Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Friday was my 41st birthday. The boys surprised me with a handmade birthday card before they left for school. Dave took the afternoon off and we spent some time exploring and discovered a new pet shop with much more reasonable prices. Yay! The cats and snake will be happy, so will our budget!

Since we have so much left over food I didn't get the traditional cake instead David and I walked to a bakery and bought an apple pastry. David decided that 41 candles would probable set off the fire alarm and only put 5 candles on the pastry, 4 candles in a group for 40 and 1 off by itself. Colin loved the pastry, the rest of us not so much, but there was lots of left over lemon cake and pumpkin pie so there was no complaining here!

For a present I got a 1000 piece puzzle which will come in very handy since the TV choose this morning to up and die! David thinks he can fix it he just needs to order the part. In the meantime we keep saying we need to cut back on the TV time in this house so I guess that starts today!

I am getting my real present today. After I finish this post I am going off to my first German Christmas Market, alone, just David and I, with NO KIDS! We are taking the camera so check back tomorrow for pictures and maybe you can visit us next winter and go to the market with us!

Thanksgiving Cont...

When all the cooking was done and the kids came home from school. (Yes, the kids went to school on Thanksgiving, this is Germany and Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and do you know how much easier it is to cook that much food without kids underfoot?) As I was saying when all the cooking was done we had a feast fit for a king!

We managed to get a picture of everyone acting reasonable mature. This is a major accomplishment considering the ages of our kids.

All too soon the normal behavior resumed but, how boring life would be if they acted like little grown ups all the time!

And then came the best part of the day....dessert! Pumpkin pie, my favorite and Lemon Pound cake (with fresh whipped cream and raspberries, forgot to get those in the picture, ooops) for the strange little critters in my life that think pumpkin is poison. No problem! Shortly I will have left over pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast. Yum!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Real Men Fry Turkeys...

...but a real woman can make the whole Thanksgiving meal even if the box with all her cookbooks vanished somewhere between Texas, Indonesia and Germany! What's on the menu today?

Roast turkey with gravy
Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows on top
Stove Top Stuffing
Canned Cranberry Sauce (ick!)
Fresh Johannesberry Sauce (yum!)
Green Bean Casserole
Homemade dinner rolls with real butter and creme honey
Pumpkin pie
Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake with whipped cream and raspberries

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guest Blogger: Phileas Frog

You might have noticed that Colin had a cute little frog with him in some of the pictures from the snow yesterday. The frog is his class mascot Phileas. Phileas hails from Dublin Ireland. He takes turns spending the weekends with different class members. This weekend he visited with us. We all enjoyed Phileas's visit and are glad he shared our excitement at the snow. I think it may have been the first time he experienced snow as well. Phileas keeps a journal of his adventures. This blog entry is an excerpt from his journal.

Slide Show First Snow

We had a blast today. The Snow here in Frankfurt had melted away by 11:00AM, so we decided to head up to the Tanus Mountains about a 45 minute drive from here. Most of the pictures with a lot of snow you will see in the below slide show are from that area.

We hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


About thirty minutes ago I woke up to the happy screams, "Snow! It snowed! Looked at the snow! Wake up! There's snow! Can we go make a snow man?" There is a very light dusting of snow turning every thing white. There isn't enough to make a snowball much less a snowman, but there is snow.

While David made coffee I grabbed the camera and staggered down the stairs, all three flights, to take a picture of the snow before it melts away. David grabbed a bowl and handed it to me as I headed out. No one handed me a coat, and I am not all that functional before coffee. I must really love my kids because without coffee or coat I stood outside in the cold snapped some pictures to remember their first snowfall, and scooped up a bowl of snow from the picnic table for the kids to feel.

Update: It is now day light, the kids are outside playing in the snow. We took pictures of them until the camera batteries died. I will get some pictures up later today. They are too cute.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Snow Watch

There is snow in the forecast. The boys are anxiously watching the clouds rolling overhead. I have repeatedly explained that there is a only a chance of snow this weekend. It might snow, but the again it might not. Colin is insistent that the guy on TV said it is going to snow, so that's that! What do I know anyway?

