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.

Montag, 29. September 2008

Volksfest

Although Munich is well known for Oktoberfest, it is not the only city in Germay to hold such a celebration. Stuttgart holds it's own Volksfest, the Cannstatter Wasen. Our fest begins one week later than the much more famous Oktoberfest, but in size and spirit, it is quite comparable.
I have never actually been to any such fall fest. I figured after 7 years of missed opportunites, that this would be the year I made it to at least the Cannstatter Wasen. We decided to take advantage of the incredible fall weather this weekend, and head out to the fest on Sunday.
Since we aren't heavy partiers, going to the Fest at night just didn't seem that fun to us. Instead, we went in the afternoon, and really, it was an awesome day.
Joern, Marcel, and I arrived around 1:30, which was just in time to catch the last 15 minutes of the Volksfest Parade. The parade was about 2 hours in total, which would have made me very antsy. I am sure I missed some cool things, but I am glad I got to see at least some of it.
The parade was filled with great groups though, like marching bands and my favorite, the Beard and Moustache Club of Stuttgart.
What did make me laugh the most though was the "White Buffalo Club." After spending lots of time on their website, I still can't totally figure out the purpose of the club. They had a very large group of marchers in the parade, which featured an old Chevrolet, a group of women dressed as cowgirls, some ladies and gentlemen in "Wild-West" clothing, a Native American couple, and Jörn's favorite, the undertaker.

Of course, I am pretty sure that the main purpose of the club is that of most German clubs, an excuse to get together and drink beer :)

After the parade, we headed over to the actual Fest. Upon entering, we immediately saw the Früchtsäule, or Fruit Column. Atop the colum were various symbols of the harvest, including local Spitzkraut and pumpkins, as well as the horse, a symbol of Stuttgart.

We then made our way into one of the beer tents. Beer tents, or Festzelten, are pretty much the main draw of the Fest. Each tent has a capacity of 1000-5000 people, and this is where the famous Maß beers are served. A Maß is a liter of beer. Many tents are sponsored by local beer companies, but others are run independently.


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Since we found out recently that Stuttgarter Hofbräu is owned by a large conglomerate, Jörn refuses to drink their beer. So, we went to the Schwaben-Bräu tent, which is fine, as we attended the Schwaben-Bräu Brewery Fest a few weeks ago.

The tent itself was HUGE! The tent holds 5200 people, making it the largest capacity tent at the Fest. They were serving food, and of course, plenty of Schwaben-Bräu.



There was a huge stage, and plenty of singing, and Swabian pride.





Marcel blocking his ears in protest to a song from Baden, one half of our state.

After enjoying the tents, it was time for the rides. The rides and sights at fests are amazing, considering that past 4 or 5 pm, everyone is walking around with a couple of liters of beer already downed. I can't imagine this is easy on your stomach, and I wouldn't really want to be on the rides at night.

I enjoy just the feast for your senses. There is so much to see and smell and taste. You can get any food, from traditional chicken to gingerbread hearts to candy to fish sandwiches to corn on the cob.

I also rode on the ferris wheel in an attempt to get some great pictures of the surroundings. I was right. Most of the view involved Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. Near the fair grounds are a huge Mercedes plant, as well as the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The soccer stadium for VfB Stuttgart also is quite near the fair. And, I even got to see part of the test track for Daimler! But, beyond all things car-related, you could see the beautiful vineyard-covered hills surrounding Stuttgart, as well as the Neckar River.



The day was incredibly fun. It made me realize that there are so many treasures here to take advantage of. I will definately go back to the Fest before it is over for the year!

Samstag, 27. September 2008

Lessons learned about my country from living abroad

It is Saturday morning, and I am watching the recast of the Presidential Debate on CNN. Embarassingly, I only registered to vote abroad this summer. I can't believe that I waited 6 years. I blame part of it on laziness, part on not getting it, and part on just not being educated enough to really take interest in politics.

