Welcome to our life!

Hi, I'm Allison! I'm a thirtysomething, freshly baked, stay-at-home mom. I'm originally from Connecticut, now living in Germany, hence the name of the blog. I live in southern Germany with my German husband and our baby boy. Life has turned out to be nothing I ever expected, and am so incredibly happy with it! We certainly do have a lot of laughs! I hope you will enjoy following our new experiences raising a little half American/ half German in a little German town.

Donnerstag, 26. April 2007

Skip ahead to the present, this weekend, I´ll finish the past

I HATE uploading pictures. That´s all I have to say! The reason why I haven´t posted the second part of my Ireland trip is because it took me a total of 40 hours to upload my pictures to the internet! I am NOT allowed to upload any more pictures until the weekend. So, I will finish the Ireland posting this weekend.

Things have gotten back to normal here, which is great. I´ve had a pretty good week. I guess it started on Monday, when I found out my friend Mandy (who I went to Ireland with,) will be staying in Germany. She ended up on the transfer list out of the school here on base, and was assigned to Cuba. I was really scared that my closest friend here would be in Cuba! Fortunately, everything worked out, and after a few nail - biting weeks, it´s official that she´ll be staying!

I have also met a few other girls this week through theNest.com. There is a message board for International Newlyweds. No, I´m no Newlywed,but I am international, so I´ve found a group to really bond with. This week, two girls joined who are Americans living in Germany, like myself. They´re both married to Germans, like me, and are around my age. I find this incredibly exciting to finally find people in my situation. Since none of us are currently working, we plan on meeting in early May!
I am incredibly excited!

Otherwise, things here are great, most likely because it´s asparagus season. White asparagus here is wildly popular. Every year, people anxiously await the mid-April through early June time, when you get fresh, delicious German grown white asparagus! We have found a relatively local farm that offers pretty inexpensive white asparagus. (German grown grade A white asparagus catches up to $9.00 per pound in the grocery stores.) But it´s worth it at any price, because it´s DELICIOUS!Today, we stopped by the farm and bought quite a lot to get us through the weekend. YEAH!

This weekend is a holiday weekend here in Germany. Well, May 1st is the holiday, but many Germans will be off on Monday, so the stores will be quite busy on Saturday, and traffic will be a nightmare. We don´t have anything planned for the weekend, but we are off to Cologne on Monday night. Our friends are getting married in June, and on Monday, we are celebrating Polterabend, a German wedding tradition. I am extremely excited about both the Polterabend and the wedding, as I still have never been to a German wedding.

Well, I guess that´s all for now. I hope everyone is good!

Mittwoch, 25. April 2007

Ireland, Part 2- Waring post best enjoyed with a pint of Guiness!

I figured that ending the first part in Dingle (An Daingean.)
Our Thursday started out beautifully. We stayed in Devane´s B&B, which we found particularly lovely. The owners were wonderfully kind and helpful, and made a great breakfast! Best of all, Devane´s B&B is in a bright pink building, and is located on a hill leading into town, thus providing wonderful views of Dingle Harbor! Anyway, who woudln´t want to stay in a bright pink B&B?

The view from our B&B in Dingle

After checking out the open shops in An Daingean, we made our way out to the Slea Head Drive, which loops around the end of the Dingle Peninsula. In reality, the drive isn´t very long, but offers such beautiful views, you really need a day. And that´s just what we did! It was slightly disconcerting that as we entered the drive, there was a sign saying, "road closed ahead," but we figured it would be best to go as far as possilbe.

Our first stop on the Slea Head Drive was at an area with beehive huts. These huts are all over the Dingle Peninsula, and are thought to date from the 12th Century, when Norman invaders forced Irish people to the far coastal areas of the country. The Beehive Huts that we visited were a series of about 5 cirucular huts, encircled by a much larger outer stone circle. It is most amazing to see these structures, as they were built without mortar, and yet they have remained throughout a constant battering from the weather and the sea air for almost 1000 years! Another enjoyable thing about visiting these particular beehive huts was the fact that it is also used as a sheep pasture, so we got to walk among a bunch of sheep and lambs simply to go to the huts!

