family sits to watch the spectacle. We also toured the museum and learned about how bullfighting evolved and also about some of the famous and favored matadors who fought in Seville.

The next place we visited was the Cathedral. The Cathedral in Seville has the distinction of being the largest cathedral in the world and is a very beautiful and fascinating structure inside and out. Like many churches in Spain, the cathedral began its life as a Moslem Mosque in 1198. In 1248 the Christians regained control of Spain and the mosque was converted into the cathedral. The only parts of it that you can see this are in the courtyard with the oranges and in the belltower which was the former minaret. The cathedral is SO immense! I loved looking up and up at the ceilings and marveled at the huge organ. The many alters had an amazing amount of gold and silver decorating them and there were gorgeous paintings too. We were surprised to discover that Christopher Columbus's tomb is located in the cathedral. Try as we might...our pictures just don't do any of it justice.

After we came out of the cathedral we drove to the Plaza de Espana, a huge semi-circle building built for the Spanish American exhibition in 1929. There is a big fountain in the center of the square with a canal surrounding it. Beautiful bridges go over the water in several places and the bottom of the building has benches built into it decorated with ceramic tiles, one stall for each province in Spain. It was a wonderful picturesque place to finish up our day in Seville.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gotta let me do a mommy brag!

This morning they had the awards assembly for the first quarter grading period at Colin's school. They have the advanced band play a bit before the awards are given out and while everyone gets there. Colin is a percussionist in band and got to show off his tympani skills. He also got to go up on stage and get his honor roll certificate. Of course I had to be in the front row with camera in hand like a good 'mamarazzi'! Great work Colin!!!

I haven't had a chance to brag about Jeffrey yet. I have been waiting for pictures to go along with my words but I don't have any yet. He is doing EXTREMELY well at Boys Town! This first quarter in school he got all A's except for one B. Fabulous!!! He has also been active in band and was a part of the varsity marching band, playing the baritone. He has never done marching band before but really threw himself into it and had a great time playing during the halftime of the football games. He also is taking part in JROTC for the first time. He is on the drill team and has been promoted several times. His rank right now is Corporal and he is also acting as platoon sergeant! Go Jeffrey!!!!!! My parents will be visiting him over the Thanksgiving weekend and he will get to go to the zoo and the SAC museum. Mom will take lots of pictures and email them my way so next week I can show off with pictures as well as words!!

In keeping with our Thanksgiving tradition since we have been living in Germany, we will be going out of town this week. Gotta take advantage of these long holiday breaks and get out and see Europe! Our destination this time is SPAIN!! We will be leaving bright and early (well won't be bright for a few hours yet) and we will return Sunday. Hope everyone has a happy, healthy and safe holiday!!! See you when we get back!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The most fun job I ever had....

Oh that is so Easy! Jozzie asked us to blog about the most fun job we ever had. I had every kid's dream job....I worked at ! Yup...I was a Toys R Us kid! I wore a silly orange smock with Geoffrey the giraffe on the back of it and did all sorts of things. A lot of the time I ran a cash register and that is OK, but I really liked working on the floor cuz you get to see all the toys up close and see the kids all excited and happy. I was in college then so it has been awhile, let see...the hot items then were the Fisher Price tape recorder, Teddy Ruxpin, Pound Puppies, Nintendo was new, Star Wars action figures, Transformers.... One of the best things about working on the floor was when someone came in wanting something specific and you helped them find it and they would be SO happy! The store I worked in was on the Chicago's North Shore...and I was ASTOUNDED at how much people spent on their kids there!!! The carts that came through loaded before Christmas...amazing! My kids think it is cool that I used to work there. It comes in handy sometimes too...cuz they used to want to mess with stuff in the stores (ride the bikes and stuff) and I would say it is against the rules and "I know cuz I used to work here!"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

What is you favorite band? Why? Tough question isn't it? Well a group of musicians and their techie pals got together several years ago and decided to try to figure it out. They figured they could break down any song into 400 different specific attributes or 'genes'. Over the past 6 years they have been analyzing the music of over 10,000 artists one song at a time. This has been and is the work of The Music Genome Project. Isn't that interesting? "Yeah, in a geeky sort of way I suppose it is, but so what?" you probably are saying to yourself. Because the Music Genome guys have crossreferenced all this data and using broadband technology they now provide a free streaming radio service to anyone who is interested. What you do is tell it the name of a song or a group you like and it uses the data it has on this song to bring up other songs that have similar attributes and let you listen to them too. You can set up to 100 different "stations" that start from different songs or artists. Once it starts playing a song it will tell you about some of its attributes, and later on you can ask it why it chose to play a certain song. If you don't like a song it is playing you can skip it, if you don't agree that a song "fits" you can give it a thumbs down and never hear it again. The more you do this the more you customize your stations. Don't expect to be able to put in requests or listen to the same song over and over again, that has to do with the licensing requirements and how they can let you listen to music free and all that. Sound like fun? I think it is...and they are categorizing new music all the time. So what are you waiting for...come check out Pandora Internet Radio.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What scrapbook item are you?