I moved to Germany less than one year after graduating college. Growing up, I was taught not to talk about politics, which also bred indifference in my mind. My college, while I abosolutely loved it, did little to expand my mind in terms of our country and its function in the world. The values I did learn from Loyola were more locally focused, that our community needs us.

When I moved, I was upset that we were unable to get a Greencard, which tainted my view. The move also exposed me to the world-view of America. It was far different than I had understood. Eight months after moving here, I also got a job on a military base. I was thrown into a military community, a group about which I knew dreadfully nothing. I also had to do classroom support in two 8th grade US History classes, for which I will be forever thankful. Although I did well in 8th grade US History the first time, I don't believe a 13 year-old is able to make the important connections through wich history actually teaches us the lessons far beyond facts.

Looking back on my 6 years here, and the lessons I have learned, I can see that my view of my home country has changed incredibly. I guess it would start with my patriotism. I have become incredibly patriotic. My eyes tear up when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner, and my heart swells when I see the flag. Our apartment has a growing amount of patriotic paraphalia. You can see that I have gone from desperately trying to not stick out to someone who is quite proud to show that I am a foreigner here, proud of my home. I am proud of our military, and my heart breaks when I think about all the soliders who are deployed. I don't think the war in Iraq would have been of any concern to me had I never left the States. Now, I find my mind thinking about the war daily, and sending thoughts to all those soliders and their families that they will have a safe return. If I hadn't moved overseas, I am sure my primary concern now would be the price of oil, or anything which directly impacted me.

I have also learned the key role our country plays in the world. I do think that too many Americans don't know, and don't care, about the rest of the world. It turns out that we play a very important role in all world aspects. It is important that we maintain strong diplomacy. We do not realize that is is necessary that countries have a good impression of us. To quote my mom, you really do get more bees with honey. Too often I hear from others, "they don't like us anyway, who cares?" But, I have come to see that it really matters.

I am really excited to vote in this election. I am also eagerly reading about candidates and their policies. I am so glad I watched this debate, and am anticipating watching the next ones. I want for the country that we make the right choices not only in the next president, but in the direction in which we go. We are a world leader, and I want us to remain that way. I don't think its impossible, I just think more people need to care.

Mittwoch, 24. September 2008

How many liters of water are polluted by a drop of oil?

Right now, the main thing occupying all of my free time is studying for the driver's exam. I love Germany, honestly. But sometimes, as a carefree, relaxed American, you have to wonder about people who create life here. Take for example, the driver's license written exam.
I vaguely remember my study materials for my state of Connecticut license. It was a small book from the DMV with rules, regulations, and a few pictures. Looking back on my Driver's Ed class, it was more of a social event than anything else.
I honestly cannot imagine trying to get my driver's license here as a teenager. Even at 18. The driver's exam here already seems to me to be more like a high-level high school or even college exam when it comes to the sheer volume of information you must know. I have a triple advantage working for me: 1) I have been driving for over 10 years, 2) I have taken the watered down American version of the German Driver's exam on base, 3) I drove here for almost five years. I feel that I have a good basic knowledge about driving in Germany. I rock at the basic driving rules. Give me a diagram, or better yet, one of their adorable pictures, and I can tell you who has the right of way without hesitation. I am highly confident with my knowledge of signs as well. I remember studying over 100 signs while trying to get my license on base.
Where I have more trouble is on the mathematical equations, the questions concering driving a car with standard transmission, the weight allowances for driving with a trailer, and some of the environmental questions.
The study materials are a series of worksheets that are set up like the driving exam. Each sheet has 20 multiple choice questions, and you have a little card with the answers. There are, in total, about 1600 questions and answers you have to plow through in order to adequately prepare for the exam. I swear it wasn't like this at home!
Here's a smattering of questions, the answers, of course, are what I wish I could write:
1) You are holding a driving permit class B (regular car.) Your car has the following specifications:
- empty mass - x grams
- permissible total mass- y grams
- permissible towed load- z grams
Which trailer are you allowed to tow?
Answer: Why on earth should I care? I will NEVER tow a trailer!

