Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

So what does a Texan do at Christmas time? Eat tamales! What to do if you are far away from Texas at Christmas time? Make your own tamales and invite friends over to help eat them. Which is exactly what we did. We made 12 dozen tamales, a pot of chili con carne, a pot of beans because some people like beans in their chili, bought some Big Red (God bless who ever is charge of the commissary!) and then invited everyone from Dave's office to stop by this afternoon after work. Of course some people are out of town, some people are busy, but some showed up and we ate, talked, laughed, and had a blast. I think this may be a new holiday tradition.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Derailed Again

Today we were supposed to be in Holland at the Christmas Market in Velvet cave. The entire market is held underground in caves excavated when the castle was built around the year 1050. The weather isn't cooperating though. This weekend the temps were down in the single digits (fahrenheit). Sunday it snowed and after talking to some friends who had been out on the road between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden we decided to call it off to be on the safe side. The sad part is since this is our last year in Germany we are unlikely to ever make it the market but you never know.

Today instead of driving to the Christmas market we are hanging out at home. Meat is cooking for the tamales later this week. I am working on assembling the gingerbread houses so they can be decorated tomorrow, catching up on all the cleaning and laundry that didn't get done last week, and of course we took advantage of the snow and did some sledding.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This Week Has NOT Gone As Planned

This week was supposed to be a busy productive week. I was supposed to get all the presents wrapped, the house cleaned, some of the holiday cooking done up ahead, conquer the mountain of laundry, the menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas day finalized and the grocery shopping finished so I wouldn't have to be out there in the chaos next week. This was the last week before the kids would be off for the holidays. I had so much to do.

What did I actually accomplish? Well I have washed every towel, sheet, and blanket in the house, some of them twice or even three times and the floor especially between the kids bedroom and the toilet has been mopped repeatedly, other than that I survived this week and that is quite enough. If you are a facebook friend you already know what happened, but for the rest of you what happened was the stomach bug that destroyed my week. This nasty bug swept through our household and wrecked everyone's plans.

Poor Grayson was the first victim. He came in to our room shortly after 2 Monday morning. I woke just in time to hear him announce "Mommy my tummy hurts." Then things got ugly, not to mention very very smelly. Dave scooped him up and ran to the bathroom while I scrubbed the remains of dinner from the night before out of our of the carpet. And that was that for sleep on Monday. Dave drove the Alonzo and Colin to school because there was no way I was putting a barfing 5 year old in my van. By eleven o'clock Grayson was exhausted and slept for hours. Dave had taken the day off and so we took a nap and watched a movie together.

Tuesday he was feeling better so off to school he went. I went to the farmers market to pick up some hand dipped beeswax candles and fresh veggies. I cleaned house to remove the lingering nasty smell and did lots of laundry. Also made cookies for kids Christmas parties. Thought I was back on schedule. Until about 11 that night when Alonzo showed up in our room. Since I was still awake I was able to get him pointed at the toilet before he blew. Minutes later David heard Colin upstairs. He found that both boys beds were...well nasty would cover it and Colin was in the same shape as Alonzo. About two a.m. I shoved David in to bed since he had already taken Monday off there was no way he would be taking Wednesday off. I spent the rest of the night taking care of one boy or another and washing sheets and blankets. (To my neighbors--sorry about that I wouldn't normally run the washer in the middle of the night but it was an emergency!)

Wednesday passed in a blur of unpleasant sounds and smells. I remember opening the upstairs windows only to have it start snowing. I just let it snow into the room because our apartment is concrete construction with radiators and no ventilation or fresh air circulation unless you open a window which means once a smell is in the house it stays until you open a window. Lighting a candle just wasn't going to cut it. Don't worry the boys weren't cold, they were both downstairs in sleeping bags on the floor as I had run out of clean sheets and blankets and it takes my dryer at least two cycles to dry anything so laundry is a slow process. When Dave came home I mumbled "I need to make cupcakes." and then I think I passed out. By that time I had been up over 36 hours.

Thursday I was still a little out of it but I did manage to make it to the commissary to get groceries, but sadly not the stuff for the Holiday dinners so I will back there next week. Oh well, I will just have to stop in at the book store to grab a new book and an eggnog latte, darn the luck. I also managed to make it to Grayon's holiday party at school. David had baked cupcakes the night before while I slept so I was in good shape for that, even remembered the camera. Thursday wasn't over though, Dave was the next victim. Almost a soon as he laid down in bed that night he jumped up and ran to the bathroom. As he generally wants to be left alone when he is sick I managed to get a little sleep, but I don't think he did.

Friday morning about 3 a.m. I found out I was the next victim when sharp stomach cramps woke me up. This stomach bug was getting ridiculous. Both of us sick is not a good thing. We made it through the day even got the kids to school and picked up at 1 from early dismissal but as soon as Cody made it home from school we both went to bed and Cody got stuck babysitting the kiddos.

Today we are both feeling better. My stomach is still a little tender, and I don't think I want to eat anything spicy or greasy but I am feeling much better than yesterday! Cody on the other hand will probably feel better tomorrow. If there is anything redeeming about this bug it is that it hits hard but goes away quickly. Now unless the cats start barfing we should be just about all done with it, I hope!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I am FINALLY in the holiday mood!

