Friday, December 30, 2011

Trier & Kinderspiel!

Being as I was sick the first part of the week, our original plans spread out over the course of the week leading up to my mom's departure were thrown off track. The problem was, I couldn't not go to any of the places we'd planned to! So we squeezed it all into her last two days with us. Thursday we went to Bischwiller, France, and on Friday we went to Trier and met up with Misha and Kristin.

I had to take The Instigator to work so that we would have the car, but he went in a little later than usual, so we didn't get as early of a start as I would have liked. Thankfully, Trier is only about 20 minutes away! I've only been to Trier once before (about a year ago) when I met up with a friend (and German native) from the Harry Potter knitting swap (HSKS) I'm a part of. My only goal at that time was to find the massive, 3-story craft store; and since there was snow everywhere last year and I had Batman with me, sightseeing was not exactly on the priority list. All I did on the last visit was pick up Yvonne from the train station, find the craft store, have a snack at a cafe (where I opened my package from her, as she was my spoiler for that round of HSKS), take her back to the train station and go home. This time, however, I went as a complete and total tourist! LOL

House of the Three Magi (Dreikonigenhaus)

Porta Nigra from the direction of Hauptmarkt

Passing through Porta Nigra
Porta Nigra from the "outside" of the old Roman city limits
Hauptmarkt Square and St. Gangolf Church
Batman & Superman checking out the Lego display in a store window
Mom and the boys at St. George's fountain in Kornmarkt
St. Gangolf's Church

Grave markers at St. Gangolf's Church

Unfortunately, we didn't get to seeing any more of Trier because of a combination of two pairs of little legs, shopping that my mom needed to get done for everyone back home, and still needing to meet up with my friends down in Kaiserslautern. (Which just means I'll have to go back another time! :D )

After leaving Trier (where I found a pair of winter boots for me!), we had about 30 minutes to get to Kinderspiel (an indoor play area in Kaiserslautern) to be there on time. Luckily, I figured ahead of time that we'd run behind (and warned Kristin & Misha of that the night before, lol), so the fact that it actually took us an hour to get there wasn't too big a deal. For dinner, though, I wanted to get Schnitzel at Kinderspiel...but they were out! :( Sad panda. But the kids had a blast and mine were upset when we had to leave (they were closing! LOL), and we all ended up going to base at Ramstein and met up for dinner there after mom & I took the boys on a detour to a local grocery store so she could get some German chocolate and kuchen to take home with her. Then it was time to come back home...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Strolling Through Spangdahlem

I am finally over whatever that stomach/flu/virus thing was that took me down! I actually didn't have it as long as the boys did, so I should be grateful for that at least...

We didn't end up really going anywhere today, though, because after my middle-of-the-night wake-up last night, I went back to bed and crashed HARD! The Instigator woke me enough to ask me if I was going to need/want the car today, but I was so out of it, that it was pretty well out of the question. Instead, I slept until noon. I evidently needed it, though, because when I woke up at lunch time, I was able to eat and shower and feel pretty much my normal self.

I do feel bad, though, that half of my mom's vacation has been spent home-bound (when she's wanted to come to Germany since she was little, and this is her first time overseas!) because we were all a bunch of sickies. So once the boys were dressed (they go about the house half dressed ALL the time...it must have something to do with making for a quicker changing time when they need to don their superhero outfits... ;) ), we went for a walk around Spang-Town! :) And I do mean literally "around." We may not have walked the entire perimeter (we skimped by a couple streets due to short legs that went with us), but it was pretty darn close. :)

A & C walking towards the tower in the distance
The wall up by said tower
A close-up to show the detail on the wall
The tower that we saw from a distance turned out to be what appears as some sort of chapel...as it's right next to a cemetery. And it's a pretty new one, too. I saw dates of death as recent as 2006.

One of the headstones
Part of the cemetery overlooking the town

We walked from the cemetery on the hill down to the main street of the town and went all the way to the street where the church is (yes, "the," not "a"...Spangdahlem is too small for more than one church...and as best as I can tell, it even shares it's priest with 3 other towns!).