2) At which intervals must you submit your car for an exhaust test?
Answer: Not my job. That's Jörn's job. If he can no longer maintain my car, I will no longer be living in Germany.

3) What are frequent causes of traffic accidents after a visit to the discotheque?
Answer: Um, I am almost 30 years old, married, and hopefully soon a mom. My visits to the discotheque are LONG GONE!

4) How is the intoxicating substance in hashish broken down in the body?
Answer: Hashish? Hashish? Hello! Please refer to my answer in question #3.

5) What can help save fuel and reduce pollution?
Answer: By paying attention to the fuel consumption of a motor vehicle when buying it. My response- my two cars that are waiting for me to drive are both enormous gas guzzlers, one gets about 11 miles to the gallon. But, they are so fun to drive! My two requirements when I buy my next car are horsepower and a very large engine.

6) How many liters of water are polluted by a drop of oil?
Answer: This is my favorite question because it is the most often repeated question in the study materials. I know that we all should protect the environment, but I am trying to prove that I am a safe driver. Knowing this answer will not mean I do anything to protect the environment.
Besides the lovely questions that do not apply to me, there are terms that an American-English speaker struggles with.
Why must I be careful following a Lorry?
Where can I not park near a sunken kerbstone?
How can I put my luggage in the boot of my car when my boots are on my feet?

I am completely amazed by the level of preparation required for a German driver's license. It would be wonderful if it really made for better drivers, but I think that driving in Germany is much simpler because it is in the nature of the people here to follow the rules. The test preparation is keeping me quite busy, but I am so excited to think of the day when I can legally drive here!

Dienstag, 23. September 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the year


Okay, we're not quite there yet, but it is time to start planning for Christmas.
Christmas planning moves to a whole new level when you are an expat. Today, it hit me that I need to get going.

First of all, I need to find a formal dress. Every year, our school holds a benefit Christmas dinner and dance. Our parents are the upper-crust of Stuttgart society, and when they attend a benefit dinner-dance, it is an all out formal event. Last year, I was lucky enough to have a dress, but this year, I need to get one. My two options are to find one here, which is guaranteed to be quite expensive, or I can order one from home. I will take option #2, but I need to get started now. Yikes!

Second, I need Christmas cards. Allison quality Christmas cards do not exist here. Hallmark does not deliver to APO boxes. Two years ago, I had to send my poor mom to Hallmark to buy two boxes of cards and send them to me. This year, I am thinking of something with photos, which means I need to order them soon. Also, because my Christmas cards are being sent from Germany, I need to have them completed by Thanksgiving. If I send them out past the first week of December, there isn't a guarantee they will make it by Christmas.

Third, Joern and I need to start thinking about our holiday party. What started as a small Thanksgiving celebration 6 years ago, has grown into a 30+ guest soiree. It has grown in tremendous proportions, and requires tremendous planning. Last year, I fell short in planning, and was totally stressed the week of the party. I must review all my cooking and baking machines and gadgets, and determine if I need to purchase anything new. I already know that our hand-mixer will not survive this holiday season! The combination of work, the necessity of arranging the purchase of American food, and the space problem we are facing means that planning needs to begin at the latest, next weekend.

Last, Christmas gifts. I love buying Christmas gifts from Germany. The problem is that every year, it becomes more and more difficult to not repeat gifts. Germany is famous for many things, but I am not sure how many Germany hats, beer glasses, and other minor German paraphenalia I can manage to give away before people are sick of my gifts. Grrrr. Again, my thoughts need to start turning to making gift lists and the search for gifts should start tomorrow when I go downtown for the afternoon.

Our tickets home are already booked. We are leaving the week before Christmas, so my to do's are cut down by one week. I am already getting excited for the holiday season!

