Saturday, June 30, 2007

A taste of Tahiti

As I mentioned in my previous posts, a few members of our family are visiting for the week. It is important that they really experience the German culture while they are here. Since Oktoberfest isn't until, well... Oktober... (and because we aren't interested in getting ourselves sloppy drunk) we opted to take them to a Tahitian themed party at our Church.

The food and beverages were simply delightful. The decorations included a surf board, large umbrellas, beach chairs, white lights, hibiscus flowers and other Tahitian/beach art. The music was similar to what you'd hear at an American "stomp" or school dance. Our fresh "rm" a.k.a Andrew's sister, Katie was the first to really let loose on the dance floor.I quickly joined in. I can't remember the last time I went to a dance. Isn't that sad? I must have been in college? It surprised me how easy it was for me to find that version of "Ali" because it seems thatI left all my inhibitions at the front door. I felt no shame as I broke into various line dances. However, after watching video that was shot of me last night, I admit that I do feel slightly... embarrassed. I am an awkward dancer. As for Eliza...
She danced her very first "YMCA." It was funny to watch her bounce up an down with the beat of the music. I couldn't help but think, "Is that really my beautiful baby girl?" as I would watch her dance in the arms of her daddy, uncle, aunts and grandparents... I was waiting for her to show signs of exhaustion. Her nanna offered to take her home when she was ready for bed but due to her extreme interest and great behavior, she stayed up with us until we left at 11:00 pm.

When Eliza gets married in forty - or fifty - years, I will put this photo in her wedding album.

Here is another great "daddy/daughter" shot of Liz and Doug. And we couldn't help it... we just had to recreate one of those high school dance "group shots."

And finally, here is a picture of my husband and me looking very bored.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Santa Claus came to town!

Santa arrived! Okay, not really but I swear that Andrew's mother is his distant relative. Not only does she have a heart of gold, but she traveled a great distance to bring our family and friends in Deutchland all of this:
As our new arrivals slept, Mike, Liz, Eliza and I went to the playground. Eliza, our thrill seeker, laughs out loud as she zooms down the zip line with her Aunt Liz.

Seeing Katie for the first time was surreal. I couldn't believe she was standing on my front porch. She is gorgeous, as usual. A few minutes after her arrival, she found a bed and was out like a light.

This is the exact place where I should insert a picture of Katie... I don't have one that fits the moment I am trying to illustrate. Frustrating.

The highlight of my day was seeing Andrew walk into the room after work and see his baby sister after 18 months. He lit up as he said, "Hi Boo Boo!" I couldn't help but cry as I watched them hug. Here I go, tearing up, as I relive that special moment. Good grief. I think I miss my little brother Matthew more than I realize. I can't wait to hug him again... UGH - change the subject, here come the tears...

After we woke up the parental unit, we took them to the park where Teresa enjoyed swinging on the tire swing with Eliza, followed by a competition to see who could go the farthest on the zip line. I'll tell you what, that worked up an appetite in all of us. We headed downtown for a little shopping before we introduced the family to the Biergarten for some abend essen (dinner). Gelatos soon followed - naturally. Plans are being discussed regarding tomorrow's activities. As for me, I am looking forward to going to bed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The New Yorker and Mister Lady

Mike and Liz safely arrived in Landshut at 10:45 am. I consider them daring because of their willingness to travel as stand by passengers. Mike works for Delta and is able to travel unlimited on any flight with an opening. Liz tagged along (yay!) on his buddy pass.

Mike was treated like a king on the flight over because he scored a seat in first class (valued at $6,000, cha-ching!). Liz ended up with a window seat in coach. The good news is, she was able to catch some Zzzzz's on their 9 hour flight over from Atlanta.
Andrew and I woke them up this afternoon to take them to our favorite ice cream shop downtown. They instantly fell in love with their gelatos. I could see it in their eyes. We spent an hour window shopping downtown. Mike and Liz both felt an instant "connection" with the following two shops. Liz felt right at home when she saw the New Yorker! How appropriate, right? (Liz is from New York) As for Mike, something about the store Mister Lady reminded him of ... well, himself?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Bee" our guest!

We are preparing for house guests this week!! Andrew's globe trotting brother, Mike, and his beauitful sister, Lizzie (a true New Yorker!), will be arriving tomorrow morning. His parents and sister, Katie (recently returned missionary), will join us Thursday. We are beyond excited. Eliza hasn't met her beautiful Aunt Katie yet and I really love reunions! Dear Taylor family - we wish you were on your way here too!!