St. Nikolaus' church in Spangdahlem (taken by my mom)
Looking back at the church's bell tower above the rooftops of Spangdahlem
It was nice to get out of the house and walk around a bit (and the boys got to burn off some energy, too!)...now if only I could get to sleep tonight! Tomorrow's plans include a 3-hour drive (one-way!) to the town of Bischwiller, France, to see if/what we can dig anything up in the way of ancestral information. :D

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Fun

Unfortunately, the couple of days leading up to Christmas, A & C were battling a stomach virus (which seems to invade a body and make them vomit over the course of a 48-hour period, back off for 24 hours and then rear it's head again one last time), which they passed on to The Instigator (he was sick on Christmas Day and the day following).

The boys' big gift was a Kinect system for the XBox (though it's not working properly...it won't find the floor...we'll try again once we get the stand or clip to put it on top of the television...). Santa left me Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Instigator got me Apple TV! :D

Then it was my turn to be sick. :(

Last time all 3 of my boys got sick, I got by without catching it myself. Unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky this time. And it ruined our travel plans a bit. We were supposed to go down to Bischwiller, France yesterday to see what we could track down about my mom's paternal grandfather's family (who immigrated to America from that town). Unfortunately, my bout with this stomach virus kept us home. I guess it worked out in favor of The Instigator, though, as today was his birthday, and this way he got his birthday meal (and cake!) on the day of instead of the day after his birthday (though he's not one to be a stickler for celebrating it on the day of...). But now we've been stuck in the house for 6 straight days (What a way for my mom to spend half of her vacation!!! I feel awful about that!), aside from the walk that my mom and A took (he showed her where his bus stop for school is), so maybe we can get out somewhere today...It's too bad I woke up at 2am! I don't know how long I'll make it today before needing a nap! I should probably get back to bed for a couple hours and see if The Instigator will let me drive him to work so I can have the car...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Here We Go A-Wandering...

After spending a day home-bound (which entailed a dusting of snow and the boys playing games with Grandma), my mom and I set out to see a bit of Germany. Our destination in mind was Mandersheid and it's castle ruins, but anything in between here and there was fair game. :)

While on our way to Mandersheid, we happened across something that I had seen signs for on the Autobahn and had been meaning to track down and see: Abtei Himmerod! As best I can tell, it's an active Abbey, but we only went into the little gift shop (where I got a schnitzel recipe book...It will be worth it to translate it to cook!) and the church part of the Abbey.

The facade of the chapel section of the Abbey

Nativity scene set up inside the Abbey
Close-up of the background of the Nativity (it's a painting of the Abbey!)

The organ in the Abbey's chapel


We continued on to Mandersheid, and got there only to discover that Neiderburg (the lower ruins) were closed. That didn't stop us, however, from going around and hiking up to Oberburg! (We got a nice view of Neiderburg from up there, too.)

View of Neiderburg on the hike up to Oberburg
Neiderburg and the Lieser(?) river running by
My mom at Oberburg, looking down upon Neiderburg
Me standing in front of Oberburg (and yes, my pant legs are rolled up...it was a muddy hike!)
Random tree-lined pathway off the road between Spangdahlem & Manderscheid


On our way back home, my mom's eye was caught by a random building in the town of Eichelhütte. Turns out it was a hotel! We went inside to try and find the cozy-looking restaurant we could see from outside, but had no luck. (I did, however, happen upon what appears to be an old yarn swift, used as decoration!)



But the building and setting were very pretty, so we wandered about and took photos until it got too dark to do so.

A fountain and the entrance to the hotel
Mini-windmill and swan on the pond behind the hotel
The pathway was literally the tree roots covered by dirt!

All-in-all, a laid back day, compared to the time spent in Frankfurt. (But then, the smaller places have a completely different feel to them. Much more relaxed.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Willkommen, Oma!