I am usually the driving holiday force around our house. I don't just celebrate Christmas I wallow in the holidays! This year I have been going through the motions but not feeling the joy. I don't know why but I have been in a blue funk. Even the Christmas music, which I normally play nonstop, has been annoying me, but after the last weekend I am FINALLY in the holiday mood.

This weekend was nonstop Christmas fun. Thursday we went to a Christmas performance by Grayson, and Friday we went to a performance by Colin. Friday night we watched a Chipmunk Christmas DVD which goes with the Chipmunk Christmas CD the kids have been listening to on the ride to and from school each day. The kids are loving Simon, Theodore, and Alvin. Now if they would just quit acting like them!

Saturday we went to the Christmas Market in Wiesbaden. I like that one so much better then the big market in downtown Frankfurt, much less crowded. I didn't have to worry about spilling my gluhwein from people pushing me. On the was home we drove the long way through the Taunus and there was about 5 inches of snow up there. Gorgeous!

Those of you familiar with Jakarta will notice that the blue stall in the right of the picture above looks like it was stocked from the 4th floor of Pasaraya where all the handicrafts are sold. Those little wooden cicaks that you can pick up for a few thousand rupiahs there sell for 40+ euros here. There seems to be one of these stalls at all the markets. It cracks me up.

There's lots to eat and drink at the markets. David got his favorite bratwurst mit brot otherwise know as sausage on a roll. All the kids opted for a crepe filled with Nutella and while I agree it is good I went for this German version of pizza topped with some sort of white sauce, onions, and ham, yummy!

And what would a day at the market be without riding the rides with the kids? We rode the double decker merry-go-round and the kiddie train. In a different part of the market there was ice skating rink but we managed to escape that this time.

Saturday night we went to the Seidlung Christmas party at the fieldhouse. Free food and live holiday music, what could be better? I even won a cute Christmas village cake in the silent auction. Sunday found the kids back at the fieldhouse for pictures with Santa, of course I was at the commissary because I forgot but Dakota saved the day and took the kids down there to meet Santa and take pictures while David and I shopped for groceries. Yay Dakota! Now that I have been on holiday overload for a few days I think I am ready, bring on Christmas.

Oh if you are wondering why there are no pictures of Colin at the market it's because he spent the day with a classmate skating and curling down at the Eissporthalle. He had a blast and currently holds the title of the only Mullins to go curling.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Unfinished Business--Halloween 2009

OK so I know it is Christmas time but I still haven't posted the kids in their Halloween costumes so their Grandmother and Aunt Teri can see. With no further ado (or procrastination), here ya go!

Alonzo and Colin decided to be faceless phantoms. Funnily enough Colin's best friend back home had almost exactly the same costume only in all black. Great minds think alike, I guess. Dakota raided the kids dress up box to become a pirate after he tired of explaining his original costume Dakota Fanning. He made a paper fan and walked around fanning himself. Well, he thought it was funny. His girlfriend Josephine showed up as one of the ghostbusters complete with a soundtrack, somewhere she had hidden a speaker playing the theme song "Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!" For Grayson we dragged out the cobra costume I made years ago for Colin made a few repairs and he was all set.

A close up of the cobra costume. I worked hard on it and he is the last of my babies to wear it. It will go back in the dress up box for a while longer, but before long even he will have outgrown it!

The day after Halloween we watched the Halloween Tree and learned a little about the history of Halloween. We also read about Dia de los Meurtos. We tried making our own pan de muerto, not very authentic but tasty anyway. Each person shaped their own skull and crossbones. I think they came out pretty well.

We also cut up the Jack-o-lanterns from the night before to make pumkin pie filling but before I could cook them the boys had to take one last picture.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Get it Now

We used to have a live Christmas tree every year. We would drive out to a cute little Christmas tree farm near Seguin, spend hours walking around and around comparing the trees until finally we found THE TREE. Then Dave and Cody would use a hand saw to cut the tree down and haul it to the front of the farm, load it up, tie it down, and haul it home. Then we would struggle to get it to sit right in the stand, and get the lights strung all over it so there were no dark spots and hang the ornaments just so to disguise any bare spots. The reward would be a gorgeous unique tree and that wonderful pine smell through out the house all through the holidays.

Then we moved to Jakarta and had to get a fake tree. Not so many Christmas trees in a tropical Muslim country. There are a few to be sure but they tend to be pricey and there is certainly no cut your own tree farms, at least not that we ever found.

Now we live in Germany. There are lots of beautiful real trees to choose from here, after all this is supposed to be the country that came up with the idea of decorated Christmas trees. Last year I tried to talk David into a real tree, plastic just isn't the same. My argument was the smell, I missed the smell. Dave bought me a pine scented candle. Hmmmph!

This year I tried again. The tree lots are everywhere, and the trees are so pretty, I really want one. I have tried sad puppy dog eyes, hints, longing sighs, profuse admiration of the real trees, flat out demanding a real tree. And....nothing...silence...crickets chirping.