While we're on the subject of visitors, we had an unexpected house guest stop by Eliza's room for an afternoon visit.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a very large bumble bee... and our favorite Maui Mike's chap stick.

Eliza has a few hobbies - berry picking happens to be something she's really enthused about. The first thing she does when we let her loose in the front yard is crawl directly to our berry bushes. She learned which berries to pick from observing her daddy.
For a live demonstration, please enjoy the following video clip!

All about Bonn

Saturday afternoon, we left Koln without our small bag of toiletries. Yes, that is right. I am either the victim of theft or a victim of my own stupidity.

I had a small cosmetic bag in our backpack that primarily contained medication. Since I had my gall bladder removed a year ago, I try not to leave the house without pepcid ac... which is something you can't find in Germany. In addition to that, we had our ibuprofen, infant Tylenol and Eliza's hair accessories (BOO!) in that bag.
We believe that I accidentally left the backpack open and somebody saw the bag. Hoping there was money/valuables in there (which there wasn't - SUCKERS!)they stole it. It surprised me how upset it made me when we realized what happened. I had to keep telling myself that nothing that couldn't be replaced was taken.

Anyway - from Koln, we drove to Irmintrudistrasse in Bonn. It was nice to become better acquainted with a street that saw weekly letters from an "Alison Mays" to an "Elder Flegal". While we were looking around, we met the Elders who now live in Andrew's old apartment.Andrew lived in the the apartment, third from the bottom (the apartment without the flowers). It was special to watch my serious, quiet husband show a very sentimental side as we walked these streets that are so familiar to him. He opened up and shared things with me that really made me feel closer to him and furthered the admiration I have for the way he served his mission. I apologize that this is turning into a Hallmark card, but really, it was cool, so back off Mark (my brother)! ;) We made our way to the Danken home. This wonderful family fed Andrew regularly while he was on his mission. I met them this past February when they were in Salt Lake visiting their family. They opened up an invitation then for us to stay with them if we were "ever" in Bonn. At the time, I was sad thinking that we'd never make it to Germany, but oh how life is full of surprises. We took them up on their kind offer and spent two nights in their home. "CALL THE FASHION POLICE" - yes I am aware that the shoes I am wearing do not "go" with the outfit I am wearing. Relax, I had black sandals waiting for me in the car. Not that looking cute while on a roadtrip matters, but if it did - I didn't publicly commit any major fashion offenses. Geez.

After a wonderful night of sleep, we went to Church. I met two American girls that have been in Germany working as nannies. I enjoyed talking with them and making connections of four of the same people we know back home... Small stinking world. And Melissa Stringham and Melissa Webb Campbell - if you're reading this, you're two of those connections!

The Dankens really provided me an authentic German experience. They shared with us traditional German meals (which tasted fabulous) and went above and beyond any expecation we had with their hospitatlity. Thank you.

Sunday afternoon, we took a train into Bonn's city center. Again, Andrew pointed out where he'd conduct "street preaches," the home home where Beethoven was born, a random piece of an old castle

and last but not least, I saw the legendary bakery where Andrew encouraged his "greenie" (new missionary he was training) to go and ask for a delicious German pastery... an "einlauf" - which really means "enema"... His greenie went to this bakery and without knowing it, politely asked for an enema... Can you believe my innocent husband would do such a thing?We enjoyed another walk along the Rhine river and then headed back to the Dankens. After six weeks, returning to Landshut, did in fact feel like we were coming "home."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

From Bavaria to Rhineland - our visit to Cologne

We left beautiful Bavaria and made our way to the enchanting state of Rhineland for the weekend. For two days we toured two areas where Andrew spent 18 months of his mission. Today’s entry will focus on Koln.

Our advice to you is to not trust an online promise regarding car rentals. Andrew had a difficult time sleeping all week because he was beyond excited that we had been promised an Audi or a series 1 BMW. He returned home on Friday with a look of utter disappointment…

“They didn’t have an Audi or a BMW so they sent me home with a SKODA”… ya, I know. A “skoda…” what is that? It sounds like something you’d find floating in your ice-cold beverage. But what can you do? I’m just glad that we noticed that the light in the glove box didn’t turn off when the car turned off therefore creating a super hot – small oven - glove box… Andrew was able to disconnect the light Friday night. I’d insert a picture of the “roomster” but due to complete vehicle LAMENESS, we haven’t felt compelled to photo the car.