Montag, 22. September 2008

Paper Dolls

Since I don't have my camera, although I swear I will find it, I am stuck relaying stories sans photos. Sorry for creating boredom.
But I do have a really funny story from last week at work. Andrea (the teacher I work with,) and I work with a small EAL (English as an Additional Language) group every other week. Last week was our week.
The group is absolutely delightful, and only reinforces how much I love the specialist professions- EAL, Special Ed, Speech, etc. The 6 kids are all beginner English, three Japanese boys, one Korean boy, a Mexican girl, and a Dutch girl. Have I said yet how much I love them?
We worked on clothes last week. On Wednesday we worked on naming the clothes, and on Thursday, we made paper dolls. The paper dolls were Berenstain Bears. They were quite cute. We photocopied the dolls onto thick paper that would eventually stand up.
As we helped one little, adorable Japanese boy to put the stand on his bear, his reaction was priceless. Sadly, I have no recording. But, as soon as I slid the stand part onto the bottom of the bear, little one started making many "I'm impressed" noises. Then, he ran over to another adorable Japanese boy, and even though I could't translate what he was saying, I am sure he explained completely excitedly that the paper would stand up. The excitement lasted for minutes on end.

Then came the hat for the bear. We had given explicit instructions to make sure not to cut the tabs off the clothes- standard paper doll procedure. But, adorable boy #1 wanted to cut out a hat without any tabs. So, I showed him how to cut a line in the middle to rest the hat on the doll's head. Again, more incredibly excited expressions, and more running over and explaining how the hat works.

I relate this story because it was sheer surprise and joy that this little one expressed. So many kids are unimpressed by the simple things, favoring flashy computer and video games. But this adorable one was so taken by one little paper doll that it really made me look at life in a different way.

Sonntag, 21. September 2008

Hooray for relaxed weekends!

We have had a really low-key weekend. Joern is in the middle of a big project at work, which required him to work a few late nights last week. I also had parent's night on Wednesday, and stayed at work the other nights while Joern was working. Plus, I am studying like mad for my driver's license test. Needless to say, last week was really busy. So, we enjoyed a relaxing weekend.
Last night, we went to my friend Mandy's engagement party. It was a lot of fun to see Mandy and her fiance, Doug, plus, I got to see a lot of old colleagues. Mandy's get-togethers are always lots of fun. We also celebrated Marcel's birthday, which was yesterday, at the party. It was really nice. I made a devil's food cake with seven-minute vanilla frosting. Sadly, I can't find my camera, so I have no pictures of the party and cake.
At Mandy's, I picked up a few recent orders. I am so excited to have received:
-my Kate Spade bag!!!! (which is glorious!)
-my very first school book, The Light in their Eyes, about mulitcultural learning communities (which I find very fitting for my job)
- a Germany and a Prague travel guide!
- and Joern's huge order of 80's DVD's.

I've already set up my new bag. It is not only beautiful, but turned out to be HUGE! So, it will be useful for work and traveling. And, I've been pouring over the Prague book, since it looks like we will be in Prague now the last week of October. I also have been flipping through the Germany book. I know it seems odd to have a travel guide of your home, but I think it will give us some good weekend trip ideas.
Best of all, today was 80's movie marathon. So far, we've watched, License to Drive, Like Father Like Son, and The Lost Boys. Germans are famous for reminiscing, so our 80's movie collection seems just the thing for Joern. As for me, I haven't seen many of the 80's movies that everyone has seen, so I am finally catching up with my generation's pop-culture.

Sonntag, 14. September 2008

Sweaters and fests, it must be fall!

