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, 26. Januar 2009

Girls and their toys (get your mind out of the gutter.)

I must admit, last year was tough. Because of my difficulties last year, I have named 2009, "My Year of Hope." To kick off my year, I decided to be a little frivilous, I gave in and got an iPhone.
Okay. I love it! Jörn brought me to the German version of Best Buy, and helped me sign up with a contract. I got a pretty good deal on the phone and a very small contract. But, let me tell you all the wonderful, ridiculous things I can now do with my telephone.
I have an iPet named Molly.
My ringtone is Womanizer by Britney Spears.
I have a lovely pink Gerbera Daisy as my wallpaper, which matches my pink phone cover.
I can check my email quickly.
I can take really cool pictures with only a little click- yeah, most phones do this.
All my phone controls are via touch screen.
The screen flips to the direction I hold the phone.
I can access iTunes with a simple touch (are you jealous?)

There are tons more features. I love that you can access all the information about my phone usage, like how much information I have received or much room I have left on the drive.

This is totally my toy. No, I didn't need it. Yeah, we want a house, and I should be saving, saving, saving right now. But, I did need a phone, and well, sometimes, we just have to do really stupid, really fun things.

Mittwoch, 21. Januar 2009

The First Family

image from www.eonline.com

This morning, I woke up and said to Jörn, "Now I know how people felt about President Kennedy." I love the Obamas! I enjoyed so much watching President Obama and his wife Michelle yesterday. They seem so real, so much like your next door neighbors. Michelle has taken a real step away from the traditional "first lady look," and has instead adopted a style that is much like an average American woman of today.

image from www.eonline.com

Of course, I must also mention Malia and Sasha, the two most adorable little girls! I absolutely love them! It does help that they were wearing JCrew, the coolest store ever. But more importantly, they are real kids. They were so cute at the inauguration. I was so entertained by Malia and her picture taking. She was taking pictures of Aretha Franklin with her little blue camera. Then when her father stook up, she started taking pictures of him too! This little girl who can ask anything from anyone, including pictures, sat there like any other kid taking pictures with her digital camera! Even funnier followed the inauguration speech when Vice President Biden handed the camera back to Malia! It just seems so amazing to hand your camera to the Vice President of the US and ask him to take a picture for you at the presidental inauguration! I loved it!!

I feel a bit like a giddy school-girl. I can't wait to see more photos of this incredible First Family!

The day after

Yesterday many of us witnessed history. Every day we witness history, but yesterday, the world moved.
Barack H. Obama was inaugurated yesterday, and became the first African-American in our White House. Me personally, I have never felt such an incredible swell of pride, hope, and excitement for our country.
Over the past 8 years, our country has faced extreme difficulty. Living abroad has provided a unique perspective. It does matter what others think about you when you are a leading world power. As I've grown up, I have felt growing pride in our nation. I have seen our country from an outsider's perspective. I have learned about our founding fathers, and the courage and bravery that was involved in the making of our nation, and have stood in awe in Independence Hall at the enormity of the history in one building. I met countless members of our military and their families, and fully seen the sacrifices made for our country.
With that growing pride though came many worries for the country. Our healthcare is a nightmare. Our school systems still lag far behind. The economy is based on little more than spending, and we have seen this world fall completely apart. We have entered into a very unpopular war, which has resulted in countless casualties.
Americans became quite apathetic and sometimes even applogetic about the government.
Yesterday, when Barak Obama delivered his inaugural address, he gave us all what we need: Hope. Obama told of a country that has weathered many storms in the past. People tend to forget that ours is a relatively young nation with a lot of history. President Obama reminded us that we did not achieve our greatness on shopping alone. Instead, our country grew based on ideals of equal rights for all, freedom, democracy, and hard work. President Obama issued a strong warning to those who oppose our ideals, and offered a peaceful, open hand to those who are willing to work to come together. He reminded us that we need to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of rebuiling America."
The speech moved me to tears. We have experienced so much in the past 8 years, and now times are really difficult. The president reminded us that we need a government that works, who cares right now how big or small? He returned to our founding principles, the vision our founding fathers had for the country, that have somehow been quite blurred over the years. What I found most moving though was the call to action from each of us, that our success will result from our own hard work.