Finally last night David announced that real trees are just too much trouble, then he hauled the fake tree up four flights of stairs from the basement and dumped it in the living room. Today as I was setting up the tree and fluffing the tree I kept wondering how this is any easier than a real tree. He went to work today and I got to spend half the day trying to make a pile of wire and plastic look like a tree. I have scratches all over my arms from this thing. Then I suddenly figured it out. It is easier FOR DAVID!

When we had a real tree David had to drive to the tree farm, David had to help Cody cut down the tree, David had to haul the tree to the car, David had strap it down, David had to drive it home with out losing the tree on the highway, David had to trim the tree so it would sit straight in the stand, David had to string the lights and David was usually the one who remembered to water the tree so it didn't dry up too fast.

With a fake pre-lit tree all David has to do is haul it up from the basement dump the box in the living room and say, "Here ya go Babe." then he is done. Yep, I get it now.

*if you click on the picture at the top it is interesting to note that is NOT Dave helping Cody haul that tree, it is Paul, aka Uncle Bubba. Things that make you go hmmmm.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Unfinished Business--Marine Corps Ball 2009

Living overseas with my husband working for the foreign service I have had the chance to go to a number of balls: The St. Andrew's Ball (Scottish), Trafalger Ball (British), St Patrick's Ball (Irish), Marine Corps Ball (US) and the Navy SeaBee Ball (US). All of the balls have some sort of opening ceremony, followed by eating, drinking and dancing. Each ball's opening ceremony is moving in it's own way, but hands down the ball that is most likely to wreck my makeup is the Marine Corps Ball.

The opening ceremony is pretty much the same regardless of where the ball is held. There is the address from the Commandant of the Marine Corps which is projected on to a screen for everyone to see. A message from the Secretary of State, which will be read by a guest of honor, at a Embassy Ball generally the Ambassador or the Chargé d'Affaires. High ranking officers will also make speeches. Then there is the cake cutting ceremony, a huge cake will be marched in cut with a sword then a piece offered to first the guest of honor, then the oldest Marine present and finally the youngest marine present. There is always a collective gasp when the birthday of the youngest Marine is announced, and you realize just how old you really are. This year's youngest Marine present was a young (emphasis on young!) woman born in 1989. I will give you moment to recover.

I did video the cake cutting ceremony but opted to use my little point and shoot instead of dragging the big cameras along, which explains the quality of the Wordless Wednesday pictures, so I will spare you that experience but instead will post the Message from the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. This is usually the point at which my make up begins to go wrong and the tears start flowing. It is very moving, expecially with all our brave young men and women in the middle east right now. Grab some kleenex and spend a few minutes remembering those so far away.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Unfinished Business--Teri Visits Germany

It is December first. The last month of the year. As far as I am concerned it is officially winter, yes I know winter officially starts on December 21st but for me Thanksgiving marks the end of fall and December first is the beginning of winter. I was looking back over the blog this morning and realized that I have been a bit of a lazy blogger. I know you are shocked. My plan is to use the first couple of weeks of December to catch up on unfinished blog business so I can start the new year with a clean slate.

The first bit of bloggy catch-up business is Teri's visit to Germany last summer. The kids love when Aunt Teri comes to visit because she spoils them rotten and we get to do lots of fun stuff. This time was no exception. It was go go go the whole time. We saw castles , lots and lots of castles, went hiking, played in rivers and swam in lakes. Visited Bavaria and Luxembourg. We went downtown to a kids fun festival and stumbled onto a gay pride parade (Mommy why is that man wearing gold underwear? Yeah that was fun!) visited the Alps and took a ride to the highest peak in Germany, rode a luge, toured Mad king Ludwig's castle, celebrated the Forth of July and so much more. I could do lots of posts on her visit and I really should have been posting like crazy when she was here but I just too busy having fun. Yeah I like it as much as the kids when she visits. What can I say? Any way here are some pictures from last summer.

Taking a break from hiking in the Taunus.

What visit to Germany would be complete without touring the most famous castle in Germany? Neuschwanstein also known as Mad King Ludwig's Castle.

A quiet moment on top of the world.

Burg Eltz

A view of Luxembourg from the top of the Bock Casemates.

This was not what we had planned when we headded downtown but it was fun to watch, although Colin had some interesting questions.

When we were just hanging out at the house Teri and Dave went head to head in a game of wii baseball.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

7:10 It is early Thanksgiving morning. I am the only one awake. The house is still quiet and dark. The apartments across the yard are dark except for the kitchen windows which glow with light and activity. More Americans working heard to make the perfect feast.

It is odd to be in a foreign country for this particular holiday. It is a holiday that only Americans celebrate. Well Canadians celebrate it too, but last I checked Canada was part of North America and they think Thanksgiving is in October. The last three years the kids went to school on Thanksgiving day, but this morning they are still sleeping upstairs as I make the pie dough for pumpkin pie. I decided to let them skip school today because this is Cody's last Thanksgiving at home. I want a true family holiday. David thinks I have lost my mind.

9:45 Everyone except the teenager is up. I personally think he is awake and hiding in his room because I don't see how anyone could possibly sleep through this. Good lord. Next year they all go to school in Thanksgiving. It is much nicer to cook without kids screaming, yelling, and fighting. What was I thinking? Dave just keeps looking at me and grinning. He is too smart to actually say out loud that he told me so, but that grin says it all.