Even though fall doesn't officially start until next week Monday, it seems the German weather and the German mood has already changed seasons.
This weekend was a typical German fall weekend. Nights are extremely cold, I even slept with flannel pj bottoms and a sweathshirt last night (we still have the bedroom window open.) Yesterday, it was grey and rainy most of the day. Today, we had sun and clouds, but the temperature has failed to reach even 60°F. I feel that we are ushering my favorite season, Sweater season!
In Germany, fall is also loaded with fests. In the summer, Germans prefer biergartens, but fall through spring is heavy fest time. Unfortunately, we missed the Stuttgart Weindorf (Wine Village,) which I feel is really the beginning of fall. But today, we got to another fest, and it served it's purpose, to give me the true sense of saying "goodbye" to summer, and saying "welcome" to fall.
This afternoon, we went to the Dinkelacker- Schwaben-Bräu Brauerifest, a brewery fest held by Dinkelacker-Schwaben-Bräu, two major names in the Baden-Wuerttemberg beer scene.

The fest itself was quite large, and encompassed the majority of the brewery grounds. Dinkelacker- Schwaben-Bräu is the largest brewery in our state, and it is also the largest privately owned brewery in the area. We learned in our brewery tour, which I will touch on later, that the brewery had been bought over by Inbev/ Interbrew (Budweiser, Spaten, St. Pauli Girl, Labatt...). But, in 2007 investors worried that the quality of the product would be betrayed through the larger corporation, and bought back the brewery. It is now private, and one of the strongest breweries in the area, which can be difficult coming up against larger beverage conglomerates.
The entry road to the fest was lined with various cars that had starred in the parade, that we, sadly, missed. Besides different vehicles used for advertising both Schwaben-Bräu and Wulle Bier (an old brand bought over by Dinkelacker and making a comeback,) there was a very old Audi precursor, and an old Jaguar on display.

Joern and Marcel, always up for something new decided that once they entered the fest, they would try some Wulle Bier. We later learned in the tour that Wulle Bier was originally created for women, as a less bitter beer. Joern and Marcel weren't phased, and felt that it was quite sexist, they really enjoyed the beer.

There were also events for kids, like this keg rolling race.

There was even a sample satation. Joern and Marcel decided against this as the line was the longest at the event. Afterall, beer is the national drink and free is one word that attracts the attention of Swabians like none other.


Of course, this fest was not just about beer. There is always a food component. Since it was so late, and we hadn't eaten lunch, we decided on a snack/dinner. Joern had a pork steak with fried onions, Marcel had my favorite, rolled potato noodles and sauerkraut. I had a wurst, but couldn't take a picture of myself. Naturally, all food was washed down with the boys' new favorite, Wulle Bier.

Since the brewery isn't always open to the public, it was enjoyable to walk around and take in the very large size of the brewery compound.

We had to wait a short while to enter the actual brewery. The tour was in three separate buildings, and we went first to the place where the beer is actually brewed. In the very large tanks inside, malt, hops, and pure Lake Constance water, are mixed together and heated to create the brew. It is the actual brewery that is responsible for the characteristic brewery smell in the air near Dinkelacker.

After the brewery, we went to the storage building. This, to me, was most interesting. There was also most to see. The storage buidling consists of 39 stainless steel cylindrical tanks, each 78 feet high. It is inside these cylinders that the actual fermentation process takes place, and the brewed ingredients become alcohol. The total volume of all the containers is about 2.6 million gallons of fermenting beer. We also saw the central processing unit, where oats are added to some tanks to make Hefe-Weizen. It is also in the central processing unit where all of the extra carbon-dioxide produced by the fermentation process is sent to a different area. There are so many pipes and so many outlets. Our tour guide told us that because of the German Purity Law, all additives, such as oats, spices, etc, must be kept and added separately, and that Germany is the only country to do this. This makes for many, many pipes and outlets. It was quite amazing and intricate.

Before heading to the keg filling area, we stopped at the historical exhibit of old advertisements from the various beers owned by Dinkelacker-Schwaben-Brau. The exhibit was in the employee cafeteria. Marcel got really jealous when he found a beer machine next to the coffee and soft drink machines for the workers.

Our last stop was the keg-filling area. There was no tour, but you could see the automated process by which kegs are filled, and the robotic arms that move the kegs on and off conveyor belts.