Sheep grazing with the Atlantic in the background

A view of the ringed area housing the beehive huts

After exploring, I was able to ask about the road closure. Yes the road was closed, but the man operating the site informed us that we would still have wonderful views, and that it was well worth driving out to the closure.

So, we were off again. The views got more and more incredible as the Dingle Peninsula jutted farther and farther out into the ocean. We stopped at Slea Head, which is one of the westernmost points in Europe. From Slea Head, you can view the Blasket Islands. The Blaskets are a series of islands, that up until the 1950s, housed a number of famous Irish authors and artists. The Blaskets are uninhabited now, but there are day trips available to tourists to visit them. I would imagine this would be an incredible day!

A view of the Great Blasket Island as we near Slea Head

Stone walls lining the hillside at Slea Head.

View of the Blasket Islands.

We stopped at the gift shop at Slea Head, which actually was quite helpful. Turned out that the Slea Head Drive was closed off about 20 feet from the gift shop. There had been a landslide on Easter Sunday that caused the road to crack. The woman working at the gift shop suggested we drive back a little ways, and we would come to a mountain pass that would bring us out almost to the other side of the closure. That was PERFECT! The ride through the mountain pass was also beautiful, and we only ended up missing about 3/4 of a mile of the entire drive!

We came out near the Blasket Island Visitor Center, which unfortunately, we missed. We did drive out to a lookout point, where we were able to walk down to the water, and were treated to some amazing views!

Looking back towards Slea Head.

We discussed this scene with two guys from Galway a few days after taking this picture. They described this scene with one perfect adjective "hardy!" This is the ocean, and even though it was sunny, it was April!

The houses here have incredible views, and personal archaelogical wonders (beehive hut)

As we got back on the road again, we came upon Louis Mulcahy Pottery Workshop, in Ballyferriter. The pottery was absolutely beautiful! Even though I lived in Ireland for 4 months, I didn´t know just how famous Irish pottery was. After spending some time in the workshop, we decided we were getting tired. There was a bookshop which I found quite enjoyable, as they had as many books in Irish as they did in English! We didn´t stop in the local heritage museum though, and now, I know this is a place I must return.

Harborside in Ballyferriter.

As the day wore on, we found ourselves at Gallarus Oratory, which is an amazing structure.

Built between the 7th and 8th Centuries, the Gallarus Oratory is the best preserved early Christian church in Ireland. It was built completely without mortar, but with a technique called corbelling, that has allowed the structure to be waterproof for over 1000 years! We watched an very interesting movie about the archaeology of the area, including the Oratory itself. It was simply amazing to stand inside a structure that was so incredibly old, yet so well preserved!

After our visit to Gallarus, we were tired, and headed back to Dingle town. We spent some time meandering the streets, visited the harbor, and had dinner.

Since we were so tired on Thursday night, we went to bed very early, which allowed us an early start to our day on Friday. So, around 11:00 (the Irish aren´t very early risers,) we headed out to Doolin. Doolin is in County Clare, so it was approximately a 4 hour ride for us. We drove along the coast to Tarbert, where we got a ferry over the River Shannon. The ferry ride was quick, but I´m glad we did it, instead of driving all the way around the Shannon. The ferry let us off at Killimer, and then we drove up the coast, towards Kilrush and stopped off at Kilkee. Kilkee is a charming little resort town. We explored the beach in Kilrush for a while, and then headed into town for lunch. We had a delicious lunch of fish and chips, and sat on the sun porch of the restaurant. After lunch, we walked around the city center for a while, and then headed for the Cliffs of Moher.

We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher around 4:00, which was probably a good time as there weren´t to many tourists. The Cliffs are a major tourist attraction, and the number of visitors is growing every year. The Cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, they are 214 meters (700 ft.) high, and stretch for 8 km (5 miles,) along the western Atlantic Coast of Ireland. Having been to the Cliffs 7 years ago, I was slightly disappointed with the changes that had been made, but considering that it was for safety´s sake, I cannot complain much. The Cliffs still afford incredible views, and in my opinion, are still well worth the visit.

The site made famous by Matt Lauer on the Today Show (1 May 2007.) As you can, words can´t begin to do justice to these majestic cliffs.