It Lives! As I was typing Cody emerged long enough to announce he was going to take a shower and disappear into the bathroom. Colin is playing piano, Grayson is talking to himself, and Alonzo is playing an annoying percussion instrument in my ear while singing Moon Moon Moon shining bright. David is vacuuming and in the background the TV is running on BBC morning news. I am going back to the kitchen to check on the pies.

11:01 the pies are finally done. Someone, probably Grayson, turned the oven down to 280 while they were cooing so instead of taking 45 minutes they took well over an hour. I can only hope they are cooked all the way through. I am starting to understand why we were usually thrown out of the house on Thanksgiving. At least we lived in South Texas where the the weather is usually nice this time of year. Turkey is going in now and I am going to take a shower. Kids are being thrown out of the house since the weather is nice today.

1:48 Boys came back from outside with a fish for the snake's Thanksgiving dinner. Guess they went to the duck pond with Cody. Dinner seems to be on schedule, kinda scary. Usually I am not this organized, something must be wrong. Kids are quiet now. Dave put on Monsters vs. Aliens. TV as a babysitter is a lifesaver some days. Even the teens (the girlfriend showed up) are quiet. Nice.

3:03 Almost everything is ready the last few things are heating in the oven. kids are playing wii. I am glad they stayed home after all even if the morning a little rough.

8:32 The dishes are washed, the guests are gone, and the kids are in bed. All is quiet and I am still so full I can hardly move. We went the traditional route with roast turkey, green beans, cornbread casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, mashed potatoes, stovetop stuffing, cranberry sauce from a can (yuck) and fresh cranberry chutney, homemade bread plus one of our guests brought Jamaican chicken soup and ribs YUM! Then there were the desserts: cheesecake, pumpkin pie, pineapple upside down cake, and apple brown betty. I ate some of everything, so did everyone else and still there are leftovers. Tons of leftovers.

We had eleven people for dinner this year. I really prefer Thanksgivings when we have a full house. To me Thanksgiving is a holiday to share with others. I am glad I let the kids stay home. They enjoyed playing Wii with our guests while waiting for dinner. Then after dinner we all flopped down in the living room and watch Scooby Doo the Mystery Begins. Not the best movie ever but the kids liked it so it was a good way to end the day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hope your day was as good as ours!

Wordless Wednesday- Moose, Maybe

Monday, November 16, 2009

LOL! Wait my kids would do that.

My Malawi guide book is here! I have been flipping through it tonight and some of it is funny reading, unless you have a kid like Colin. Some important gems of safari safety advice:
  • Don't sleep with your head sticking out of a tent or you risk being decapitated by a curious predator.
  • Don't stand between a hippos and the water. Hippos will panic and mow down any person standing between them and the safety of the water, usually with fatal consequences.
  • Don't bathe in any potential crocodile habitat.
I thought these all seemed pretty obvious until I thought about Colin the kid who with in hours of landing in Texas last home leave managed to get bit by a snake (not a rattler thank goodness) and stung by a scorpion. I can totally see him with his head hanging out of a tent so he can see all the animals walk by.

Heavy On My Mind

Today is Monday. I am doing the same thing I do most Mondays, that is I am cleaning house. After a weekend of the boys being penned up in the house by the soggy cold weather the house looks as if a tornado swept through. This week though, I notice I am being a little more ruthless than normal about throwing things out. Generally I am a bit of a pack-rat. So what has changed? Well as Dave announced we are going to Malawi this summer. The catch is the State Department imposes a weight limit on our house hold goods, 7200 pounds to be exact. Everywhere I look I see something else that needs to be thrown away or given away.

I have yet to meet another expat (other than FS) that ships by weight. Everyone else seems to ships by container size. If you think of those pictures of the big ships with all those big containers that look like a box car minus the wheels, those are the containers I am speaking of. In fact I know of at least one woman who was excited about her husbands promotion not due to any monetary increase but because now they were alloted a larger shipping container and she would be able to ship some antique Javanese furniture.

So far today I have thrown away several Burger King kids meal toys, a couple of t-shirts with small holes, a couple of blue kitchen towels that had gone all frayed on the end, a kids book with some torn pages and a ripped batik cicak. Nothing big or heavy but if I can manage to throw away a couple of items every time I clean house it will (hopefully) all add up to quite a lot of weight by the time we pack out in June. Maybe I should start weighing what I throw out each day and keep a running tally to see how much I weight I eliminate from our shipment.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Forgotten Sun

Late fall/winter weather has settled in here in Frankfurt. It overcast, drizzly, cold, and gray all day everyday. This morning as we were driving to school the clouds thinned just enough to allow dim outline of the sun to barely break through through for just a moment. Alonzo noticed it and blurted out, "Look the sun! I forgot what it looked like. I thought it was a lot brighter."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It’s Official

We will be going to Lilongwe Malawi for our next assignment.

I have received my assignment notification, so we can start planning our departure from post. There is a lot involved with planning a departure, like when we will leave our current post and arrive at our new post and what we will do in-between. At a minimum I have to do a mandatory 20 work days of home leave. Then I have to figure out what training I will need to take before I arrive at our next post and see if I can fit it into our travel plans. It is important to remember that we have no home in the states so when we go on home leave we typically stay with family. If there is no family to stay with we would have to fork out an awful lot of money in hotel bills for the home leave.