All morning we have had bands of dark heavy clouds roll in with strong winds and rain and sometimes thunder. In between each wave of clouds is a few minutes of sun shine and blue skies. Even when the sun is shining you can see the next round of clouds building like a dark wave on the horizon. I know this because I am watching the clouds even more closely than the kids. They have never seen snow. I can't wait to take pictures of the kids playing in the snow. I hope there is enough to throw snowballs!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Saturday David and I went exploring downtown.  We have been downtown a few times but, each time we had a purpose, or kids, so we didn't take much time to explore.  Saturday we were just wandering around, enjoying a day together, just the two of us.  My favorite find of the day was definitely the Kleinmarkthalle.  I have no doubt we will visit it many times in the future.  It is so perfectly what a market should be! 

Meat, fish, and cheese, every kind of imaginable produce, spices galore, fresh breads and pastries, plants, cut flowers, and imported foods from around the world.  I could find ingredients for nasi goreng, curry, or mole.  There were all the kids favorite tropical fruits: rambutan, lychee, mangosteen, jackfruit, mangos, dragonfruit, but not a durian in sight (or within smell!). It was a food lover's paradise. I bought the spices to make mulled wine and David bought some spicy roasted peanuts that reminded me of the yummy fried battered peanuts Haryono's wife made for us in Jakarta. We didn't buy much this time, but David took tons of pictures. I know we will back again, soon!

Friday, November 14, 2008

St. Martin's Day

November 11th was St. Martin's Day. Alonzo and Colin made lanterns at school to get ready. After school Tuesday we headed over to a St. Martin's Day celebration so they could put those lanterns to use. I am still not exactly sure what it was all about, but it was definitely a lot of fun.

When we arrived at the festivities there were lots of children all with lanterns gathered around a fire. The fire was roped off so no one could get too close, but I am not sure that made it any safer since many of the lanterns were lit by candles. Alonzo and Colin both had the candle variety, but they managed not to catch themselves or anyone else on fire. Small blessings!

After a bit a gentleman came out, he talked a bit then there was singing accompanied by trumpet music. The singing was in German but Alonzo and Colin must have practiced at school with Ms. Birgit because they sang right along! St. Martin appeared on horseback and rode around the circle a few times before leading us all in a parade to a church some distance away.

As we walked along we noticed the windows in the buildings above us were filled with people enjoying the sight of hundreds of lantern carrying children flowing down the street. Even with the crowds the boys found some of their friends from school, they giggled and talked as we went along. From time to time we could hear the trumpet music and the singing would resume.

At the church there was another fire, sweet pretzels and kinderpunsch for the kids, with mulled wine for the adults. The warmth of the drink help thaw out my fingers before we began the walk back to the starting point so we could grab the van and head home out the cold.

Next year I want to take the whole family instead of just Alonzo and Colin. Hopefully by then I will be able to understand at least a little what is said. Alonzo has pointed out that if I want to do it right I should cook a big goose for St. Martin's day. Apparently at some point St. Martin hid in a stable or barn. Honking geese gave him away and he was found, now his goose is cooked each year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wordless Wednesday -My Karate Kids

Thank You Veterans

Today is Veterans Day in the US. Many of us will see VFW members handing out the red poppies and collecting donations. Dave and I got our poppies at the Base in Wiesbaden this weekend. Along with the poppies we were given a brochure explaining the poppies. On the back was a poem that is the origin of the idea of red poppies being a flower of remembrance. The brochure stated the poem was known to all children in the United States.

I was an American child and I don't know this poem. I was an American school teacher and I don't know this poem. It wasn't in the books anywhere I can recall. Maybe it is in the books for older children. Perhaps the brochure should have said all American school children SHOULD know this poem.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Col. John McCrae

Monday, November 10, 2008


Shortly after we arrived in Germany I did a PSBN post about recycling German style. Since then I have noticed my teeny tiny trash can can sometimes go two days with out being emptied even though our house is home to four growing eating machines known as boys. Of course the recycling really piles up.

Most of the stuff in my trash can is organic waste that could be composted it we had a place for a compost pile. If you have a back yard, even a small one it is easy to make compost. Compost is the best soil amendment you can add to your garden. Much better than chemical fertilizers and best of all it is free. You are simply using things you already have and turning it into rich soil instead of sending it to the land fill.

At it's simplest a compost pile can just be a big pile where you dump your coffee grounds, eggs shells, grass clippings, vegetables peels and other organic waste. This is the kind I used to have, of course I lived out in the country and had lots of space so I could put this rather messy pile at a distance from the house. There are lots of options for composting bins that are tidy looking and can speed up the composting process. Some are more expensive than others, you can even make your own. Depending on where you live there may be municipal programs that sponsor low cost or free compost bins.