Today was a very.....long.....day.

I knew I wasn't going to get to sleep in like I otherwise would on the boys' day off of school, but it was for a very good reason!!! :D I got to go pick up my mom from the airport!!!!!!! She flew all the way from Colorado to visit us in Germany and spend Christmas with us!!!!!!

When I had booked her ticket, the agent told me that she was getting in at 10:30, and so I planned accordingly. Two hour drive to the airport, plus extra time to get gas and such before hitting the road...I figured leaving at 8 am would be plenty of time (considering she had to go through customs and immigration) to get there to welcome her at the waiting area. Oh, how wrong I was...

It turns out that she was actually scheduled to land at 9:45, and not only that, when looking at the website, her flight was landing half an hour early!!!!!! It was already 7:45 at that point, the moment I should have been getting onto the Autobahn, and I still had to get dressed, get A dressed to go with me, get gas, put the destination into the GPS and everything! Once I had finally accomplished all that, the GPS told me that I had 3 choice for a route. I wanted to avoid the 2nd option, as there were construction warnings that way, and so of the two, I picked the one with the shortest drive time.

After about close to an hour into the drive (maybe 45 minutes), I got stuck behind a truck with flashing lights that blocked the way I needed, leaving me with only the option to turn left into the nearby town. He was setting up for a construction zone. It was so new that they didn't even have detour signs up! (That's what that truck was for!) So I went into the town and ignored my GPS while it told me to make U-turns, and it eventually got me on the path to go a different route. I was stuck on back roads going speeds far less than I would have been able to legally achieve on the Autobahn, and was already late. So naturally, the GPS had to take me to the second route. You know, the one with all the construction I was trying to avoid? Yeah, that one. And I got stuck behind a few more big trucks, to boot.

When I finally got to the airport, I parked in the first garage I came to, on the first open level I came to, in the first open space I came to! I was already super late and didn't want to waste time driving around looking for a space. It turns out I probably should have driven down a little bit further, as the spot I parked in was the furthest possible from the airport. A and I had to book it across the parking garage and into the airport. (He did really well in keeping up with me! I was impressed!)

Enter the next problem...I went into the wrong terminal. I've never picked anyone up from the Frankfurt airport before (and they didn't say on any of the signs on the road that Terminal 1 was departing terminal and that Terminal 2 was the incoming terminal). And I could not for the life of me find the way to get to the other terminal. After about an hour of walking around (including a jaunt outdoors, as I saw other people going that way), I finally was able to find the SkyRail to the second terminal. (A was thrilled to get to ride a train!!!!!!) At that point I was near panicking that my mom was going to think she was abandoned and I had no way to communicate with her, and she wasn't in the arrivals area. I went to the information desk and asked if they could page her. They sent me to the airline's ticket counter to make sure she came in on the flight (even though I already knew she had). That entailed another 5 minutes of walking and being sent to different people. They confirmed she came in and told me to go to the information desk and ask for her to be paged. (Isn't that just where I'd come from?!) They paged her, and A and I finally found her! (Two hours after she landed! Although, she had been stuck at immigration for an hour, so she didn't spend that ENTIRE time waiting for me...)

But the day wasn't over yet! We went further into Frankfurt and hit up the Christmas market. Finding parking was a long time in coming, and so I finally just pulled into an on-street spot that I found. (The parking garages had lines of cars to get in!) We walked around for a bit, came upon the Frankfurt Cathedral ...and in taking 3 photos came to realize that...I had forgotten my camera's SD card in my computer at home!!!!!!!!! I thought for sure I had an extra one in my purse at some point, so I looked, but I couldn't find it. :( (My camera won't take more than 5 photos with the internal memory...) So I only got about 3 photos while in Frankfurt. (I would post them, but Blogger is not recognizing my uploads for whatever reason, and I'm sick of trying to get it to work...) So we walked around the Christmas Market for a bit; mom & I shared some Schnitzel, A had a chocolate-covered soft pretzel, and after he dropped what was left of it on the ground when he tripped and fell, he was promised his choice of either another pretzel or ice cream (he chose the ice cream, also chocolate), we went down to the Römerberg Platz and past to the Main river before heading back to the car. Where I found a parking ticket on my windshield.