Today's blog challenge on Scrap That Moment was for us to consider if we were a scrapbook item what would we be and why. Several of the gals were very creative in their responses but my creativity seems to be on vacation right now so I am going to cheat on this one and avail myself of a few cool internet quizzes to help me figure this out!

What scrapbooking item are you?

You are Fibers!Fun and crazy at times. You are a warm fuzzy kind of person. You run around getting things done but still find time for fun! You have so many diverse interests that it is often hard to pin you down to any one thing. People love your friendly attitude and carefree ways. You often brighten other people's days. But Fibers Beware - Sometimes people don't take you seriously because of your happy-go-lucky ways. Sometimes you find yourself feeling left out from decision making that could directly affect you. Even though you like to be happy and cheerful, make sure others know that you can also be serious and in tune with reality.
Take this quiz!

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Or perhaps we are wondering what Paper Collection I am?

Which Scrapbooking Paper Collection Are You?

You are 7 GYPSIES paper!Oh la are sophisticated and enjoy fine wine and a candlelight dinner. You envision travelling the world someday. Your scrapbook pages are elegant and well thought out.
Take this quiz!

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Falling Water

We decided to take a daytrip into the Black Forest in search of waterfalls. There is one that we have been planning to find but when Bill looked on the internet to get directions he came across another one that is closer to us and has the ruins of a 13th century monastery nearby so we decided to head there instead. The waterfalls are called the Büttenstein waterfalls and are the largest natural waterfalls in the northern Black Forest. They are actually 7 different falls that zigzag through the ravine down 270 feet. The forestry department developed the area in 1840 with stairs and walkways along the water so you can hike all the way up through the gorge. Mark Twain even wrote about this waterfall in his book "A Tramp Abroad" where he said "It is beautiful--a mixture of sylvan loveliness and craggy wildness. A limpid torrent goes whistling down the glen, and toward the foot of it winds through a narrow cleft between lofty precipices and hurls itself over a succession of falls. After one passes the last of these he has a backward glimpse at the falls which is very pleasing--they rise in a seven-stepped stairway of foamy and glittering cascades, and make a picture which is as charming as it is unusual." If it is good enough for Mark Twain then it certainly is worth a trip for us!

It has been raining here for the past few days so it was very wet in the gorge. There was water coming down from all different places besides the main waterfall and the trees were covered in moss and there were ferns and all sorts of green things growing on the rocks and trees. I was fascinated watching the water dripping and made it my goal for the day to get a picture of a drop of water stopped in mid-air. I am still learning how to use the different features of my camera and it was pretty overcast so this might have not been the easiest goal...but imagine my excitement when we got home and I uploaded my pictures to find THIS:

After we finished walking up and down the waterfall we drove up the road to visit the Allerheiligen monastery ruins. How fascinating! They were first built in 1297 and were used in different capacities, surviving fires and lightning strike until 1816 when it was auctioned off for demolition and was even used as a quarry until 1840 when the Ministry of the Interior forbid further exploitation of the ruins. It is cool to walk around a place like this and try to imagine how it was when it was bustling with activity and in all its glory.

After that we headed towards home via the Black Forest High Road. We had to take a short detour and drove through a small village called Ottenhofen where we passed a brown sign for another waterfall. We had time so of course we had to check it out! This waterfall is called the
Edelfrauengrab Wasserfälle which means "the grave of the noble lady". Apparently it is like the other one and is a series of falls and we were kind of tired from our earlier climb so we only went to the bottom cascade. It turns out this is the one that the falls gets its name from because there is a little cave carved out of the rock with a sign next to it telling the story of the noble woman. Apparently the lady was unfaithful to her crusading Lord Wolf von Bosenstein. She ordered her maid to murder the resulting sons (septuplets!), but her husband returned just in time and secretly prevented it. Later she was punished by being walled up in the cave to starve, but then to give her a merciful death the stream was diverted into the cave. Delightful story huh? Well was worth the hike up to there and we may have to return another time to see the rest of the gorge. I played with my camera some more and got an intersting shot of the waterfall going past the cave. Cool eh?