A view of O´Brien´s Tower standing high on the Cliffs of Moher.

After spending some time at the Cliffs, we were off again to our final destination, Doolin. Doolin is a very small village, located about 10 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin is steeped in tradition though, and what it lacks in size, it definately makes up for in character. We stayed at an absolutely wonderful B&B, the Sea View in, that had a lovely view of the ocean.

Our B&B in Doolin

After getting settled, we walked into town. A charming fact about Doolin- the city center is split into two parts, divided by a 10 minute walk. We stayed in the smaller, and probably older part of the center. We walked to the other city center for dinner, in a very new, but enjoyable pub, Fitzpatrick´s. Doolin is exceptionally famous for traditional Irish music, but since it always starts late (between 9 & 10 at night,) we decided to walk back to our side of the center after dinner. We arrived at O´Connor´s Pub around 9, and the musicians were just setting up. O´Connor´s is probably one of the most famous pubs in Ireland, and for good reason. When we first arrived, I was a little nervous because there were so many American tourists. But as the night wore on, the Americans (being the early to bed people that we are,) started leaving, and the pub filled with Irish people from all over the country. The music was exceptional. A real traditional Irish music session is an impromptu gathering of musicians, who often will stop in a pub to play a few songs, or to sing. The atmosphere is quite relaxed, and the musicians are usually amazing! While we enjoyed the music, we also met some incredible people! We met two guys from the Glendalough area of Ireland (near Dublin,) and we met two other guys from Galway. We had some very interesting conversations, and were able to learn much more about the country. The people in the pub were all so friendly, and it was so easy to strike up a great conversation.

Fisher Street, Doolin

Saturday morning, we met up with some of the people we met the previous night, and they took us out to the ferry dock at Doolin. The ferry goes to the Aran Islands, which unfortunately, we didn´t have time for. Despite the amazing weather, the ocean was very forceful, and the crashing waves were magnificent! We spent some time walking out on the cliffs at the end of Doolin, which provided us with some more amazing views of the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher from Doolin

Crab Island off the coast of Doolin. This is one of the best surfing areas in Ireland.

We also walked far out onto a very rocky, which resembeled the moon. Doolin lies in the Burren, which is an area of Ireland, covered by limestone. The Burren is home to amazing plant life and wildlife. In Doolin, the Burren opens to the sea cliffs. After some time, we came upon very secluded ocean cliffs, where we passed a few hours enjoying nature´s inspiring gifts. Since the ocean was quite active, the waves breaking against the cliffs came up quite high, and hit with such force, that it sounded like thunder. Spending time there was wonderful for the soul.

Sadly, Saturday was our last full day in Ireland. So reluctantly, at 3, we made our way back to the car, and headed back to Cork. We drove through Limerick, and had to give way to a bike tour for about an hour. Our drive home took us by some interesting sights, but there simply wasn´t time to stop. We arrived at the B&B, which was our original B&B in Cork (the Belvedere Lodge,) around 7:00. We were so tired!

Our flight back to Germany was at 6:20 am, so Sunday was a very early morning. We flew Aer Lingus into Amsterdam, and had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam. I have never been to the Netherlands, but after spending time in the airport, I am hopeful that one day, we will go. Mandy and I did get to purchase some amazing cheese at the airport (the Dutch are well known for their cheese.) I also appreciated the layover, as we had a great time to reflect on our trip.

The final leg of the trip was a one hour flight into Stuttgart. We arrived at 5:00 pm in Stuttgart, ready to get back to our lives.

Overall, the trip was absolutely incredible. We saw tons of things, but didn´t over -extend ourselves, so we were able to enjoy every minute. The weather was amazing, and quite uncommon. I simply cannot wait for my next trip to Ireland, because I can guarantee, this was not my last trip there!

Mittwoch, 18. April 2007

My Ireland

I´m back from my trip, and feeling a little guilty for not having posted anything here since I got back on Sunday. I hope that this post makes up for it though :)

First of all, Mandy (my friend from work,) and I had a WONDERFUL time on our Ireland trip! It was absolutely perfect, and I am so happy that I was able to find such a wonderful friend to spend the time with.