Andrew pushed me out of bed at 4:30 am on Saturday morning (*insert sounds of vomit here). I must say that I appreciate him that much more for waking up at that time each day to prepare for work. The six-hour drive passed by quickly. Eliza was a peach. She didn’t demand a single stop.
As for Andrew and me – we were antsy!
Our pictures don’t come close to capturing the enormous size of the Dom or the chaotic, exciting nature of the city streets… so I thought that I would send you a postcard because it does a better job of that, so close your eyes and imagine that you found this in your mailbox. Well, here we are… trying to attempt to photograph the dom. It was a daunting task. Especially when you have to compete with your daughter's pink shoe.
I got a kick out of these statues – they move! People make money by dressing head to toe in silver costumes with aluminum foil type make-up. They look like Thanksgiving leftovers to me, but nevertheless, we paid fifty cents so I could have my photo taken with this beautiful piece of art.

Andrew and Eliza take in the view of the Rhine near the bridge that leads to the train station.
I am being pressured to put the computer away and to come to bed, so please feel free to add your own commentary to the remaining pictures. My story of how something was stolen out of my back pack will have to wait until tomorrow's entry about Bonn.

Friday, June 22, 2007

And to think, I once worked at Robert's Arts & Crafts

My mother is a gifted artist. She has the ability to sketch, charcoal, create, sew, paint, and make something beautiful and fun out of an ordinary piece of wood. She has the artistic "knack" for everything... whether it's decorating her home, cutting someones hair or enhancing the presentation of a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

As for me, I didn't inherit one spec of her artistic genius.

Wait a minute... time out. I take that back. I must confess that I have really cute handwriting. There, I said it. I hope you're not turned off by my personal pride, but it's true, I can write well. Beyond that, I am hopeless. I think it was my brother Mark who once said, "I can't even draw a straight line with the use of a ruler!" Amen, brother. I am the same way.

That is why the words "craft night" stir up fear in my heart. Last night I attended Enrichment night. The women in the Branch's relief society are so close. When they see each other, they hug one another just like they were family. It's all very genuine.

The "plan" was that we'd be focusing on journals. I was going to introduce the sisters to the world of blogging. Andrew and I created a handout that explains how to create your own blog in Deutch. But due to technical difficulties beyond our control, we were unable to gain access to the Internet, so my portion of the evening was postponed.

We spent the evening re-binding journals with cute paper and decorating journal jars. Here is what the "good side" of my journal turned out looking like

In order to maintain my personal integrity, I have to give credit to the three different women (Sandra, Anika and Johanna) who intervened on my creation's behalf. They fixed, assisted and prevented me from disaster throughout this process.

I know that I am casting a stereotype, but along with the German people's amazing work ethic, high standard for quality and efficiency - they are also blunt and honest. This has been completely refreshing. If someone doesn't like you, big deal. If you look fat in a picture, they'll tell you. No big deal. I tend to sugar coat anything because I fear that I may hurt someones feelings.

Last night when I was attempting to settle for a satisfactory performance, I would ask, "That's good, right?" and they'd reply, "No, Ellie (that's how they say my name with a German accent, love it.) that is NOT good. Do it again!"

When it was "done" I thought (That's my first mistake -I don't know why I suddenly gained false confidence!) that I could straighten out my binding so I took a pair of scissors and did this:I don't know why an intervention wasn't called to prevent this from happening, but I am coping and know that my mother will be here in less than a month and with her brilliant gift, we'll be able to repair it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Recent activities

Andrew took Eliza and me out on a date last Saturday. This is the entrance of the cafe or as they call it in German, a "Biergarten" (translation: beer garden).
The atmosphere was romantic, but our yappy one year old puppy... I mean baby, sure knows how to make sure our attention is completely on her.
Here we are waiting for our food - which happened to be quite delicious.This was one of the picturesque views from our table of beautiful Landshut.
"Yes" we are dining at a beer garden and "No" that is not apple juice. Ha - okay, it really is apple juice.Yesterday I asked Andrew, "What would we have done this summer without these bikes?!" His reply, "We would have wasted a lot of time walking." - more importantly, we wouldn't have eaten nearly enough ice cream.

"Mmmm...did somebody say the word, ice cream?" - asks Eliza.
I'm loving my baby girl.