Samstag, 13. September 2008

Swabian home cooking

Humans do seemingly funny things to prepare for fall, and inevitably, the long winter. Some people change their home decor to include natural elements, such as apples or leaves. They even pull in warm tones to make home feel cozy, in comparission to the cool whites and blues of summer.
My husband, who happens to be a wonderful cook, took the opportunity to cook some of the heavy Swabian and German food that is generally not appetizing in the warm summer months.
Of course, Joern being Joern, decided to make enough food for a small country. Joern spent all last week Saturday cooking. Here's what he made:
Sauerbraten, Pork Roast, and Rouladen (rolled beef with bacon, mustard and pickles,) Blaukraut (sweet and sour red cabbage,) Spaetzle, potato salad, and dumplings.


Spaetzle

Potato Salad

Potato dumplings (with beer, of course)

Joern also used some Chanterelle Mushrooms, which are wildly popular here in early fall, to make an incredible sauce.
Here's the final result:



Of course, the other side-dish, beer should not be forgotten. Any German would tell you that this heavy food cannot be fully enjoyed without an equally heavy drink.

We enjoyed this food for almost a week now, and Thursday night, I finally broke my Swabian food feast, and went out to dinner with some friends. We had German-Mexican, which isn't the same as the Mexican from home, but passable. It was wonderful to have a light vegetable quesidilla to offset all my German food. Before dinner, we enjoyed some coffee and mini cakes at an outdoor cafe.

Not only were the cakes heavenly, but the weather report said that Thursday was predicted to be the last day to enjoy lovely weather before the rain and chill of fall set in.

Dienstag, 9. September 2008

Success!

I received an email today that I was accepted into the October cohort of the Florida TeacherReady program! In nine months, I will have completed the program, and will be well on my way to receiving teaching certification in the State of Florida! All this really means, is, technically, I should be certified by the end of the summer!
No more of this assistant business.

I also am going through the application process to get my driver's license. I am now so thankful that we didn't do too much about the license in the past 2 years, because effective 1 October (and retroactively in my case,) people holding a valid US license since before 2001 will only ever be required to take the theoretical driver's exam. No practical exam, and even more wonderful, no driving hours. In all, it is about a 1000 Euro savings. I will bring my application to the Rathaus (town hall,) on Thursday morning. I should receive the study materials for the exam in about a week, and in about 3 weeks, I should be ready to take my test! I am so excited to finally get my driver's license, and a large piece of my independence!

Looks like its time to break open a bottle of non-alcoholic bubbly!

image from www.rotkaeppchensekt.com

Montag, 8. September 2008

A word about trash

I love living in Germany. Yet, there are some aspects of life here that I swear, I will never get used to. And, if I do get used to these things, I must return to the States for an extended period because it will mean I am going crazy!
It seems amazing that the country that is the home of incredible car brands, composers like Beethoven, and numerous glorious castles, could also be home to an array of the most aggrivating practices on earth. These practices make daily living really unique, and well, annoying.
Take for example, garbage. Coming from America, garbage was quite simple. Of course, there were the good old days, twice a week a nice man came in a truck and took your garbage. Then came recycling, when in Fairfield, one of the two garbage days became recycling days. Oh, I remember my grandmother stressing over recycling. She could never have made it here.
Germans are proud of their title as "Garbage Separation Champions." Garbage here is separated to the nth degree. Garbage is separated as follows: compostable items (very strictly tea bags, coffee grounds, uncooked fruit and vegetables), "yellow bag items" (recyclables mostly, they must have a Green Point symbol), paper, and house garbage (food scraps, paper towels, the rest of your daily garbage.) These are just the home garbage cans. When you have special waste, like batteries, styrofoam, large quantities of paper, electronics, plants, appliances, metal, glass (sorted by color), you must go to the town refuse centers. In these ceters, there is NO hopper, no blissful throw everything in the hole experience, you must neatly separate all your garbage into specefied areas.
Not that all that is enough, but every December, we receive the annual town Garbage Calendar. Mind you, it is seriously a garbage calendar.