On the way back home, I was not about to repeat my earlier problems, so I went the third route, which took us all the way down to the Kaiserslautern/Ramstein area. I don't know why, but the GPS took us off the Autobahn, and we ended up driving around K-Town in rush hour traffic. By the time we got back onto the Autobahn and heading the right direction, it was already something like 6pm (an hour after A is used to having dinner), and he said he was hungry and had to go potty. So we got back off the Autobahn and had dinner on base at Ramstein! LOL Eventually, we got back home, Grandma in tow, and what do I find when I open my purse once in the house?.....an SD card I could have put into my camera. ::sigh::


Friday, December 16, 2011

Productive Day!

Whew! I was on a roll today! Whatever was bogging me down the past few weeks seems to have finally lifted, and after sleeping pretty much all day yesterday, I had a lot to make up for today! Then again, it could also be that it was kick started by The Instigator buying me this:


It's a wireless adapter for my desktop computer, as my PC doesn't have a wireless card in it. Which means....I was able to move my computer and desk into my craft room!!!!! I made the move just last night, and I am already ecstatic about it all! I also moved some more things from the old craft room downstairs to the new/current one on the main level of the house (the one that used to be the boys' toy room...until I booted them out of it and moved their toys upstairs to take over the space!). So today I was pretty busy setting up some of the stuff and organizing a bit...plus doing the everyday things like laundry and dishes and vacuuming and sweeping...

While on my little breaks from the cleaning, I worked on knitting on a Super Secret Christmas present (which I finished, and it is now blocking!), and browsed the Web. Shocker, right? Well, on Pinterest, I came across this nifty little tutorial on turning cereal boxes into magazine holders! So I gave it a go and did decoupage for the first time ever and came out with a perfect storing place for my recent comic book collection.



I'm pretty excited about it, and can't wait for the boys to finish off more cereal so I can make more for my knitting magazines! LOL

I also made a couple buttons for said Secret Knitting Project, which means playing with Sculpey for the first time since I moved from Italy (over a year ago)! That being said...I definitely am still not used to my non-gas oven! LOL (Though I definitely prefer it not gas!) Here are the buttons as they're baking:






All in all...a very productive day! I only have a couple more days to get ready for my mom's visit!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Giveaway for camera-lovers!

I know, I've not posted much lately...and I actually have a couple that I've been working on for the past couple weeks (things have been crazy around here!), but I wanted to share a blog (called "A Bowl Full of Lemons") that I came across via Pinterest...this lady has some great organization tips and printouts available to help make a schedule and/or routine (something I have a very hard time holding to, for as long as I can remember...), and while browsing her blog, I saw this giveaway! As a knitter, I love, love, love my Namaste knitting bags that keep my yarn-y things separate from my regular purse items, so I know that any friends I have that are into photography would feel the same about these Jo Totes that she is going through for her giveaway! Go get your name in the proverbial hat!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FIRST CONCERT!!!!!!!

You know the mom that goes to every school function possible, ever with the cameras at the ready? (Yes, plural...cameraS...one for taking photos and one for taking video!) Yeah, I'm totally that mom. :)

Superman had his first concert!!!!! He's only six, so there are no instruments involved yet, but I was beyond thrilled when I found out that he was going to be singing in his first school performance! And I even went as far as to blow dry my hair and wear makeup. That means it was definitely a big deal! lol

The front of the concert program

Having been a band and choir geek myself while growing up, it made it all the sweeter that I was finally going to be able to be the parent in the audience. Even just walking into the multipurpose room and seeing the good old risers on the stage threw me back to the days I was in first grade and singing my heart out in front of anyone that would listen. Going into this, I knew that he was at least going to be singing "Grand Old Flag," because he's been singing it around the house nearly non-stop for about the past month! And that even gave me another memory to smile about, as the elementary school I went to used that tune (albeit with different words) for their school song.