We left Stuttgart at 6:30 on Monday morning (the 9th). This meant, we had to wake up at 4 am, which is not my favorite thing to do. But, since we were on our way to Ireland, how much could I really complain? We arrived at Cork Airport at 10:30 am, having flown through Amsterdam. After picking up our perfect little car, and Mandy practicing driving on the "wrong side," we made our way to Blarney Castle.

After touring the castle, kissing the Blarney Stone, and touring the grounds, we made our way, exhausted, back to Cork.

On Tuesday morning, we left Cork and headed down towards the coast, to a wonderful little town called Kinsale. We spent a few hours meandering the streets of this charming town, visited some shops, went to the market, and enjoyed a coffee before heading out again.

A picture of the harbor in Kinsale.

After Kinsale, we stayed along the coast, driving through more wonderful little villages, like Clonakilty and Skibbereen, and made our way to Bantry. Bantry is far west in the country, and lies along Bantry Bay. There is a famous house in Bantry that was the ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry. The house was amazing, and the gardens were just perfect. What was especially wonderful was the staircase in the back of the house, leading up a high hill overlooking the house and the bay. It was a most amazng view! After a couple of hours at the Bantry House, we were off again to Kenmare, where we spent the night.

A picture of the pub / bed and breakfast where we stayed.

Our night in Kenmare was spent in a O´Donnobhan´s pub. Okay, the bed and breakfast run by the owners of O´Donnabhans, which was located above the pub. It was a great place to stay, even if the smoke alarm dragged us out of bed at 4 in the morning! Kenmare itself was a perfect base for Wednesday, when we worked our way up to Dingle. We spent some time shopping in Kenmare and left around 11:00 for the rest of the day. Our drive took us through a small part of the Ring of Kerry, and we were afforded incredible mountain vistas between Moll´s Gap and Ladies View. We then stopped in Killarney National Park, and hiked around the Torc Waterfalls. After our hike, it was back in the car and into Killarney. Killarney was a large town compared to the other villages we had been in since leaving Cork.

Pictures from Killarney

We enjoyed shopping in the town center, and enjoyed a bagel (one of very few in Europe,) before leaving for Dingle.

The town sign for Dingle (it is now officially not Dingle, but only legally the Irish name.)

Dingle lies in the heart of the Gaeltacht, the Irish language speaking area of Ireland. So, most of the names of the shops and pubs in Dingle are written only in Irish.

Irish Coffees!

Dingle Harbor

Freitag, 6. April 2007

The Sweetest Thing

I´m always proud of Joern. Of course, he´s the best at everything he does (except occasionally, putting an outfit together) But sometimes, it´s nice when other people confirm your already held knowledge.

Yesterday afternoon, Joern, Joern´s colleague Frank, and I headed out on our trip across the county to celebrate Joern´s boss´ birthday. We left at 1:00 and didn´t get in until 6- traffic, traffic, and more traffic. When we got there, I had the opportunity to meet with Joern´s colleagues (most of whom I have imagined while listening to speaker-phone conversations with Joern.) Then we headed off to the hall where the party was taking place.

I must digress for a moment to discuss our location yesterday evening- Aue, which is near Chemnitz and very near the Czech border. We were in the heart of former East Germany. And while we have been to many places in the former GDR like Berlin, Chemnitz, and Leipzig, I only realized yesterday, we have seen cities, where tons of money has been pumped in from former West Germany to stimulate economies. Aue is much more a large town, like Fairfield, and is vastly different from the aforementioned cities. Although it has become a functioning member of Germany, the buildings still show the signs of a former time. Many houses were grey, small, and pushed together. There was a lot of graffiti, some even apartment building stairwells, and on broken down public buildings. There were some apartment buildings right out of movies we´ve seen that take place during the Cold War. I was strangely affected by our trip, mostly because I kept imagining life before the fall of the Berlin Wall. These people endured such an unimaginable life, and it surprises me how resilient many have proven to be. Joern´s boss (who turned 50) not only grew up in a different time, but mostly a different planet. I have found myself turning back to these thoughts in my mind for most of the day, and I am amazed that this only ended less than 20 years ago.