For more details on the composting process the EPA has a composting web site that includes instructions and links to state incentive programs. Of course if you google "composting"  you will have 4,540,000 web sites worth of composting advice at your fingertips.

For the more adventurous there is worm composting.  Yes WORMS!  I heard a piece about it on NPR's Science Friday and immediately thought of my sister-in-law. She just finished having her gorgeous new house built last year and is working hard on her gardens.  She commented this summer that she should start composting.  When I heard about worm composting I kept picturing her trying to explain to her husband why there is a big bucket-o-worms parked in the corner of his man cave in the basement.  I couldn't stop giggling.  I guess I have a twisted sense of humor.

Science Friday: Worm Composting

(Just don't tell Kevin it was my idea, I will deny it.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Marines! 1775-2008

Saturday we were privileged to attend a ball celebrating the 233rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. There is just something about a man in uniform, and really is there any sharper uniform than the marine dress uniform?

The ball always opens with very moving speeches honoring the men and women who put their life on the line protecting and defending our country. Makes it a little hard to keep the make-up intact. Following the speeches is the presentation of the cake. Yes there is a cake, a very large cake. It is cut with great ceremony using a sword. Sadly we didn't have a good view so no pictures of the cake cutting this year. The first piece of cake is offered to the guest of honor, in this case Consul General Jo Ellen Powell. The second piece goes to the oldest marine in attendance. The third piece goes to the youngest marine in attendance. The youngest marine in attendance was born in 1987. I am feeling old y'all!

After the opening ceremonies comes the eating, the picture taking, and the dancing. So much fun.

David and I have been taking bets as to which, if any, of our children will follow us in a life with the foreign service. Last night I think we figured it out. Just before we left Colin come running downstairs yelling "Wait for me I am going too I am all dressed, I just need my shoes." He looked so cute wearing his recital clothes. We said we were sorry this was a no kids kind of night but took his picture 'cause he is just too darn cute! Perhaps some day he will put on his tux and head to the ball himself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Model Primary School Menteng 01

Living overseas during an election year has been interesting to say the least. Rather than endless campaign commercials, we get to listen to what the rest of the world thinks of the candidates. I have very deliberately NOT mentioned politics here on the blog. This blog was begun as a way to keep in touch with family and friends back home when we moved overseas. Today I am going to mention Obama. This is not an endorsement, in fact I sat on this post until the election was over.  I would have posted it no matter who won. Here is that post:

It is no secret I lived in Jakarta Indonesia for two years. One of the things I had a chance to do was tour the school Obama attended as a child. Just to make it clear I did not set out to see the school, I was on a tour of the Menteng area looking at historic sites and the Dutch influenced architecture. We passed by the school and stopped to snap pictures of the sign out front.

Hopefully someone fixes that hanging P soon. Anyway the guard noticed a rather large group of bule (white people) peering through the gate and came over to see what was up. One thing led to another and pretty soon we got the grand tour. The school is much like any other elementary school. It has classrooms, playgrounds, and bulletin boards displaying children's work. It is really not very different a school in the states.

I had pretty much forgotten about that little tour until I heard something on NPR in mid October that reminded me and made me laugh. NPR interviewed some people from Jakarta about Obama and the upcoming elections. One of the men interviewed was a guard named Adang who works at the school. I don't know if is the same gentleman we met, but it is nice to think so. Anyway Bapak Adang says he wants Obama to win next month simply because he's an alumnus. "It would be good for the school's image", he says, "to be able to say that the president of the U.S. studied here, too."  That struck me as funny and along the same lines as "Washington slept here." You know, "Obama studied here."

One of the interesting things I saw at the school were these signs hanging in the halls. Each sign had a different inspirational saying but this is my favorite. Sometimes we forget to teach our kids that it is OK to be wrong sometimes, after all no one is right ALL the time. Oh, in case you are wondering, all Indonesian school children are required to take English. That isn't to say they are all fluent. Judging from the number of "Hello, Misses" I got on the street, most achieve the same level of fluency that I did from my spanish classes. That is I can say hello and ask the time, but that's about it! Oh Well.

Take a few minutes to listen to the interview. It is interesting to think of how others view us.

Wordless Wednesday - Halloween In Review