I wish President Obama a healthy and successful four years. He has a horrible job ahead of him, things will not be easy. But he has given many people what has been so desperately drained, he has given us hope that things will change, and that we will all be the catalysts of this change. Thank you President Obama!!

Sonntag, 18. Januar 2009

There's a little Baltimore in all of us, Hon!

On Saturday morning, we checked out of our hotel, and returned to our French cafe for breakfast. Then, we headed back to DC. We walked around the city for a while, and yet again, missed the tickets for the Washington Monument. Instead, we headed over to Capitol Hill to explore.
The dome of the Capitol building is as ubiquitous as the Washington Monument, and with good reason, it is HUGE! The Capitol building is gigantic and beautiful. We walked entirely around the building. Of course, as impressive as the Capitol was seeing the US Supreme Court building across the street from the Capitol.
Of course, as impressive as the buildings, it is such an amazing feeling to think of how people in these buildings have shaped the course of world history.

It was also exciting to see all the preparation for the inauguration all around the Capitol. It was thrilling to stand in front of the Capitol and imagine President Obama giving his inauguration speech to the crowds. After standing there, I am even more filled with anticipation for the upcoming inauguration.
We headed out afterwards, towards Baltimore. For me, the trip to Baltimore was the most exciting part of the trip, after meeting with Kelly of course. I haven't been back to Baltimore since my graduation day, in 2001. Returning to Baltimore flooded my memory banks, as I remembered all I experienced during my four years at Loyola.
Between DC and Baltimore, we stopped in Owings Mills, MD for lunch. Jörn was quite happy to find a Fuddruckers, the burger chain he fell in love with in Boston.
Jörn was also quite happy to introduce Marcel to Fuddruckers.
We also stopped in Wal-Mart, where Jörn and Marcel, who had packing difficulties the entire trip, were able to stock up on some much needed clothing, and I was able to find a Ravens sweatshirt.
Once we got in to Baltimore, I felt at home. It was so much fun to point to buildings and streets, some of which I had taken Jörn to, and some of which I had visited on my own or with college friends. We stayed in the Sheraton Baltimore City Center. The room was very nice and we had a wonderful view of the city.

Once we freshened up, we headed down to the Inner Harbor for dinner. We were really lucky, and were able to get a ride to the Inner Harbor from a van service from one of the Inner Harbor restaurants. The ride downtown was free, and the driver gave us his number when we wanted to be picked up. It was so kind!
The Inner Harbor was just as I remembered. The Domino Sugar and Rusty Scupper neon shone across the harbor just as always.
We walked around the USS Constellation and the rest of the harbor.
We went into the Harborplace shops. I did some obligatory Baltimore souvenir shopping, including a Baltimore Christmas ornament for our one-day Christmas tree. I bought a Vaccaro's Cannoli for later in the evening. Vaccaro's is a pastry shop in Little Italy. Mention the name to anyone with any links to Baltimore, and they'll rub their stomachs and say, "mmm, their Cannolis are the best!" They are incredible.
Then, we went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. After dinner, we headed over to the Power Plant, so Marcel could buy a hat at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Our second day in Washington D.C.

Since we had done so much driving around DC on Thursday, we felt like we had a good handle on the city for our day on Friday. After an incredibly huge breakfast at a delicious French cafe in Alexandria, we made our way back towards Lafyette Square to purchase some Obama memorbilia and to go to the White House Visitor's Center.
Since you can't visit the White House without setting it up with an embassador or Senator, the Visitor Center is the next best thing. It is located only a few blocks away from the White House, and provides you with fascinating information about one of the most famous addresses in the world, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Being in my Christmas renewal spirit, I was excited to see a copy of the White House Christmas tree. I was also excited to purchase a White House Christmas ornament. The last one issued under the Bush administration.
Following the visit to the center, we headed to the Washington Memorial. Unfortunately, we did not realize that to go up the memorial, you need to arrive early in the morning to get your tickets. But, standing near the immense structure is quite impacting, and well-worth seeing.