I was pretty happy that we got there as early as we did, since the seats filled up very quickly, and there were parents and families packed in there as standing room only! The principal said that in all his years of working as a school administrator (which I think he said was something like 15 years), he had never seen that many parents turn out. Honestly, I find that to be a sad thing. But I digress.

As it turns out...I likely would have been better off with standing. It turns out I'm not the only parent that gets excited, camera in hand. The only difference is, I'm not rude and thoughtless enough to stand in front of other people's kids to get my own on video! That's right. There was a lady that didn't care in the slightest that she was crowding the stage area (not all the kids fit on the stage, so there were some on risers on the floor in front of the stage...which just so happened to be where my first grader was), or even seem to notice that she was standing directly in front of a bunch of little kids, reaching across to video her own child that was on the other side of the stage. And I am not exaggerating in the slightest.


What we could (& couldn't) see of Superman (in the red) from our seat

So I got up out of my seat, did the "duck out of the way of the other parents' photos" dance all the way up the side of the room, and got close enough to get some shots of him.

Standing up front next to him
Unfortunately, my standing right next to him was distracting him, and he wasn't very focused once he knew I was there with the camera pointed straight at him (he even fell off the riser he was standing on at one point!), so I took only a few and went back to my seat.

All the 1st-4th graders that were performing

So to all the parents out there going to these school functions...please be more polite than that lady in the blue was! Be aware that you are NOT the only parent there to see their child and be aware of your surroundings and that you may be blocking the view of someone else that is there to see their child. Heck, that's a problem my kids have. It's not something that should be that difficult for an adult. Okay, I'm done ranting. lol

All in all, though, I am very glad that we went (I told The Instigator he had to tag along...LOL), and I would not have missed it for the world! I just hope that they are more prepared for a larger audience next time. Otherwise, I will be standing!

video

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gettin' My Craft On!

So I have been home from the States for over a month, and I still haven't blogged about my BFF's wedding, nor have I finished blogging about my trip to Paris with Elphie, not to say mentioning my amazing birthday weekend! But I will get there, I promise. And those are not just empty words. I just have...issues...with finding a balance. There tends to be a lot of extreme behaviors one way, and then the complete opposite (and many times back and forth a time or two more!) before I get back into my "groove." And the past few months have been anything but regular!

And in the "extreme behavior" toward the negative, for a week or two, I was completely ensconced in the silly Facebook games. Frontierville/Pioneer Trail, Mafia Wars 2, Cafe World...all that crap. It was like a trance I couldn't be pulled out of. But Monday, I finally reached a decision that I had been mulling over. I decided to stop playing them. All of them. (Well, okay, I still have Words with Friends and Scrabble, but those only take, like, 2 minutes to make your move and then you wait on your opponent to go. No big.) And in the time that I have not been playing those time-sucking games, I have done the following:



Started and completed a stitchmarker Lariat:


Started and completed a pair of Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Wristers:


Started and completed a hat for The Instigator's aunt:




Blocked the Bella mittens for Tara:


 Baked a batch of zucchini muffins and 2 loaves of zucchini bread (this is all that was left of the muffins after 24 hours...they were completely gone in less than 48! LOL):




Started and completed a cowl (for trading for an apron from a fellow crafter!):

Finally finished a blanket to donate to a patient of Nephrotic Syndrome 
that has been a long time in coming!:



And have done some super-top-secret HSKS swappy items. Plus,that's to say nothing of finally getting my crafting supplies slowly migrating upstairs to my new craft room (used to be the boys' toy room, but we moved those upstairs to the large closet and their bedroom), catching up on housework, participating in running a knitting swap, and actually cooking meals! I have really been on fire! LOL I'm really hoping that this is less of a swing of the pendulum in the productive segment of my balance and more of a trend leading to habit. :) I guess only time will tell, but all in all, not bad for a week's worth of effort. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baking Away!