If all works out we should be in Texas to start our home leave around July 2. It will be good to be home and see family that we have not seen in two to three years. The kids are really excited about seeing their friends back in Mainland Square as is Shannon.

Until then, keep visiting our blog and keep some dates available for the month of July!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Soup For Dinner--Baked Potato Soup

This is a family favorite. It is true comfort food. There is not much healthy about this soup but it sure does taste good on a cold winter afternoon. Just to be clear, there are no baked potatoes in this it simply tastes like a baked potato with all the toppings. My sister-in-law Teri made this for us when visiting one year. I have been messing with the recipe every since. Since I didn't write it down and can't quite resist tweaking the recipe it has probably changed a bit since she made it but here is the recipe as I make it.

Baked Potato Soup
  • 2 pounds potatoes (I don't care what kind, in fact I often mix types)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 box chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are going veggie)
  • water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • bacon I use half a package but you can use less or more depending on how much you like bacon. Can even omit if you are doing vegetarian
  • cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • Green onions or chives

Dice bacon and fry it until crispy in a big soup pan. Remove bacon and let drain on a paper towel and pour out most of the bacon grease leaving only a tablespoon or so, if you are going veggie skip the bacon and just use olive oil instead. Finely chop celery and onion and cook over low heat in the bacon grease until tender and transparent. Add in diced garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add in peeled, diced potatoes, bay leaf, stock and enough water to cover the potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked. If you like it rustic just stir it a bit to to make the potatoes fall apart some. If you like it smooth, fish out the bay leaf and run the soup through a blender or use an immersion blender, remember fish out the bay leaf BEFORE running it through a blender. Add the milk and cook about 15 minutes or until thick. When serving top each bowl with cheddar, sour cream, bacon, and chives.

We had this on the last day of fall break except I stirred in a bunch of cheddar right at the end to make Potato Cheddar Soup. Everyone but Alonzo was happy. Alonzo hates potatoes (unless they are french fries) and this soup is loaded with potatoes. I served it with fresh corn muffins. Alonzo was somewhat pacified by the hot corn muffins with butter and honey.

Disclaimer: I am very much a cook that doesn't measure so these are approximations. I also sometimes change things like half and half instead of milk or more milk if I think it is too thick. If you are the kind that measures everything there are loads of good potato soup recipes out there on the internet. If you aren't sure which one to choose go with a site that allows reviews of the recipe and comments then pick a recipe with good reviews and make sure to read over the comments. Happy cooking.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Hope everyone out there is having a Happy Halloween. The boys just finished carving their jack-o-lanterns for tonight and are watching Scooby Doo. Alonzo was running a fever last night. This morning he woke up without a fever, but he still looked puny so we skipped the party at the field house in hopes that he will feel well enough for trick or treating tonight. It is a laid back kind of day. I think I like having Halloween on a Saturday. No rushing to eat and change as the kids get home from school just relaxing and having fun. I have a crock pot of 15 bean soup cooking away on the counter for a quick warm dinner after Trick or Treating tonight. Colin is heading of to a birthday party for one of his class mates. While he is gone Alonzo, Grayson, and I will make a bat cake for dessert tonight and then have a little Wii fun! I will post pictures of the costumes tomorrow of the costumes. This year we have one snake, two phantoms, and Dakota Fanning.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Handshake At Last

A handshake is the first official notice of your next post assignment you receive when in the foreign service. While it is not a done deal until orders are cut, it is very rare for a handshake to be broken. This morning Dave finally received the e-mail we had been anxiously awaiting. We have a handshake! YIPEE! We know where are heading after Germany. Oh, what? You want to know where? Well here is are a few hints:

This is a picture of one the many cool things we can see at our next post.

The handshake is for the capitol city of the country that is home to the 3rd largest lake in Africa and the 8th largest lake in the world. The country is known as the "warm heart of Africa." This country earned its independence from the UK on 6 July 1964 and one of the official languages is Chichewa.

Can you guess where we are going?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Soup For Dinner--Curried Lentil Soup

I have been a lazy blogger. Actually I have been a busy Mom. The kids have been on fall break for two weeks which means I have been busy chasing kids and cleaning up messes. On top of that we have hosted two birthday parties this month, been hiking with the cub scouts, sold sodas at Applefest with the cub scouts, and painted pumpkins up at the feildhouse all in addition to the normal cooking/cleaning/shopping/laundry/scout meetings that make up daily life. In short we have stayed pretty busy this month. Today is the last day of fall break. We are hanging out relaxing in our jammies and watching a Scooby Doo marathon on Boomerang, everyone except or Cody that is, he is working on homework since his school didn't have fall break. Poor baby!