We then walked to the National World War II memorial, which opened in 2004. It lies between the Washington and Lincoln memorials. The WWII memorial is beautiful. It is circular and lies in a slight valley. The walls into the memorial are lined with reliefs depticting various events in the war.

I found the story on the Pacific side particularly moving, as it starts in an Amercan home.
The entire memorial is divided into an Atlantic side and a Pacific side, and does an amazing job of honoring the sacrifices of many Americans during World War II.

From the WWII memorial, we made our way along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Seeing it for the second time was just as awe-inspiring as the first time I stood on the steps as a thirteen-year-old. The structure is imposing and gracious, and the statue of Lincoln contained inside is of colossal proportion. Such a large statue gives you the sense of the enormity of Lincoln's impact on our country. It was especially exciting to be there during President Lincoln's bicentennial anniversary.

From the Lincoln Memorial we went on the Vietnam Memorial. Again, returning as an adult, leaves a different impression than on a budding teenager. By making the names the memorial itself, one is left to reflect upon the thousands of people who died or went missing in Vietnam. This memorial does not make any political statements, which is quite important for this war, it focuses only on the people and sacrifices made for the Vietnam War.
Because we walked lots, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for the exciting night ahead.
First off, we met up with my old-friend Kelly, who I was very close friends with in Ireland. Despite the wonders of email, nothing replaces the sheer joy of spending some time with an old friend. Although our time together was quite short, I know I'll be seeing Kelly again soon.

After drinks with Kelly, Jörn, Marcel, and I headed back to Georgetown to the Old Europe restaurant. Although I was not so excited about having German food during my three-weeks away from Germany, I realized how happy it made Jörn and Marcel to drink a great Weizen and to experience the taste of home in America. The restaurant was really packed. It did make me feel like we were back in my second home. The restaurant's owner even came out to talk with people. I had a Jäger Schnitzel (Hunter Schnitzel,) Marcel enjoyed a Wiener Schnitzel, and Jörn had a Pepper Steak. I was excited to have Spätzle, while the boys were happy to have a designated driver in order to enjoy their beer.

January 1, 2009

We had a wonderful January 1st in Washington DC. It seems fitting to have spent the first day of 2009 in DC. Just as I am embarking on my life quite changed this year, as is DC embarking on a new life as well. There were signs of the upcoming inauguration all over the city.

We spent the day exploring the city. It was a nice day to explore DC as newcomers, since there weren't many cars on the streets, you could drive around and get lost with no-one honking.
We started off in Georgetown for breakfast. Georgetown is such a wonderful area of the city. I love the classic architecture and the quaint feel.

Jörn and Marcel were particularly excited to find Old Europe, a German restaurant that was featured in a television biography of Jörn's political hero, ex-chancellor, Helmut Schmidt. We found the restaruant quite easily, and made plans to return later that evening for dinner.
After our morning in Georgetown, we drove down to the Mall area, in order to park and walk around. I really wanted to go to Smithsonian National Musuem of American History. Once we found a parking space, surprisingly near the White House, we made our way over to the museum. Unfortunately, we arrived pretty late, and only had a chance to check out the first floor, both the Science and Innovation wing and the Transportation and Technology wing. I was a little disappointed not to see the upper floors, which include the flag that inspired our National Anthem, an exhibit which includes 19th century Bridgeport, CT, and of course, Kermit the Frog. Nevertheless, the first floor proved quite interesting. There was a replication of Julia Child's kitchen, exhibits about various scientific achievements of Americans, and America on the Move, which highlighted how transportation changed the face of our country.

After the museum, we walked by the White House. I haven't seen the White House since I was 7, and we drove past it on our way home from Virginia. I couldn't believe what an impressive building it truly is. Of course, it is known worldwide, but seeing it in person is truly wonderful.

We checked in to our new hotel, the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria.
We were so pleased to have a suite. "Marcel-land," or the front room had a pull out couch and a TV with a Nintendo. "Joern and Allison-land" featured an ultra-plush bed.
We headed down to Old Town for dinner. Old Town Alexandria is marvelous, we had lots of fun exploring! It was truly an enjoyable way to start off the New Year.