But we seriously do need this calendar. Garbage is on a one to three week pick up plan, with the compostables taken weekly in the summer, paper is taken once every three weeks, and the others, somewhere in between.
This year, the town added an extra special treat, Monday yellow bag pick up. Tuesday used to be garbage day, and it is so tough for me to wrap my head around putting yellow bags out on Monday morning- every third week. I always used to check our garbage calendar on Monday nights, and constantly forget to now do so on Sunday nights. Main reason for this story? I forgot, yet again, to check the calendar last night, and we missed our yellow bag pick up- AGAIN!!!

Sonntag, 7. September 2008

Fröhe Weihnachten!!! and other NEWS from Germany

It turns out that Americans begin Christmas-themed shopping in the summer, and Germans begin Christmas food shopping not long after that. I know that Christmas foods begin appearing in grocery stores quite early, but was taken quite by surprise this year. One of the little girls in my class had some wonderfully spicy Spekulatius cookies. I was so excited and surprised, I made Joern take me to the grocery store yesterday to search for Christmas goodies.
Unfortunately, we did not go to the Kaufland, the large chain that usually has their Christmas goods out before anyone else. Instead, we went to the Real, another chain. They only had the beginnings of Christmas, like; winter teas, winter spiced granola bars, Stollen (a special bread with dried fruits and powdered sugar on top). I also raced to the yogurt section to see if they had my favorite yougurt, Baked Apple, yet. Unfortunately, they did not. So, we settled on beginning the very long Christmas season by brining home a small marzipan Stollen, which is traditionally served to guests with coffee, and some Advent Pear and Cinnamon yogurt.









I'm quite certain that a large Christmas food assortment will be available in many grocery stores within the next week or so.

In other NEWS, I'm all excited about my German news! I bought my latest copy of the Lift, which is a monthly magazine that highlights many events in Stuttgart.


I really like the Lift, because it tells you all about art exhibitions, musical events, and this month highlights the many festivals which take place in September, which seems to be the kick-off of "Fest season." The magazine is especially useful to those of us who don't live directly in a city, and don't have the same access to information. I am so excited to take advantage of the many wonderful things that Stuttgart has to offer.

I have also found a few new websites offering German news in English. The Local, which also offers news on lifestyle and culture from an Expat twist. It is really great.
The Bild, which is a German tabloid, known best for being a newspaper for the low educated and daily topless woman on the cover, but great for a quick spattering of important information, now offers an English version online. Not for great New York Times style reporting, but good for a quick news fix!

Samstag, 6. September 2008

A moment to be totally self-indulgent

Alright, I decided to forego new clothing, new housewares, whatever. I decided on my bag, and just purchased it. I am now the owner of a Kate Spade! This girl is moving up in the world. I am now dying to get it, and will post me with my Kate ASAP!

image from www.katespade.com

Freitag, 5. September 2008

Triumph!

Well, its all behind me now. My first week of school, that is.
Okay, here is the truth, we have a tough group. Every day is positively draining. We have lots of behavior problems. We also have lots of kids who speak little to no English. We have kids who came from a German kindergarten, which means that they have had no prior school experience (German kindergarten is most often a daycare stressing learning through unstructured play.) We also have a few serious behavioral problems, requiring a behavioral contract. Oh, that and the kid who doesn't understand English, and hasn't spoken in 3 years anyway.

That being said, I love the vast majority of them. They tire me to my last bit of energy. They are whiny, touchy, crying, snotty, and certainly annoying. But, when I look into their faces, I see the little person in each of them, and hope that I can help them to become the best they can be. I must be insane!!

But overall, I learned a lot over the week. I think it will be a great year, once the kids get used to being in school. I even got flowers today from one of the moms.