I have continued with the weekly soup night although it hasn't fallen on the same night each week. Since my last post we tried the Curried Lentil Soup suggested by Planet Nomad in my comments from the last soup post. YUM! It rocked. Alonzo, who is my picky eater, took one bite and announced, "This one is a do-over." YAY! No complaints and it was even better the second day. I was so busy eating I forgot to take a picture. Darn it all! Guess that means I will just have to make it again. If you want to try it for yourself just click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thanks, I think

The kids are on fall break this week and next. It is like spring break except, you know, in the the fall. They are destroying the house, running wild, and generally having fun. German weather being what it is the last day of school, when the kids were stuck inside, was absolutely gorgeous. The weather since then, not so much, so they have been basically trapped inside with me. This morning I was praying for more rain but of course it is totally dry, cloudy but dry. Why would I want more rain? Today is Tuesday. Tuesday means the Farmers Market is down in Dornbush.

The market is a short walk from our house. Short as in about a 15 minute walk, each way. The kids have been planning to go buy a pumpkin with their allowance. Generally I think it is great that they save and spend their own money BUT I know darn well who is carrying those pumpkins back home. Pumpkins are heavy. A 15 minute walk isn't that far unless you are carrying several heavy pumpkins and trying not to let 3 kids get run over along the way then suddenly it is a VERY long way. Still no rain so I eventually had to face facts and off we went to buy pumpkins. Colin of course picked out the biggest pumpkin he could find and negotiated the price. I reminded him that he needed to use his German. He did just long enough to ask "Spechren Sie Englisch?" then switched to English. Somehow that works better for the kids than me. I know darn well that same vender has told me "Nein!" to that exact same question in the past. Today surprise, surprise, the answer was "A little" followed by almost flawless English. GRRRR!

The vender told him the price per kilo then picked it up and estimated the price. I was trying desperately to tell Colin it was too expensive when Colin upended his little coin purse in the man's hand. The man helped Colin count out his money (Yes I let Colin deal with it on his own, he was the one who wanted the pumpkin not me) turned out that Colin was a little short. YAY! I almost did a happy dance but then the guy cut him a break AND threw in a second pumpkin for the same low low price. Thanks, I think. Colin can't stop talking about how he bought 2 big pumpkins with his own money, all by himself.

The other two boys did not bring their allowances so they were at my mercy for money. I only allowed them a small pumpkin or gourd. They were a little disappointed but got over it quickly when I pointed out their choices. Small pumpkin or No pumpkin. When put that way, small pumpkin it is.

Here are the boys with their prize pumpkins. In case you are wondering the boys weighed the pumpkins. The big one was 14 pounds. The freebie was 7 1/2 pounds and Alonzo and Grayson's were about a pound or two each.

I did end up carrying the big tan colored pumpkin home in my backpack and Grayson's little pumpkin because I was afraid it wouldn't make it home the way he swinging it around. Colin and Alonzo got to carry the other two pumpkins home. I had my hands full. In addition to the pumpkins I had several pounds of apples both for eating and making apple butter, pears, plums, grapefruit, a jar of white cream honey, and some flowers because after this I deserve them. Oh yeah and the boys got pastries. I stuck with the flowers. Less calories!

Here is the total haul from the market today. Whew! Getting all of that home counts as a work out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Soup For Dinner--Split Pea Soup

The weather has started to turn colder here in Germany, although thankfully not as cold as last year. The trees have just started to change color, and as I walk to the store the first fallen leaves crunch underfoot. The air is cool in the morning, warming in the afternoon. I love the crisp feel to the air, the colorful leaves, the anticipation of the upcoming holiday season. Fall truly is my favorite time of the year.

One of the things we have found about living overseas is that traditions are very important to keeping a sense of who we are, especially for the kids. No matter where we live I will find a pumpkin (or something pumpkin like) to carve for Halloween and later bake into pies for Thanksgiving. I will put up a tree for Christmas, fake or real depending on where we live and the availability fresh trees. We invent things that we do as a family that cement our togetherness, our belonging to each other. Dessert night on Wednesday, movie night on Friday these are part of our weekly family traditions, our family cement. This fall I am adding one more: soup night. At least for the winter. Once the weather warms again it may become taco night or maybe pizza night.

Today for dinner we had split pea soup with brotchen. It was yummy. Brotchen are small crusty rolls you can buy all over the place here, similar to bolillo rolls back home. They were perfect with hearty soup. Three out of four kids liked the soup, Grayson just like the bread. Even Cody liked it, which was a surprise since he hated it in the past. As I was cooking I realized that I really enjoy soup when it's cold outside. It is just such a warm, cozy kind of food. Why not add a soup night? Quick discussion with David and it's set we will have a soup night each week this fall and winter.

I realized one other thing. I really like soup and have often ordered it when we eat out, but I really only know how to make two kinds of soups: bean with ham (split pea is a variation on this since it is basically the same soup except with split peas instead of beans) and chicken vegetable soup. There are so many more kinds of soups out there I would love to learn to make. Indonesian Soto Ayam, spicy Thai coconut soup, caldo de rez, minestrone, the list goes on and on. As I try new recipes I will post each week and let you know what the kids think of the recipes.

The recipe I used (and mostly followed) tonight came from If you don't know epicurious and like to cook you must go there now, go ahead this blog will be here when you get back. I have known about this site for a long time and used it frequently even back in the states, but after ALL of my cookbooks ended up in storage (please, please, please, let them be in storage) instead of at post it became a lifesaver. My favorite thing about it the user reviews. Immediately I can see what other people thought of the recipe and what changes they made.