Mittwoch, 14. Januar 2009

Joern, Marcel, Allison, and James Bond

This year for New Year's Eve, we decided to go the party route. Since this was such a difficult year, it seemed the best way to ring in 2009 and the hopes of a better year was to party in a big way. We also decided to combine our New Year's Eve celebration with our travel plans. So, we booked tickets at the James Bond New Year's Eve Gala.
Since my Christmas Eve illness knocked me out so badly, we decided to erase Atlantic City from our Christmas trip, and therefore, our trip would begin on January 31st. The first stop would be Washington DC.
We left around 8:30 am, and knew we needed to be at our hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, which was also the party venue, by 7:30 pm.
Of course, this is what we found when we walked out the door that morning:

The snow was coming down really hard, and by the time we reached the Merrit Parkway, it looked like this:
The driving was extremely slow, and the snow was coming down like mad. It started to look like we might be extraordinarily late for the party. It turned out that the snow stopped in northern New Jersey, and by southern Jersey, the sun was out. Here are some pictures from the ride down to VA.
The ride took us through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, and into Virginia. Despite the incorrect setting on my dad's GPS, which was set to avoid highways, we had some wonderful views of Baltimore's Ravens Stadium and Camden Yards. Also, a beautiful thing about the east coast of the US is the relatively small size of the states, you can get quite a few under your belt in a few hours.

The trip took about 6 hours, including the snow at the beginning, and the rest stops. The hotel, Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, was quite nice. Joern was a bit disappointed though that we did not have a room on a higher floor, which would have provided an excellent view of Washington DC.

We had a little time to prepare for the party, which was held in the various ballrooms of the hotel. Obviously, it was a hit with the boys, who were already trying out their James Bond poses before we left the room.

The party itself was set up to represent the various James Bond locations, inclusive of food and music from each location. We started in the Latin America & Caribbean room. Because we were there just as the party had started, the room was pretty quiet, but we enjoyed the atmosphere.

From there, we were off to India. The room was loud, Bollywood hits were pumping from the speakers, and the food was all so delicious! We were even treated to a performance by belly dancers!!

Next stop was Iceland, which lived up to its reputation, icy cool. The lighting in the room was a cool blue, the music and dancing were in full, and the bar had plenty of cool libations for all. We all had fun posing by the ice sculptures!

England, MI6 London, entertained with big band sounds, a buffet including roast beef and cheddar cheese, and lots of James Bond scenes on the big screens.

The lower lobby was transformed into a casino, representing Montenegro's Casino Royale. Marcel was excited to get in on the action.

And of course, I can't forget the famous faces that showed up!

I have to admit, the party was incredibly fun! It was such a special and unique way to start off the new year. I don't know what we'll be up to next New Year's Eve, but we ushered in 2009 in a way we won't soon forget!

Montag, 12. Januar 2009

A big congratulations before I begin my trip review

Before I start to dive in to memories of the past three weeks, I need to send out a big CONGRATULATIONS to Andrea, the teacher I work with. She told us all today that over the break, on December 30th, she got MARRIED!!! I wish Andrea and her hubby lots of health and happiness as they begin this new chapter in their lives together, as husband and wife!

I haven't quite thought about how to split up my trip yet, so I guess I will start with the trip home through to New York.

Our break officially began on December 19th at 3:10 pm. Honestly, even though I had only been back to work for three weeks, I was so ready for the break. I needed to begin my time of healing. Marcel headed over around 3:30 on Sunday morning, after saying adieu to his friends at the local bar. Needless to say, it was an adventuresome beginning to our trip.

We also had some new company with us this trip, Pierre. "How many French names can you fit into a trip?" you may begin to wonder. No fear, Pierre is the French bear who has moved into our classroom. Because the break was so long, and obviously, Andrea had better things to do than care for a bear, I got to bring Pierre along with us on our trip to the States.