Okay, the party was fun. But what made me incredibly proud was the esteem in which Joern´s boss holds Joern. The boss was obviously touched that all of his employees came from all over Germany to celebrate this important birthday. But the look he had for Joern was priceless. He also came over to talk to us, and kept mentioning how Joern is the mover in the company, and sets things in motion for others. Hearing this simply justified what I already know, but sometimes it´s great to hear it from others! So, I dedicate this post to the people of Eastern Germany who have built themselves up from nothing; to Joern´s boss, Mr. Marx, who has now lived over half of a century; and to Joern, without whom my life wouldn´t be so wonderful, and without whom salt would not be such a pouplar item in many stores :)

Mittwoch, 4. April 2007

Our International Superstar!!

How often is does Vanity Fair magazine highlight a super cuddly little bear instead of a supermodel? (Okay, super - cute Leo helps too!) I guess they couldn´t resist our little Knut, who has achieved superstar status in the past months! Congrautlations baby Knut- the world loves you as much as we do here in Germany!!
The top is obviously the American version, and the bottom picture is German VF put out this week.

I´ll post again on Friday when we get back from eastern Germany and Joern´s boss´ birthday party!

Dienstag, 3. April 2007

I give up

I´ve been waiting to post because we are having a big problem with windows on our laptop (Joern needs to buy Windows- it´s that simple!) But, our laptop is the only computer with a card reader, so without a card reader, I can´t get pictures off my camera. And, our weekend was so cool, I really want to include pictures.

The weekend´s greatness really started on Thursday. Joern´s work day followed the Wuerttemberg Wine Trail! While driving to one customer, I saw a sign for the Rolf Willy winery. It is a funny coincidence, because two weeks ago, we were turned on to Rolf Willy´s wines at a tasting in our grocery store. Of course, I got all excited, and Joern decided it would be a good idea to stop there! Rolf Willy is a pretty major wine producer in this area, and had a tasting room set up. When we walked in, this guy gave us 2 glasses, pointed to a bunch of wines on a table, and said, "try whatever you want!" After trying some, Joern had to continue working after all, we decided to buy some. While Joern was paying, he called me over, and told me the guy (that I thought was completely lacking in personality) was Rolf Willy! It was so cool! Of course, even he had to admit that he isn´t good at the sales end of the business, and that his son is in charge of sales for the company. It was just so awesome and unexpected!

Friday was another great day. My friend Erica, from high school, was in Germany all last week for a training. Unfortunately, Germany is slightly larger than CT, and so, I had to wait for the weekend to visit here. Erica was in Garmisch- Partenkirchen, a small town nestled in the Bavarian Alps. Erica´s husband and ADORABLE daughter came down on Thursday, so Joern and I met up with all of them for an overnight in the Alps! Garmisch is a beautiful town, and is only about 3 hours from us, but it is a completely different world! Friday night, we went out to dinner, which was really nice. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel, enjoyed some wine and apple martinis :) The hotel, the Edelweiss Lodge (Armed Forces recreation hotel,) was INCREDIBLE, and the price was great!

On Saturday, we tried to go up the Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany. Turns out that getting up the top was highway robery, it was over $40 just to go up to the top to see the view! So, we decided to drive into Austria, and try from there. Too bad, it was the same price. In the end, we decided to drive back to Garmisch, and explore the town. Garmisch is one of those typical German story- book towns. It was really cute, and we got to have a great lunch!

The rest of the afternoon was just spent hanging out with Erica, Ben, and Alex. It was so wonderful to be able to hang out with them. I really have a kindred spirit in Erica, and it´s so nice to be reunited with this spirit. And of course, since her little one is the CUTEST little girl in the world, it´s always wonderful to spend time with her!

On our way out of Garmisch, we decided to call my friend Mandy, who was also in Garmisch for the weekend. We got ahold of her and met up at a restaurant for drinks. It was so much fun, it was hard to pull ourselves away at 11, but we had to because it was so late and we had to drive home!! Of course, on the drive home, we were plagued with super-thick fog, and could only drive 35 mph. So much for the autobahn!!

We made it back by 2:30 and went to sleep right away! What a great weekend! I can´t wait to see Erica again!