I chose a very simple recipe tonight. To me split peas are a rustic kind of dish and should not be fancied up too much. To view the recipe click here. I followed the recipe, well mostly. I had some left over ham from a few days ago so I used the ham bone in place of smoked pork hocks. I also had saved the juice from the pan when I cooked the ham and used that and chicken stock instead of water. The only other change I made was to not puree the soup. I like split pea soup when it it is creamy with peas just falling apart but not perfectly smooth. There is enough left over for my lunch tomorrow. Life is good!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How did this happen?

Monica said I had to the post this. The following is from an excerpt from an e-mail conversation between Monica and myself. I am the one speaking.

"I just got back from shopping at the base commissary and while I was there watching all the young (mostly pregnant) moms try and keep the little ones from tossing every damn thing into the cart I realized I had turned into one of those women we love to hate. You know the ones going grocery shopping without kids clinging to her, has makeup on, has taken a shower in the last 24 hours, hair combed, no baby food/poop/vomit on her clothes, cute shoes (they are really really cute found them last week and am wearing them constantly they are so cute) cute skirt not blue jeans or sweats. How the hell did this happen? I am confused."

This is a warning to certain members of my family and you know who you are: If your comment has anything to do with getting old I WILL hunt you down!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Well Crap! No More Chocolate For Me!

It is about 6 weeks or so until the Marine Corps Ball. I don't have the exact date but it is always around the same time of year. On whim I decided to try on the dress I am planning on wearing this year and it won't zip!

No matter how much I tried to suck in my stomach, no matter how hard I pulled I could not get the skirt to zip all the way. I see a lot of salad in my near future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bagpipes Wanted

This morning we were listening to kids music on the way to drop the kids off at school. I know again with the kids music, but this is the first year I have ever driven the kids to school everyday so it has never been a topic before. One of the songs featured bagpipes. Immediately the cry went up, "I want to learn to play the bagpipes! Mom can I have bagpipes for my birthday?"

To which I replied, "Nope! Bagpipes are expensive."

With out missing a beat Colin came back with, "That's OK Aunt Brenda can buy me some in Scotland where they are cheaper, she's going there this summer. Mom can I e-mail Aunt Brenda tonight?"

So my globally nomadic children have learned two things:
  1. Things are usually cheaper in the country in which they are made. (Exception being coo-coo clocks which are just God-awful expensive even here in Germany! More on that later.)
  2. Keep track of where family/friends are from, and where they are living or visiting now. You never know when it might come in handy.
Oh, and on a final note, Donnie and Brenda consider yourself warned. Your greedy nephews will sending some begging your way soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Overheard Converstaions

This morning I popped in a Wiggles CD on the way to school and braced myself for the usual round of complaints from the back seat. Instead I heard this:

"Remember, a long time ago, when we liked this music?" asked Alonzo.
"Yeah" replied Colin
"Remember how we used to watch them on TV and dance?"
"Yeah! Wake up Jeff!" Lots of giggles following this statement.
"Oh! Mom can you turn the music up? I like this song." asked Colin.
"You mean you used to like it, back in the old days." Alonzo reminded his brother that they were too old for such foolishness.
"Yeah I USED to like it, turn it up."

The rest of the trip passed in a blur of Fruit Salad, Yum Yummy and Captain Feathersword rocking on the sea with all three kids singing along. I am sure this afternoon will return us to our battle stations but the break from the hostilities was very welcome.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Proud, Amused, or Concerned?

We listen to a lot of kids music in the car on the way to school. Alonzo and Colin at the advances ages of 7 and 9 consider themselves far too sophisticated for such juvenile music. I turn on the radio and they immediately start with the "That's for babies!" but Grayson is only 4 and singing songs is important for is language development so the kids music will be staying for a while longer. I put my foot down a week or so ago and told them if I heard the dreaded "for babies" complaint they would be grounded when they got home from school instead of going out to play. I thought that would put a stop to some of the complaining but they have a new tactic: improvisational lyrics. This morning's edition was In The Ocean.

In the ocean, the mighty ocean the blue whale sleeps tonight.
When he farted, the tsunami started,
And that is how he died!
In the ocean the mighty ocean the dolphin sleeps tonight.
When the farted, the hurricane started,
And that is how he died!
In the ocean the mighty ocean the tuna sleeps tonight.
When he farted, the vortex started,
And that is how he died!

This was sung very loudly, with great gusto, drowning out the music coming from the radio. When we arrived at school they were trying to think of more oceanic catastrophes to endanger more innocent sea life. I am not sure if I should be proud of them for thinking ouside the box or just disturbed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rock Climbing Felsenmeer

This weekend we discovered a new favorite thing to do as a family. Rock climbing! About 45 minutes outside of town is The Felsenmeer, a huge boulder field that runs uphill. If you look carefully in the picture below you will be able to see the boulders snaking uphill between the trees. The rocks continue all the way uphill to the top. It took us around two hours to climb to the top including a short break for a quick picnic lunch.

What was great was the size of the boulders and the slope of the hill. The rocks were big enough to make it fun and challenging to climb and the slope was not so steep as to make it too scary for me (and Grayson). Once we reached the top Cody took a break by sitting on a huge carved column. It was carved by Romans sometime in the fourth century. It is estimated to weigh around 27 tons. I want to know how the Romans were planning on moving this thing.