Our flight was on th 21st, after some nasty New York weather that delayed our trip on Saturday. It was pretty uneventful, which is always good. It was so kind of my cousin Katie and her boyfriend Mike to come pick us up at the airport. Since they are so busy, it was nice to have the drive back to catch up on life with them. We were surprised when we got home to find lots of snow. It was really quite beautiful and we were excited for the first white Christmas in many years.
I was quite disappointed to find that my dad was working on Sunday when we arrived. He works for a town and was out plowing snow until 10 pm on Sunday night. I had to fight hard to stay awake for dad to come home!
Unfortunately, I don't have too many pictures of that first snow at home, but this is the Christ Church Tashua in Trumbull, CT.

Monday was kind of a down day for us. We visited with my dad and enjoyed the general lull of being on vacation, and at home.

On Tuesday though, we were up and out in the afternoon. The three of us and my cousin Elizabeth headed in to New York City for the afternoon / evening. We all had a lot of fun!
We got to New York around 2 in the afternoon because we had tickets for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show at 8 pm. We were afraid to get there too early because of cold and jet-lag!

Once we got in, we made our way to Times Square. Nothing really beats NYC at Christmas-time. And, nothing really beats Times Square for a good sensory overdose!

We made our way over to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for an early dinner. There is something so touristy that draws us back to Bubba Gump. Could it be our love of the movie? For Joern and Marcel, I am convinced it is the burgers!

After our meal, Elizabeth and I headed to my makeup heaven, Sephora, so that I could pick up some essentials. Joern and Marcel headed to Toys R Us, which must have been insane two days before Christmas!

Once we met back up, I had to take some pictures in front of the Good Morning America Studio. Although I have been by the studio many times before, I was drawn to it like a bee to honey, as evidenced by my cheesy grin. The coolest thing was to see the gingerbread house contest winners the night before they were broadcast on the air! Plus, their windows were beautifully decorated for Christmas!

We then made our way over to Rockafeller Center to see the Christmas Tree. It is such a beautiful sight. The way it sits among the buildings of Rockafeller Center, and highlights the ice skating rink is simply magical.

Since we had a little time before the show, Elizabeth and I decided to check out the windows at Sax Fifth Avenue. We were quickly reminded of another New York City Christmas landmark, the beautiful store window displays.

Our show was at 8 pm. I was really glad to have gotten to Radio City Music Hall around 7 so that we could take our time and enjoy the gorgeous building before the show began.

The show itself was thoroughly entertaining. In typical New York fashion, it was big, glitzy and stylish. There was something for everyone to enjoy!
The arrival of Santa Claus was followed by a 3-D tour of New York, and at the end, Elizabeth caught a giant streamer shot into the audience!

Here are some of the great scenes from the show:

Our day in New York was so much fun. It helped me claim back what I thought I had lost this year, my holiday spirit.

Sonntag, 11. Januar 2009

Ready to re-start my life

We're finally back in Germany. I am hoping to stay in this continent until July. Unless, of course, I find myself on a trip to Japan or India, both of which are pretty impossible dreams right now. Instead, I am here re-starting my life. I am re-starting because now, life is getting back to normal, but it is a new normal, because it is without my mom.
Before we left for the States in December, I knew we were heading back for lots of visiting with friends, getting the house ready to sell, and traveling. It was another three weeks of upheval. Now, that it's over, I am back in Germany, ready to try out life without my daily mom phone calls, without worrying about her, and without sharing all my news with my mom. There's a lot that's changed, I have more freedom, yet am weighed down by sadness.
I have good memories of the past three weeks to help bolster me when I am down. We had a wonderful Christmas, lots of fun visiting my father, my aunt and cousins, and my godparents. We went on a fabulous trip to New York City with my cousin Elizabeth, and even saw the Radio City Christmas Show. We shopped and ate in wonderful restaurants. We went to Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Our New Year's celebration at the James Bond gala was so much fun! And of course, just being at home was good for my soul.
There is so much for me to process and 2500 pictures to sort through. Rest assured, I'll be posting all about the trip during the upcoming week!
But for now, its back to normal, just a new version. I'm interested to see what life brings for us this year!