Tomorrow afternoon/evening is our Halloween party!!!! Superman, Batman and I will be going down to Ramstein to see Kristin, Elphaba, and their boys and having a spooky old time! :D It's going to be so much fun! I can't wait!

I'm taking some goodies with me, so today I spent much of my time baking. (And when I wasn't baking, I was cleaning...my house needs it!!!) I had originally wanted to make these Pumpkin Pillows, but there isn't a snowball's chance in H-E-double hockey sticks I'd be able to find wonton wrappers at the Commissary. Granted, I could have done some variation of a pie crust, but I honestly didn't feel like going to the trouble. LOL So instead, I resorted to these 2 ingredient pumpkin muffins!


Unfortunately, I didn't look closely enough at the recipe posted before starting (oops!), and ended up opening the wrong can of pumpkin! So now I have to find something to make with the pie mix/filling. (Which, if you know me, is so heartbreaking, giving how much I love pumpkin...LOL)

The RIGHT pumpkin (puree) on the left and the wrong pumpkin (pie mix/filling) on the right




As I could only find the 30 ounce cans of pumpkin at the Commissary, I split the can in half and made one batch with French Vanilla cake mix and the second with Spice Cake mix. (I can already tell from the smell that the latter is going to be my favorite!) And I know the recipe says you only need the two ingredients, but it wasn't mixing the greatest, in my opinion, and still a bit dry, so I added one egg to the spice mix batch.

While I was waiting for the last set of muffins to come out of the oven, I started in on preparing for the Oreo cookie spiders.


Unfortunately, we don't have the black licorice pull and peel here, so the legs will be red, and I cannot buy black jelly beans if it's not Easter season, so I substituted with M&Ms. I cut the pull & peel whips into the 1.5" segments (I used 4 pre-peeled whips and had about an inch leftover on each whip, ending up with 215 leg pieces). When I sat down to put the legs into the cookies, they wouldn't fit. :( So on my way to the gym tonight, I stopped by the Commissary to pick up Double Stuf Oreos. Wouldn't you know it....they don't even carry them. So instead, I will try shaving off some of the end that is to fit inside the cookie and try that route. And if that fails, then I'll just use Ritz crackers, peanut butter and pretzels to make the spiders! LOL

While I waited on the appropriate time to replace the cookies, I worked on the Mini Witch Brooms.


Each Fruit Roll-Up gave me 15 pieces of the 2" requirement (and I cut the 2" strips and the fringe before removing it from the paper to avoid unnecessary sticking to everything!), and I had leftover the ends that are folded in on themselves.  I had some issues at first, but it turns out I had cut the fringe the wrong direction, which gave it a completely different (and completely unsatisfactory) look.

The one on the left is done properly and how it is SUPPOSED to look


I used a teacup to hold the water and a syringe that the pharmacy gives out to give infants medicine (Don't worry, this one was unused! lol) to dab a drop of water on the Roll-Up. (A cheap, new paint brush would also have worked just as easily.) It was actually a little bit tricky, and while wrapping them the wrong way, I actually contemplated going for the fatter pretzels, but it all worked out in the end.

And let me tell you, between peeling all those Twizzlers and rolling all those little Roll-Ups on the end of pretzels, my fingers got a bit sticky (as did my kitchen scissors)! LOL

I waited on making the sugar cookies until the boys were home to help me cut out the shapes, but that ended up backfiring because of how long everything else took, so I haven't even begun to make those! They will have to wait until tomorrow while the boys are at school.



For those of you that know me well enough to know my baking preferences, you know that it's a pretty big deal that I'm resorting to "cheating" and using pre-made mixes to bake cookies. (I'm of the "bake from scratch or it's not truly baking" camp.) But with all the other goodies I'm making, I just don't really have the time to take to make it the right way. :( So tomorrow, more kitchen time and cookie cutters are in my future!!!