While we were all hanging out at the top looking around we noticed bikers using the boulders for some trick biking. They were hopping up and down on the rocks like wheeled kangaroos. It was pretty amazing to watch. I could almost see Alonzo thinking "bike+pogo=cool bike tricks. I can bike, I can pogo, I can do this!" I am hoping he doesn't break anything major when he gets around to trying this for himself.

Of course what goes up must come back down so after we caught our breath we headed back down the the bottom where the car was parked. Cody climbed back down over the rocks but the rest of opted to follow the side trails through the woods and walk rather than climb down. maybe next time we will climb instead.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Cody finally got a much needed haircut. I think he looks nice but he wasn't too impressed with the results as you can see from his reaction when I tried to take a picture. What do you think?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Field Trip Time

When I was a kid a field trip meant trip to the Buttercrust Factory for a tour at the end of which we each received a pencil, a ruler, and a slice of Buttercrust bread still warm from the ovens. That was the good field trip. The alternative was a trip to one of the missions of San Antonio. Everyone has heard of the Alamo, but there is also Concepcion, San Jose, Espada and San Juan. I am pretty sure I went to every one of those missions on a school field trip at some time or other.

Yesterday my third grader showed up with a permission slip for a field trip. I have to admit I am jealous! None of my field trips were remotely as interesting as this one promises to be. What makes it so cool? For starters it is 3 days long. A sleep over trip. Here is the description from the permission slip:

  • Day1: Bus transfer after the regular school day to the Youth Hostel Büdingen. The group will be greeted by the youth hotel team with a welcome drink in an original middle ages goblet. After a warm dinner they will go by foot to the old town of Büdingen and participate in a Night Watchman stroll though the streets and narrow alleys of Büdingen.
  • Day2: After breakfast the children will go to the Büdingen castle and enjoy a tour of the proerties of the princely families of zu Ysenburg and Büdingen. Lunch will consist of a lunch pack provided by the Youth Hostel. In the afternoon they will learn how the pages, knaves, and knights lived and worked in the middle ages. A museums education officer will give the children insights into the making of ink, writing on parchment paper with Carolingian script and a traditional middle ages writing utensil and creating a family crest. In addition they will be dazzled by a weapons exhiit. The day will end with a group barbecue in a special barbeque hut.
  • Day3: After breakfast and vacating their rooms, the children will say goodbye and will take with them and array of memories and impressions of the Middle Ages. Bus transfer back to school by mid morning.

I am torn between being happy he gets to have this wonderful experience and wanting to grab on and hold him tight, he seems to be growing up too fast!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ouch! Slam!

Grayson is home sick today and Dakota doesn't start school until the 31st so they are hanging out together watching television. The cable is acting up AGAIN so Cody was loading a movie for Gray to watch. Gray of course wanted to help. Cody reminded Grayson that Dad's rule is only grownups can handle the DVD's so they don't get scratched. Gray looked at Cody and protested, "Your not a grown up you're a teenager!" Ouch! Slammed by a four year old!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The List, Narrowed Down

A while back I posted the long list of choices on our current bid list. Choices! That makes it sounds as if we look at the list, decide where we think would be cool, and then off we go. Ha! If only! The bidding process is long and complicated. It would help if you think of the bid list as a list of job openings for which we may apply. So you get this long list, then you decide maybe I would like to go to....hmmm.....we'll pick Paris. Then you research Paris, things to do, schools (if you have kids), housing, quality of life.....the research goes on and on. You start to dream of walking through the streets of Paris. This is usually my job. I get to do the research and decide if this is someplace we could live.

Next comes submitting the bid and lobbying for the position. Lobbying actually had more to do with who you know than any thing else. Networking it is a must! David gets to do the lobbying since he is the employee. And then you wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Oh, did I mention that while this is going on David is up for a promotion and if it comes through we will have redo our bids. So much fun. There is a more concise explanation of the bidding process over at Life After Jerusalem and another over at Email from the Embassy. I am not going to try to explain all the intricacies of bidding when others have already done a fine job of it.

Here is our short list. This is the list of places to which we submitted bids.

Lilongwe Malawi
Harare Zimbabwe
Kathmandu Nepal
Maputo Mozambique
Hanoi Vietnam
Dar Es Salaam Tanzania
Vientiane Laos
Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

You may be thinking what happened to Paris? Well lots of things. First housing in Paris is apartments. We have 4 kids and are in an apartment now. It sucks. Kids need space to run and play with out worrying about bothering the people downstairs so Paris will have to wait. Second there are lots of people bidding on Paris and only one is getting the job. Then there is this notion of differentials. A differential is extra pay to offset the difficulties of living someplace difficult. All of the posts we bid on this cycle have a high differential. In addition there is this thing called fair share bidding in which you have to bid on a high differential post once in every 8 years and you have to continue to bid until you have served at a high differential post which resets your clock for another 8 years. Just the foreign service's way of making sure that people bid on places like Yaounde and Bujumbura. Confused yet? Don't worry me too. And finally we are ready for a change, a new adventure, something different. Africa would be a great adventure!