I've decided that I will reward myself for a job well done and a week survived by buying a new bag. I desperately need a new black bag, and am bouncing back and forth between Coach and Kate Spade. I also need a colored bag, but am not sure that a purple or pink bag should be a huge splurge, considering that it may not be in style next year. As soon as I make my decision though, and my purchase, I'll be sure to pass on the news!

Mittwoch, 3. September 2008

Say CHEESE! Blue, that is!

One of the most curious things about being an expat is the total change in your relationship to food. I swear, if I never lived here, if I never called two places home, I would never be this size.
When you move abroad, you find that not all American food exists all over the globe. Sure, a semester abroad meant goodbye to Oreos, and peanut butter, unless you wanted to spend then $7.00 for a jar. But it was easy to give up these foods when I knew that my time away from them was finite. I could even give up my beloved Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for a few months, knowing full well that within my first week of returning home, I would devour a box of that wonderful chemically golden delight.
It is totally different living abroad though. It starts when the honeymoon period is over. After you have eaten your height in pretzels, mustard, pork neck and sausages, you start to say, "Hey where can I buy a great burger? or some great chicken wings, or insert your favorite food." Then you realize that you simply cannot get those items in your new home country. Sure, you find new foods you like, but every now and then, you find your mind and tastebuds wandering back to "home food."
It isn't only that the food tastes good, "home food" has much deeper meaning. "Home food" is a little piece of home, while being so far from home. The unfortunate effect of this is that you find yourself eating foods that you would not normally eat, or would only eat in small quantities.
Like, blue cheese dressing. While Joern and I were shopping in France, we found Heinz Blue Cheese dressing. No cause for alarm, except for the fact that it is impossible to find a good blue cheese dressing here. At home, I would only eat blue cheese dressing with buffalo wings, which before moving, was once a year. Now, to hold a bottle of blue cheese dressing in my hand feels like holding so much of my pre-Germany life in my hands. Tonight, we cracked open the bottle. It truly served its purpose, to momentarily ease the part of me that has permanent homesickness. Aaahh, true comfort food!

Dienstag, 2. September 2008

How its going

Well, now I've completed 4 days with the kids. So far, I LOVE first grade!!! Not that I didn't absolutely adore the Junior Kindergarteners from last year, in fact, nothing makes me happier than to see our little ones from last year. But, the first graders are awesome! They are much more grown up than the 4 year olds, but still really little babies. Unfortunately, I think the baby stage will go quickly, and soon, they will be full-fledged kids.

We have spent a lot of time getting the kids used to the school and our routines. But, we have done some language and math. It is incredible to see the differences in the levels! Some can write full sentences, some can write only a little, and some cannot write at all. (Mind you, there is everything in between as well.) Math is the same. A few of our kids came to our class from German kindergarten. It is amazing in Germany, the home of bajillions of engineers, kids don't learn their letters and numbers seriously until first grade! We are seriously dealing with all sorts of abilities. Of course, there are also the EAL (English as an Additional Language) kids. Many of the kids in our class are on some level English language learners, but we have a handful of absolute beginners, which makes things quite a challenge. The absolute beginner EAL students are very nice kids, eager to please, and seemingly as eager to learn. Which is wonderful.

We are 21 this week, and next week, should be up to 23. There is a delightfully challenging group of personalities, but we are quite positve that as time goes by, these personalities will no longer pose quite the same level of challenge.

As for me, I like my job. The teacher I work with is easy to get along with, and she seems to trust me that I will do my job well. I have two new assistants that I work much more closely with, sadly, they are not people who will ever end up on my list of friends. I dearly miss my friends in the Early Learning Center, and definately do not get nearly enough time to see them. Even though we hope to see each other after school, things will not be the same.

Well, here's to the rest of the year. I am waiting to hear about the teacher certification program, hopefully, I get accepted. I know this year will bring about lots of changes, both good and bad, both professionally and personally. Hopefully, the good will far outweigh the bad, and no matter what, all the changes will help me to grow. I am looking forward on looking back to this post next September 2.

On the first day of school